Carlos Powell: Working Hard to Reach the NBA

Undrafted free agent forward Carlos Powell is hoping that his hard work and polished skills will land him a job with an NBA team. Photo by Max Simbron

Phoenix Suns preseason roster addition Carlos Powell was undrafted coming out of South Carolina in 2005 where he played all four years. Since then he's played overseas in both Europe and Asia and spent the 2007/08 season with the NBA D-league's Dakota Wizards where he averaged 22 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 4.8 apg. Powell's known as a physical small forward (6'7", 225lbs) who can shoot the three, has good vision and can still bang a little bit. 

Carlos is a prototypical guy "on the bubble" and is trying to make it to the NBA the hard way just as former Suns Matt Barnes and Raja Bell did. From the look of things, this summer has brought Powell much closer to reaching his dream.

In July the Phoenix Suns added Carlos to their Vegas Summer League roster where he played well putting up 9 points in 16 minutes of play and shot 60% from three. That apparently was enough to earn Carlos an invitation to join the Suns training camp and preseason squad where he continues to impress.

Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said this about Powell, "He's played well at camp. He's a good guy. Real aggressive guy and a real physical guy. He's done some good things. Shot the ball real well."

David Griffin, the Suns Sr. VP of Basketball Operations and the go-to source for Suns player personnel information agreed with Gentry. He feels that Powell is definitely an NBA caliber player and better then some other guys that are currently on NBA rosters with guaranteed contracts. He described Powell as a talented and skilled player who can create shots for himself and his teammates and who's game is very well developed.

Powell had a reputation from some D-league observers as being a guy that was too focused on his own stats and didn't work well within the Dakota Wizards system. Griff wouldn't comment on that specifically but emphasized that Powell was fitting in with the Suns and played well with the team's veterans during his one opportunity to start in place of Grant Hill during a preseason game against Portland. Powell had 12 points in the first quarter of that game and played solid defense throughout.

A few other teams have reportedly shown some interest in Powell and the Suns are frequently asked about him by scouts from around the league but he is still relatively unknown. While he made decent money playing in Korea last season he probably hurt his chances by not getting exposed to NBA scouts which he would have done if he played in Europe or stayed with the D-league.

Powell remains optimistic that the Suns will sign him but that seems unlikely given the roster and financial situation in Phoenix. The Suns already have 13 players under contract and are well over the luxury tax line which makes it a long shot that Carlos will be in a Suns uniform when then season starts in a few weeks.

It is no coincidence, however, that the two non-contract players still with the Suns (Powell and veteran point guard Dan Dickau) play the same position as the Suns two oldest players: Grant Hill and Steve Nash. Both players are experienced and NBA ready and by playing with the Suns this preseason would be obvious options if either Hill or Nash went down for an extended period of time.

Powell said this about his situation and options, "I think I'm doing pretty good..Hopefully something will happen in the next week...I think I've proven that I can play on this level if I can get into the right situation. If I don't make it here...I'm not really feeling Europe right now so my chances of going there are slim."

According to league sources, Powell's rights are not held by any team. If he decides to play in the D-league before the November 5th draft he will be available to whichever team selects him. If he waits until after the draft he goes into an "available player pool" where other teams can make a claim on him.

That seems at this point to be the most likely outcome for Powell but as Griffin said, he is a perfect candidate for an NBA call-up during the season. Last year when the Bobcats Gerald Wallace went down with an injury the Iowa Energy's Cartier Martin got the call and performed well in 33 games. That seems to be the most likely outcome for Powell as well.

Coach Gentry added this about Powell's chances to make it in the NBA, "We'll have to wait and see. There's a lot of guys that are very similar to him in the league. We'll just have to wait and see what happens with that. But we like him and think he's a pretty good player."

The Suns see Powell as more of a polished rotation player who can contribute immediately in the right situation but they don't view him as a 12th or 13th man like a Taylor Griffin who has an "end of bench mentality".

For his part, Carlos thinks the most important thing he can do to help his chances are to prove himself in practice, "Going out in practice and giving everything you got and then it will lead over to the game. I think everything is falling into place like I planned it to. So hopefully I can stick with this team and ride this year out and help the team the best way I can."

A couple of years ago he might have thought the way to make it was to put up big numbers any time he stepped on the floor but at this point he's going about things the right way. He came to Phoenix early to work out with his friend Alando Tucker and other Suns players before camp started and he's impressed his teammates with his effort.

"If you want to have a chance to make it you look at history. He's someone who works extremely hard. He stays after and gets shots. He's someone who has a shot, a legitimate shot at it," said Suns forward Jared Dudley when asked about Powell. Dudley added, "I'm wishing the best for him. I know we play the same position but I'm wishing for him to make this team."

There's a reason that Carlos Powell was on the floor at the end of the Suns preseason game against the 76ers and Taylor Griffin wasn't. Powell is a much more experienced professional player who is a legitimate threat on the offensive end.

Unfortunately, Powell missed a big corner three opportunity that would have sealed the game for Phoenix but despite that miss I don't think we've seen the last of Carlos Powell in an NBA uniform.

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