On July 30, Thomas Welsh was waived by the Denver Nuggets. For most NBA fans, a midsummer offseason transaction involving a second round draft pick like Welsh often goes unnoticed. After all, he totaled only 36 minutes in a loaded Denver frontcourt that featured an up-and-coming superstar in Nikola Jokic and a steady veteran in Paul Millsap. But for the UCLA faithful, Thomas Welsh is familiar name.
Before being drafted with the 58th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft by Denver, Welsh spent four years in Westwood, quickly becoming a fan favorite, endearing himself as an old school center anchoring a program hosting its fair share of one-and-done and two-and-done athletes. By the end of his tenure at UCLA, Welsh had appeared in 132 games, averaging 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. His 1,030 rebounds ranked behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton in UCLA Bruins men’s basketball history.
Despite Welsh’s development into a stretch-the-floor center as a senior, he lacked the elite athleticism necessary to fly up the wishlists of NBA teams on draft night. Still, he was picked at the tail-end of the draft by Denver, a Western Conference team that simply could not find any room for Welsh on their roster. Fortunately for Welsh, he spent less than ten days as a free agent before being signed by the Charlotte Hornets yesterday
For an All-Star like Kemba Walker, Charlotte was the equivalent of career purgatory—he signed a max contract with the Boston Celtics this summer after spending eight middling seasons with the Hornets. But, for an unestablished role player like Welsh, a thin roster like Charlotte is an ideal landing spot. Of course, he will have to compete in camp against the likes of San Diego State standout Jalen McDaniels to make Charlotte’s fifteen-man regular season roster.
Even in a city like Charlotte, Welsh’s NBA odds are still very slim. It’s likely that he will spend most of this upcoming season with the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate, only joining the pro team if veteran bigs like Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo are injured. Welsh has always been a patient player, and Charlotte might be just one of many steps in-and-out of the NBA before he has a chance at becoming an everyday player. When there are so few roster spots to spare, that might never happen, but what I do know is that every Bruin that has watched Welsh play in Westwood is hoping that it will.