Ever since he first stepped onto campus at Penn State, we knew Tim Frazier would be too short to be drafted by an NBA team. We just didn't know he would come as close as he did to getting selected this summer. After a quiet start to his career, Frazier exploded during his junior season with 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game, saving a bad Penn State team from being completely unwatchable and rising to become one of the Big Ten's top players.
A torn Achilles tendon in his senior year slowed Frazier's ascent towards a future in professional basketball, but he rebounded with a solid fifth season after being granted an extra year of eligibility. In 2013-14, Frazier scored 14.9 points per game and handed out 5.4 assists per contest, and he did so as a more efficient player than before. Thanks to some help on offense from D.J. Newbill and company, Frazier's counting stats were down, but he also committed fewer turnovers and posted a higher shooting percentage thanks to the better supporting cast.
Now that Frazier has signed on to play summer ball with the Sixers, there's a chance for the master distributor to earn a spot on an NBA team. Philadelphia brings back the reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, but there's no solid backup in place yet. To earn a spot on the Sixers, Frazier will need to overcome the two things that held him back as an NBA Draft prospect: his lack of a consistent jump shot and his lack of height.
Frazier could do a lot of things as point guard at Penn State. He could pass, break down a defense with dribble penetration, run the fast break, and even finish at the rim. Long distance shooting was often an issue, though. In his breakout season of 2011-12, Frazier hit 31.4 percent of his three-pointers. In 2013-14, that figure shrunk to 29.1 percent. There are plenty of successful point guards in the NBA who aren't lethal from beyond the arc, but those players are often superior in other way ways to make up for it.
Although he proved in college that he could be a big threat on offense without an efficient jump shot, Frazier also will have to compete against point guard candidates who are taller than he is. To get beyond Philly's summer league roster, Frazier will have to prove he is more valuable than Pierre Jackson -- the point guard from Baylor who is just as short as Frazier is, but who possesses nearly unlimited range with his jumper -- as well as Aaron Craft.
The famous Ohio State point guard saw his Buckeyes lose to Frazier's Lions twice in Big Ten play this winter, but Craft may have a leg up as an NBA prospect because of his incredible dedication to defense. Frazier is quick enough to stay in front of the man he is guarding, but Craft brings things to the next level with his physicality and ability to create turnovers. As a scorer, Craft lacks the penetration skills of Frazier and the Ohio State alum is just as bad as a shooter, but if he can show NBA coaches that he can shut down opposing guards, Craft has a shot to sneak onto a roster.
It also doesn't hurt that college basketball analysts spent all winter fawning over Craft, while Frazier went mostly unnoticed at low-profile Penn State.
If Frazier is going to fight his way onto an NBA roster this summer, he's got to show either an improved jump shot or increased intensity on defense. As it is, his game isn't good enough to play in the NBA, so hopefully Frazier isn't done surprising us yet.