Posts Tagged ‘Jack Cooley’

Unsigned Summer League Standouts

By Jonathan Hartzell, NBA.com

There are only 450 roster spots in the NBA each season. Most of them are taken up by veterans with signed contracts, proven free agents who will soon commit and rookies with newly signed deals. For many unsigned players, the Summer League provides the best opportunity to prove their worth to NBA front offices.

There were numerous standouts this summer, but eight players clearly separated themselves from the competition to greatly increase their odds of being offered a regular-season contract.

Malcolm Thomas, Chicago Bulls:

Breakdown: The big man out of San Diego State went undrafted during the 2011 NBA Draft and has played the last two seasons in the NBA Development League, with a quick stint in Israel as well. In Las Vegas he dominated the glass, averaging 15 rebounds a game while chipping in 11 points and 1.7 blocks a game during a three-game run with the Bulls. Thomas is now 24 years old, so his thin frame has matured to the point where it appears he is ready to handle the physical grind of a full NBA season. The Bulls recently let go of his rights for salary cap reasons, but it seems unlikely he will stay unsigned for long.

Best Case Comparison: Amir Johnson

Best Team Fit: The Boston Celtics would be a great place for Thomas to develop as the team rebuilds.

Vander Blue, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies:

Breakdown: Many people questioned Blue’s decision to leave Marquette University early to enter the NBA Draft. When he went undrafted, those people seemingly were proven correct. But he played played for the Rockets in the Orlando Summer League and the Grizzlies in Las Vegas, averaging 11.5 points per game in Orlando and 11 a game in Las Vegas, including a 24-point outburst in Vegas in one game. He showed explosiveness and playmaking ability rarely seen from undrafted players. Don’t be surprised if some team takes a flyer on a player with so much potential.

Best Case Comparison: Gerald Henderson

Best Team Fit: Staying with the Grizzlies would be a great fit for Blue, who would give the team some needed depth at guard.

Dominique Jones, Milwaukee Bucks:

Breakdown: Jones is a veteran of the Summer League. It showed during his play for the  Bucks. Jones averaged 11 points, two steals and seven free-throw attempts per game to impress the scouts. He seemed stronger than most other players on the court and his ability to finish at the rim looked transferable to regular season gameplay.

Best Case Comparison: A smaller Corey Maggette

Best Team Fit: The  Bucks should not let him walk away, especially as they attempt to replace the playmaking ability of Monta Ellis.

Ian Clark, Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors:

Breakdown: The Las Vegas Summer League Championship MVP quickly made a name for himself when he made seven 3-point shots and scored 33 points in the championship game. The guard out of Belmont University is known for this ability to shoot, but his limited athleticism and 6-foot-3 frame make him a tough fit at shooting guard. But he can defend, which has reportedly piqued the interest of the Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz.

Best Case Comparison: Anthony Morrow

Best Team Fit: The Jazz would be a nice fit for Clark, who would fit well with rookie Jazz point guard Trey Burke.

Andrew Goudelock, Chicago Bulls:

Breakdown: It’s always surprising when Goudelock continues to appear on lists like this one. The former D-League MVP out of the College of Charleston has done plenty to interest NBA teams. This summer in Las Vegas he continued to impress, averaging 19 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Bulls. Goudelock was selected with the 46th pick of the 2011 Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Last season he received some playing time with the Lakers after Kobe Bryant’s Achilles tendon injury. It would be a shock if Gouedlock is not on an NBA roster this season.

Best Case Comparison: C.J. Watson

Best Team Fit: Goudelock could be used well on the Philadelphia 76ers as they rebuild their roster and attempt to replace Jrue Holiday.

Samardo Samuels, Los Angeles Clippers:

Breakdown: Samuels went undrafted out of the University of Louisville in 2010. He impressed during that offseason’s Summer League and signed a 3-year, $2.3 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He played sporadically for the Cavaliers before they waived him early last season and now he’s back to prove himself again. In Vegas, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in only 22 minutes per game. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound center should be able to find a team for whom he could be a third big at the end of the bench.

Best Case Comparison: Carl Landry

Best Team Fit: The  Heat could use Samuels’ physical presence as an insurance policy off the bench.

Stefhon Hannah, NBA D-League Select:

Breakdown:  Hannah has spent the last three seasons bouncing between the NBA Development League and overseas after going undrafted out of the University of Missouri. This summer in Las Vegas he led the D-League Select team to a 4-1 record while averaging 13 points and 2.6 assists a game. He played solid defense throughout the tournament, but his lack of a dominant skill and small size may hurt his chances of making a roster.

Best Case Comparison: Luke Ridnour

Best Team Fit: The Lakers could use Hannah’s youth and energy off the bench and in practice, especially if Kobe Bryant isn’t healthy to start the season.  

Jack Cooley, Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets:

Breakdown: The undrafted rookie out of the University of Notre Dame was dominant for the  Grizzlies in Las Vegas as he averaged 15 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game on 52.7 (39-for-74) percent shooting. He displayed an impressive midrange jump shot and an ability to hold his ground in the paint. This combination of skills make him an interesting offensive weapon.

Best Case Comparison: Reggie Evans

Best Team Fit: The Indiana Pacers may be a good place for Coole, who could help replace some of the hustle and offensive skill lost when Tyler Hansbrough signed with the Toronto Raptors.

Separated At Birth, Reunited In Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Chris Paul and “Cliff Paul” are the NBA’s runaway leaders in the Separated At Birth Dept. Marcus Morris and his twin brother Markieff – or vice versa, actually – were reunited in Phoenix last February and spent the Suns’ final 27 games partly reminding folks of the Van Arsdale twins.

But the Summer League got its own dose of doppelgangery Friday evening when Denver’s Luke Harangody and Memphis’ Jack Cooley stormed the court simultaneously at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Jack Cooley (left) and Luke Harangody. Separated at birth?

Jack Cooley (left) and Luke Harangody. Separated at birth?

The resemblance between the two former Notre Dame big men remains startling. It has been ever since Cooley showed up on the Fighting Irish’s campus in South Bend, Ind., as a freshman in Harangody’s senior season and, in time, had those used to hollering “Luuuuuuke!” switching over to “Coooooool!” instead.

Cooley is a little taller (6-foot-9 to Harangody’s 6-7), a little broader (though they’re listed  at 244 and 245 pounds) and, frankly, a little paler. Harangody is two years older and was a second-round pick, No. 52 overall, to Boston in 2010 while Cooley went undrafted last month.

Look, we’re not going to tread into a cultural minefield of “Big Notre Dame guys born in Illinois all look alike,” but when you factor in the brush cuts of their thick, brown hair … well, heck, look at the photos.

“I mean, the joke gets old after a little bit. For both of us,” Harangody said, unsmiling, after scoring a game-high 17 points in less than 22 minutes off the Nuggets’ bench. “When Jack was a freshman, it was hard for him to go on the road. He’d hear it from the crowd too. And I think it’s nice that Jack has grown out of that shadow and become his own player. It’s not just people comparing him to me anymore. He’s Jack Cooley, not the kid who looks like Luke Harangody.”

That’s how well Cooley played for the Grizzlies squad. He opened some eyes with his jump shot and might have whipped up a job market for himself for an offer from overseas or an invitation to an NBA camp, averaging 14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 52.7 percent (39-for-74) in six games. His numbers in four years at Notre Dame: 8.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg and an average of only 5.3 field-goal attempts.

“I was trying to show people I could shoot the ball a little more. I think I did a good job of balancing it,” Cooley said. “The way I had to play there was a little different from the way I could play – I wasn’t required to shoot as much. It didn’t fit the system. Now it’s like, ‘Oh, Jack can shoot the ball.’ Because I’m in an offense in the NBA where that’s required.”

Said Harangody: “I wish I could have seen him play more here. Every time I look at the box score, he’s having a great game. The way he was shooting the ball, that’s something I don’t they saw a lot at Notre Dame. He’s got a helluva motor – I think that’s one thing that’s going to keep his career going.”

The alumni association was reciprocal Friday night. While Harangody – who averaged 11.3 points and hit eight of his 14 3-pointers – said he has “a couple nice options overseas” for this season, he too is hoping to stir up interest from the league. Cooley considers that a no-brainer.

“I think he’s still extremely effective,” the Memphis big man said. “He was playing the ‘three’ out there and hitting shots like a shooting guard. He can play offense with some of the best of ‘em. I think he should get another chance and then [both of us] can be in the league.”

OK, but if that happens, the old clone clowning surely will rev up.

“I don’t mind it at all – Luke’s a great player and he’s an even better person,” Cooley said. “If you’re going to be compared to somebody, you might as well be compared to somebody who’s really good.”

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 6 Recap

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LAS VEGAS – Playing to impress strangers isn’t the same thing as playing to impress one’s coaches, and it’s easy for young guys to veer recklessly toward the former.

summer-league-logoSticking to a few strengths, by contrast, and filling a niche can go a long way toward opening eyes not just on a player’s summer team but with all the scouts from rival clubs or even global leagues.

Bob Thornton, the Memphis assistant coach working the Grizzlies’ game against Washington Wednesday, was thrilled for Jack Cooley, the undrafted rookie from Notre Dame who did the things he’s good at and mostly avoided the things he’s not. In the case of a wide-body like Cooley, Thornton said, that means “rebound, set screens, play defense and hit the shot when it’s there.”

That’s what Cooley did, with an efficient 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 12 rebounds (six offensive) in just over 30 minutes in Memphis’ 90-83 victory. Left open on the elbow on a couple of times, he boldly stuck the shots. Cooley even drained a 3-pointer when it was there, while forcing nothing. Following his lead, the Grizzlies grabbed 20 offensive boards in the 40-minute game.

Afterward, Thornton said: “He’s out here creating opportunities for himself.” Through four games, Cooley is averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 52 percent — earning him a spot on our Rookie Ladder.

Non-rookie of the day: Travis Leslie, Heat. In a little more than 23 minutes off Miami’s bench in its 113-66 blowout of New York, Leslie scored 23 points on just 13 shots. The 6-foot-4 guard from Georgia gets around -– he was a first-round pick of the Santa Cruz Warriors of the D-League before last season and averaged better than 15 points. He participated in the Orlando Summer League with Philadelphia.

Other notables: Jordan Hamilton, Nuggets. A 6-foot-7 guard from Texas, he scored 23 points in Denver’s 87-82 victory over New Orleans, hitting four of his seven 3-pointers. Thomas Robinson, Trail Blazers. He was at it again, good for 13 points and 17 rebounds in Portland’s 70-69 victory over Atlanta one day after getting 12 points and 18 boards vs. Chicago. Josh Akognon, Mavericks. The 5-foot-11 guard from Cal State-Fullerton was a sparkplug off the Dallas bench, scoring 24 points in 24:50 in a 95-89 victory over the L.A. Clippers.

Rookie of the day (after Cooley): Dennis Schroder, Hawks. He has been valued more for his defense than anything else, but the Atlanta point guard got to the line, sank 7-for-8 and wound up with 16 points despite 4-for-11 shooting from the floor (1-for-5 from the arc). He had five assists and three steals with (oops) six turnovers.

Other notables: Shabazz Muhammad. The former UCLA forward, whose selection by Minnesota at No. 14 drew some criticism, had his best day as a pro. He scored 17 points and sank three of his four 3-pointers in the Timberwolves’ 92-54 laugher over Sacramento. Muhammad had been sputtering along at 7.3 ppg on 34.6 percent shooting. (Ben McLemore, the Kings’ touted shooting guard, was back in struggle mode, missing all eight of his field-goal attempts.) C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers. The combo guard continues to put up solid numbers for Portland, his 19 points just shy of his average (21.3 ppg) coming into the victory over Atlanta.

Coming up: The byes are over, the goodbyes start soon. In the new tournament format, the 10 top-seeded teams all were idle Wednesday but will take on the day’s winners Thursday (and in a couple cases, each other), with action starting at 1 p.m. ET with No. 7 Cleveland vs. No. 10 San Antonio. Once everyone has five games completed, the single-elimination feature kicks in. Starting Friday, losers head home and winners keep going, with the championship game set for Monday