NBA Summer League Favorites
The summer is a terrible time for sports. The NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are wrapped up, NFL training camp doesn’t begin until August, and even baseball just had their All-Star Break. It’s a barren, Saharan-desert for sports fans that are searching for any kind of salvation.
But, in this hellish landscape there is an oasis, a small trickling well to help quench your thirst: NBA Summer League. The NBA’s annual exhibition season for teams to trot out rosters filled with rookies, unknown international prospects, D-League journeymen, and free agents desperate to make an NBA roster again.
The Summer League is one of my favorite sporting events because it gives fans a chance to see players we thought we’d never see again, or would never have the chance to see were it not for the Summer League. It’s prime territory for conversations that begin with one person saying, “Who’s that guy again? Didn’t he play for [insert college team]? He was pretty good. Maybe he could do something.”
So to honor the Summer League and the players that inhabit it, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite that will take the court for NBA teams in Las Vegas and Orlando. Enjoy.
Nate Wolters-Indiana Pacers
Nate Wolters was probably your dad’s favorite player when he was playing for South Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament a few years back. Just a scrappy point guard trying to crack into the NBA, he’s destined to be on Summer League teams for a majority of his career.
Aaron Craft-Utah Jazz
Aaron Craft could go 0-100 in Summer League and still get an invitation from another team to come back next year. His legendary Ohio State career of being the most insufferable point guard in collegiate history makes him a Summer League mainstay.
Tu Holloway-NBA D-League Select
Oh man, remember Tu Holloway? He was that player from Xavier a few years back that literally threatened to murder Cincinnati players (“Zip ’em up”) after getting in a brawl with them. An all-time collegiate basketball moment IMO. I’ve been curious as to where he ended up after Xavier, and I’m so excited he’s still around. Also, apparently there’s a D-League all-star team playing in Summer League? Kind of a slap-in-the-face to only make a Summer League team via the D-League team. I mean, the best D-League players are already on Summer League teams so isn’t this just the leftovers?
Juwan Howard Jr.-Miami Heat
Definitely didn’t make the team because of his name alone. Nope.
Ron Baker-New York Knicks
I was a big fan of Baker and his Bieber haircut at Wichita State. He was part of the Cinderella team that made the Final Four in 2014. A lot of Knicks fans will be talking themselves into giving him a regular-season roster spot come the end of July.
Vander Blue-Dallas Mavericks
A former Marquette star who has become a D-League and Summer League Hall-of-Famer (if they had such a thing), Blue is the quintessential all-potential player. He’ll show you enough flashes of competence to make you think he could make an actual roster, but then do some really dumb stuff to make you forget. Regardless, I always enjoy the chance to watch Blue play, and the Summer League is my only chance all year.
Kevin Pangos-Atlanta Hawks
Pangos and his majestic hair stole my heart in 2014 while at Gonzaga. I hadn’t seen hair like that since the heyday of White Goodman. You just don’t see it nowadays. I hope he’s another Summer League regular for many years based on his hair alone. He’s okay at basketball too, I guess.
Keifer Sykes-Golden State Warriors
Giving some love to the folk hero of my hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. While at UW-GB Sykes was a stud despite the fact he’s (generously) listed at just 6 feet. He was a mid-major version of Nate Robinson with his hops, and I’ll always have love for him because he nearly ended Frank Kaminsky’s career.
LeBryan Nash-Milwaukee Bucks
Nash is the type of player that is a Summer League staple. He was huge coming out of high school, underperformed in college, and now is hoping he’s more suited to the NBA game than college. His potential is still very high and will never drop no matter what because there will always be some scout that remembers he was really good in high school. The rational fan in me says he’ll never see an NBA court but the Bucks fan in me says he’s a guaranteed All-Star.
Isaiah Whitehead-Brooklyn Nets
I was a big fan of Whitehead at Seton Hall and thought he could be something in the NBA. Then I found out he was drafted by the Nets. That’s a shame.
Brandon Davies-Chicago Bulls
Davies is that guy on Jimmer Fredette’s BYU team that got suspended for self-reporting he had sex with his girlfriend. I don’t trust the man because he’ll apparently snitch on even himself, but it’s nice to see he’s still around playing ball.
Jimmer Fredette-Denver Nuggets
Speaking of Fredette, you didn’t think I’d forget a Summer League GOAT like The Jimmer, did you? Every Nuggets fan got a little irrationally excited when they saw Jimmer on their roster, and got EVEN MORE excited when he dropped 26 points in his second game. I’m pretty sure he’s already their #1 selling jersey.
Thomas Walkup-Golden State Warriors
The March Madness darling from Stephen F. Austin University (Austin 3:16), Walkup turned a couple good games against West Virginia and Notre Dame into a chance at an NBA contract. Which is awesome! You weren’t a real American if you rooted for Notre Dame in that round of 32 game. Walkup was a Cinderella sensation, and now we get to watch him play some more, Summer League is dope.
Michael Beasley-Houston Rockets
God bless Michael Beasley. If there was a Summer League Mount Rushmore, it would be him four times.
Ethan Wragge-Los Angeles Lakers
Wragge was kind of Doug McDermott’s sidekick while at Creighton. He’s a big guy that can shoot threes and really nothing else. But I’m very excited for him to come into one of these games and hit two corner threes and have Laker fans drooling over him. Going to be lit.
Joshua Smith-Milwaukee Bucks
Fat basketball players are my favorite basketball players. Smith is listed at 350 pounds (!!!) of pure baller. Another future All-Star snagged by my Bucks.
Greg Stiemsma-Los Angeles Clippers
Greg “The Iceman” Stiemsma averaged 3.5 points per game his senior year at Wisconsin in 2008. It is 2016 and somehow Greg is still in the league, gettin’ dem checks. Much respect.
David Stockton-Sacramento Kings
There’s something familiar about this kid. Feel like its maybe his name? Was there another David that played basketball at Gonzaga? I’ll do some research and let you know.
Jarrod Uthoff-Sacramento Kings
Uthoff averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and over 2 blocks a game his senior year at Iowa, on his way to a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection. Impressive numbers considering he suffers from chronic “dumb-face”. Uthoff makes Frank Kaminsky look like a Rhodes Scholar.