Everybody loves to root for the underdog. I’ve watched enough summer leagues and D-League reality shows to appreciate the hustle professional basketball players who are not in the NBA have. A lot of times, these players turn down big money overseas to take their chances in an NBA training camp to reach their dream. Here are five dreamers whose gamble could pay off.
1. Courtney Sims, Hawks: Courtney Sims is a big body (6-9, 230 lbs) that is efficient on the offensive and defensive end. The reigning D-League MVP, Sims put up 22.8 ppg, 11 rpg and 2 bpg. His performance earned him a couple of 10-day contracts, one with the Suns and one with the Knicks. The Hawks, who ranked 23rd in rebounding last season, could use some interior toughness and help on the glass.
2. Will Conroy, Rockers: It’s had to be frustrating past couple of years for Will Conroy. He’s paid his dues by dominating in the D-League and all he’s had to show for it is a pair of 10-day contracts. On top of that, the former Washington Husky and Seattle native is good boys with Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy and Jamal Crawford so he’s had to watch them get contract after contract. Because the Rockets are a little thin at the point guard spot, Conroy could very well be on that team in November.
3. Mikael Gelabale, Lakers: This French swingman has had a cup of coffee in the league before. He played nearly two seasons with the Sonics aka Thunder. Mikael is limited offensively, but his energy and defensive ability could be an asset to the Lakers’ bench. He had a good showing playing for the Lakers’ JV team, the Defenders last season. His familiarity with their system and athleticism could go a long way when roster cuts are decided.
4. Rod Benson, Pacers: Maybe I’m biased about Benson because I love his blogs, but this could be the year Mr. Boom Tho makes it past the preseason. Benson has been one of those guys who has grinded it out in the D-League and has been close to scoring a 10-day contract. He is an athletic forward/center who can rebound and run the floor. There are a few spots open for the Pacers’ roster so if Benson can kill it at camp, you might see him finally get over the hump.
5. Spencer Nelson, Jazz: The former Utah State star isn’t the most talented guy. But Jerry Sloan loves hard workers. Nelson was close to making the opening day roster back in the 2005-’06 season. Since then, the 6-7 forward has taken his game overseas to Germany, Italy and Greece. With Matt Harpring’s situation uncertain, there might be a spot for a hard-nosed, scrappy forward with a little bit of perimeter game. in the past, the Jazz have given contracts to training camp standouts like Andre Owens and Ben Handlogten.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
Follow Gerald Narciso on Twitter at @Gerald_Narciso.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.