Baylor standout Isaiah Austin was a projected first-round pick in the 2014 draft before hearing the devastating news that he would no longer be able to pursue his NBA dream.
Jan 7, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor former center Isaiah Austin during the first half at Ferrell Center. Kansas won 56-55. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome days before the NBA Draft, which is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. Doctors recommended that he quit playing basketball immediately.
That was until Thursday.
“Ever since the draft, I’ve been getting checked by my doctor; and through those checkups, we’ve been monitoring my heart, making sure that nothing has changed, and he said that I am stable,” Austin said via his Instagram account.
Austin was cleared to play and will begin workouts in hopes to get signed by a team as soon as possible.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took a moment between the 15th and 16th pick of the 2014 draft to honor Austin as a ceremonial pick. He was given an NBA cap and a standing ovation for his efforts at Baylor and his courage throughout the process.
“I am cleared. I am about to be out here pursuing my dream. Ever since my doctors told me that I was cleared, it’s been in my mind: I want to go chase this. It’s always been my dream. At the same time, I’m a God-fearing man, and I believe that everything happens in life for a reason. So why would God put it in my doctor’s heart to say that I was cleared if he didn’t want me to go and chase my dream and share my testimony with millions of people around the world.” (per espn.com)
Here is a list of five potential teams that could take a chance on Austin moving forward through the rest of the season:
Nov 29, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) watches from the bench during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Brooklyn Nets are an abysmal 5-14 with little to no help on the defensive end. They currently sacrifice the most points per game (114.2) and rebounds per game (48.4) to opponents. (per nba.com).
Brook Lopez has been their best defensive option early this season as he accounts for 1.59 blocks per game. Aside from Lopez, the Nets struggle for rim protection. The next man up in blocks per game is point guard Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead with 0.60 blocks per game.
Needless to say, the Nets might need to shop the market for another rim presence.
Isaiah Austin would provide that second layer of rim protection that the Nets need more than ever.
Trevor Booker currently occupies the starting power forward position, but Austin has all the tools and ability to take that job from him, provided he is in shape and hasn’t been away from the game for too long.
Booker currently leads the team in rebounds per game (8.3) while Lopez only secures 5.2 rebounds per game. The lack of big men in Brooklyn, or on any team for that matter, plays a big role in a team’s success.
Look for Brooklyn to take a chance on Austin in hopes that he flourishes in such an uninspired defense.
Nov 25, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 98-85. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been nothing but disappointing this season. At 6-14, they have proven that pure athleticism alone can’t win you basketball games.
Tom Thibodeau was brought in to be the savior the Wolves needed. The defensive minded Thibodeau hasn’t turned around the Wolves around quite yet, but ultimately could pull together a western conference powerhouse if they find themselves on both ends of the ball.
The T-Wolves are sacrificing the 105.6 points per game, which ranks 19th (per espn.com) in the league this season. They do, however, have a couple shot blockers who have proven to be anchors on the defensive end.
Karl-Anthony Towns leads the Wolves with 1.5 blocks per game and Gorgui Dieng is averaging 1.3 blocks per game.
Isaiah Austin isn’t an imperative piece to the Timberwolves puzzle. He won’t solve all their problem, but he sure would be a fun addition to the already exciting Timberwolves franchise.
Austin wouldn’t necessarily be called on to score in bunches but could thrive with his ability to stretch the floor and be the defensive anchor.
Dec 1, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) dribbles up the court during the second half against the Miami Heat at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Miami won 111-110. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Utah Jazz starting unit is pretty solid from a sheer talent standpoint. Where the Jazz struggle is when the bench is called upon to produce. Trey Lyles is the most productive player off the bench for the Jazz, racking up 9.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. (per espn.com)
Defensively, the Jazz are even more solid. They currently lead the league in opponent points per game at 94.8. The next best defensive team is the Detroit Pistons, who allow 97.0 points per game.
Isaiah Austin would be a good fit for the Jazz due to his length and athletic ability. The 7’4.5″ wingspan of Austin would be a good fit for the already lengthy Jazz.
Dec 3, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews (23) and guard Deron Williams (8) celebrate during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeat the Bulls 107-82. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Maybe it’s just because of the Texas connection, but the Dallas Mavericks are in dire need of help in any way they can get it. At 4-15, the Mavs have been one of the most disappointing teams this season.
With Dirk Nowitzki is on his way out, second-year man Dwight Powell has shown flashes of brilliance at the power forward position. He, however, will need a backup once Nowitzki calls it quits.
The Mavericks went out and got Harrison Barnes in the offseason which has proven to be a good pickup so far. Barnes is averaging 20.4 through 19 games (per espn.com) but next in line in scoring is third-string point guard J.J. Barea at 16.3.
Austin could step in and give them points off the bench, but also help in the rebounding and block department. Currently, Andrew Bogut leads the team with 10.7 rebounds and 0.87 blocks per game. Austin’s length and athletic ability could prove vital for the struggling Mavs moving forward.
Currently, the Mavericks have 16 players on their roster, with 14 of them under contract. This leaves room for Austin to sign with the Mavericks and provide scoring, rebounding and shot blocking ability.
Dec 3, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) shoots against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and guard Dante Exum (11) in the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets, 7-13 overall, are yet another one of those teams that could use some help on the defensive end. The Nuggets currently allow 109.5 points per game (per nba.com) which ranks fourth-worst in the association.
Kenneth Faried is the defensive anchor for the Nuggets, but The Manimal could use some help if the Nuggets want to be successful.
Faried currently averages 1.15 blocks per game (per espn.com) and leads the team in such category. He also averages 9.5 points per game.
Austin would be a good backup for Faried as he can provide the length and athleticism on the defensive end, while also being able to produce on the offensive end.
With Austin’s mid-range game, three-point range and ability to score with his back to the basket, he will have to be guarded pretty much as soon as he crosses half court.
The Nuggets are a young team that will have some growing pains. This is one such growing pain that they are currently going through. Signing Austin wouldn’t hurt them. If anything, it would give them length at the center position, where the 7’0″ Jusuf Nurkic currently resides.