Perhaps the most high-profile roster cut this week was the Sixers’ decision to let go of Royce White, the 16th pick from the 2012 draft. White’s psychological disorders have been well-documented since his time playing college ball at Iowa State, where he excelled as a versatile 6’8″ force. There were doubts about his mental health leading up to the draft, but his abilities on the basketball court made him a top-five talent, as far as Rockets GM Daryl Morey was concerned. Morey, who had three first-round picks last year, figured he would use one on the high-risk, high-reward White.
Alas, Morey’s gamble went bust. White and the Rockets engaged in a back-and-forth all season long about language that White wanted to have inserted into his contract to provide for his mental health. The Rockets countered that the league’s collective bargaining agreement wouldn’t allow them to put special provisions in his standard rookie-scale deal, and White went the entire regular season without appearing in an NBA game, only hitting the court during preseason and for 16 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s D-League affiliate.
Morey decided to write off his loss halfway through the two-year guaranteed portion of White’s contract, trading him to the Sixers for Philadelphia’s 2014 second-round pick. Morey sweetened the deal for his former assistant, newly minted Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, adding the rights to Turkish prospect Furkan Aldemir and, as we learned yesterday, enough cash to cover White’s 2013/14 salary.
White’s brief tenure in Philadelphia was a quiet one. He made few headlines, and the story that he didn’t accompany the team for its exhibition games in Europe was somewhat overblown, since the Sixers left other players on their roster home, too. White appeared in five preseason games this month and even started one, averaging 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per contest. He seemed mentally and physically prepared to play.
Still, Hinkie and the Sixers decided that it wasn’t worth keeping White around, even though they have a roster that’s roundly expected to finish with the league’s worst record this season. That leaves more questions than answers surrounding the future of a player whom Morey, and likely other league executives, considered better than most lottery picks based on talent alone less than a year and a half ago.
White’s future might not include the NBA. He’s never played in a regular season game, so, officially, he has yet to make his debut. Let us know whether you think he ever will, and leave a comment to explain your thinking.