Loyal Cougars

The Road Ahead: What’s next for Brandon Davies?

The Cougar big man’s dream of playing NBA basketball has come true — but what happens now?

The ink is barely dry on Brandon Davies’ freshly signed contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, but as an undrafted rookie trying to find his place in the world’s top professional league, the former BYU standout’s work has just begun — and the road to a successful NBA career won’t be easy.

STEP 1: MAKE THE ROSTER

Some fans have misunderstood the nature of Davies’ contract with the Clippers — and you can’t necessarily blame them. He signed a contract with the team, so common sense would dictate that he’ll definitely be suiting up with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company on opening night, right? Actually, no.

While the monetary specifics of Davies’ contract were not disclosed, we do know that the contract is only partially guaranteed. What does that mean? In NBA terms, it means the Clippers can still cut Davies and only be required to pay him a pre-determined portion (the “guaranteed” part) of his contract — rather than the whole thing as would be required with an ordinary contract.

Now, we don’t know the size of that guaranteed portion, but I’d imagine it’s not particularly large given Brandon’s complete lack of negotiating leverage — after all, he’s still an undrafted rookie who desperately wants to land a job in the league. As such, the Clippers can probably cut him without suffering any real financial impact, which means Davies really only has a guaranteed spot in training camp. He’ll have to use that platform to prove he’s worth keeping around.

None of this is meant to rain on Brandon’s parade. The team obviously likes him. Head coach Doc Rivers has praised him, and they wouldn’t even bother bringing him into training camp — let alone partially guaranteeing his contract — if they didn’t think he had the potential to stick. But Davies is going to have to work to make that happen. I am confident he understands that and is ready for the challenge.

STEP 2: USE THE D-LEAGUE WISELY

Even if Davies impresses enough in training camp to make the Clippers’ regular season roster, that doesn’t necessarily mean he will always be traveling with the team. An NBA team can carry up to 15 players on its roster, but only 13 of those players can be “active” and eligible to play in games at any given time. Smart teams usually use those two inactive slots on unproven young players like Davies, constantly ping-ponging them back and forth between the organization’s Development League affiliate and the big club to maximize their playing time and opportunities for improvement. (For our purposes here, we’re going to assume the Clippers are a smart team.)

In this scenario, Brandon would likely split his time between playing games for the Bakersfield Jam and practicing with the Clippers. During periods when he is in Los Angeles, he would most often remain on the inactive roster and not dress for games. Nevertheless, he’d still get the opportunity to go against some of the world’s best players in practice and remain a part of the team’s culture.

All this D-League talk may not sound glorious, but it could actually be an immensely positive experience for Davies’ game if he approaches it correctly. Rather than simply warming the bench and waving a towel for an entire season, he would get the chance to play significant minutes in real, competitive games for Bakersfield, while continuing to hone his craft and his body for NBA action in the near future.

Developmentally, this is probably the ideal situation for Brandon — make the roster, get paid an NBA salary, use the D-League to play professional minutes and improve his game, and still get to swing up to the big club when the opportunity arises. If he takes it seriously, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

STEP #3: GET READY AND STAY READY

Even if Davies spends much of his rookie season hanging around the D-League, that doesn’t mean he (or anyone else) should just write the year off as a sunk cost. He’d still be a Clipper — and if the team suffered a few bad personnel breaks and needed additional depth, he would need to be ready to answer the call. Given the recent injury history of the Clippers’ bigs, that kind of situation is well within the realm of possibility.

Imagine one or two rotation players go down sometime in the middle of the season. If those injuries impact the team’s front line depth, reinforcements have to come from somewhere — and that usually means they come from within. Davies would be the next man up in this scenario. There’s a chance he’d be required to play some legitimate NBA minutes — probably not a lot, mind you, but enough to provide an effective stopgap while the team’s more established post players rest.

This is the dream situation for Brandon. Not that he needs to wish for people to get hurt, but this is sports. Injuries happen, and they often provide somebody else with an opportunity to step up and contribute. If that opportunity arises for Davies, he will need to be ready to meet the challenge — and that means putting in the work now and over the next few months to add strength and adapt his game to the faster pace of NBA basketball. He may never get that call, but he needs to be ready if it comes.

To be sure, Brandon Davies understands all this. He’s never been afraid of hard work. He’s come this far because he put in the time it takes for anybody to even make it to this level. He’s taken thousands of shots alone in the gym and spent hours in the weight room honing his body. He’s got many more of those long hours in his immediate future, and I’m sure he could be happier.

After all, his dream is just beginning.

One Comment

  1. Sanpete

    September 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    I wondered if Spencer Linton had some inside info when he said (during the women’s soccer game) that Davies was expected to play in the D League. Hope that works out for him.