PIT: Road to the NBA (VIDEO)

Five college seniors are fighting their way to the League.
by May 28, 2016

PIT stands for The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Most casual fans have not been properly introduced to the importance of the tournament, but NBA insiders and hardcore aficionados closely follow the PIT every year.

They know the tournament kicks off the NBA Draft process. Since 1953, the PIT has featured the nation’s top 64 college seniors, as they battle it out in a four-day tournament in front of representatives from every NBA team. NBA teams make the journey to Portsmouth, VA, knowing it is a place to find under-the-radar talent.

Former PIT players currently in the League include Jimmy Butler, Jeremy Lin, JJ Barea, DeMarre Carroll, Robert Covington, Kent Bazemore, Wesley Matthews (to name just a few). The list of former NBA legends who played at PIT include John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman (to name just a few).

This year, five players from the PIT got an invite to Chicago (Elgin Cook from the University of Oregon could not play because of an injury). The four PIT seniors that played (Isaiah Cousins, AJ English, Isaiah Miles, Dorian Finney-Smith) had a strong showing with break-out games.

In his first game, English scored 22 points, had 2 rebounds and 6 assists. In his second game, Dorian Finney-Smith had 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 16 points. Isaiah Miles, in his second game, scored 21 points in 20 minutes, along with grabbing 6 rebounds. Isaiah Cousins, in his second game, had 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and scored 8 points.

In the video above, NBA draft consultant Chris Ekstrand, breaks down their performances in more detail.

Being basketball’s only senior all-star tournament, the PIT was directly effected by the NBA’s rule change for draft eligibility. From 2009-2015, if an underclassman declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft and appeared on the NBA’s official early-entry list, he lost his college eligibility.

This year’s rule change gave underclassmen more flexibility to test their draft stock without jeopardizing their amateur eligibility.

The new rule allows underclassmen to enter the draft multiple times and have one NBA team tryout per year. Players are also given 10 days after the draft Combine to opt out, maintaining their amateur status. Now, having nothing to lose, hundreds of underclassmen will likely make themselves eligible for the draft.

The rule change helps underclassman make a more informed decision about staying in college or going pro, but it increases the challenging for seniors, who have used up all their eligibility, to get attention from NBA teams.

This makes the PIT an even more crucial part of the draft process. It is the primary event where both seniors showcase their talent, and where the NBA teams can evaluate this elite group of players.

An invitation to the PIT is a proven path for the next invite: a workout with an NBA team, the NBA Combine, summer league, and the ultimate goal—an NBA contract.

SLAM will continue to follow select PIT players as they pursue their pro dreams in our annual series: PIT: Road to the NBA.