On Thursday night, sixty promising prospects will hear their names called during the 2018 NBA Draft. For those that fall short of the mark, however, not getting drafted certainly doesn’t signal the end of the road.
Just ask the New York Knicks’ Luke Kornet and the Chicago Bulls’ Sean Kilpatrick. They merely headline the boatload of success stories that undrafted players can use for motivation as they pivot and attempt to build the foundation for a professional career.
Kornet is certainly able to relate to modern players that go undrafted in 2018. Just last year, the big man also failed to hear his name called during the NBA’s annual event. Less than 24 hours later, he was scooped up and signed by New York. As he opened up the month of July, Kornet was donning orange and blue playing for the Knicks during Orlando Summer League. Midway through, he was signed to a two-way contract, assuring him a certain sense of financial contract and the opportunity to at least spend some time with the big league club during his rookie year.
Whereas some NBA teams strategized to flip their two-way players back and forth between The Association and a minor league affiliate, Kornet (and fellow Knickerbocker two-way signee Isaiah Hicks) remained with the Westchester Knicks until February. Despite the long wait, Kornet kept his head up, improved, and tallied an 11 point, 10 rebound, 4 block double-double in his debut on February 8th. Kornet went on to play 20 games in the NBA, upping his total combined with his time with Westchester to 57 games. He averaged 16 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks en route to being named to the All NBAGL Third Team. It was quite a freshman campaign, especially for an undrafted rookie.
As Kornet prepares for next season, he received his taste of the NBA, even if it arrived in an unconventional way. Two-way contracts are a huge tool for NBA teams to expand their reach in the search for intriguing talent. But alas, not every undrafted prospect will have that luxury either.
Though Kilpatrick did catch on with the Milwaukee Bucks organization via a two-way contract for a short time this past season, that option wasn’t available to him upon beginning his pro career back in 2014. The guard has had to venture out on a road far less traveled. He started off in the G League and made his mark as the kind of prospect who could score in bunches. Kilpatrick enjoyed short stints with the Nuggets and Timberwolves in 2014-15 and 2015-16 before catching on with the Nets for parts of three different campaigns. Brooklyn waived him shortly after this season began, but the 28 year old remained resilient. Instead of heading overseas, Kilpatrick played for three more NBA teams as he kept laboring though the campaign. With the Bulls marking his last stop, he averaged 15.4 points through nine contests and now is headed into the offseason on a multi-year deal.
All in all, there is hope for undrafted rookies. Kornet is proof such validation could arrive right away. According to 2 Ways & 10 Days, a total of thirty undrafted 2017 rookies signed two-way contracts at some point last season. Even if the path doesn’t appear to be clear and easy, Kilpatrick’s journey shows that success will eventually come if fellow prospects remain patient.
Wherever the journey leads this new class of youngsters, they’ll absolutely have different options to explore.