Last year, Syracuse’s Tyus Battle was viewed as a potential late first-round pick in the NBA Draft, should he have entered it. But last week, he was not selected in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Instead, Battle has signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but will have a tough road ahead to make the 15-man roster.
HOW BATTLE CAN MAKE THE ROSTER
Battle is going to have to prove he can be an efficient scorer off the bench. While he was a primary ball-handler often times for the Orange, an undrafted free agent will most likely not see any plays called for him at the NBA level.
If that doesn’t work out, Battle’s calling card will have to come on the defensive end. With decent size on the wing, Battle will have to prove he can lock down on opponents and continue (or improve upon) the numbers that saw him average over a steal per game in his college career.
THINGS WORKING AGAINST HIM
Battle was always more of a volume shooter in his three seasons at Syracuse.
He never shot better than 43 percent in any one season with the Orange. Averaging nearly 13 shots per game in his college career, Battle will be lucky to get half that many attempts in a game next season in the NBA.
He will have to make shots at a higher clip than he did in college with far less opportunity.
Like all Syracuse players, he will have to adjust to playing man-to-man after being in a 2-3 zone for the last three seasons.
In Minnesota, Battle will, well, battle the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Josh Okogie and fellow newcomers Jarrett Culver (6th overall pick in 2019 NBA Draft) and Washington’s Jaylen Nowell (43rd overall pick) for playing time.
Wiggins and Covington have established themselves as starting-caliber NBA players. Okogie was a surprise last year in his rookie season, establishing himself as a defensive stopper.
Culver will certainly get every chance to earn valuable minutes. And Nowell figures to get more of an opportunity than Battle in the beginning, if for no other reason than that he was drafted and Battle was not.
So, at best, Battle is sixth in line in terms of wings for Ryan Saunders’ club.
Battle’s Exhibit 10 contract allows him to receive a bonus should he get waived by Minnesota and spends at least 60 days in the G League. From that perspective, Battle has more of an inside track to playing a full season than a standard free agent like his former teammate, Oshae Brissett.
Factoring in where their teams fall in the NBA landscape, the Timberwolves may again be on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture looking in during the 2019-2020 season.
A good comparison to make for Battle would be the career trajectory of former Syracuse player Tyler Lydon. Lydon was drafted 24th overall in 2017, but still found it tough to crack Denver’s roster.
Denver was a team that was eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season two years ago and made it to the second round of the playoffs this past season. So, that made it tougher for Lydon to see opportunities. In his rookie season, he played just one game and logged a mere two minutes.
Last season, Lydon saw action in 25 games and averaged 3.8 minutes per contest. He scored 23 points in those 25 games.
This would be Battle’s path to breaking camp on an NBA roster.