At the 2015 D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz, it's safe to say that most of the minor league's players are here strutting their stuff, hoping to continue their respective journeys, to one day, become household names, not only in professional basketball, but in the NBA as well.
For Brandon Paul, things are a little different, though he too, still has something to prove. After a positive showing for the Minnesota Timberwolves at NBA Summer League in 2013, Paul turned down an opportunity continue on with team in training camp that fall. Instead, he cashed in on his success (quite literally), opting for a more lucrative deal overseas in Russia.
While an training camp invite is nice and would have netted the Illinois product some money, it would have also likely landed him in the NBA D-League soon after.
Taking his talents to Russia, Paul worked hard to further his game.
"I worked on my ball-handling a lot. I got reps before and after practice," Paul told RidiculousUpside.com. "One-on-one moves and pull up jump shots. I aimed to stay in the gym out there as long as I could."
The guard signed with the Canton Charge towards the end of the season after returning from his stint abroad, but a quick injury derailed his hopes of making any meaningful contributions. Still, he was nevertheless able to parlay the strong showing he had in Russia into a Summer League gig with his hometown Chicago Bulls in 2014. Unfortunately for him, he suffered yet one more injury. He's since rejoined the Charge for the 2014-15 season.
"It was tough. I came back from Russia, and joined Canton [last season]. I got hurt the first game. When I came back and was ready for NBA Summer League with the Bulls, I suffered the same injury on a different shoulder," he added. "It's been a long road back. But I have a good circle around me. I've been able to keep my head straight. I'm grateful to have those people, and now, I'm out to prove that I'm still that same player. I'm still working hard every day and trying to get better."
Paul, like many others, is putting his talents on display at the Showcase. But as fate would have it, he comes in as a bit an underrated player following such setbacks. Perhaps that'll work to his advantage, as now at full health, he's able to surprise people once again. Though he's undoubtedly a streaky shooter of sorts, he can catch fire in a hurry. The 23 year old has a handful of twenty-plus point games already this season, and is averaging 13.2 points, 4 rebounds, and nearly 1 steal per contest.
"I'm just trying to come out and compete every night. A lot of these guys come into this league and they're fighting day in and day out for jobs, whether they be overseas or whatnot," he said following his team's loss to the Austin Spurs on Saturday. Despite the defeat, Paul led his team with 24 points and a surprising 3 blocks, while also adding 4 assists.
"I just want to show GMs that I'm an overall player who can play both ends of the floor," he expressed.