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Source: James Southerland Was Guaranteed Nothing By San Antonio Spurs

A lot of questions were raised when reports surfaced that a former Syracuse forward passed on the opportunity to get drafted by the San Antonio Spurs last Thursday. Turns out, that wasn't the whole story.


In basketball's most prolific game of "what the heck do we do?" -- the NBA Draft -- former Syracuse Orange forward James Southerland was caught in a personal quandary last Thursday night.

Sitting in the second row of Brooklyn's Barclays Center -- a situation he personally chose to be in because, heck, it was in his hometown and who wouldn't go to a NBA Draft which could feature you being drafted? -- Southerland had a question to answer.

One of the NBA's most successful franchises, the San Antonio Spurs, called as their next pick, No. 58 overall, was nearing and they needed to know if he would consider going overseas for a year, even though, there was no guarantees of a selection, money or a Spurs' roster spot the following season?

It was a simple question most organizations ask when needing information about a possible selection, however, to Southerland the answer wasn't easy to give but, in this situation, he had only one -- no.

Initially, the reaction of Southerland's tactics were questioned. But as one source close to Southerland's situation told TNIAAM it was the best route to take.

"People looking from the outside in see that he had a possible opportunity to get drafted," said the source. "But if you have any knowledge of this whole process -- with no guarantee of a roster spot or money -- it is about leverage."

"Now, he is not playing for just one but two summer league teams," said the source referring to Southerland's summer league deals with the Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors. "He can play his butt off and different teams, including the Spurs, can have a crack at him. If he was locked into one team, in one situation he wouldn't have those options."

Of course, the plan all along wasn't to have any options at the end of the draft. Southerland's pre-draft workouts had gone great, teams were speaking highly of him and those teams had early, second-round draft picks.

However, as the draft progressed, too many of those teams that had early, second-round selections and interest decided to trade out with teams wanting to snag players they had targeted. (From picks No. 32 to 46, a dozen trades took place.) Those slots were critical in Southerland's future strategy because, usually, most of those early, second-round slots come with some sort of guarantee; and some sort of guarantee would have been needed if a team wanted Southerland to play overseas.

With picks running out, but still hearing a lot of interest from other teams, Southerland and his representatives had to think about the best course of action. In this case, for Southie, the best decision was waiting for the summer league offers to pour in.

"A player can be better off not getting picked later in the second because of these reasons," said the source. "People look at it and say, 'oh well, he got picked No. 58, 59 or 60 he's much better off then this guy that went undrafted.' It is actually situational."

Southerland's current situation is not ideal for a wanna-be NBA draftee, but the feeling around his camp is positive heading into the summer.

Meanwhile, the Spurs, who after the draft were still interested in signing the 6-foot-8 sharp shooter to a summer league team, selected Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas with the draft's third-to-last pick.

After the selection, Thomas, who told the press in mid-June that "getting drafted is getting drafted," was excited about the opportunity.

"After today, I need to work even harder," Thomas said after the pick was announced. "This opportunity means a lot to me. I have believed in myself all along.

"There are a lot of people who have dreamed of being in this situation but have given up because it became too much work. I didn’t give up. Now my goal is to stay in the league for a long time."

Yet, as The Plain Dealer pointed out in its post-draft breakdown of Thomas' selection, there's no guarantee of making the Spurs' roster and he could be forced, just like former Buckeye Jon Diebler, who was picked in the second round in 2011, to play overseas; a place Diebler has yet to return from.

At this point, the only thing Thomas has on Southerland is the bragging rights of living a childhood dream, which is having his name called at the NBA Draft.

With that behind both players, from here on out, it is about who will want to earn the biggest goal, which is making a NBA roster.