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Syracuse basketball: Tyus Battle following different path to the NBA

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Tyus Battle did not get invited to the NBA Draft combine, setting up a non-traditional, but not inherently unfavorable, route to the league.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Baylor vs Syracuse Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The road to the NBA is transforming, as it has throughout its history. The NBA Draft once spanned many rounds and allowed high school prospects, before it switched to 60 picks and the one-and-done rule. An international pool of athletes joined the Americans, before the 2016 draft opened up to college players interested in testing the waters with the possibility of going back.

This year, the NBA announced that 233 players declared — including 58 from the international pool — with the added ability to hire and agent and still maintain college eligibility. That number capped the rapid growth of entrants, from 161 in 2016, to 182 in 2017 and 236 last year. Although only 91 of them actually pursued the draft in 2018, with Tyus Battle among the returners to college, the NBA Draft combine has to set a limit.

The 2019 combine is scheduled for May 16-20 in Chicago. Battle will not attend, after Syracuse.com reported that he did not receive an invite. He signed to Roc Nation this month and officially declared his Syracuse Orange career finished after three seasons, but this news and his absence from many draft boards indicates a dip in his draft stock compared to last year’s borderline second-round projections.

It’s possible, and even likely, that Battle will not be selected in the NBA Draft on June 20. It would mark the second straight season that a Syracuse player was not selected, seemingly another sad development for SU’s declining NBA representation after Michael Carter-Williams and Jerami Grant’s teams were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Many more lamented Battle’s decision as a mistake due to his dip in stock. But Battle’s reality will be the new one for more athletes on a year-by-year basis, especially with the impending end of the one-and-done rule in coming years.

Despite his absence from the combine, Battle’s father expects him to receive individual workouts from 10-15 teams. If he goes undrafted, he’ll be able to chose the destination that best suits his fit. Recent Syracuse draftees, namely Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson, landed in situations that resulted in heavy G-League stints and little opportunities for real roles. That resulted in both getting their options for the 2019-20 season declined.

If the G-League is in his future, the league is making efforts to become a true minor league system for the NBA, a destination for high school prospects and a legitimate job with higher pay. That will keep Battle closer to the league and away from Europe.

With more players entering the draft system every year, and only 60 spots to be selected, navigating undrafted status and the G-League will become the norm until the league reforms its entry system. Battle received an invitation to the G-League Elite Camp as one of roughly 40 prospects.

Oshae Brissett and former Syracuse commit Darius Bazley join Battle among the early entrants. One source confirmed Bazley among those invited to the combine, while Brissett’s status is still unknown.