The greatest lesson from watching many NBA Summer Leagues is to remember that it’s only the NBA Summer League.
Every success is diminished by the competition’s talent level and disjointed opposing defenses. Empty performances cast prospects into a massive pool of players that aren’t getting minutes. Top-tier prospects play less often. It’s hard to escape a handful of games as a big winner with all the caveats.
It’s also possible. So players arrive — from overseas, from drafts half a decade ago — to grasp that lottery-ticket chance at a roster spot. This month, former Syracuse Orange Malachi Richardson, Oshae Brissett, Tyus Battle, Andrew White and former SU commit Darius Bazley represent the hopeful.
Battle and Bazley stand in the most favorable position. Since the NBA can’t process trades the world already know of on draft night, Bazley did not officially join the Thunder from the Jazz until July 7. That remains one of the bigger head-scratchers of the league’s offseason structure.
Bazley played against Philadelphia and scored zero points in 17 minutes. He dished three assists in the first seven minutes and grabbed two rebounds with a steal and a block following a Philly offensive rebound.
He is guaranteed $4.7-million in the first two seasons of his slated contract with Oklahoma. Against Croatia — who apparently play in Vegas this time of year — Bazley scored six points, five rebounds, one assist, two blocks and one steal.
Tyus Battle — Minnesota Timberwolves
Battle signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Timberwolves. The deal gives him a clearer route to staying in the organization. He earns extra money if Minnesota waives him and he stays with their G-League affiliate for an allotted amount of time.
He shot 2-for-5 with four points in a trio of scheduled games for Minnesota in Vegas. The Wolves did not play him in the opener, and he failed to make a shot in three attempts in 14 minutes against Atlanta.
After his entrance late in the first quarter, he rotated inside on help defense to stop a Thomas Wimbush dunk attempt. He fed Kelan Martin in transition for a three one minute later. In the fourth, he escaped a trap to feed Marquisse Moore for a driving layup.
Elijah Bryant of the Bucks tested Battle’s screen work, drilling a three while Battle caught below the break. Battle poured in a put-back following a driver to the basket after. Battle pressed into three defenders in the fourth and cost Minny two points on a turnover. He fouled three times.
Battle’s dual concerns of man-defense and involving himself away from the ball sprouted in the games. The Timberwolves added Noah Vonleh and Jordan Bell this summer, two taller wings with more experience working off the ball. They’ll sign Jarrett Culver as their 14th roster spot, leaving one roster spot and one two-way contract open (could be Jarred Terrell again).
The space for Battle on Minnesota’s pro roster is slimming as quickly as his time in Vegas.
Oshae Brissett — Los Angeles Clippers
Brissett’s idol, Paul George, arriving in L.A. further threatens his already-long odds of making the NBA’s prohibitive favorite to win the title. Fortunately, the Agua Caliente Clippers — founded in 2017 — play in Ontario, California.
While Brissett would not reap the salary bonuses that Battle would through Exhibit 10 by sticking around, he’d remain close to a title-contending infrastructure in LA. The Clippers have three roster spots open after the George trade, Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann signings. LA maintains one two-way deal after signing Amir Coffey.
With Brissett’s 2-for-15 start, Los Angeles’s wealth of young talent, their power at the wings and need for ball-handlers it’s unlikely Brissett plays a game for the Clippers.
The Trailblazers could become a future destination given their affinity for slashing wings and undervalued young talent. Rebuilding teams like the Grizzlies and, soon, the Thunder could feed him minutes. The Knicks and Hornets also maintain roster spots in the east. I also hear the Toronto Raptors just lost a small forward.
No matter his destination, Brissett appears poised for G-League time next season if he wants to remain in the NBA without Summer League momentum to build on.
Malachi Richardson — Golden State Warriors
Richardson joined the Warriors continuing his strict spot-up shooting role. He shot 3-for-8 from three, with one make in each of the three games he played. Despite Malachi’s inability to claim ball time and make plays with only limited minutes thus far, this could be a fit.
Golden State currently has 14 players under contract, including two minimum players in Eric Paschall and Alen Smailagic. Assistant coach Mike Brown said that Golden State targeted a Jordan Pool because they need players to knock down open shots off Steph Curry’s pressure going forward.
The obvious statement doesn’t diminish the clear intention: Golden State’s loading up on shooters.
This is a Summer League of echelons though, and Ky Bowman earned one of Golden State’s pair of two-way deals ahead of him. The Warriors offered Damion Lee a two-way qualifying offer. It’s unlikely Richardson surmounts those two for a full roster spot.
Richardson is a shot-maker, though not one lethal enough to edge out other players for roster spots. He’ll likely be eyeing an overseas contract or G-League deal.
Andrew White — New York Knicks
White hit a pair of threes and 3-of-4 from the field while New York outscored the Lakers by 10 points with him on the floor. While the Lakers probably won’t be courting their own draft pick in Summer League until I hit my 30s, White continues to encourage as much as any former Orange. He’s a pure shooter good enough to warrant a roster spot for that skill.
In three games, he shot 3-for-8 from the field. New York has not funneled him many looks, but he’s taken advantage in a small sample size. That’s the key to this time of year, maximizing on limited opportunity.
His future probably is not in New York, as they’ve signed Kadeem Allen and Kris Wilkes to their two-way deals. Those deals are dwindling around the NBA, including in Philadelphia, a team that needs floor spacing. Brooklyn has both roster space and two-way deals, but likely can’t provide him minutes.
His former team, the Atlanta Hawks, could find space for him too. He scored 4.6 points per game in 14 minutes with them in 2017-18.
White could make excellent money overseas, though at 24 this could be his last chance to break into the NBA. He’s good enough to sit on the end of a roster though, and shooters like him are more likely to maximize slim minutes.