Those starved for any semblance of NBA basketball, do read on.
NBA Summer League basketball is just about here as both the Utah Jazz Summer League and the Sacramento Kings hosted California Classic will tip-off Monday, July 2nd. A total of eight teams will be participating (Atlanta, Golden State, L.A. Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Sacramento, San Antonio, Utah).
The MGM Resorts NBA Summer League (full schedule here), which features all 30 NBA teams in action, tips off in Las Vegas this Friday, July 6 at noon Pacific time (3 p.m. EST). The Detroit Pistons first game is at 7 p.m. (EST) July 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Games will be either on the ESPN networks or NBATV.
Each team in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League will play a minimum of five games (three preliminary games, then at least two tournament games taking place from July 11th to July 17th).
With that out of the way, let’s get right to the Summer League roster for the Pistons. This roster is what I’ve gathered from the help of the internet, but more specifically, Twitter. There could be a few players I missed (or late additions), but this is largely the roster that Detroit will go with. I’ll update accordingly so that you won’t miss a single beat in your 2018 Summer League fantasy leagues.
Henry Ellenson, 6’10 (Marquette)
Still the Pistons’ youngest player.
Luke Kennard, 6’5 (Duke)
The shooting guard of the future has more than just shooting guard skills to offer and he’ll have the ball in his hands quite a bit during Summer League. So, what I’m saying is...GET YER POPCORN READY.
Bruce Brown Jr., 6’5 (Miami Fl)
Bruce was the Pistons’ selection at 42 overall. In the latest DDB on 3, I wrote that he reminds me of Russell Westbrook just a bit. Basically, if Brown Jr. improves his outside shooting then he’ll likely turn out be the best all-around player selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft. Brown’s tenacity and playmaking skills alone should be enough to warrant him being on an NBA roster, and DBB’s own Laz Jackson probably agrees, as he had this to say about Brown Jr. right after the selection:
Could Brown and Thomas be the Detroit versions of Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright for Dwane Casey? I don’t know, but I think it definitely says something that the Pistons drafted two guards known for their competitiveness and capabilities on both offense and defense.
Khyri Thomas, 6’3 (Creighton)
The Pistons traded Philadelphia some future second round picks to grab Thomas at 38th overall. Thomas probably has a little more NBA-ready game than Brown Jr. does at this stage. He’s a better shooter and should help a team in that department right away. His length (6-foot-10 wingspan) and how he uses it is impressive, not to mention just his overall fundamentals he brings to the table. It’s a solid value for any type of second round pick. I’m looking forward to some Kennard and Thomas backcourt fun fests in the coming days.
Keenan Evans, 6’2 (Texas)
As mentioned last week by Steve Hinson, Evans is a Detroit two-way contract recipient and a player I highlighted back in March as a solid option worth looking at in the 2nd round for Detroit. Obviously the Pistons (and the rest of the league) went with players they felt had some more potential in them than Evans has, but Evans, to no surprise, is a player that teams think highly of. After all, Evans was plucked off the Warriors Summer League roster by Detroit within seven hours of even being on the Warriors’ roster. He’s a shifty, well-built scoring point guard with quite an inconsistent 3-point shot and no big weaknesses outside of not being a high-ceiling player. The best case is that Evans makes it in the league as a decent backup point guard. It’s a smart use of a two-way contract. Also, with the Evans signing, this means saying bye to Kay Felder in the Pistons organization.
Johnny Hamilton, 7’0 (University of Texas-Arlington)
Hamilton played one season with 2018 second-round pick and Prava favorite Kevin Hervey at Texas-Arlington. Hamilton began his collegiate career at a junior college, then spent time at Virginia Tech, but only played 20 games at the school in two years (he suffered a torn flexor tendon in his left thumb that kept him almost entirely out in 2016-17). He finished up in 2017-18 at Arlington as a graduate transfer. In 2017-18, Hamilton averaged 3.9 blocks per-40 minutes. His per game averages checked out as 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 23.4 minutes. Hamilton has only been playing basketball since age 16 in his home country of Trinidad and Tobago (he’s 24 now). Despite his age, there might be some actual potential and that’s why the Pistons grabbed him. For reference, Eric Moreland is two years older. You can see just about all of Hamilton’s (#13 in blue) last collegiate game here. Hamilton scored 18 and blocked four shots in 33 minutes.
Zach Lofton, 6’4 (New Mexico State)
Lofton is referred to as a college basketball journeyman, having laced up for three different DI programs in his college career. In 2017-18, Loften scored 20.1 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting from the floor (38 percent from 3) for New Mexico State. He’s already 25 years old (26 in November) and that’s a huge problem for him for obvious reasons. Lofton is seemingly a better ball handler and playmaker than Reggie Hearn, so it will be fun to watch that shooting guard battle during Summer League (with the other 23 shooting guards on the roster). In all, Lofton can really fill it up from all over the floor in a variety of ways, but he’s just now coming into his own and this is probably his only legitimate shot to stick with an NBA team. Even if Detroit doesn’t sign him to a two-way deal or invite him to Grand Rapids to be just a call away, perhaps a different NBA team will have a need for a scoring guard on their roster. When you are an offensively-gifted talent like Lofton, you have to take your shot to impress and he definitely won’t be shy about it.
Reggie Hearn, 6’5 (Northwestern)
As most of you know, Reggie played a few minutes in just a few games for Detroit last season after being signed to a two-way deal in January, but mostly played with the Grand Rapids Drive in the G League. He was just alright in Grand Rapids last season, posting 14.8 points per game on 42.1 percent field goal shooting (37 percent from three) in 26 games. He’s a limited playmaker at the NBA level, although he does compete on defense and can be a consistently decent 3-point shooter. I think most would agree that there’s not a lot of potential in Hearn’s game to be an NBA quality player. Right now, Hearn is on the USA basketball team currently in the FIBA World Cup qualifying round.
Obi Enechioyia, 6’8/6’9 (Temple)
I’m not a Star Wars guy, so there won’t be any witty or funny references about that here. Obi can shoot the three, having hit at least 55 threes each of the last three seasons at Temple with roughly 37 percent accuracy. Obi is not a good rebounder for his size despite being an athletic and quick on his feet player otherwise.
Jamel Morris, 6’4 (Fairmont State, DII)
Jamel, a lefty, graduated from Fairmont State in 2016 and went overseas to Italy to play and had some success there. Last season he was with the Grand Rapids Drive and averaged 12.7 points per game, with the good being his three-point shooting (39.4 percent) and the not so good being his overall shooting from the field (41.2 percent). Jamel will be 26 soon and is quite an under-the-radar type prospect. Though, he’s not as under-the-radar as you might think. In May of this year at a G League Elite Mini-Camp, Jamel performed well-enough to garner interest from the Pistons and Clippers. Other Grand Rapids Drive players that were invited to the G League Elite mini-camp, for what it’s worth, were KJ McDaniels, defensive-minded Landry Nnoko and shooter Derek Willis.
Eric Griffin, 6’8 (Campbell)
Griffin just turned 28 and has bounced around the world playing professional basketball for a while now, so he’s not bad. In 2017 he was named an Israeli Premier League All-Star. In 2015 he spent just over a week with the Pistons in training camp. Last year in July, the Utah Jazz signed Griffin to a two-way contract. Then some months later in December the Jazz waived him to sign a different player (Erik McCree) to a two-way contract. Long story short, Griffin is still seeking that first regular season game action and his window is seemingly almost shut. After reading this excellent, in-depth 2016 article about Griffin regarding a murder charge that was dropped against him that same year (video evidence cleared him), I’m rooting for him to make an appearance in the NBA. If he’s got anything left to show, this Summer League may be the last legitimate chance he has. Lastly, here’s some nice stuff from Griffin from April 2017 in the Israeli Premier League.
Khadeen Carrington, 6’3 (Seton Hall)
Khadeen is a lefty, four-year college player with ability to score from all over. He looks superb and enticing in his highlights, as do a lot of high level college starters. Point being, I’ve seen him be great and I’ve seen him be just a quick guard that doesn’t have the best shot selection — and everywhere in-between. Not sure if he’ll get much playing time in the Summer League games, though he’ll go on to make a good living playing ball somewhere.
Scottie Lindsey, 6’5 (Northwestern)
I’m pretty aware of Lindsey for that main fact that I’m a Big Ten guy. Lindsey’s got decent size to guard twos and threes and isn’t a bad shooter. He can also create his own offense, but throughout his college career the knock on him was that he always left you wanting more. This is a perfect guy to hold onto for G League and see how he develops. He must find his inner-intensity for him to have a chance at this level.
AROUND THE SUMMER LEAGUE
Looking at many of the other NBA Summer League rosters, here are some other notable participants that caught my eye:
Landry Nnoko (Miami Heat)
The 24-year-old center was the 2017-18 G League Defensive Player of the Year while playing for Grand Rapids.
Derek Willis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Spent last season with the Grand Rapids Drive and shot the ball pretty nicely.
Michael Gbinije (New York Knicks)
Silent G just turned 26 years old.
Kendrick Nunn (Golden State Warriors)
Not sure if the Oakland University sharp shooter makes it with the Warriors but I’m confident he’ll have a NBA career for a long time. Nice article about Nunn here for any OU fans that might not have seen it yet.
Thomas Wilder (Utah Jazz)
While the Western Michigan Bronco didn’t have an excellent senior season, he might find that his game is a better fit for the NBA style.
Isaac Haas (Utah Jazz)
College basketball fans know all about this large human. Isaac Haas versus Boban Marjanovic in the post would be must see television.
Travis Trice (Milwaukee Bucks)
Michigan State Spartan fans surely know this four-year player who graduated in 2015.
Byron Mullens (Orlando Magic)
Former Ohio State Buckeye and first round selection (#24) in 2009 is still kicking around. Mullens hasn’t appeared in the NBA since 2014 and I haven’t seen his name in a long time.
Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat)
Damn right I wasn’t going to leave out the smooth shooting Michigan Wolverine (and also former DIII player).
Mike Tobey (not in NBA Summer League)
Some of you may remember this name from last summer’s Pistons squad. I was high on him then, but he played very poorly and that was that.
What do you think about the Summer League roster and who do you feel could be a sleeper?