With his B.League season having come to a close, Kai Sotto’s wait for the NBA’s call begins.
After being undrafted and unsigned by NBA teams for the 2022 NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League, respectively, Sotto made a return to the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers. Once the 36ers’ season was essentially over, he then joined the Japan B.League’s Hiroshima Dragonflies, who were in the thick of the B.League playoff race. In the end, the Dragonflies too were kicked out of the postseason.
Sotto’s stats from his stints with both Adelaide and Hiroshima won’t jump out and might give an incomplete picture of him as a player. Watching Sotto’s play then, may provide further context on where the 21-year old is at.
It’s easy to see Sotto’s growth in the span of the year. He looks more used to the rigors of battling in the trenches and his defensive instincts have gotten better. The two-time NBL Fans MVP has always been known to have a knack for making good passes, but his own offense looked much better with a year under his belt. He’s been smarter at finding the right positions in the paint and can finish against tougher defenses.
That Sotto was on the bench for much of the B.League Playoffs was quite unfortunate though, but it goes to show that he’s far from a finished product. Granted, it could have all boiled down to the preference of the Dragonflies coaching staff, but that in itself is telling. Why wasn’t he used when Hiroshima needed answers? Can he handle more minutes in an environment like that? Will he be a target for opposing teams to feast on? Sotto may need to answer that for the sake of his NBA dreams and he has the luxury of time to address that.
The NBA is obviously his next agenda, but there are also his national team commitments, which extend to at least the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Unfortunately, there is a chance both will overlap. A stint in the 2023 NBA Summer League could complicate things for Sotto, as the annual post-draft showcase will be held in July, which falls right smack in the middle of Gilas Pilipinas’ preparations for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. That he will proceed to the US to begin training this early for a summer league opportunity means that Sotto will likely only join the national team preparations barely a month before the FIBA World Cup.
After all, everything he has done in the last few years, including his participation with Gilas, is geared towards the NBA. It would be unfair to remove him from the Gilas Pilipinas pool if he does take the NBA Summer League rule since he has been a fixture in most of the Philippines’ international competitions.
One can’t blame Sotto for pursuing his NBA dream and he has every right to do it. After the debacle of his previous management’s handling, he is now under Wasserman Basketball and given their body of work, they will likely do a better job of finding him the right opportunities and helping him balance his other commitments such as that of the national team.
Barring any injury and perhaps any restrictions, Sotto will answer the call of Gilas. Everything, from his minutes to his on-court contributions, are more meaningful when playing for GIlas Pilipinas. It would only be fair to give Sotto a chance to vie for a spot in the Philippines’ FIBA World Cup Roster because at that stage, he can provide a lot of help. And besides, national teams led by Chot Reyes are used to working on short notice.
It’s now a waiting game for Kai Sotto and his NBA aspirations and he’s made a wise decision to buckle down to work. If anything, that’s a great thing given his development in the last year and how it will help him stay in shape during what will be a long layoff. There may be some areas where further development is needed, but let’s not fret since at the end of the day, Kai’s improvement will only be a boost for Philippine basketball.