21/04/2024

Jack White, Luke Travers, Ousmane Dieng, and Josh Giddey were just some of the many NBL and Australian ballers playing in the NBA Summer League. (Image: @MelbUnited; @NBL - Twitter)

Did your favourite NBL or Australian player make a splash over in Vegas? The Inner Sanctum takes a look at their performances over the NBA Summer League.

The 2022 NBA Summer League was packed to the brim with Australians and stars of the NBL. Some were fighting for a spot on an NBA roster, while others were looking to show their coaches why they deserve greater court time.

Untimely injuries and mouth-watering plays awaited keen viewers keeping an eye on their favourites across a week and a half in Las Vegas.

The Inner Sanctum has the most comprehensive wrap-up team by team on every Australian and NBL player who made waves in the NBA Summer League this year.

Boston Celtics

Robert Franks

The newest member of the Adelaide 36ers, Robert Franks wrapped up a disappointing Summer League stint with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Celtics.

Prior to the start of Summer League, the Celtics had opened up some additional roster slots after trading five players away as a part of the Malcolm Brogdon deal.

Franks was suddenly in a prime position to fight his way onto the roster with a good showing at Summer League, however, in limited playing time, Franks was unable to get going for the Celtics.

Over four games, Franks put up a total of 10 points as he struggled to make his presence felt in the rotation.

The 25-year-old’s best game came against the Bucks where he put up seven points, two blocks, and missed just one shot.

In the final two games of Summer League, Franks was disappointing on both sides of the floor, with just one shot attempt and a block in 13 minutes of play.

Franks looked to be a shell of the player who lit up the NBL this past season and struggled to make an impact on offence without the ball in his hands.

As the competition progressed, the Celtics slowly filled out their roster with some more notable names and still have one two-way contract left to hand if they were to consider Franks for the upcoming season.

However, the most likely outcome from this is that Franks will return to Adelaide and not be offered a second chance in the NBA this season.

It’s a disappointing outcome considering the undeniable talent that Franks possesses when his shot is firing and it’s surprising given his notable stint with the Mavericks during last year’s Summer League – where he managed to average 10.5 points and four rebounds per game.

Dominic Criniti

Chicago Bulls

Akoldah Gak

The Illawarra Hawks forward was added to the Bulls Summer League roster in late June, after going undrafted in the recent draft. His recent form in the FIBA U19 World Cup was enough for the Bulls to give him a try.

Gak was given limited opportunities throughout the tournament, not playing in three of the five games.

The most action he saw was in the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Knicks, playing 13 minutes and slamming down a nice dunk.

Those were his only two points for the tournament, and whilst he did not contribute on the court, hopefully, the experience of being a part of the Bulls team for the two weeks allowed him to learn and grow as a basketballer and play more minutes for the Illawarra Hawks in the upcoming NBL season.

Makur Maker

The Sydney Kings’ Next Star missed out in the NBA Draft but was given a chance to play with the Bulls in this year’s Summer League.

Maker was used as an impact player off the bench, consistently playing around 12-14 minutes per game. There was plenty to like too from his efforts in the restricted minutes.

Maker used his height to extend the defence, often bringing out opposing bigs to the three-point line, an area in which he is a real threat. This allowed for better spacing for the Bulls and was a real feature of his play.

His best game came against the Raptors, where he was given more game time (18 minutes) and scored 10 points to go along with six rebounds, and a steal.

Although the 21-year-old caught the eye of popular Chicago Bulls commentator Stacey King and many Bulls fans, he is unlikely at this stage to end up on an NBA roster, but the tournament would have given him a lot of confidence that he can compete at the level. It would not be surprising to see him sign with a G-League team or capture the Bulls’ last two-way contract spot should they want to keep him around.

If either of these doesn’t prosper, Maker is still under contract with the Kings and could be a more prominent figure in the NBL this season.

Scott Kertes

Cleveland Cavaliers

Luke Travers

Luke Travers was added to the Cleveland Cavaliers Summer League team after they selected the young Australian in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft. Coming from the NBL this past season, Travers was a fan favourite that had skills that many star-level talented players in the NBA build their game around.

In his first game in Summer League against the Spurs, the 20-year-old had an incredible defensive performance, recording two steals and four blocks. For perspective, pick two of this past NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren broke the Salt Lake City Summer League record with six blocks the day before.

In this game against the Spurs, he had three points, coming from an and-one, displaying his ability to finish through contact.

In his second game against the Nuggets, he showed his ability to grab rebounds, grabbing seven boards. Travers also recorded another two steals, showing his ability and potential to be a two-way player.

Travers’ performance in the game against the Hornets was his worst performance in the tournament. Defensively, he was beaten on the dribble and his presence in that aspect of the game was removed in the matchup.

In one specific play, the Hornets got a three-point play from a Kai Jones mid-range turnaround fade away as a result of Travers being beaten on the dribble and fouling as Jones was mid-air releasing the shot. Offensively, Travers did not get many attempts and a theme in his shot selection is the quality of shots he is taking. When he is not wide open, he is more likely to miss them and alter his shooting form.

Travers turned it around in the Pistons matchup, scoring six points, while also getting a steal and a block. Travers showed his ability to catch and shoot a three-pointer, especially from the top of the key.

A common theme in the Western Australian’s games was his low shot volume and having to contribute to different aspects of the game. It wasn’t until the Cavaliers’ last game against the Hawks that he was able to have double-digit shot attempts and show what he can do when given the opportunity.

The catch and shoot ability from Travers continued in the game against the Hawks, with his highest scoring total in the tournament, having 14 points on 10 shots, shooting less than 50 per cent from three. Travers also scored in various ways, from driving to the rim to mid ranges, Travers can also be a three-level scorer depending on the game and situation.

Cleveland in this tournament looked promising on the fastbreak and in transition, especially letting Travers take charge and lead that aspect of the game. With the rule changes to take fouls in the NBA when teams go on the fastbreak, Travers with the right opportunity can contribute to the point total with the talent the Cavaliers have around him.

Some areas Travers could improve are his ability to defend taller and bigger players, as well as his shot selection, and free throw success, as he struggled from the foul line.

If Travers could also work on his acceleration as he takes off on the fastbreak and his agility, he would be able to come off the bench and make the game faster when the game is going back and forth.

Travers in the tournament has shown shades of other Australian NBA players in Joe Ingles with his catch-and-shoot three ability, Josh Giddey with making really good passes and moving the ball calculatingly, and Matisse Thybulle with his ability to read the passing lane.

However, his NBA dream will have to wait, despite his spectacular form throughout Summer League, Travers will be back in the NBL this season with the Perth Wildcats with the news the Cavaliers are stashing the versatile guard/forward.

Kye Ferreira

Denver Nuggets

Jack White

Jack White had a Summer League to remember after it was announced he had signed a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets after several impressive performances over their five games.

The now former Melbourne United forward was extremely influential with his minutes on the court, impacting the Nuggets defensively while also putting points on the board with work on the inside.

In his first game, while on very limited minutes, he clearly showed enough for the Nuggets to extend his time on the court for the second and third games, in which he put together his best work.

White had eight points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks in the second game, showcasing his defensive prowess in the frontcourt. He was most damaging when providing second-chance opportunities, with six of his 15 rebounds coming off the offensive glass and providing his teammates with assurance under the basket.

The third game from White saw his best performance scoring the ball, pouring in 14 points to go with six rebounds, two steals, and a block.

As his minutes continued to increase throughout the five games, he was given the starting role on the same day he was announced to be joining the Nuggets.

The former Duke captain is set to realise his dream of playing in the NBA this season under Nuggets coach Michael Malone and now leaves Melbourne United with a large hole to fill before the beginning of the NBL season.

Jarryd Thomas

Golden State Warriors

Justinian Jessup

Justinian Jessup returned to this year’s Summer League suiting up again for the Golden State Warriors. The 24-year-old had limited impact on the team, only making an appearance in just two games.

In the Warriors’ loss against the Knicks, the former Next Star contributed offensively coming off the bench, finishing the game with seven points. This included a three-pointer made within the remaining minutes of the final quarter.

Jessup also helped defensively in his 13 minutes of court time. He also provided two assists and a rebound.

His second game, made up of twelve minutes on the court, saw him again come off the bench. His appearance against the San Antonio Spurs was an even quieter outing, finishing with only a steal, a block, and only attempting one shot.

Jessup is unlikely to return to Illawarra, but if he was, the sharpshooter would need to be brought back as an import and not as a Next Star. It has been reported teams in Europe have shown interest in Jessup.

Yudai Baba

Melbourne United’s Yudai Baba wasn’t involved in action for the Warriors until their second last game against the Thunder.

During his first game, Baba had a limited impact on the team. This was as a result of the four minutes of court time given to him. The entirety of his four minutes was seen in the final quarter, where he had five points to his name.

Baba returned in Golden State’s final game against Washington. His second appearance in this year’s competition was slightly better given that the 26-year-old saw an increase in his minutes. During his 19 minutes, Baba managed two points and a healthy nine rebounds.

The Japanese player at this stage seems unlikely to secure a spot on an NBA roster. If a return to the NBL is on the cards for Baba, then you can expect that he’ll bring a strong defensive presence.

Ashleigh Matosevic

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Milwaukee Bucks

Hugo Besson

Hugo Besson debuted for the Milwaukee Bucks after being selected with pick 58 in the 2022 NBA Draft and struggled to find his footing throughout Summer League.

Making his first appearance off the bench in a tight contest against the Nets, Besson was underwhelming in just seven minutes of action, recording just one missed shot and no other major stat.

Besson was positive on the defensive end and showcased his ability to successfully be a part of an NBA-ready defence.

The 21-year-old did not play in the second game but was elevated to the second unit in the third game where he saw 17 minutes of action. With an opportunity to showcase his skills as a backup point guard, Besson shot two for seven but proved his ability as a facilitator despite not recording an assist.

Besson’s struggles with his shot continued to plague him throughout the final games, as he made just one of his next 10 attempts.

With championship aspirations at the forefront in Milwaukee, the Bucks held on to his draft rights but handed out four training camp deals to some of Besson’s teammates.

The most likely outcome for Besson going forward is that the Bucks will likely allow him to sign for another international team and keep tabs on him as a potential two-way player throughout the next couple of years.

Besson missed a massive opportunity to join one of the best teams in the NBA and will now have to prove to the Bucks why they traded to get him.

Dusty Hannahs

Dusty Hannahs was a late call-up to the 2021 NBA champions Summer League roster and struggled to find real game-time with the Bucks.

Hannahs featured in the first game with just three minutes of action. 

After his first stint, Hannahs didn’t play in the following three games and was forced to watch as his teammates began to impress and take up training camp deals with the Bucks.

Much like Besson, the 28-year-old was given an elevated role in the final game of Summer League, playing as the sixth man in a dead rubber game for both sides.

Hannahs was disappointing in the 19 minutes he was on the court. In a game where the Bucks spread the ball around, he made two from five shots and struggled to attack the rim.

With just five points and a poor defensive game, Hannahs didn’t do much to help his case for a roster spot.

In his two previous Summer League stints, Hannahs was an above-average performer and helped the Grizzlies, averaging 11.7 points per game on nearly 50 per cent shooting from three.

The sharpshooter’s reliable shooting from deep abandoned him in his Summer League stint with the Bucks.

Dominic Criniti

New Orleans Pelicans

Dyson Daniels

After being drafted with pick eight in the 2022 NBA Draft, Dyson Daniels had a highly anticipated Summer League ahead of him.

Unfortunately for the kid from Bendigo, it was short-lived. Daniels sustained an ankle sprain after just eight minutes and 10 seconds on the floor in the Pelicans’ first match against eventual winners the Portland Trail Blazers.

In his short stint in action, Daniels posted one point, two assists, a rebound, and a steal. He also shot zero from five field goal attempts, which wasn’t the eye-opening performance he would have been hoping for.

There have been no further updates as to the severity of the sprain, however, he is expected to make a return before the start of the regular season.

Callan Cummins

Oklahoma City Thunder

Josh Giddey

The former pick six was finally able to spend more time on the court at Summer League after only playing five minutes in last year’s competition after he injured his ankle in his debut. After playing 54 NBA games last season, Giddey quickly illustrated he was a class above in this year’s tournament.

Being one of the veteran players on the Thunder’s Summer League roster, Giddey was given the opportunity to demonstrate his scoring abilities, averaging 13 field goal attempts across his two games. Although he didn’t shoot the ball very well (34.6 per cent from the field), the young Australian definitely showed improvement in his game.

From his rookie year, the areas Giddey needed to continually improve on were his shooting and his defence. As forementioned, he didn’t shoot the ball very well but given his role will be different during the regular season, it shouldn’t be as concerning as the numbers appear.

Defensively Giddey was sound. On several occasions, he was able to read the offence and move accordingly to be ready to be the help defender or get in position to grab the rebound.

However, when faced with playing one-on-one defence, Giddey struggled to guard the small and quicker guards, so that is something he’ll continue to improve going into the regular season and the future. In the game against the Magic, Giddey was matched-up against Zavier Simpson and Simpson was regularly able to bypass the youngster.

Finishing close to the basket was also an area of improvement and during Summer League, Giddey demonstrated that he is getting better in this area finishing and completing multiple dunks and contested layups.

Giddey was able to build chemistry with Oklahoma’s prize selection, Chet Holmgren. The duo showed that they will be an exciting and entertaining pairing to watch this season and in the future.

Despite only playing in the Thunder’s first two games before being shut down for the remainder of the tournament, Giddey showed he is progressing nicely coming into his second year in the NBA.

Ousmane Dieng

Dieng also only played in two of the Thunder’s five games, missing the second game due to rest and the fourth and fifth due to an unfortunate injury.

Similar to how he looked in the first half of the 2021/2022 NBL season, the former Next Star took some time to adjust to performing on an NBA court. Despite all that, Dieng still put up a reasonable-looking stat line in Oklahoma’s first clash in Vegas against Houston.

The Frenchman recorded 10 points, six rebounds, and one steal. Although he shot inefficiently, shooting zero for five from behind the arc, Dieng showed signs.

The Thunder rested the former New Zealand Breaker for their game against the Magic.

The 19-year-old started in the game against the Kings, and it was his best game and the rest look like it did him wonders.

Looking more confident, fans saw why the Thunder traded for Dieng, with the 6’10 forward putting together an all-round performance, finishing with 12 points on 62.5 per cent shooting, seven rebounds, an assist, and a block.

Against the Kings, Dieng showed off his shot-creating abilities, being able to get to his spots on the floor. His versatility was also on display, there were multiple occasions where he would grab the defensive rebound and start the fast break, creating an easy dunk for him or space to kick out to an open teammate.

Dieng showed he has the tools to be a very handy defender in the NBA once he fills out his frame. His height and length provide him with the ability to guard multiple positions on the court.

https://youtu.be/btWOFF0huAU

Dieng missed Oklahoma’s last two games of Summer League due to a chip fracture in his right wrist but he should be ready for the start of training camp in late September.

Still raw, Dieng is a project player and most likely won’t be impactful in his rookie season. He’ll take time to develop as he starts to fill his frame out but with the signs he showed in Summer League, particularly the game against the Kings, it will be worth the wait.

Dieng might not see many minutes this season with Oklahoma due to the abundance of forwards it has on the roster and his need to fill out and develop, so he’ll likely play a lot for its G-League affiliate, the OKC Blue.

As aforementioned Dieng has a huge upside and the Thunder obviously saw something in the youngster trading three future first-round draft picks to get him.

Jordan Janssen

Phoenix Suns

Dejan Vasiljevic

This year was Dejan Vasiljevic’s first time at Summer League and the Sydney Kings sharpshooter found minutes hard to come by on the Phoenix Suns roster, averaging only 8.3 minutes. However, across the five games when the Suns’ coaches called his number up, ‘DJ’ was ready.

In Phoenix’s first game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Vasiljevic didn’t see the floor until garbage time.

In its next game against Washington, the 25-year-old checked in several minutes into the final quarter. He was able to score his first points of the tournament, a three-pointer.

The NBL22 champion got similar playing time against the Mavericks, playing seven minutes but this time he was able to double his points total, scoring six points.

As the end of Summer League was coming to a close, Vasiljevic’s minutes slightly increased, this time playing 10 minutes against the Sacramento Kings.

As NBL fans know how dangerous a shooter Vasiljevic is, he only needs a couple of possessions to be a cause of concern for opposing teams. In the game against the Kings, Vasiljevic scored 11 points.

In Phoenix’s last game of Summer League against Indiana, we were able to see ‘DJ’ play the most minutes he had for the tournament. In 16 minutes of play, Vasiljevic put up five points and dished out two assists.

Although he is unlikely to end up on an NBA roster, ‘DJ’ would have gotten a lot out of his time in Vegas, especially just getting the opportunity to go to the tournament is an achievement after returning from an Achilles injury he suffered last year.

Vasiljevic re-signed with the Sydney Kings on a three-year deal, so the guard will be back ready to help Sydney defend its title and try to go back to back.

Duop Reath

The 2022 NBA Summer League was Duop Reath’s third time in the tournament after previous stints with the Dallas Mavericks in 2018 and the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, but after a fantastic season with Illawarra in the NBL, the 26-year-old was added to the Phoenix Suns Summer League roster.

The 211cm centre made the most of his minutes coming off the bench in the Suns’ first game against the Lakers, hustling, grabbing defensive and offensive rebounds, and showing his inside-out game. Reath finished the game with 11 points, seven rebounds, a steal, and a block in 16 minutes.

The Australian Boomer was so impressive in the first game that he was inserted into the starting five for Phoenix’s next game against Washington. Unfortunately for NBL and Phoenix fans, Reath went down in the early minutes of the game with what looked like a lower leg injury.

Due to his lower leg injury, we didn’t see Reath again for the rest of Summer League which was disappointing as his play caught the eye of several media people and fans who thought he had a potential case for a full-time roster spot or a two-way contract had he continued his stellar form and not for the injury.

Reath remains a free agent, he has been linked to re-signing with Illawarra but is also rumoured to be linked to the Perth Wildcats if he is to come back to the NBL. He is also exploring offers in Europe as well.

Jo Lual-Acuil

The second consecutive year that Jo Lual-Acuil was invited to Summer League with the Phoenix Suns, and unlike last year he’ll remember this one just due to the fact he got some court time.

‘JLA’ had a solid Summer League campaign, although he did look out of sorts in the Suns’ first couple of games and his minutes reflected that playing only seven minutes in each of the first two games.

Lual-Acuil was often the first big man off the bench and he didn’t look out of place, which makes sense being a former Sixth Man of the Year in the NBL before slotting into Melbourne United’s starting five last season.

After a rough start in Phoenix’s two games, the 28-year-old played his best game of the competition against the Dallas Mavericks. Once ‘JLA’ was subbed in midway through the first quarter, you could tell he was switched on. He was full of energy, setting several hard screens to help create open shots for his teammates.

The 211cm centre took advantage of his smaller Dallas opponents, using his height and length to grab rebounds and score. Lual-Acuil finished the game with 12 points and six rebounds.

‘JLA’ was inserted into Phoenix’s starting five for its last two games. He only recorded a single point, six rebounds, and an assist in the game against Sacramento. He faired a little better in the last game against Indiana, recording eight points, eight rebounds, two steals, and an assist.

It’s unlikely JLA ends up on an NBA roster, but he won’t be returning to the NBL or Melbourne United for the upcoming season after deciding to depart the club at the end of last season.

Jordan Janssen

Utah Jazz

Vic Law

​​​​After stints with the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers in the past Summer League editions, Vic Law returned this year, joining the Utah Jazz.

Being part of the Jazz, Law played in the Salt Lake City Summer League and Las Vegas Summer League. Despite the extended amount of games the forward could have played in, Law only received minutes in three of the eight games.

Utah kicked off its Salt Lake City campaign against the Oklahoma City Thunder where Law started. Uncharacteristically, he struggled to score the ball finishing with just three points on one of 12 shooting.

The Thunder were very strong defensively, anchored by pick two, Chet Hologram who was able to block or disrupt many of Law’s attempts near the basket. Law did show a willingness to defend and was able to get two steals but it was a difficult game with the Thunder having so much NBA talent on their roster.

In the Jazz’s next game against the 76ers, Law started again however his role on offence was reduced as were his minutes. He played 18 minutes in the game and was able to score much more efficiently on his four shots to finish with six points, two rebounds, and a steal.

Law would only get playing time in just one more game for Utah, against Atlanta in its first game of the Las Vegas Summer League. The All-NBL first-teamer was relegated to the bench, playing just eight minutes and was only able to score one point and grab three rebounds.

Law was listed as a DNP for the Jazz’s next four games as well as missing a game against the Memphis Grizzlies back in the Salt Lake City competition.

Law will not be returning to the NBL next season instead joining the Chiba Jets in Japan. The Jets can expect a versatile wing who can guard multiple positions and score the ball at an efficient rate.

While he did not get to show this during Summer League, there is enough evidence from his time in the NBL and previous Summer Leagues that Law is an impactful player on both ends of the floor.

Ben Filosi

Washington Wizards

Tahjere McCall

​​The Cairn Taipans’ leading man, Tahjere McCall suited up for the Washington Wizards in the 2022 Summer League, showcasing his efficient scoring and hustle through four games.

McCall came off the bench in all the games he played, as a high-energy player who gave the Wizards a scoring spark.

Washington opened its campaign against Detroit with McCall getting 16 minutes where he was able to score seven points on 75 per cent shooting. He did however only make one of his three free throw attempts, with shooting an area of his that needs improving.

The 27-year-old did not play against the Suns but was back for the Wizards match-up with the Pelicans. McCall had a perfect shooting night, going four for four to score 10 points.

McCall had his best game of Summer League against the Indiana Pacers where he showed off his highly touted defensive ability. Being part of the NBA G-League All-Defensive Team in 2021, McCall grabbed four steals and a block.

The shooting guard played 22 minutes against the Pacers and during that time he was a massive positive for his team, with them outscoring the Pacers by 27 points while he was on the floor. He also had another efficient scoring night, attacking the rim to put up 13 points on 80 per cent from the field and 83.3 per cent from the free throw line.

McCall’s minutes were significantly reduced in the Wizards’ final game of Summer League, playing just eight minutes where he scored two points along with getting a block.

Having inked a two-year deal with the Taipans in late May, Cairns and NBL fans should be excited to see what McCall can produce in his second year in the league. McCall has a strong overall game, he can score, rebound, assist, and defend which he all showed last season.

Expect to see McCall in the running for Defensive Player of the Year in 2022/23, with his quick hands and ability to defend multiple positions expected to cause headaches for opposing teams.

McCall will need to be a more efficient scorer next season which he showed improvements in at Summer League with a better three-point percentage a priority.

If the Taipans surround him with more playmakers allowing him to play off the ball more and not be the focal point offensively, this could give McCall more energy on defence and improve his shooting splits.

Ben Filosi

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