Posts Tagged ‘Stefhon Hannah’

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.

D-League Select Squad: Summer League Underdogs

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LAS VEGAS
– They’re the store brand here at the Summer League, to the point that you half-expect to see a bar code on the backs of their jerseys rather than traditional numbers. The D-League Select squad participating against the 21 NBA teams that sent rosters full of young and hopeful players to the desert is the Acme soup or Brand X cereal that allegedly tastes just like the highly marketed, big-label products, only without the big-label price.

No nickname. Just a generic logo from the NBA’s minor league on their shirts. And unmistakable chips on their shoulders.

Compared to other teams’ coaches and even players who have been grumbling about the new tournament format in the Las Vegas Summer League extending their stays and messing with offseason plans, the guys on the D-League Select team are grateful. Grateful for the chance to keep on playing, to keep on winning, to keep on attracting eyeballs.

The 14 teams on Friday’s scheduled of seven games were essentially done – they had dropped into the “consolation round” in the tournament format and, once they completed their fifth and final Vegas game, they were gone. But the D-Leaguers were 4-0 and still plugging, pitted against Charlotte in a quarterfinals game Saturday evening.

So yes, on Friday morning, they were practicing. Other quarterfinals clubs may have been cheerily wishing each other “Bad luck!” – with each loss came a ticket home – but these guys were hoping to stretch their stay through Monday’s championship game.

“We’re playing to win, whereas the NBA teams, it’s more about their one or two draft picks and their young guys,” said Alex Jensen, the D-League’s Coach of the Year in 2013 with the Canton Charge who is overseeing the summer squad. “Really, you can’t blame them.

“But I told [our players], ‘The best thing that can happen for all you guys is for us to win. Because then people will take notice that ‘You’re just as good as guys on any team that we will play. Believe me, it’s the truth.’ “

Jensen is living the dream that his players still are pursuing; he has joined the Utah Jazz staff as director of player development for 2013-14. Few if any of the guys he is coaching have deals for next season anywhere.

“I just hope I get a job somewhere. Either it’s cross-seas or getting invited to training camp or hopefully be with an NBA team,” said forward Darnell Jackson, who played for the Reno Bighorns after stints with Cleveland (2008, 2009), Milwaukee (2010) and Sacramento (2012). He also has played in China and the Ukraine.

“If not, I’m just blessed to be in the situation I’m in now,” said Jackson, a second-round pick by Miami in 2008 after playing four years (with one NCAA title) at Kansas. “I just guess those guys who are saying they’re ready to go home are having a bad experience.

“With us, we’re all here trying to prove ourselves to the coaches and the NBA teams that we’re willing to be here and to keep working. And we’re having fun at the same time. We’re winning games, we’re playing hard together. We’re gonna keep pushing.”

Dominique Sutton, a 6-foot-5 wing player from North Carolina Central, averaged 10.2 points for the Tulsa 66ers last season and won the Slam Dunk contest at the D-League Showcase.

“We all had a goal at the beginning to try to surprise people, take people by storm,” Sutton said. “A lot of people look at the front of our jerseys and see ‘D-League Select’ and think we’re a bunch of guys that really don’t know the game. ‘It’s the D-League, they’re not playing for an NBA team.’ So we come in with a chip on our shoulders, man. We feel, just play harder and we’ll come up a success.”

In their four games, the D-Leaguers have outscored their foes by an average of 5.8 points, while outshooting and outrebounding them too. Stefhon Hannah, a 6-foot-1 guard from Missouri, the Santa Cruz Warriors and assorted teams in Europe, Asia and South America, was their leading scorer (14.8 ppg), and 6-foot-6 guard Elijah Millsap was next at 14.3.

Millsap is familiar – thanks to his brother Paul, the former Jazz and now Hawks forward – with what life in the NBA is like. But guard Kyle Weaver is one of the D-Leaguers who actually knows, having played 73 games in three seasons with Oklahoma City and Utah. He played in Belgium and Germany, too, and was with the D-League’s Austin Toros last season before being traded to Canton in February.

“A lot of guys are curious to try to get up there,” Weaver said after practice Friday. “That’s why you can see on the court how we’re playing. Guys are scrapping, guys just want to get that opportunity. Grinding with these guys has been good. It’s definitely worth it.”

So the D-League Select team keeps grinding toward the Summer League championship. It’s a crown mostly scoffed at by the established NBA teams but something the D-Leaguers are happy to chase, because it keeps them playing. The auditions aren’t over.