What an unbelievable start to a professional basketball career to hear your name called in the first 30 picks of an NBA Draft. For a brief moment you are on top of the world as all of the hard work and countless games, practices, and training sessions have paid off to the fullest. It’s hard not to think that the limelight will last forever. For some it will last a long time, for a decent amount this is the best that it will ever get.
For six years I served as Director of Player Development for the Dallas Mavericks. My Job was to make sure the players in the first 3 years of their NBA career’s would develop in value for the Club to sign long term or trade for future value. I was obsessed in studying why players made it and why they didn’t. It was important for us to develop players not only on the court with plenty of workouts & reps, but also to develop them off of it to be invested in being a professional. There were a lot of players that made it and some did not.
The NBA isn’t an equal opportunity employer when it comes to players. You either are good enough to make it or you aren’t. In most cases, it just comes down to the fact that you aren’t relevant enough to stay in the NBA as your skill sets aren’t good enough for teams to invest in anymore. That is honorable as to be one of the 450 roster players in the NBA in any given year it is extremely difficult to stay in the mix. Unfortunately for some, they are blessed with all of the talent in the world but they piss it away because no one ever showed them (or they didn’t listen) how to be invested in being a professional on a daily basis.
This Post isn’t for NBA Players, I doubt any will ever see it. It is for High School and College Players to understand that nothing is ever guaranteed. That you can be celebrated today by every coach, media member, and basketball person and in 365 Days you are yesterday’s news and will be forgotten by 98% of them. In the NBA about 90% of the players are always on the brink of being traded or waived, their spot is always being challenged. Every year 60 new players get drafted into the League, about 42 will have a spot on the following year’s roster and another 10-15 will sign as a 2 Way Player. A week following the draft there is Free Agency where another 150-200 players will sign new deals, about 85-100 will land on new teams. Those roster spots have to come from somewhere?
In this post I will cover what an NBA Player Needs to do stay relevant as a Pro. In a perfect world I would like the reason why a player doesn’t make it to their next contract to be that they are simply not good enough. There is no shame in that as this game is as competitive as any other on Earth. But, unfortunately a good percentage of the players that fail and are out of the league in their first 5 years is usually because of their attitude and/or approach. For a High School or College Player you can follow the same path as no one is immune to not being invested in being a pro.
Here’s How You Do It………
Set the prescient and make the first impression. Don’t be that player that is late. Your Head Coach, Assistant Coaches, and other team personnel are usually hanging around the gym doing something and to see you in the locker room area or on the court getting some workouts go a long way. You should always be that dependable player that is NEVER LATE. You can always be doing something to make you better with your extra time from being early. Get Shots Up, Stretch, Lift, Watch Film, Etc… The Possibilities are endless. In Dallas, our rue was Players In Their First 3 Seasons had to be in the practice facility 90 MINUTES before practice or they would be fined $2,500. Our idea behind the 90 minute rule is to have young players get used to being early. Players would have the time to not only eat but also to do a number of different things that will get them ready for the day. We wanted them to pick up being early so they can set the standard as well as in year 10 in of being a pro they can continue with the tradition of being early. Remember, we are developing them for our team, but also somebody else.Coaches/Teams cant stand players that are always late as it’s bad for Team Culture. If you start in Year 1 being Early it will carry into year 15 of your playing career.
Get your daily shooting routine in. You should have a Pre Practice Shooting Routine, A Game Day Shooting Routine, and an Off Day shooting routine. A Professional works on their craft constantly. Have a routine of game specific shots/drills to go through on a daily basis. In your shooting routine you need to program yourself to perform in the role that your coach needs you to play. Your routine should be 90% filled with shots that you will take in games. Getting better is boring, it is doing the same thing over and over until you are doing it in your sleep. Don’t clog your head with things that you will never do in a game. A dedicated NBA player will shoot 25,000 shots throughout the season in their workouts, pre game, pre practice, and other shooting sessions.Preparation is the key to anything. Not every routine has to be at a 1000% speed. Some days require harder work on the court than others.The key to all of this is working smarter not harder. Maximize the time that you spend on the court. If you aren’t sure about how to create a routine?? There are plenty of Videos Online of NBA Players working out before games or after practice. Remember….. GAME SPECIFIC DRILLS NOT CIRCUS SHOTS!!!
One of the biggest issues a young player will have when they get into the NBA is that their body isn’t strong enough to make a big impact physically. With 82 Games plus Training Camp, Pre- Season, & Playoffs it takes a big toll on all players especially rookies. The first day with your team the one person you should seek out is your Strength Coach.They will not only transform your body they will also build up your conditioning to help you last a whole season. In most cases it takes about two years to get a player’s body to an optimum level. The NBA season is a Marathon filled with sprints, you need to prepare your body for over 100 games, 100 flights , 100 practices, a nd a ton of pointing on your body. Let them put you on a program and you follow it word by word. The quicker you can transform your body the more longevity you will have. Get on a consistent strength and conditioning program as well as a Diet that fits your body type. Your Strength & Conditioning Coach and Trainer should be your best friends. When I say Trainer I don’t mean your Instagram Sensation “Influencer” That pass you 9 tennis balls while juggling swords in your “workout” I mean the person/people that treats you for injuries that you have and prevents you from the ones that you dont have yet. Usually players wait until they get hurt until they start listening to the Strength Coach/Trainer. Get to them ASAP.
You need to get comfortable studying film on a daily basis. You need to know your playbook inside and out, which might be new to some players. Your coach will usually install plays almost every day. It is your job to memorize every play, the timing, what you are trying to accomplish, and all of the options. You have to understand the defensive schemes in which your team is going to use. There is nothing worse than a player that doesn’t know their own playbook and is unprepared. You want to piss a coach off in 2 minutes?? Screw up your plays in practice /shoot around and you’ll be in the doghouse quickly. There is never a shortage of coaches on a staff that will sit with you and watch film. Find a coach that will sit down with you and watch your clips to see what mistakes you made and the corrections that are needed. Also get used to watching film on your opponents. Where are there kill spots on the floor?? Where do they struggle?? What situations do they usually commit fouls and/or turnovers?? What plays does their team run for them? ll of those questions can be answered in film. Kobe watched a minimum of 2 hours of film during the season for all 29 teams that he played against. No team was too good or too poor for him to give them his attention and studying.
This is what really messes players up. Most hate to be criticized at anything and it stumps your growth. Everyone has an opinion on how you played and it is something you have to get used to. Most of the people that have an opinion of you don’t matter in your world. The people that definitely DO MATTER are your Coaching Staff, ESPECIALLY your Head Coach. Don’t take it personally, your coaches are looking out for you. Listen to what they have to say and then watch the tape of the game and see ing what they are saying makes sense. Always self analyze your performance in your workouts, practices, and games. Criticism is part of your development if you like it or not. You don’t have to agree with everything that they have to say, but you have to respect their opinion for the One Reason that they control the minutes. Your coach will ride you and that’s just what it is. Not Every Player, including great players can take criticism in any form. In my opinion as long as they are being respectful to you accept and take the criticism. Of course you can be curious and ask questions about the criticism but don’t get offended. Coaches want to win to save their jobs, they want to help you help the team win games. If you don’t agree practice having mature conversations with them and ask them how they came up with that opinion? This will go a lot longer than just going nuts or being passive aggressive.
BE A GREAT TEAMMATE
I think a totally underrated skill is being a great teammate. Everyone in this game goes through ups and downs there is no one immune from falling off your game for a period of time. When you are going through your slump you want people to be able to lift you up. Show energy on the floor as well as on the bench. When you come out of a game you want to be surrounded by teammates giving you high fives and encouragement rather than just 10 cadavers saying nothing to you.Support your teammates when they come out of a game, show them the support the you need in the same situation. Be aware of your body language and always keep it as positive as possible. If a teammate makes a mistake on the floor don’t pump your fist in disgust or roll your eyes. Show them support to build their confidence. Being a great teammate is making the sacrifices physically on the floor diving for loose balls or taking charges. You can be the best player on the floor or the worst one and you can be a great teammate. Great teammates are people that others love being around. They aren’t jealous and talk about others behind their back. The Player listed above’s name is Dwight Powell. I’ve worked with COUNTLESS NBA PLAYERS from all over the world from Hall of Famers to players that are just trying to make it. They don’t hold a candle to DWIGHT POWELL in being a teammate or a professional. He’s the hardest worker that I’ve ever met or worked with. There was never a day that he didn’t give a 1000% in getting in the gym and doing what was necessary to be a winning player and making his team better.He supports his teammates on every position if he’s in the game or not. He sacrifices his body and mind for his team and built himself into being one of the more reliable rotation players in the NBA. He brings energy, positivity, and professionalism to the job every day. It was a pleasure to work with him and learn from his day to day and I can easily say he was my favorite player that I had the honor tower with. Look him up, you’ll move 10 ranking spots up by just Googling him.
There are 5 Stages a player goes through in their career I don’t care about what level you play at.
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The 5 Stages represents a player’s Circle Of Life. Everyone starts out as an unknown and in time if they have a skill or skills to stay relevant they become someone who is wanted throughout the basketball community. Eventually though you will run out of time and ability where your team will look for a replacement. Either new players to recruit or trade for in some cases. The name of the game is survival and to stay relevant as long as you can. Everyone get’s their number called at some point , the question is can you prolong it for a little longer.
Everyone is replaceable. There will be a time where you will be relevant, but there are so many people trying to take your spot. Like I said previously, this game isn’t an equal opportunity sport. If you know it /believe it or not people aware constantly looking for your replacement. You have to bring it every day to keep your spot, that’s just what it is.
The NBA is such a competitive environment filled with talent everywhere. As a rookie it is so important to set an example from day one so you don’t get side tracked. It is easy to believe your own hype when you dominate NBA Summer League agains mostly players that will never play a second in the NBA. It is easy to look great when your trainer edits your Instagram Stories with you making every shot with #GRIND in it.
My goal with Rookies in the NBA is to get them into Winning Routines. I want them to be invested in being a pro. For 4 Years I got the opportunity to work with one of the hardest working and competitive people the world has ever seen in Kobe Bryant. One of the most important lessons that he taught me in that time was how to be invested in being a professional. It would be stupid of me to they to prepare a player to play like Kobe, it is impossible. But , what I can teach them is how to prepare like Kobe. Teach them the things he did to get himself ready in the off season, as well as how he prepared himself for his opponents. With Rookies in the NBA, I wanted them to understand what it meant to be a professional. Over 90% of players will play for multiple teams throughout their careers if they are in the League long enough. I am developing them for our team, but in most cases I am developing them for someone else. It is important to carry with them the ability to have a Championship Routine that they can follow if they played for us or someone else. Yes, their on court workouts are very important but what was equally important were the other traits that I listed in this Blog. If they can be invested in their preparation of being a professional they will have a chance to survive in the NAB
The NBA has been filled with countless names of players that were supposed to be “The Next One:” and a season later just fizzled out. Most first round picks make it in the NBA but a decent number don’t. There are many definitions of being a successful pick once drafted in the NBA. I define it as someone who plays 6 years or more after getting drafted. I think that is long enough to make an impression to get to your second contract. Here are some numbers on First Round Picks in the NBA as far as players not getting to that 6th year. I conducted a study from 2006-2015 covering the NBA Draft First Round Selections. Here is what I found:
28% of 1st Round Picks Don’tGet To Year 6
15% of Lottery Picks Don’t Get To Year 6
44% of Players Selected 20-30 Don’t Get To Year 6
51% of Players Selected 25-30 Don’t Get To Year 6
It is so important to develop Winning Player Routines as soon as humanly possible. Being a winning player doesn’t mean that you are always the best player on the floor or lead your team in scoring. Everything that I listed above will help you prepare to be a professional. It doesn’t matter what level you play at, those attributes are invaluable to a player/team. If you are going to get cut in any level of play make it because of lack of talent. Don’t make it because of lack of preparation. Be invested at being a Pro. Remember being Professional isn’t about getting paid. It is about doing performing winning habits over and over every day regardless of how you’re feeling, how you are performing, or if your team is winning or losing.
Good Luck, feel free to contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hoop Consultants is a Basketball Consulting website that services mainly Grassroots and College Basketball coaches from all over the world. My name is Mike Procopio and I am the President of the company. The idea behind this website is to share as much content as possible to better the game at all levels.