When Phlandrous Fleming transferred to the Florida Gators from the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, he was open about part of the move being to better his chances of reaching his NBA dreams.
Fleming had accomplished just about everything he could at the mid-major level, filling the stat sheet offensively and becoming the most accomplished individual defender in the Big South. To prove he could play at the highest level, he transferred to Florida to play against the future NBAers the SEC has to offer. His season was a success, averaging 11.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while often guarding the opposing team’s best player on the other end. Doing so in one of the best conferences in college basketball, Fleming now has moved closer to his ultimate dream of playing in the NBA.
So far Fleming has completed two individual workouts with NBA teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Wizards. These are two fascinating possibilities, as both teams have minutes available for incoming talent, but for two different reasons.
For the Lakers, they have minutes available due to the fact that they are in salary cap difficulties due to massive contracts belonging to LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis, and that’s coming off a year where they missed the playoffs. This situation would be excellent for Fleming for a couple of reasons. First of all, they need wing players. Their production, and their salary dollars, are mostly tied to their frontcourt and point guard positions and they are looking for wings that can play around that core. Furthermore, their biggest issue last season was defense and that’s where Fleming is likely to be at his best at the next level of basketball.
The Lakers might be trying to compete for a championship next year but on the other end of the spectrum is the Washington Wizards who also hosted Phlandrous Fleming for a workout. The Wizards are currently in a rebuild phase (one that has gone one for a number of years and is starting to look somewhat perpetual) but because of that have spots available for young players.
Washington has been a team that has loved their Gators recently as Devin Robinson played a few seasons with their G League affiliate and they also welcomed in Anthony Duruji for a workout.
Watching the NBA playoffs it is clear that the league belongs to wing players and there isn’t enough supply to meet demand. For that reason, teams are starting to look at players like Phlandrous Fleming who have positional size, can shoot it and handle it a bit, and be a plus on the defensive end. Fleming (6’5” with long arms) wouldn’t have great size if played at the small forward spot but would have great length if played at the “2.” After being a defensive player of the year in the Big South, he was also a versatile and productive defender at Florida. The big swing skill for Fleming is going to be his three-point shooting which at times was pretty erratic. His stroke has always looked mechanically sound, but the results haven’t always been there and he is a career 30% three-point shooter who was at 29% for the Gators. What will work in his favor is his ability to make tough shots, something that is a necessity in the NBA.
Analytically savvy NBA teams will love his steal and block numbers as he has always been disruptive at that end, no matter the level. If a team falls in love with his defensive ability and work ethic and he hits enough shots in workouts, a team may give him a chance.
The NBA Draft is on Thursday, June 23rd. It is quite unlikely that Fleming will have his name called in the two rounds of the draft, but that doesn’t mean his NBA dreams will have been dashed. Due to the small number of players selected in the draft, teams have lots of positions open for unsigned free agents and these days it isn’t uncommon at all to see multiple unsigned free agents on the floor for quality teams. Think about Dorian Finney-Smith who was an unsigned free agent that is now a multi-year starter for the Dallas Mavericks. Fleming might not hear his name called on Thursday but upon completion of the draft, watch for him to sign a contract with a team to go to training camp or play in the NBA Summer League. If he continues to perform well, he can find himself in the NBA and fulfil the dreams that he came to Florida to help develop.