WVU’s Konate Making A Huge Mistake
Sagaba Konate is headed for a cliff and all we can do is sit back and wait for him to plunge into the abyss below.
A couple weeks ago, the Mountaineer junior forward submitted his name for the NBA Draft. Though he has options to return to college still available to him, most indications are the 6-foot-8, 250-pound native of Mali is not coming back to West Virginia but instead will try to play for pay somewhere next year.
It’s becoming more and more evident his next stop will not likely be the NBA, as he hopes.
Sixty-six draft-eligible players have recently been invited to the NBA Combine, which will be held May 16-17 in Chicago.
Konate is NOT among them.
Instead Sags will be one of 40 college participants in the NBA G League Elite Camp, which will take place May 12-14 at the Quest Multisport in Chicago. Based on their performance in the G League Camp, a few could be asked to remain and also work out in the Combine a couple days later.
Last year Konate earned a direct Combine invite and still didn’t impress enough to earn an evaluation that included a likely NBA Draft slot, thus he returned to WVU for his junior year.
But his 2018-19 season, and the improvement that would have made him worthy of a draft pick this time around, did not materialize. A lingering knee injury limited him to just eight games of action, none after Dec. 8.
Not only does his game remain a question, but now his health does as well. There’s no indication he’s done anything more than low-impact workouts in the last five months.
What has he been able to do to improve his draft stock in the past year?
I understand Konate has NBA hopes.
“Every kid who plays basketball growing up has a dream of playing in the NBA,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said after Konate declared for the NBA Draft on April 22. “We wish Sags nothing but the best as he chases that dream.”
Dreams are wonderful, but eventually reality needs to take hold.
The reality is the chance of Konate being drafted this year are none, and the odds of him making an NBA roster for the 2019-20 season are slim.
The 30-team NBA will conduct two-round draft on June 30, and none of the publically available mock drafts list Konate among the 60 overall selections.
Admittedly each year undrafted players do see time in the NBA. This past season 27 rookies who went undrafted last June played in at least one NBA game. But a vast majority of those were on two-way contracts that had them spending much more time in the G League than with the NBA clubs. Only four undrafted rookies from last year – Jaylen Adams of the Atlanta Hawks, Gary Clark of the Houston Rockets, Allonzo Trier of the New York Knicks and Kenrick Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans – participated in more than 25 NBA games tin 2018-19.
Thus the odds for undrafted rookies are long, even for ones not coming directly off an injury-riddled collegiate season.
It would be wonderful if Sags could reach his NBA dream. He’s a charismatic, friendly individual and an incredibly energetic player. When he was healthy as a sophomore during the 2017-18 season, he was the best inside defender the Mountaineers have had in at least 50+ years, and his offensive skills were starting to develop. Even though he played in only eight games this past season, he wound up WVU’s leader in scoring average at 13.6 points per game. Konate was criticized for stepping out and shooting too many three-pointers early this year when he was able to participate in games. But the fact of the matter was his percentage from beyond the arch (39.1 percent, as he made 9-of-23) was easily the best among all Mountaineers for the entire season (Beetle Bolden at 34.9 percent from three was second, followed by Jordan McCabe at 33.8 percent and Lamont West at 33.0 percent).
So if healthy and with additional time to develop, Konate very well could become a legitimate NBA draft choice. But he’s not been healthy, and because of that, he hasn’t been able to develop.
Thus he won’t be drafted this year, though he seems intent on trying to force his way into the professional ranks before he’s ready.
It’s simply a bad choice.
At best, he’ll likely end up playing in the G League, making in the neighborhood of $35,000 for a year. Or he can go overseas and make more money, but certainly not anything close the NBA’s rookie minimum, which is over $830,000 a year.
Or at worst, his knee doesn’t allow him to play anywhere next year, and he’s left trying to rehab his injury with little money and no team to work with.
I won’t pretend to know the needs of Konate and his family, some of whom live in the U.S. but others of whom remain in his west African hometown of Bamako. That very well may be influencing his decision.
Otherwise, this seems like a very poor financial gamble.
Certainly there is no guarantee that if Konate returned to college for another season that his NBA Draft stock would be higher in 2020, but the odds seem to point that way.
Sags doesn’t seem interested in giving the amateur game any more time, though.
Unfortunately it feels like that’s a big mistake.