The NBA summer is heating up, but while that means free agency for most NBA fans, we can’t forget the Las Vegas Summer League. Every year, 24 teams descend on the Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV to watch a gaggle of rookies, young NBA players, and G-League veterans attempt to improve their games and prove their worth to fans and front offices alike.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be there, and after last season’s uninspiring squad (Kay Felder, Jordan McRae, and that was really all), they’re bringing a stronger group in this time around. Felder will be back, along with Edy Tavares, and potentially, Cedi Osman. Surrounding them is a combination of intriguing talents, some of whom have legitimate chances to land on the Cavs’ new two-way contract roster slots. A few Euroleague veterans and former Canton Charge members will mix in with some interesting undrafted free agents. This should actually be a fun group to watch.
More names may be added at the last minute, but so far, here’s who has committed to the Cavs’ Summer League team, where they came from, and how they can make the most of LVSL.
2016-17 team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 stats: 42 games played, four points, oe rebound, 1.4 assists per game; 29.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, six assists per game in 11 games with Canton Charge
Felder is the focal point of the Summer League team. The Cavs’ jitterbug point guard improved as the season went on last year, and exploded in a late stint with Canton, scoring 30+ points in six straight contests in April. Felder finally seemed to figure out the athleticism gap between the NBA and G-League, and dominated playing a more open spread pick-and-roll system against less length at the rim. Seeing him take a step forward as both a scorer and a leader at LVSL would be nice signs for his potential to earn minutes in 2017-18.
Can he make the roster?: Yes, he’s on it.
What to watch for: Don’t get bogged down on his efficiency. Watch how Felder’s decision-making and defense look instead. Felder actually looked pretty solid on defense in last year’s Summer League, making good decisions off ball and playing with intensity. He’ll likely be carrying a big load on offense, so seeing him still play with that toughness and discipline would be very encouraging.
2016-17 team: Atlanta Hawks, Raptors905, Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 stats (G-League): 48 games played, 10.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks per game, 59.1 percent shooting
Tavares is an interesting piece for the Cavs to have on board. He was basically signed right before the last game of the 2016-17 regular season, and wowed with a six-point, 10-rebound, six-block performance in the final game against the Raptors. The allure of Tavares is pretty obvious. He’s 7’3”, has decent mobility for his size, and gobbles rebounds under the basket. He still doesn’t really know how to play basketball though, and is more of a project than polished NBA-ready contributor.
Can he make the roster?: Yes, barring any cap gymnastics. He’s making $1.47 million on a non-guaranteed salary next year, and that becomes expendable if the Cavs need to make any moves requiring clearing salary.
What to watch for: How does Tavares do defending the pick-and-roll? His size swallows up many opponents on the perimeter, but his footwork in the PNR is bad, and getting matched up with a crafty, athletic wing scorer can really negate his length. He has enough offensive tools to be intriguing, but he needs to prove he can defend in space against NBA athletes to have a shot at actual playing time on the Cavaliers.
Cedi Osman (maybe)
2016-17 team: Anadolu Efes (Turkey)
2016-2017 stats: 62 games played, 10.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game, 46.2 percent shooting, 36.5 percent from three
This is provisional as Osman hasn’t signed yet, but will join the Summer League Team if he does. We’ve discussed Osman at length before, and we’re all familiar with and excited about him. He’s a 6’7” wing that can space the floor and potentially will be able to defend one through three at the NBA level. He’s a valuable piece as the Cavs look to revamp their wing depth in the next couple years, and this will be the first shot we get to see him. Hopefully he gets a deal done in the next few days and will be able to be here.
Can he make the roster? Yes, if the Cavs don’t trade him or botch negotiations. (They don’t have a GM, so they might.)
What to watch for: Really, this should just be a gauge for how ready he is for the NBA. How he creates space on the offensive end, how he handles NBA wings on defense, and how he adjusts to a more free-flowing style than is offered in Europe are all major questions, and LVSL will be a step towards seeing how immediately he can make an impact.
2016-17 team: Canton Charge
2016-17 stats: 40 games played, 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 59.2 percent shooting from the field
Beverly, a 6’8” power forward from tiny Daemen College in New York, Beverly is one of those guys here to round out the roster. He was a bench player for the Charge, coming on late in the season as his shot started to round into form. He operated pretty exclusively as a dive man for Canton, cleaning up on the offensive glass and occasionally swinging out for an 18-footer or corner three. He brings decent energy and hustle, so that’s a plus.
Can he make the roster?: He’s a full-time four who is smaller than LeBron and offers little value as a floor-spacer. He’s here to try to get another year in Canton or score an international contract.
What to watch for: Beverly basically has four games of quality film from last year, so I guess let’s see if he can do anything of note.
Sam Cassell Jr.
2016-17 team: Iona
2016-17 stats: 35 games played, 10.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, three assists, 36.4 percent from three on 6.2 attempts per game
Tyronn Lue is likely the connection that got the son of his fellow former Clippers coaching staff member on the team. The younger Cassell is much more of a shooting guard than a point guard like his dad, operating primarily as a three-point marksman coming off screens and dribble-handoffs. He shot just 38 percent from the field last year after transferring to Iona from Connecticut, but nearly two-thirds of his attempts were threes. He knows what he’s good at, and he’ll be a nice outlet option for Felder on this team.
Can he make the roster?: Probably not. He’s competing for a spot on the Charge.
What to watch for: Cassell’s path to a role in pro basketball is going to be as a spot-up marksman, so he’ll obviously need to knock down some shots. Establishing his college scoring profile as a legitimate threat to work in the G-League will be a nice first step for him.
2016-17 team: Canton Charge, Beijing Shougang (China)
2016-17 stats: 18 games played, 17.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists per game in China; 10 games played,, 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds wi thCanton
Jerrett is another former Charge member, spending last November with the team before cashing in a deal in the CBA with Beijing. Once there, the former Thunder second-rounder put up big numbers, as Americans in the CBA typically do. Jerrett has finally started to grow into his skill set — he’s a decent isolation scorer, with solid passing ability from the four and a lot of hustle on the defensive end. He’s also only 23, meaning continued improvement is possible even though he’s been out of the NBA for two years.
Can he make the roster?: Jerrett is a two-way contract candidate, as he’s definitely an NBA talent and has some of the highest upside of anyone on this team. However, his skill set doesn’t really match anything the Cavs could use, which hurts his chances of catching on here.
What to watch for: Jerrett is still pretty streaky as a three-point shooter, shooting 40.5 percent in Canton but just 32.1 percent in China. He needs to show continued progression on his shot mechanics to prove he deserves serious NBA consideration.
2016-17 team: Canton Charge
2016-17 stats: 46 games played,, 6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game, 49.3 percent shooting
A former Butler forward, Jones is started over Beverly for most of the season in Canton at the three. He’s a throwback player, combining impressive raw strength and hustle with soft touch and solid court vision on offense. A solid rebounder despite being just 6’4”, Jones impacts the game in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and he plays much bigger than his size. Unfortunately that’s what will probably keep him from the NBA though, because he doesn’t have enough perimeter skills to be an NBA three.
Can he make the roster?: Probably not. Jones’s hustle and character earned him starter’s minutes in the G-League and a spot here, but his physical limitations likely mean this is a Europe audition for him. If he were 6’9”, this would be different.
What to watch for: If you’re a Matthew Dellavedova fan, this is your guy. Jones will be diving on the floor, out-muscling NBA power forwards, and generally being a nuisance.
2016-17 team: Anadolu Efes (Turkey)
2016-17 stats: 29 games played,, 9.5 points, 1.5 rebounds per game, 40.6 percent shooting from three on 4.6 attempts per game
Paul, a former Illinois point guard, played for the Charge back in 2014-2015, but since has been plying his trade in Europe, with Joventut in Spain and then teaming with Osman at Efes last season. Paul never really fit in the Euroleague, as he’s not a mentally tough defender or a good playmaker. But he can score, and is a better fit for the NBA style of play. Paul might be the best finisher on this team among the guards, as he has great agility getting to the rim and finishes through contact better than Felder. He also has a legitimate three-point shot, and is comfortable shooting under pressure, which helps him overcome a slight dip in his motion. He can be deep reserve point guard at the NBA level.
Can he make the roster?: Absolutely. Paul is here because the Cavs found him while scouting Osman and liked what they saw. He has an inside track at one of the two-way contract spots with a good showing here.
What to watch for: Defense. Paul should be better than Felder athletically, but he didn’t really show much resiliency in Europe, especially navigating screens. He has to show he can play engaged on that end or he’s going to get lost behind Felder in the LVSL rotation.
2016-17 team: Perth (Australia), ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
2016-17 stats: 32 games played,, 19.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game for Perth; 13 games played,, 8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 39.4 percent from three for Ulm
A three-year Summer League veteran, the former Florida Gator has spent time in Germany and Australia over the past two years. He signed with Ulm late last year after starring for Perth, and helped Ulm finish at the top of the German League in the regular season. Prather is this year’s Kenny Gabriel — a high-flier from Europe that the Cavs have brought in to basically act as an alley-oop target. Prather is actually a pretty decent defender as well, and his athleticism is his biggest draw.
Can he make the roster?: Probably unlikely, as the Cavs probably won’t sign him outright. He’s been a decent rotation player overseas for two years, and probably wants to continue upward mobility in Europe over coming back to the G-League.
What to watch for: Dunks. Prather’s also probably this team’s best perimeter defender outside of Osman, so if he has a strong showing there, he might gain NBA steam.
2016-17 team: Syracuse
2016-17 stats: 34 games played, 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals per game, 40.1 percent from three on 8.1 attempts per game
White’s an intriguing prospect who settled in as a grad transfer at Syracuse last year to fire off an absurd 279 three-point attempts last year. He’s a legitimate floor-spacer, with great shooting mechanics and a resume of excellent marksmanship in high volume. He has good hands as well, and automatically gets the “potential three-and-d” label because of that. However, he does have some serious issues with awareness on both ends, and his offensive decision-making is poor.
Can he make the roster?: White is probably the most likely guy to make the roster of the players who aren’t there already. Despite being 24 he has the best potential to fill a need on the team, and he’d happily take a two-way contract deal to prove himself.
What to watch for: Basically, we need to see that White can pick up basic offensive concepts quickly in Summer League. That would help put to rest the basketball IQ concerns. If he is a major playmaker in this setting, consider his ticket to training camp booked.
2016-17 team: Northeastern
2016-17 stats: 30 games played,, 21.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game
Williams was a score-first combo guard at Northeastern, and he brings more backcourt punch to a Summer League team that has a ton of it. Williams is more craft than athleticism, preferring to score off the bounce with mid-range jumpers and using cross-overs and stutters to create space. He’s a developing playmaker and has enough size to be a useful NBA defender. He may be competing with Paul directly for a shot at a two-way contract.
Can he make the roster?: He’ll be a candidate for it, as he offers more ball-handling and has better off-ball chops than both Paul and Felder.
What to watch for: With mid-major guards who score at volume, the question is always whether they can score at the rim against NBA length. Williams is purely a below-the-rim player, meaning his touch is going to have to overcome a lack of vertical burst. He may struggle to score inside early on.