After two seasons at Florida Anthony Duruji chose to forego his final year of eligibility and declare for the NBA Draft, looking to fulfil his dream of playing at the highest level.
Duruji’s first order of business after departing Florida was to take part in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, an event for graduated seniors to showcase their abilities in front of NBA scouts. What was once a somewhat niche event has now become a major piece of the NBA Draft process and Duruji’s invitation to Portsmouth speaks of his potential as a future pro.
At the PIT Duruji performed well both in athletic testing and interviews as well as the actual games, showcasing the athleticism that had him on NBA radars since his time at Louisiana Tech where he posted an unofficial 46.5” vert, a number that would crush the NBA Combine record. He finished the week averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block per game, something that showcased a few of the skills he’d need to be a role player in the NBA. Watching the games his explosiveness was apparent, even among some highly-touted future pros, and there are going to be teams enthralled with his leaping ability at 6’7” and 220 pounds–the exact kind of frame that NBA teams are looking for right now.
While Duruji’s athleticism and explosiveness were on display, there are still questions about his offensive game as well as channeling his athleticism into functional defensive prowess. Luckily for Duruji, his style of game is more suited to the pro style of burst and recover versus the structure of college basketball and teams will likely look past some of the struggles he had while at Florida.
During some of the drills Duruji’s jump shot looked solid and the form looked improved from his time at Florida where he was a 31% three-point shooter, though he didn’t take any threes in the tournament games which maybe speaks to the fact that his confidence in that area is still growing. What teams will love to see is that he played to his strengths and didn’t do too much and that he embraced being a role player. With all due respect to the college seniors that were at this event, if a player has been in college for four years or longer he’s likely not destined to be a star in the NBA so scouts at Portsmouth are looking for role players.
For Anthony Duruji, getting selected in the two rounds of the NBA Draft is unlikely. However, being undrafted hasn’t stopped a host of players from making NBA rosters in recent seasons. With the NBA Draft being so short, teams have multiple roster spots open for undrafted free agents and that is likely to be the path Duruji is hoping for.
A player who’s journey should be inspiring to Duruji should be fellow Gator Dorian Finney-Smith who went undrafted and then signed with the Dallas Mavericks. Finney-Smith put his head down and worked to continue to get better and despite not being drafted has played nearly 400 NBA games and just signed a four-year, $52 million contract showing that not being drafted doesn’t mean the NBA dream dies.
Since playing at Portsmouth, Duruji has also had individual workouts with four NBA teams, and it’s possible he’ll get more workouts in the upcoming weeks. The teams he’s worked out for are the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and Washington Wizards.
For any player likely to go in the second round or be undrafted, Miami is a place they should want to go. Miami’s player development system is considered to be one of the best and they have had several undrafted players become key cogs in their rotation, most recently Duncan Robinson who signed a five-year, $90 million deal to stay a key part of their plans moving forward. The Heat have made hard work, defense, and toughness a key element of their culture and if Duruji is willing to work hard on and off the court this would be a great landing spot.
The San Antonio Spurs have a history of finding diamonds in the rough and them working out Duruji is a compliment in itself. In fact, there are teams that think so highly of San Antonio’s player evaluation that when the Spurs work out a player they realize they should take interest as well, so working out with the Spurs could have opened some doors for Duruji even if San Antonio decides they aren’t interested.
After taking Scottie Lewis in the second round of the draft last year the Charlotte Hornets may have interest in another athlete in Duruji. They’re starting to get some of their core in order but could use some athletes to round out the rotation so you can see why they’d want a look at Duruji.
The Washington Wizards are in rebuild mode and have minutes available so there could be a reasonable pathway to Duruji getting on this roster if they like his size and athleticism.
Right now the date to keep in mind is Thursday, June 23rd. That’s the NBA Draft, and while it’s unlikely that Anthony Duruji will be selected, the moment the draft ends is when undrafted players start signing with NBA teams. Duruji may know his next team as soon as that night, and if that happens we’ll know where we can cheer him moving forward.