With most sports being postponed right now due to the coronavirus, stories that may have flown under the radar are now getting more attention. Sports fans are starved for entertainment. For example right now, in May, we’d be knee-deep into the NBA playoffs with all other basketball stories flying under the radar. But now there is no basketball so we are paying more attention to off the court stuff, so we don’t blow our brains out from boredom. Right now, stories of high profile guys like Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd are getting more attention than normal for foregoing the traditional College/NCAA route and going to the revamped G-League. Both of these guys are 5 stars but just yesterday a high profile 4 star recruit decided to go that route and made waves doing so. I am of course talking about a 7 foot 2 center out of the Phillipines by the name of Kai Sotto.
This is significant and arguably more shocking than the two five star recruits because Green and Todd are Americans and Sotto is an international player who had options, but ultimately landed on the G-League which means he thinks it is the best route for him with the goal of being the only Filipino-born player to ever play in the NBA.
First let’s talk about his background and a general scouting report on the lad. His father, Ervin Sotto, had a lengthy career in the Phillipine Basketball Association or PBA for the casuals as a a 6 foot 7 center. Hr also said he loved Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Duncan ans Hakeem Olajuwon growing up, who are players he probably modeled his game after after he kept growing. Here are his strengths…
Scoring in the post with either hand
Handling the ball impressively for a big man
Good court vision
Range on a jump shot that extends beyond the 3-point line
Good passing ability
These are essential skills in a league and in a game that is getting smaller and smaller. Looking at his tape, he uses his height to his advantage in terms of blocking shots as a rim protector and scoring in the paint.
Well the obvious one that I’m sure you’ve heard about is his strength – or lack thereof. He has put on muscle recently, hut he still has a long way to go in order to become a player strong enough to strive in the NBA. The consensus right now seems to be if he were to be put into the NBA at his size and strength at this very moment, he’d be abused time and time again. The good thing is is that he’s just barely 18, and will now be working with elite G-league trainers and at elite facilities to take it to the next level. This is his full time job now.
Also the NBA moving smaller and smaller might hurt him. Sure he’s athletic enough for a big man, but is he athletic enough at this size for the NBA? You can only be so fast at that size and while his height can play to his advantage in some aspects it can hurt him in others. It is obviously something he cant change, thats just biology, but the question will ultimately be can the advantages of his height outweigh the disadvantages enough so so that he can thrive on the NBA stage.
Bottom-line: It’s going to come down to how the game evolves ans how much stronger he gets that will dictate how successful he is at the next level. But the good news is that he’s only 18, and turned it just a few days ago. He is barely a legal adult in the US. Give him time, but he’s got a lot of work to do. Don’t be surprised if he spends more than one season in the G-league as he develops.
Marketing ability: Kai obviously has big dreams stating his goal is to become the first ever Phillipines-born player in the NBA. Fun fact Jordan Clarkson is actually half Filipino, but was born in the US. Anyway those are lofty goals and his prospect rankings right now at best make him a late second rounder. While its unclear how long he will stay in the g-league I think if all else fails, an NBA team will at least be willing to take a shot on him for the outpouring of support and fandom he has and will continue to receive from his own country. Basketball is HUGE in the Phillipines.
There were several stories come out in regards to Kobe Bryants death that really surprised me on how much of a global reach he had. It came out how much he was loved by the entire country of the Phillipines and how deeply affected they were of his loss. If you’ve seen that beautiful giant mural in honor of Kobe and his daughter Gianna that sprung up after his death and wondered where that was from, well wonder know more because that was made in the Phillipines.
Now Kobe has some ties to the country, visiting it around 7 times during his career, but ultimately he was a welcomed outside. Now if that is their support for Kobe, a foreigner not from the Phillipines, imagine their support for a hometown boy, Kai Sotto. Kai even said that basketball is like a religion over there and this guy may be putting the entire country on his back.
It is not far fetched that if Kai works out in the NBA, he will be a global superstar and potentially a household name. You have to believe that every team that has Kai on their radar is also considering his marketability and all the eyes he will have on him – the NBA and their teams are businesses after all. Now, let’s not get a head of ourselves that is a best case scenario and years down the road but you cant help but to get excited about what could be. He’s also very, very tall if you hadn’t noticed which could be another reason eyes will be on him. It seems like the taller a guy is, the more of a crazed fanbase he has, just look at Tacko Fall in Boston this year. Regardless I am excited to see how Kai develops at the next level as he joins Jalen Green who also has some Filipino blood in the G-League. GO KAI GO