J.P. Tokoto entered the NBA draft knowing he wasn’t a first-round pick. He just wanted to turn pro.
But, even after the 76ers drafted him with the No. 58 pick, he won’t necessarily get an NBA contract.
An NBA source said Tokoto likely will not sign this year and will opt to play overseas or in the D-League
I’m a bit surprised Tokoto would agree to this.
The 76ers must offer him a one-year contract to retain his rights. Tokoto could force their hand by accepting that deal, which is surely at the league minimum and unguaranteed. Then, Philadelphia would either keep him for the year or waive him before the regular season.
If Tokoto sticks for the league minimum, that’s probably more than he’d make overseas. It’s definitely more than he’d make in the D-League. Plus, he’d gain a year of service, which would increase his minimum salary in future seasons and move him closer to unrestricted free agency.
If the 76ers cut him, that’d be preferable in many ways, too. Tokoto would no longer be stuck negotiating with a single team. He could leverage all NBA teams against each other as a free agent. That might not produce an NBA offer, but at worst, he’d be right where he is now – headed overseas or to the D-League.
That’s the cold outlook. In reality, there could be other factors.
Perhaps, Tokoto agreed to delay signing on condition the 76ers draft him. I’d be a bit surprised, given No. 58 seemed to be on the low end of his draft range. But maybe Tokoto made that bargain on draft night as he saw himself falling.
Maybe the 76ers promised Tokoto a better contract next summer if he waited. That’s not exactly legal, but those under-the-table deals happen. As long as nothing is in writing – which means Tokoto would be putting his trust in Philadelphia – the league doesn’t crack down. The 76ers’ roster is filling up, and they’d surely prefer to maximize the number of young players they’re betting on. If Tokoto signs elsewhere, he wouldn’t count toward Philadelphia’s 15-man roster limit.
The least-sinister and best-for-Tokoto scenario is the 76ers setting him up with an overseas deal he couldn’t get without their help. Philadelphia has connections Tokoto and his agent might not.
So, it’s possible this is in Tokoto’s best interest. It’s also very possible it’s not.