Kai Sotto in FIBA Play

Kai Sotto Takes His Talents to the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers

Today’s top hoops prospects have more choices than ever when it comes to bridging the gap between their high school and professional careers.

When it came to Kai Sotto, an 18 year old, highly touted prospect from the Philippines, his options were plenty. The 7’3″ phenom looked to be following in the footsteps of Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, and others by going straight into the NBA’s newly re-imagined farm system.

Sotto entered and even played in a few scrimmages with the NBA G League’s program Team Ignite, where players get professional level development, salaries in the range of 4-500k (for the top few prospects), and national TV exposure.

Because of COVID-related circumstances, Kai opted out of rejoining the team in the G League bubble, and thus never had a chance to get the exposure he had hoped for. As of the publishing of this article, Sotto still has an NBA G League tweet from September pinned to his profile.

Wednesday evening, we learned that Sotto has inked a deal with the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian professional team in the National Basketball League.

This is another non-college route that has been popularized by the likes of LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton.

By going over to New Zealand and Australia to play in the NBL, these prospects are able to insert themselves into a paid, professional environment where their sole focus is becoming a better basketball player every day.

The deal was club-friendly, since Asian-born players can be signed using the Special Restricted Player rule. There are restrictions on how many foreign players can be “imported” into each NBL team’s roster, but Sotto won’t count against the 36ers limit.

How Sotto Can Improve His Game While Playing for the 36ers

In a few scrimmages with Team Ignite, one of the biggest holes in Kai’s game appeared to be a difficulty guarding the perimeter. For NBA scouts, this can be a concern. We’ve seen old-school bigs be played out of playoff series when teams attack them with mismatches and expose their limited defense.

Going into this professional environment is a big opportunity for Sotto to get exposure to higher-powered offenses than he would have seen in college.

If Kai can become serviceable at guarding the pick and roll and staying in front of perimeter players, he’s going to be a main target when he enters the draft.

In FIBA play with The Philippines, and in the US with The Skill Academy, Kai has been dominant. Often matched up against smaller players, Sotto is able to control the post, block shots, and grab a ton of rebounds.

Playing against the veteran big men in the National Basketball League will be a physical challenge that Sotto has not yet faced, and it’s something that will prepare him for the next level more than the college game ever could.

When will we see Kai Sotto in the NBA?

The deal he signed with Adelaide is a two years with a player option for a third year, so it is expected that Kai would enter the draft in 2022.

If his game doesn’t progress at the rate NBA Scouts want to see, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see him take that player option. However, with the history of players at his size experiencing career altering or ending injuries, it may be wise to enter the league sooner rather than later.

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Founder of HoopSocial. Girl Dad. WNBA stan. Syracuse Orange and Charlotte Hornets fan. Sarcasm is my native tongue. You can follow me on Twitter at @mike_hoopsocial.