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The NBA only has so many spots to go around, which is a tough fact to appreciate during training camp, when all 30 squads field bloated rosters featuring as many as 20 bodies.
Cuts are coming, though, and loads of quality players are going to fall short of the 15-man limit imposed on regular-season rosters. The best castoffs will stay close to their organizations, often on two-way deals that signal the club likes but doesn’t yet love the prospect or journeyman in question.
Generally speaking, those two-way players are the top organizational assets that won’t spend much time in NBA arenas.
The goal here is to alert fans to players who won’t feature prominently in the NBA this season, but who could take advantage of opportunities created by their own stellar play or, unfortunately, injury.
In an ideal world, all 30 of these predictions would be wrong, as our picks to miss the cut would earn roster spots (and fatter salaries) than they’ll get overseas or in the G League. Unfortunately, somebody has to fall short on cutdown day.
Let’s at least agree to root for all of these guys. They’re part of a group that will come agonizingly close to their NBA dreams.
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With 15 guaranteed contracts on the training camp roster, there’s not much intrigue surrounding the Atlanta Hawks’ personnel situation.
For familiar names like R.J. Hunter, Cole Aldrich, Alex Poythress and Thomas Robinson, that means opportunities to make the team will be hard to come by.
Robinson is the best of the bunch that figures to be cut before opening night, even if he didn’t play in the NBA last season. The 2012 No. 5 overall pick spent 2017-18 with BC Khimki in Russia, averaging 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds for a squad that also featured former NBA players Alexey Shved, Malcolm Thomas, Charles Jenkins and Jordan Mickey.
With career NBA averages of 4.9 points and 4.8 boards, Robinson’s track record is more impressive than that of Hunter, Aldrich or Poythress. And even if the Kansas product never lived up to his draft slot, he has much more on his resume than that trio.
Chances are, though, he’ll join them as job-seekers once the Hawks trim the roster later this month.
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With 13 returnees from last year’s roster, most of the Boston Celtics’ spots are accounted for.
Walt Lemon Jr., a 26-year-old guard who came out of Bradley in 2014, excelled in the G League last year, averaging 22.3 points, 6.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds. Unfortunately, he’s on a team that also has Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier slated for minutes at the point. That leaves little opportunity for Lemon, despite his strong showing last season.
Both Smart and Irving missed time in 2017-18, so there’s a chance Lemon spends a good portion of his two-way stint in Boston as a third-stringer when one of the bigger guns goes down. Still, barring something unforeseen in preseason play, he’ll start with the Maine Red Claws and spend most of the year ripping up less qualified foes (while hopefully also honing a three-point shot that only went in 31 percent of the time last season).
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If peer review counts for anything, Alan Williams will work his way back onto an NBA roster before long.
New Brooklyn Nets forward Jared Dudley, who spent time with Williams in Phoenix, tweeted: “Def a NBA player.. Once he shows he’s healthy he’ll be on a team by end of the year. His energy, rebounding , and being a good teammate are crucial for any locker room!”
For now, Williams, who played 708 of his 846 NBA minutes in 2016-17, will have to prove Dudley right from the G League.
Expect massive rebounding numbers from the burly Williams. Among players who saw at least 700 minutes of action two years ago, he ranked sixth in the entire league in rebound percentage. If he managed that against the best competition in the world, imagine the boards he’ll pull against G Leaguers.
Williams is limited, though. Bulky but undersized at 6’8″ for a player whose limited range means he can only play center, the 25-year-old has his work cut out for him in a rapidly modernizing NBA. If he doesn’t develop his shot, it will always be difficult to trust him with a rotation spot.
Still, Williams showed an elite rebounding skill when healthy. That’s something.
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The Charlotte Hornets may not have room for recent training camp invitee Joe Chealey when rosters get trimmed to 15.
Chealey, undrafted out of College of Charleston, is a 6’3″ guard who averaged 18 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists as a senior in 2017-18. Not quite accurate enough from deep (34.7 percent in his college career) to scare opposing defenders on pull-up triples, Chealey doesn’t profile as an efficient NBA scorer. He’s skilled at getting to the foul line, though, as his 7.2 free-throw attempts per game last year can attest.
There should probably be a spot somewhere in the G League for a scoring guard who can get into the lane, but Chealey is just too wiry and too unproven as a shooter to make a difference at the NBA level for now. Hopefully, he’ll gain confidence in camp and get himself on a path toward making a roster in 2019.
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According to Mike McGraw of the Chicago Daily Herald: “The Bulls are going to have to trim the roster somehow. As it looks now, between Ryan Arcidiacono, waiver pickup Antonius Cleveland and Derrick Walton Jr., one player will land on the NBA roster and one figures to grab the still-vacant second two-way slot.”
Actually, that understates the competition for a roster spot, as JaKarr Sampson and Kaiser Gates also profile as players on (or at least in close proximity to) the bubble.
Sampson obviously won’t be the only one from this list to miss the cut, but he’s our pick as the best player who won’t be on the opening night roster. An energy player with averages of 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in 169 NBA games, Sampson’s skill level isn’t quite high enough to justify adding him to a frontcourt rotation that looks to already have as many as nine players in the mix.
Meanwhile, Arcidiacono has a partial guarantee, and Walton Jr. did enough in the G League last year (16.1 points, 7.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds) to get a decent look.
Sampson could help a good team as a low-minute spark plug or garbage-time minute-eater, but the Bulls don’t have a need for an undersized power forward who can’t shoot and, at 25, is already past the point at which you’d anticipate more development.
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From the looks of it, the Cleveland Cavaliers will keep either Kobi Simmons or Isaiah Taylor as their third point guard behind George Hill and Collin Sexton.
Simmons is a slender 21-year-old out of Arizona who averaged 15.1 points per game in the G League last year. He’s a score-first operator with some range, but most of his scoring tends to come from inside the arc. He put on a clinic of in-between moves when he hung 21 points on the Atlanta Hawks during summer league, shaking his man and hitting floaters and pull-ups around the lane.
Those aren’t viable shots for a guard in the modern NBA, so Simmons seems like the one who’ll have the harder time making the team.
Taylor’s no world-beater, but after three substandard shooting seasons at Texas, he sorted out his long-range jumper. In two G League years, Taylor hit a combined 45.6 percent of his treys. That’ll be enough to get him onto the roster at Simmons’ expense.
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Dirk Nowitzki, entering what could be the final season of his 21-year career, is among a bevy of Dallas Mavericks with surefire roster spots. There are 13 locks in all.
According to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: “That leaves Ryan Broekhoff, Ray Spalding, Daryl Macon, Jalen Jones, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Codi Miller-McIntyre and Ding Yanyuhang to battle for the final roster spots. Antetokounmpo and Macon already have signed a two-way deals, assuring their spots.”
Broekhoff is a 28-year-old rookie from Australia who played collegiately at Valparaiso. As one of the best three-point shooters in the world (among those who haven’t played in the NBA yet), his odds seems solid. The same goes for Spalding, the 56th overall pick in the 2018 draft. The 6’10” big man has earned praise from head coach Rick Carlisle already, and the first year of his four-season deal is guaranteed.
Since Miller-McIntyre and Yanyuhang have no NBA experience, that leaves Jones as the best player likely to get the ax. Jones was sent packing earlier this summer to make roster room for rookies, but he’s back on a camp deal now. A suspect three-point shooter and defender, Jones’ skills look fine in the G League, which is where he spent most of last season.
In a dozen games for the Mavs in 2017-18, he averaged a career-best 5.8 points but shot just 39.1 percent from the field. The 6’7″ wing may see some time with the big club as an injury stopgap, but he won’t break camp with the Mavs.
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Donald Sloan, Emanuel Terry and Xavier Silas are strictly training camp bodies. Barring the unforeseen, they don’t feature in the Denver Nuggets plans.
Sloan is easily the most established of the three, even if he hasn’t played in the league since the 2015-16 season with the Brooklyn Nets. His 218 career games stand out, but the Nuggets only invited him to camp because Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip. Silas is already 30 years old and may just be a local-market play; he played the first two years of his collegiate career at Colorado from 2006-08.
That leaves Terry, a Division II prospect without much to offer on offense. The 6’9″ athlete brings a ton of energy, though, and he earned a summer-league start because of his defensive ability. Terry can switch across five positions and is basically incapable of being outworked. In Denver, where terrible defense has all but canceled out one of the league’s best scoring attacks over the last two years, you’d think there’d be a place for someone who could get a stop.
Unfortunately, there’s just no room for Terry. Some smart team, perhaps one that’ll have to face the Warriors or Rockets in the playoffs, should take a chance on a potentially useful defender.
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It’s hard to describe Detroit Pistons camp invitee Chris McCullough without using the word “intriguing.”
At 6’11”, the Syracuse short-timer has flashed a three-point stroke and slithery athleticism in fragments of three seasons with the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets. The 20th player added to Detroit’s training camp roster, McCullough has almost no chance to see minutes with the Pistons. The G League is his best bet, but Detroit’s pair of two-way slots are already filled.
McCullough only played 16 games in his one season with Syracuse, and despite the fact that his tenure in 2014-15 feels like it happened ages ago, he’s still only 23. Career G League averages of 15.0 points and 6.9 rebounds (plus 33.7 percent from deep) signal McCullough could be effective in the NBA with some skill development and experience.
Remember, he hasn’t exactly logged major minutes since he was a 5-star high school prospect with offers from Arizona, UCLA, Kansas, Louisville, West Virginia and several others.
There’s room for McCullough to grow. If he manages that this year (wherever he plays), he could crack a roster in 2019.
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Patrick McCaw declined his one-year, $1.7 million qualifying offer from the Warriors, meaning he’ll remain an unrestricted free agent. The Warriors, despite failing to reach an agreement with their third-year guard, retain control and matching rights if another offer comes along.
Still, it’s starting to feel like McCaw isn’t interested in another year of bench duties for a title-chasing team that has every rotation spot established. That’s his prerogative, and the both-ends flashes McCaw showed in his two years with the Dubs should make him a hot commodity on the market—if the Warriors determine they’d rather just cut ties and fill the roster spot with a veteran from the ring-hunting crew (Jamal Crawford, Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo) currently available.
McCaw’s three-point shot is slow and mechanical, and his conversion rate fell to 23.8 percent last season. If that’s the best he can do while basically being ignored by opponents, it’s hard to be optimistic about his offensive upside. He has a nose for the ball, though, and he tends to disrupt opponents with his length and excellent hands. He’s a smart defender who understands positioning, and he has quick feet. But McCaw is too willowy to hang with larger wings, which limits his value when the Warriors do battle against elite competition.
This is a risky pick, as McCaw would have a guaranteed roster spot if he wanted one. Plus, Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated reports the Warriors have had a two-year, $5 million offer on the table for a while. Nonetheless, this feels like a divorce, and the Warriors could almost certainly fill the void with a veteran who’d offer more experience in the playoffs.
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Playing for the Houston Cougars, Rob Gray hung 39 points on San Diego State in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament. Now, the all-time leading scorer in American Athletic Conference history is trying to secure a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets.
Gray is already 24, which suggests there may not be much development left in his game. And at just 6’1″ and 180 pounds, he’s not exactly an imposing NBA-caliber body. Still, the guy can score, and his tourney explosion indicates he’s not afraid of the moment.
If Brandon Knight’s surgically repaired knee continues causing him trouble, perhaps there’ll be a better shot for Gray to make the team. Most likely, he’ll fall behind Zhou Qi, Gary Clark, Vincent Edwards and Isaiah Hartenstein in his pursuit of an opening-night spot.
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Undrafted out of SMU, Ben Moore is a 6’8″ ball hawk who can defend several NBA positions right now. He has a good chance to stick with the Pacers, which leaves Elijah Stewart and Omari Johnson fighting on the fringe.
The bet here is on Johnson earning a position ahead of Stewart.
Johnson’s G League production—15.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game—and 40.1 percent hit rate from long distance make him the kind of wing most teams covet. Stewart is a 6’5″ guard out of USC who hit 39 percent of his threes from the college stripe.
If you’re the Pacers, you’d be justified in opting for Johnson’s superior size (6’9″) and better perimeter shooting over a smaller guard whose best collegiate season included just 12.3 points per game. That said, Stewart is an NBA-caliber athlete who can finish above the rim and contribute on both ends. He blocked more shots than all but five players in USC history—no small feat for a guard.
Stewart is ticketed for the G League on a two-way deal.
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Desi Rodriguez was the 20th and final player added to the Los Angeles Clippers’ training camp roster. Aboard via an Exhibit 10 contract (which pays a bonus if a waived player sticks in the G League for at least 60 days and can be converted into a two-way pact), Rodriguez has almost no chance of landing on L.A.’s NBA roster, which is already overburdened with guards.
As a senior at Seton Hall last year, Rodriguez averaged 17.5 points per game and hit 37.3 percent of his threes. The 6’6″ wing isn’t an eyebrow-raiser in the athleticism department, but he has the heft to work over leaner opponents in the mid and low post.
A dreadful shooter as a freshman, Rodriguez deserves credit for honing his lefty stroke to the point that the perimeter shot became a major weapon in his arsenal.
It’s a good thing he showed the ability to hit standstill treys and shots on the move in college because it’s unlikely Rodriguez’s bulk will give him the same scoring advantages against bigger, stronger competition. It’s one thing to overpower a kid fresh out of high school; it’s another to back down, say, James Harden.
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The Los Angeles Lakers took Isaac Bonga with the 39th pick in the 2018 draft, trading a future second-rounder to the Philadelphia 76ers just for the chance to snag the 18-year-old German product. So even if Bonga, a 6’9″ wing who played a ton of point guard in the Bundesliga last year, may not make the final NBA roster, he’s still someone the Lakers are heavily invested in developing.
“We wanted to take a player that we felt has a good long-term upside for the team,” assistant general manager Jesse Buss told Lakers.com. “You have to look at the rest of your roster and see if you have a spot where you can develop someone over the next few years.”
Bonga’s three-year deal is guaranteed for the first two, so failing to make the opening night roster won’t result in him being cut outright. He is, however, a terrific bet to start 2018-19 with L.A.’s G League affiliate. In fact, he’ll almost certainly spend most of his season there.
Bonga struggled as the youngest player in the entire Las Vegas Summer League. After averaging 2.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting, it was clear (and not remotely surprising) he needed some seasoning. Bonga won’t get it with the big club this season, but keep an eye on him as he leverages his uncommon size for the position and develops his already impressive playmaking skills in the G League.
The Lakers didn’t use a valuable early second-rounder on this guy for nothing.
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If Yuta Watanabe reaches the NBA, he’ll become just the second Japanese player to achieve that feat. He’s nicely positioned to pull that off, as the Memphis Grizzlies already have him signed to a two-way deal.
He won’t start the season with Memphis, but an injury or a planned rest day on the second leg of a back-to-back could open a temporary position for the 6’9″ forward with a strong defensive reputation and three-point range.
Watanabe averaged 9.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks during summer league as a member of the Brooklyn Nets, and the Grizz wasted no time in snatching him up when the Nets moved on.
“He posted me up one time and shot a fadeaway, which I didn’t like,” Mike Conley told Mark Giannotto of the Commercial Appeal. “I was trying to block it and everything, and he made it right in my face. He’s very versatile.”
Expect Watanabe to get a call-up eventually. Just don’t expect him to be there on opening night.
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Basically a three-point shot away from being Patrick Beverley, Briante Weber is a defensive menace at the point who’s worn six different NBA jerseys since joining the league out of VCU in 2015.
He’ll compete with Yante Maten, Malik Newman, Duncan Robinson and Jarnell Stokes for a spot on the 15-man roster. But if we’ve learned anything about Weber through parts of three NBA seasons, it’s that he’s the basketball equivalent of a Quadruple-A prospect in baseball: a little too good for the G League but not ready to contribute consistently at the next level.
It’s a weird state of limbo, but Weber should be used to it by now. In addition to stints with a half-dozen NBA clubs, he’s also played 87 G League contests. Notably, Weber has shot the trey better at the lower levels. His career G League accuracy rate is 35.7 percent—markedly better than the 19.2 percent he’s made in the NBA.
There may come a day when the three ball finally falls at a steady clip, and Weber solidifies himself as a backup point guard—one who’ll make life hell on opponents with relentless pressure and preternatural instincts in the passing lanes. For now, he’ll simply be the best player in Miami’s camp not to make the final roster.
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This is a tough one, as the Milwaukee Bucks have Tyler Zeller, Tim Frazier, Shabazz Muhammad and Christian Wood vying for the final position on the 15-man roster.
Wood was one of the best players in the Vegas Summer League, and the other three have considerable NBA experience.
The quickest way to sort through this is to focus on positional needs. Frazier plays the point, and Milwaukee has Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova inked to fully guaranteed deals. Are the Bucks really going to use another precious roster spot on a fourth point guard?
Frazier is a pass-first game manager—quick and intelligent but unfortunately lacking a reliable three-point shot. Against second units that don’t simply slide under the screen up top, he can produce. The guy has played 186 NBA games in four years for a reason, even starting 35 contests for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2016-17.
It’s just a numbers game, though, and keeping Frazier, point guard No. 4 in Milwaukee, doesn’t add up.
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Can I just pick Jimmy Butler? Is that cheating?
If we ditch the easy out and don’t go with the guy on the roster who’ll never play another game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the pick is Darius Johnson-Odom.
Though he’s 29 and hasn’t played in the NBA since 2013-14 (when he logged a whopping 15 minutes of action for the year), Johnson-Odom has routinely proved he’s way too good for virtually every other level of professional basketball. As a G Leaguer, the 6’2″ guard owns career averages of 21.7 points and 5.8 assists. In Italy last season, he put up 18.7 points per game and drilled 40.6 percent of his triples.
The Wolves won’t keep him, but rest assured Johnson-Odom will land somewhere outside the NBA and perform. It’s what he’s done for his entire career.
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With Jarrett Jack aboard on a partially guaranteed contract, the New Orleans Pelicans are all set on the journeyman point guard front.
That means Darius Morris, signed to a camp deal only a couple of weeks before Jack, has the best chance of being the odd man out in the Pels backcourt rotation. Elfrid Payton will get the start, Jrue Holiday will play off the ball but handle the point when necessary, and some combination of E’Twaun Moore, Ian Clark and Jack will soak up the rest of the minutes.
Morris, 27, has a scoring average of 19.1 points per game over 65 G League appearances, so it’s possible he winds up playing at that level again—although the Pelicans remain one of three teams without a G League affiliate. Jack is nearly eight years Morris’ senior, but he’s managed to hang around the NBA as a leader with some guile and a reliable elbow jumper. He averaged double figures as recently as 2015-16 with the Brooklyn Nets.
Morris has split time among five teams in his four years of NBA action, so he’s at least proved he can play at the highest level. New Orleans just isn’t the team that needs him at the moment.
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Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Hicks are the New York Knicks’ two-way rosterees, which makes them the most logical candidates to miss the cut for opening night.
Except…there’s also Joakim Noah.
Heading into the third season of a four-year, $72 million deal, Noah is clearly not part of the Knicks’ plans. He logged only seven games last year and recently voiced his frustration with the franchise on social media. Apparently healthy enough to play some pickup, Noah, even if completely fit, is a long way from his fourth-place MVP finish following the 2013-14 season. That said, he’d offer more to a team than any of the Knicks’ other training-camp invitees.
So while Trier, Hicks, Damyean Dotson, Kadeem Allen, et al., are younger and feature more long-term upside than the veteran Noah, it’s probably wrong to argue they’re objectively better players at this moment. Noah can still defend, pass and rebound if his body holds up. He just won’t be doing any of that for the Knicks, who seem certain to cut ties with their unhappy center before the season.
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Nobody made more threes in the G League than Bryce Alford last year, who drilled 148 of them at a 40.4 percent conversion rate.
No surprise there, as Alford also holds the all-time marks for made triples in a game, season and career at UCLA, where his four-year tenure ended with an All Pac-12 selection in 2016-17.
The 6’3″ guard could bolster the Oklahoma City Thunder’s three-point shooting, but he’d fit into a long line of one-way wings who have populated the perimeter for OKC over the last several years. It’s almost as if the Thunder aren’t allowed to play a shooting guard who can hit treys and defend.
Alford is undersized for the 2 and not particularly athletic. It’s hard to make the case he’d be much more effective than perennial doghouse occupant and defensive snoozer Alex Abrines. The stroke is real, though, which could get Alford some serious consideration as the 12th or 13th man on the active roster.
The safer bet is for him to spend another season in the G League, most likely for the OKC Blue.
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Signed to a four-year, partially guaranteed deal back in July, Isaiah Briscoe seems likely to open the season as the Orlando Magic’s third-string point guard behind D.J. Augustin and Jerian Grant. That means Orlando has all 15 roster spots spoken for.
Amile Jefferson could argue one of those 15 spots should have gone to him.
The 6’9″ forward out of Duke ripped up the G League last year, averaging 17.8 points and 12.8 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent from the field. He’s got a two-way deal in place with the Magic, who have to sort out a glut of frontcourt players with guaranteed deals.
If he’s anywhere close to matching last year’s production, Jefferson will spend significant time in Orlando. Given his numbers, it’s difficult to justify playing the likes of Khem Birch ahead of him. But that’s what the roster breakdown suggests will happen to start the season.
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Thanks to Jerryd Bayless’ knee injury, which will keep him sidelined for up to a month, Demetrius Jackson and Shake Milton will compete for a suddenly available position on the Philadelphia 76ers’ 15-man roster.
Jackson and Milton are already signed to two-way deals, but Milton, a three-and-D wing, makes more sense as a Bayless replacement. Jackson’s outside shooting remains suspect, and even if many still consider Bayless a point guard, he long ago transitioned into a player who spends his time off the ball as a spot shooter.
Milton shot 42.7 percent from deep in three years at SMU. Jackson has hit just two of his eight triple attempts in his 20-game NBA career. In a larger sample of G League action, Jackson shot 31.1 percent: better, but nowhere close to what Milton can do.
The Sixers obviously believe in Jackson. They wouldn’t have given him a two-way deal if they didn’t. But Milton is the better fit, which means Jackson earns the nod as the best player who’ll miss out on opening night. Hey, at least he finished ahead of camp invitee Emeka Okafor!
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“He might not have the flashy ball skills or elite-level bucket-getting ability, but his size, his wingspan, he has huge hands, he’s freakishly athletic, he can guard multiple positions, and he’s a big-time shooter. He’s an NBA player without a doubt.”
That’s Kim English, George King’s assistant coach at Colorado, describing the Phoenix Suns’ second-rounder to Jack Harris of ArizonaSports.com.
King, already inked to a two-way deal, is a 6’6″ wing with a 7’0″ wingspan and the potential to contribute as a prized three-and-D wing…eventually. For now, he’ll get to work for the Northern Arizona Suns, relying on a three-point stroke that went in 40.1 percent of the time in college.
King’s defense improved dramatically during his four years at Colorado, and if that trend continues, the All-Pac 12 second-teamer should get a look in the NBA this season.
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Gary Payton II, Chinanu Onuaku and Cameron Oliver will battle it out for two-way deals and nothing more, as the Portland Trail Blazers’ 15-man roster has been set for weeks.
Payton, the Oregon State product and son of Hall of Famer Gary Payton (obviously), might be the local favorite in the Pacific Northwest. Onuaku is intriguing as well, though he only saw six games with the Houston Rockets over the past two years. Neither have Oliver’s potential, which is why he’s the pick here.
Oliver is a phenomenal athlete who can play above the rim and hit from the perimeter. At 6’8″, his skill set invites exciting comparisons, like the one that arises out of this note from Peter Sampson of Blazer’s Edge:
“Aside from his athleticism, which is immediately apparent after watching him play, Oliver shot a solid 38 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore season. Aside from Lauri Markkanen, no collegiate big man shot better from downtown in 2016-17.”
Motivation and a reputation for sporadic low energy had a lot to do with Oliver going undrafted in 2017 after two excellent years at Nevada. After a season in the G League, hopefully he’s got his motor revving at the appropriate RPM level.
Oliver won’t start the season in the NBA, but he’s got the talent to get there.
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Wenyen Gabriel, an undrafted 6’9″ forward from Kentucky, is one of two Sacramento Kings players who might crash the 15-man roster eventually. Jamel Artis is the other.
Both will spend most of the year in Stockton, where the Kings’ G League affiliate will be located this season. Even if neither sees much NBA action, at least they won’t have to make the onerous trip from Sacramento to Reno, where the Kings used to have their G League squad.
Artis is the better, more established player of the two—not that that’s saying much. Gabriel averaged 5.7 points per game in two years at Kentucky and has a long way to go until he proves what Artis already has.
Also undrafted in 2017, the 6’7″ Artis was a three-year starter at Pitt and averaged 18.2 points per game as a senior. Last year, he bumped up that scoring average to 19.5 points per game in the G League, hitting 34.8 percent of his 5.6 three-point attempts per game. Artis also saw 15 games of NBA action with the Orlando Magic.
Artis can actually play some point guard when necessary, and his collegiate three-point shooting (37.8 percent over four years) suggests there’s upside to his accuracy rate at the NBA level. He’s already demonstrated his value at several levels.
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The Austin Spurs won the G League title last season, which helps explain why the San Antonio Spurs’ roster decisions are so difficult. There are a handful of excellent returning G-Leaguers and familiar faces from outside the organization who deserve consideration for NBA minutes.
Jaron Blossomgame, Okaro White, Josh Huestis, Chimezie Metu, Drew Eubanks and Quincy Pondexter are all in the mix.
Pondexter and Huestis have significant NBA experience, and for a Spurs team forever eying the playoffs, that’s going to matter. White also showed flashes in parts of two seasons with the Heat.
That makes it seem like one of San Antonio’s younger options will fail to make the roster, and Blossomgame profiles as the best of the bunch. A 6’7″ forward who specializes on D, where he can guard several positions, Blossomgame has impressed since joining the Spurs as the 59th pick in the 2017 draft.
“We’ve been really happy with the progress Jaron has made,” Spurs summer league coach Will Hardy told Jeff MacDonald of the San Antonio Express News. “The thing you like the most about him is that he is so versatile. He can guard different positions, and that’s so important in today’s NBA.”
Plus, Blossomgame scores on Tim Duncan in practice at the end of this clip from Jabari Young of The Athletic. That’ll be a story he can tell his G League teammates after he secures another two-way role this season.
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Lorenzo Brown won the G League MVP for the Raptors 905 last year, and he’s likely to start the season with the big club after such a strong showing.
Jordan Loyd will do his best to follow that blueprint.
After an uninspiring collegiate career, Loyd has split time between the G League and overseas, honing his combo-guard game and popping back up on the NBA radar.
According to JD Quirante of Raptors HQ: “It’s very likely that Loyd will be given the keys to be the main point guard for the Raptors 905 to help him develop into the team’s lead point guard—a goal that’s not far-fetched even though he spent the majority of his collegiate and professional career as a shooting guard.”
Toronto won’t need Loyd, who’s on a two-way deal, to start the season. But he’ll be available as an injury replacement at the very least. If his developmental trajectory continues, the 6’3″ guard could force the Raptors to consider converting him to an NBA contract sooner than later.
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If the universe were a just place, Tyler Cavanaugh wouldn’t be in this position.
Last year, the undrafted forward out of George Washington played 39 games with the Hawks and was less than a week away from converting his two-way deal into a full NBA contract when he hurt his ankle. That meant no NBA deal, no more games and not even an invite back to the Hawks this summer.
Cavanaugh took more than half his shots from deep last season, hitting 36 percent of them. That’ll work for a 6’9″ forward, especially when it might undersell his shooting chops. In the G League, he buried 45.1 percent of his triples. In his two years at George Washington after transferring from Wake Forest, he hit 41.7 and 40.9 percent of his treys, respectively.
The Jazz profile as one of the three best teams in the West, so they’re deeper than most clubs. But Cavanaugh has fought his way from two-way status to the 15-man roster before. Don’t count him out.
Do, however, count on him being Utah’s best non-roster player when the season opens.
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Jordan McRae is the superior player at the moment, but with the way Devin Robinson seems to be developing, that could change at any second. Robinson and McRae are the Washington Wizards’ two-way contract-holders for this season, and McRae, 27, has the edge in experience.
Robinson, though, has tools and youth on his side. He averaged 13 points and 5.1 boards while hitting 38.1 percent of his threes in the G League a year ago. At a springy 6’8″, Robinson’s athleticism and length mark him as a prospect with significant upside.
In summer-league play, he put up 19.8 points per game and turned in several highlight dunks and blocks that showcased his ability to impact the game above the rim on both ends.
Washington is deep on the wing, but Robinson is starting to look viable at any spot from small forward to center. That only increases his chances to impress when he gets an inevitable call-up sometime this year.