By Joseph Staszewski
James Southerland’s quest to make an NBA roster is still alive even though he didn’t hear his name called at the Barclays Center or get to shake Commissioner David Stern’s hand on draft night.
The former Benjamin Cardozo and Syracuse University star could have been selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 58th pick in the second round, but was asked to go overseas this year with no guarantees of a roster spot for the following season, according to Judges Coach Ron Naclerio.
Southerland declined their offer and when the draft concluded, he had 11 teams, including the Spurs, calling him to join their Summer League roster.
It ended up leaving the 6-foot-8, 215-pound Southerland with not just one Summer League team, but two. He will play for the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers in the Orlando league staring July 7 and then suit up for the Golden State Warriors in the Las Vegas version beginning July 12.
Both clubs leave Southland with a good chance to make the roster. Philly is still shaping its roster and the Warriors love shooters.
“I told James, ‘If you hit shots, you will be there,’” Naclerio said.
Southerland’s biggest advantage is he will be reunited with point guards he is familiar with and who know they can make each other look good. With the 76ers he will be paired with former Syracuse teammate Michael Carter Williams, the club’s first round draft pick. In Golden State, Southerland will play with former AAU teammate Scott Machado. Naclerio is confident that even if those two teams don’t work out, there could still be more opportunities for Southerland.
“Not only does he have a chance to make Philadelphia and/or Golden State, there are nine other teams that supposedly want him,” the coach said. “He could play for A and B and end up signing with C, D or E.”
If a team does take a chance on Southerland, it will be getting a versatile player who can stretch the floor with his shooting, especially at his size. He had a breakout senior season with the Orange last year and helped them reach the Big East title game and the NCAA Final Four. Southerland averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He shot .450 percent from the field and .398 from 3-point range.
Southerland had a game that fits the NBA style of play. Now it’s just a matter of finding the organization that is the best fit for him. He’s in a good position to do that with Philadelphia or Golden State. His NBA dream could come immediately this way instead of his having to wait for the season.
“You know you can shoot,” Naclerio said he told Southerland. “Just shoot the ball. Now it’s just time to do it.”