I would like to see us make a play for Thomas. Could be a decent back up to Ty
Every year there are undrafted and unsigned players who are invited the NBA Summer Leagues and get their chance to show they deserve another look. While the focus may be on how the rookies and other players already under guaranteed contracts are performing, most of the players on the court are hoping to get any kind of NBA contract or training camp invite for next season and as always, a few players earn their ticket to the big dance.
Maalik Wayns, Villanova Junior, Undrafted 2012
Maalik Wayns established himself as one of college’s better scoring point guards last season at Villanova, but never heard his name called at the draft in June. Wayns understandably felt slighted.
Picked up for the Magic’s summer league team, Wayns made a huge impression in game one going head-to-head against Tyshawn Taylor of the Nets with a double-double of 11 points and 10 assists while getting to the free throw line nine times. Wayns also reaffirmed his scoring prowess with a 16 point effort against the Jazz two days later.
Wayns was invited to the Warriors summer league team in Las Vegas, but tweaked his groin in a scrimmage against the Suns the day before games started and didn’t play.
There are rumors that Wayns may have an offer to play in Europe for next season, but the 21-year-old left a positive impression with both the Magic and the Warriors and it should net him at least a training camp invite if he decides to wait.
Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion Senior, Undrafted 2012
The 6’4” swingman with the wingspan of a center went undrafted and part of the reason may have been his conviction for impaired driving and subsequent arrest at a game this past March for failing to complete an alcohol safety program as part of his probation, but playing with the Warriors in Summer League, Kent Bazemore confirmed he has a lot of basketball talent.
In three games, Bazemore averaged a solid 10.7 points, five rebounds, 2 steals and 2.3 blocks, but he left a lasting impression in 36 minutes against Chicago with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots.
The reining college defensive player of the year won the award back-to-back and showed the potential to contribute at the offensive end in his final two seasons at Old Dominion as well. His Summer League success appears to be drawing interest from the Warriors, Hawks and likely a few more teams.
Dionte Christmas, Temple Senior, Undrafted 2009
After going undrafted in 2009 and becoming a late training camp cut of the 76ers, 6’5” shooting guard Dionte Christmas headed to Europe for two seasons where in his last 26 games with Rethymno in Greece he averaged over 18 points and showed he could be a scorer as a professional.
Boston took a long look at Christmas in Summer League. In five games in Orlando followed by five more in Las Vegas, Christmas only failed to score in double-digits once and he consistently racked up good numbers in rebounds, assists and steals as well. A good three-point shooter and decent defender, Christmas was one of the better players in Summer League.
Boston still needs depth on the bench and the 25-year-old is being offered his chance to make the Celtics in training camp and this time, Christmas has a realistic chance of staying in the NBA.
Hilton Armstrong, Connecticut Senior, #12 Draft Pick 2006
After five seasons in the NBA, the 6’10” center/power forward found himself playing in France last season and on this year’s Clippers summer league team in the hopes of landing another NBA contract.
Hilton Armstrong averaged an unremarkable 3.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and half a block while playing with the Hornets, Kings, Rockets, Wizards and Hawks, but last year in the Eurocup, he managed a more interesting 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks. Summer League seems to confirm Armstrong has progressed since his time in the NBA. In five contests, Armstrong managed 7.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in just 25.6 minutes.
Armstrong played hard in Vegas and it should earn him a look at training camp with the Clippers or another NBA team in need of a fifth or sixth big man to round out their roster.
Adam Morrison, Gonzaga Junior, #3 Draft Pick 2006
If you are looking for proof that the number of championship rings you own does not define your NBA career, then look no further than the two Adam Morrison wears from his time with the Lakers. The scoring machine from Gonzaga had a typical rookie year with the Bobcats before he was traded to warm the pine on a championship team in Los Angeles.
Morrison played in the Adriatic and Turkish leagues last year and just wanted to give the NBA one more shot this summer before deciding if it’s time to move on with his life, but the former dominant college player certainly didn’t want to leave the professional ranks without giving it his all. In five Summer League contests with the Clippers, Morrison averaged 20 points and five rebounds while shooting a blistering 61.9 percent from three-point range. It was enough to get Clippers’ fans chanting M-V-P in Las Vegas at the game five win over the Celtics.
At 28-years-old, Morrison still has the shooting touch and after going through the school of hard-knocks, he might just have the maturity to become an effective player in a smaller role. Any team in need of scoring off the bench should be inviting Morrison to their training camp for a look.
P.J. Tucker, Texas Junior, #35 Draft Pick 2006
P.J. Tucker played 17 games for the Toronto Raptors in 2006 before he was waived, but the under-sized power forward from Texas didn’t give up on his dream and has played on several overseas teams since departing the NBA.
The Suns represent Tucker’s fifth Summer League team since college and Tucker averaged 5.8 points on 50 percent shooting and 6.2 rebounds over five games, but he saved his best for last against the Grizzlies with a 10 point, nine rebound, one steal and one block effort. The hard work Tucker has become known for in Europe was evident this summer in Vegas.
Tucker’s team in Germany wants him back, so the Suns have put a two-year partially guaranteed deal in front of him to keep him here. Tucker is looking at a big pay cut to get his chance at returning to the NBA, but this Summer League veteran isn’t likely to pass up an opportunity to get back to the big show.
Josh Akognon, Cal State Fullerton Senior, Undrafted 2009
The diminutive guard was one of the fastest players in college and at 23.9 points per game, he was one of college’s most prolific scorers during his senior season. Not known as a playmaker, the 5’11” Akognon has deep range and the ability to get to the free throw line. A shooting guard in a small point guard’s body, getting drafted in 2009 was not likely.
Akognon has spent the past two seasons tearing it up China, averaging over 28 points per game with the DongGuan Leopards and in his three Summer League games with the Kings, Akognon averaged 19.3 points in just 18.7 minutes. There is little question Akognon can still score the ball in a hurry.
While NBA teams will undoubtedly believe Akognon is too small to defend for prolonged periods and opposing teams will quickly adjust to his shooting range, there have been many small guards that could disrupt an opposition’s defense for stretches during a game and Akognon certainly seems to fit that description. This 26-year-old guard has earned a training camp invite from a scoring-challenged team.
Malcolm Thomas, San Diego State Senior, Undrafted 2011
The best overall performance in Summer League may belong to Malcolm Thomas. Undrafted out of San Diego State a year ago, Thomas played on three different NBA D-League teams and three games with the Spurs last season earning All NBA D-League first team honors.
The 6’8” power forward has a 7’2” wingspan and used all of his natural gifts to impress everyone watching in Las Vegas. Over five games Thomas averaged a solid double-double, but in the first four games when he averaged 30 minutes a contest, he dominated with 13.3 points, 14.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Not surprising, Thomas is now garnering interest from the Hawks, Bobcats, Bulls and Clippers and should get another shot at making an NBA club this fall.
The NBA Summer Leagues represent many unsigned players best chance to get noticed before rosters are set heading into training camp and every year several of these hopefuls get a contract or camp invite. The players above are among the most likely to show up on a NBA roster at camp this fall. Let us know in the comments below if we have missed anyone and why you believe they deserve a shot.