Don’t count on hearing Kerwin Roach II name called during Thursday’s NBA Draft — unfortunately for the athletic guard, the path to an NBA roster isn’t going to come easy.
Unlike his teammate Jaxson Hayes who may well end up as the next lottery pick out of Texas, if Roach is drafted it won’t be until the second round and even that is highly unlikely. This year’s NBA Draft class is considered to be exclusive to three players when it comes to sure-bet talent, with Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett headlining this year’s draft class as plug-and-play rookies who will not only see the court often, but will also likely start.
Roach, on the other hand, is facing two disadvantages that will play into his draft stock.
First, the rollercoaster past. Roach will have to shed the stain of his mistakes at Texas off the floor that earned him three separate suspensions while at Texas. Roach missed the start of the 2016-17 season and sat out twice during his senior year sitting out the 2018-19 season opener and multiple games after an indefinite suspension was handed down from the university. Each time Roach was suspended due to a violation of team rules.
The hope for Roach is to find a way to capitalize on his athleticism by showcasing his talents during the Summer League, where the goal would be to earn an invite to training camp to further display his capabilities. During the entire process — as has undoubtedly already been the case since Roach began preparing for the draft — he will have to continue to display his character as that of a player who won’t bring any additional baggage or headaches into the locker room.
It’s one thing to be on the outside looking in at the NBA Draft, it’s another to be on the outside looking in with more reasons why a team should avoid risking their pick on you than reasons to take a chance on you for your athletic attributes.
Roach might jump off the hardwood and bring fans to their feet with emphatic dunks, but the reality is that his stat line doesn’t jump off the page when reviewing his time at Texas.
In 128 career games with the Horns, Roach averaged 11 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game.
Despite the lengthy suspension in 2019 during the end of his senior year, Roach still managed to have his best season of his collegiate career, averaging 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game to rank as the 8th leading scorer in the Big 12 in 2018-19 with 452 total points.
Roach’s best game during his senior season came against North Carolina where he scored 32 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished seven assists. Against Arkansas he record his lone double-double.
But the second of the two disadvantages Roach faces is not one he can control. Tonight’s draft is heavy on guards and the numbers don’t exactly separate Roach from the rest of the pack. While his athleticism is superior to most, Roach’s productivity doesn’t serve him well, despite the solid senior season.
He’s a player who teams will want to see more of and therefore are not likely going to burn a draft pick on a player who, for all intents and purposes, feels like a project rather than a prospect.
At 6’4, Roach has decent height, but his size isn’t enough to justify a team drafting him to play anything other than point guard, or a shooting guard, in some cases. And even in regards to his position, while it’s a tired and lazy way to explain a player’s talents, Roach doesn’t fit the mold of your true point guard. His athleticism is his greatest quality, but the statistics don’t reflect a point guard who was known for being a floor general, the maestro of the offense — he recorded more than five assists just four times during the 2018-19 season.
Whether Roach Jr. is drafted tonight — and my guess is he won’t be—- we won’t know what awaits his professional life after Texas basketball until we can watch his journey through the summer and training camp.
My guess is as good as anyone’s, but I feel the best case scenario for Roach will be to work his way into an organization to earn a two-way contract, splitting time between the G League and the NBA during his first season. While the details were never made public beyond common speculation, Roach’s suspension history is certainly a red flag that could end up being the sole reason a team would rather pay another guard millions of dollars. Safe to say that no matter what takes place tonight or in the coming months, Roach is going to have to rehabilitate his reputation off the court if he ever plans to spend any time on the court in the NBA.
For a guy who is trying to overcome the obstacles he brought on himself, there may be no better way to show a team you’re worth it and taking things seriously than to grind during summer league basketball and training camp. If there’s a shared sentiment among Texas fans towards Roach, it’s that hopefully this is enough to get him back on the right track and out on the court where he belongs.
He will have his shot at the NBA, just don’t expect that journey to begin on Thursday.