All it takes is one NBA team thinking a player is NBA-caliber for him to become an NBA player. (This is how Landry Fields and Ryan Reid have come to be NBA players.) But for Omar Samhan and Jeremy Lin, that chance is yet to come, and for Rashad McCants, time may be running out. Even one team taking a look is still rare.
Samhan might be the one most likely to stick in the league for ten years. He's still tall, still an adept and studious big man, still a joy to be around.
He's also savvy enough to realize he's on the cusp of being an NBA player, and confident enough to keep trying. Perhaps he won't catch on with the Mavericks, who brought him to Summer League despite a frontcourt packed with veterans. But if he can slim down further and add a bit of quickness to his deft post game, he'll find a taker. Probably.
Lin should catch on, too. There aren't many perimeter players who combine his quickness, passing, and midrange game, and if hanging with John Wall isn't an endorsement of him as a sure thing, it's at least a wonderful bullet point to have on the resume.
Lin will deal with stereotypes about guards of Asian descent—Sun Yue hasn't set anything on fire—and questions about the competition he faced at Harvard. But if he can make a team, he might well stick with that team for years. Maybe.
After all, the saga of Rashad McCants is one reason that probably and maybe should get attached to all marginal players.
McCants' talent has never been in doubt. He led North Carolina to an NCAA title and was picked 14th in the 2005 NBA Draft because he could be an explosive scorer. He would be picked before Samhan and Lin, well before them, on nearly any pickup team, and has produced at the NBA level. Alas, his temperament got in the way of his talent.
As an ESPN The Magazine piece details, McCants' pain at being out of the league, apparently because of his personality, is palpable.
"I'm out of the league because of facial expressions?" he asks. "Players get arrested or demand trades, and I'm the one they call difficult?"
Sure, McCants' difficulty in finding a job stems from his inability to mix in the chemistry of a team in a sport more reliant on chemistry than most. But is McCants so cancerous in locker rooms to make his talent not worth a team's time and money? And if a player of McCants' talents can be blackballed for, essentially, frowning at the wrong moments, do players like Samhan and Lin have to behave perfectly?
Samhan and Lin are waiting for a first chance. Their talents are substantial enough that they may not have to wait long. But if that chance doesn't come—or if it's squandered like McCants has squandered his—it's just another testament to how fragile a thing a chance to play in the NBA is.
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.