Why the G League is Kai Sotto's best path to the NBA
Kai Sotto as flag-bearer during the inaugural Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup held at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City on February 16, 2019.
Photo by Chooks-to-Go

Why the G League is Kai Sotto's best path to the NBA

Alder Almo (Philstar.com) - May 15, 2020 - 4:27pm

JERSEY CITY – For a basketball-crazy nation longing for representation in the NBA, Kai Sotto could be “The One”.

The 7-foot-2 Philippine pride took a giant stride toward his goal to become the first homegrown Filipino in the NBA when he announced that he’s joining the pioneering G League Pro Program.

While his camp admitted that it was a tough decision considering the reported offers from Europe and invites from elite US NCAA Division I programs such as Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Auburn and DePaul, they believed this was the best choice.

And rightfully so.

Here are the five reasons why:

Stronger and tougher competition

There’s no better gauge for Kai’s readiness for the NBA than playing in the G League.

The NCAA is where the boys play. The G League, on the other hand, is where grown men with chips on their shoulder fight for their dreams.

Stronger competition will only bring out the best from Kai and toughen him up for the physicality that awaits him in the NBA. As they say, iron sharpens iron.

He needs to play with grown men if he wants to become the man. The worst thing that could happen to him is to see he’s not yet cut out for the big league. Until then, he needs more seasoning and that will only motivate him to work harder.

NBA-level coaching

Former NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell, who had a lengthy career in the pros before transitioning to the sidelines, is reportedly being eyed to handle the Select Team. The opportunity to learn from the man who was widely credited for developing Kevin Garnett could be a huge boost for Kai’s growth.

In a recent interview with ESPN’s Seth Greenberg, Amin Elhassan and Albert Hall of the NBA Summer League, Mitchell lengthily talked about what’s in store for Kai and the other elite High School prospects in the G League Pro Program.

“Some of these kids are ready, some of these kids don’t want to go to school, they want to be pros,” Mitchell said. “They want that lifestyle, and that’s the thing that we’re going to teach them.”

He then explained that “there’s a lot of things to being a pro other than being able to dribble and shoot and pass.”

“How do you handle playing time? All of these kids are not going to be the No. 1 player on their team when they get drafted day one. And being on this team, the way it’s going to be constructed, they’re going to have to learn all these things. Yeah, it’s for their development, for their growth, but it’s also going to teach them a lot of life skills and professional skills that they’re going to need to navigate throughout the NBA if they want a long career,” he said.

Former New York Knicks coach Dave Fizdale, who previously visited the Philippines and has worked under Miami Heat Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra, and ex-Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw are also being linked to the program.

So it’s safe to say that Kai would get the right amount of coaching he needs to get to the next level.

NBA lifestyle experience

Let’s just put it this way: the G League program is like Kai’s internship for the company he would like to work for.

It provides him an early opportunity to be part of the NBA system and grow in a professional environment so that when the time comes that he’s ready to apply for the Draft and get selected, the adjustment period will be shorter than most rookies.

Kai will have the chance to showcase his progress in 20-25 games without the pressure from coaches to win as they won’t be counted in the standings.

While it’s just a fraction of the 50 total games each G League team has to play, it’s still a sample size of what they would experience in the NBA especially the road trips and daily rigors of trainings and practices.

Bigger exposure

Some still argue that Europe or NCAA should still be the better choice for Kai. But let’s cut the chase, if NBA is the goal then why go far away and not just partner with the league while preparing to make that big jump.

The G League Pro program gives Kai the maximum exposure to all the 30 NBA teams as they will be afforded the right to scout him and the other elite prospects at practice and during games.

Financial security

Kai just secured the bag for his family.

It’s no secret that it’s costly to live in the US especially for him who dedicated the past year with his family to train his sights on the NBA.

The deal, which is reportedly worth $200,000 plus college scholarship, gives the Sotto family the financial blanket to shield them from the risks involved. The G League normally runs for five months. That’s roughly $40,000 a month salary.

For comparison, a regular G League player, who will not get a callup or a two-way contract with any NBA team, has a base salary of $7,000 a month or $35,000 for the whole season. Meanwhile, a PBA import salary on the average earns around $30,000-40,000 a month.

Kai could stand to earn more with endorsement deals.

In the US NCAA, the risks — injury or draft stock getting hurt for lack of playing time or the wrong fit — would still be there. But the opportunities that Kai’s G League move gives him outweigh the risks.

Kai is already at the doorstep of the NBA. All he needs to do is just grab the key to unlock.

KAI SOTTO
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