Despite not hearing their names called last Thursday evening, former Wisconsin Badgers’ stars Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have a chance to make an NBA roster. Koenig was signed by Milwaukee Bucks and Hayes is taking his talents to New York to play for the Knicks.
Koenig’s deal is what is known as a two-way contract. That means that he is eligible to play for both the Bucks and their G-League (formerly the Developmental League) team. This also guarantees that he will be on the G-League roster when the season starts. Hayes on the other hand is on what is known as a partial contract, which is much less of a certainty. While both players are far from locks to be on the roster come October, there is a conceivable path for them play in the league. One of the first steps for both of them is to perform well in Summer League.
Summer League is far from the glitz and glamour of the regular NBA season, but it is a chance for young players and fringe talent to show case their skills. The results of the games, and even individual box scores are not of great significance to teams. The most important thing a player can show in Summer League is flashes of tangible skills that will translate to the NBA game.
Both Koenig and Hayes were stars at the collegiate level, but both have holes in their respective games that they need to shore up if they want to succeed in the pros. For Koenig, he displayed incredible shot making and deep shooting range in college, but in order for him to make the Bucks roster, he will have to prove he can defend NBA guards. If he can show in Summer League that he is capable of playing serviceable defense, his offense prowess might be enough to keep him inMilwaukee come the fall.
Nigel Hayes looks the part of NBA player. His physical strength and rebounding ability combined with defensive versatility are his greatest assets at the pro level. The biggest red flag for him is his jump shot. Hayes shot inconsistently from three-point range in college and struggled throughout his senior campaign at the foul line. If he can show teams that he can extend his range to beyond the arc and shoot a reasonable percentage at the charity stripe, there will likely be a spot for him on an NBA roster. If the Knicks insist on running the archaic triangle offense, then Hayes could have a tough time sticking in New York. That may be a blessing though considering the dysfunction that has permeated the Knicks locker room, and if he can improve his shooting touch, there is always a spot in the league for players that can guard multiple positions and nail outside shots.
Koenig and Hayes were a part of one the most successful classes in the history of Wisconsin Basketball. They might seem like long shots now, but Badger fans know better than to count either one of them out.