In 2015, Pat Connaughton was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Nets , then quickly traded to Portland in the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson deal. Connaughton was selected because he can shoot the rock, hitting 42 percent from three at Notre Dame last season, and because he showed off a 44-inch vertical at the combine.
In 2014, Pat Connaughton was drafted in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Baltimore Orioles (he would have gone higher had he not told teams he was returning to ND to play another year of hoops). The Orioles saw a pitcher with a 96-MPH fastball, one they liked enough to give a $428,100 signing bonus. He pitched a summer of Class-A ball for them and reportedly looked good.
Connaughton’s dream is to go Bo Jackson, playing pro hoops in Portland through the winter, then when that season ended hopping a plane out to Baltimore and pitching for the Orioles.
That’s not how it’s going to go down. Not yet anyway. Here’s Blazers GM Neil Olshey speaking to Ian Thompson of NBA.com.
“That’s not happening,” says Neil Olshey, the general manager of the Blazers. “The conversation we had with Pat prior to all of this was you’re an NBA player now. Being an NBA player is not a part-time job….
“The time when Pat would be going to play baseball is a time when you’re working on your game and getting better,” Olshey says. “You see how valuable July is. During the development phase, when you’re a second-round pick in the NBA and you have a ways to go to have a translatable skill-set in our league, you need Summer League, you need Grg’s camp (run by Bucks assistant Tim Grgurich), you need to spend the offseason in the gym. You can’t do that on a part-time basis.”
Connaughton signed a four-year deal with Portland where the first two years are fully guaranteed — he’s an NBA player for the next couple years. He’ll get the chance to prove he can be one for longer than that if he puts in the work and develops into more than just a shooter (his defense is going to have to improve).
In a few years, if Connaughton has established himself in the NBA and is starting to negotiate a second contract with Portland or wherever, then he may have the leverage to say he wants to try playing some baseball in the summer.
Or, if it doesn’t pan out in the NBA he has an impressive fallback career.
But for now, he’s an NBA player, and Connaughton knows he needed to go the NBA route first because it’s a sport where dynamic athleticism is required, and age will factor into that equation. He admitted as much.
“I couldn’t pursue baseball and come back to basketball,” he says. “It would never work.”
Still, somewhere down the line I would love to see Connaughton be able to do both. America could use another two-sport star.