The dynamic duo of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson have been holding down the back court for the Illinois Fighting Illini basketball team for 4 consecutive years, but as we know, all good things must come to an end. The superstar athletes have given their blood, sweat and tears to the University of Illinois and it is now time for them both to find a new place to call home.
For almost every collegiate basketball player the ultimate dream job would be to take their talents to the NBA. Who wouldn’t want to get paid for doing what they love?
Unfortunately neither were drafted back in June, which was surprising.
This year’s draft had no game-changing superstars. A few big names but none that I could see a franchise building a team around. A draft of great role players.
It’s shocking these players didn’t get drafted because this is a draft class that Richardson and Paul would fit in with perfectly. With no predestined superstars the playing field would be leveled. In recent draft years, you get a superstar talent such as Derrick Rose drafted at #1 (Who happened to win NBA MVP in 2011) and further down in the draft you get Serge Ibaka drafted at #24 (Who happened to start for the Western Conference Champions last year)
With there being more role players in this draft, Paul and Richardson are just as good if not better than the current draftees.
So where are they now?
Most analysts and writers had Paul going late in the second round which is reasonable because they have had 4 years to see him as a player. They’ve seen 4 years of great work and 4 years of mistakes. This can often be a problem with most players that stay in school for all four years (which I recommend) because players are then over-analyzed. It can also be great because Paul has 3 more years of experience than most players.
Even though Paul went undrafted he was still picked up to play in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Paul played in all six of games for the Timberwolves and averaged 14.3 minutes per game, 7.7 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 0.3 assists per game and 0.8 steals per game. He also shot 43.2% from the field and 70% from the foul line.
It is evident that Paul progressed through each game of Summer League but on the NBA level he was still somewhat inconsistent. I think as he gets comfortable he will be a steal for the Timberwolves for his ability to knock down the 3 point shot and his great athleticism to defend.
As for Richardson, he did not play in any NBA Summer League games. With him being undersized for a shooting guard and not as athletic as some of his competition, fighting for a spot will be more than tough. He simply has to become more efficient, but that is always easier said than done.
In a past interview with the News-Gazette, Richardson was questioned about his future and about him playing overseas.
“I can still go out there and make good money,” he said.
Seeing that he is prepared to work overseas, this will give him a great chance to improve his game on all levels and play against top talent in his same predicament.
For both of these talented individuals, the sky’s the limit and I strongly believe in their abilities.
Maybe one day we will see them on a NBA court together, no matter if they are in opposing jerseys or the same jersey I am sure they will make their Illini family proud.