One of the highlights of the basketball calendar has become the NBA Summer League, an offseason showcase where teams deploy their young players for evaluation and development purposes and use the event as a chance to try out some free agents not drafted.
Luckily for Florida, they had a number of Summer League alumni. The Gators have had appearances from a few of their alumni over the past few seasons, but none have been as high profile as their year after Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis drafted. Considering this was Florida’s first draft pick since 2013, it was a huge step forward for the program to be able to sell an NBA development track to rookies.
Here’s how the former Gators fared in the Summer League.
After being drafted 18th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Tre Mann had plenty of eyes. In the end, he only played two games, having had to retire for personal reasons. In those two games, he averaged 9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, his best game being Game 2 where he had 12 points and 7 assists.
Mann’s role was elevated after 6th overall pick Josh Giddey (of the Australian NBL) was injured in the opener. He started things off as an Oklahoma City point guard, suggesting that at least for now, the Thunder could see Mann as a side ball manager, or perhaps the point guard from the bench. When Giddey fell, Mann took over the main ball handling duties and showcased his tight grip, pulling “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd after using crosses and dribbling behind the back.
While his ability to create space was evident, he struggled with his shot. He didn’t hit a three in any of the games and he had a number of layups that fell off the rim, which led to a 24.1% field goal percentage between the two games. While the shots didn’t fall was unfortunate to see, his ability to create separation against elite athletes was encouraging and you have to think the poor shot was only a few cold games after Mann had spent his entire time. second season to hit tough shots.
Another encouraging thing was Mann’s ability to defend himself. He certainly wasn’t the best defender on the pitch, but he wasn’t a handicap at all as some had suggested further down on their fake drafts. Overall, it was a few positive games for Mann.
Scottie Lewis was drafted at the end of the second round against the Charlotte Hornets and they were keen to take a look at the bouncy wing giving it plenty of looks throughout the Summer League. In four games, he averaged 8.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.8 blocks.
As you’d expect, Lewis brought in a ton of energy, rushing through every transition play and picking up opposing guards at 94 feet.
Much like his time in Florida, there were moments of defensive brilliance where he made huge scavenging plays, turning from one side of the court to the other and pushing back attempts to shoot or entering a passing lane and leaving with a flight. However, just like in his time in Florida, his consistent play and excessive play allowed for dribbling penetration and defensive breakdowns.
There were some good moments offensively for Lewis and you can see that he clearly worked hard in the offseason to improve his scoring ability, something he needed to improve from what he had. brought to college. Most notably, it was a game where he attacked comfortably from the dribble, baiting a defender to his left before acrobatically turning to his right and ending with full extension.
Turnovers were a problem for Lewis who got caught up in bad situations trying to overdo it offensively. While there have been some notable improvements in his individual offensive play, there are still a few readings that he needs to improve upon and his management will need to improve a lot if he is to be an initiator. Lewis is a talented passer, but he will need to improve ball handling and processing time to get to positions where he can showcase passing passes.
Lewis was able to sign a partially guaranteed bilateral deal with the Hornets, so he still has some work to do to prove he’s an NBA player, but his Summer League performance has been positive.
Michael Frazier has been on the verge of being in the NBA for a few years now after a few successful seasons in the G League and he has played like a veteran should in the Summer League. Competing for the Phoenix Suns, he had 10 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, while hitting 41% of his three. Shooting has never been a problem for the sniper but he always tries to improve other areas of his game. Unfortunately, he struggled to reach the hoop and finish in the paint, shooting 35% at two points. However, it seems every team in the NBA is looking for shooters, so Frazier getting another NBA opportunity seems like a reasonable possibility, although he probably looks on his way to another season in the G League while waiting for a call.
One of the great Summer League stories has been John Egbunu with the Minnesota Timberwolves. As you may recall, after his knee injury in Florida, Egbunu’s career was thought to be over after the devastating ligament damage.
However, Egbunu worked tirelessly for years to get back on the pitch and played in Europe after spending some time in the NBA G League. He still keeps the NBA dream alive with a cup of coffee in the Summer League.
Egbunu has played three games for the Timberwolves averaging 3.5 points and 3 rebounds. Much like when he was in Gainesville, Egbunu looks like a physical wonder, a giant of a man who looks like he’s been carved in stone. Sadly, he’s not moving quite like he did in Florida, as he has been able to recover from his devastating injury. He wasn’t able to move sideways to dominate pick and roll coverage like he did in Florida, nor to hover over the rim for blocked shots. However, he’s still a strong defender who now relies a bit more on angles than pure athleticism.
Unfortunately for Egbunu, the Summer League is not a good environment for grown-ups to show off their skills. The Summer League is a pretty deconstructed basketball, the kind of strapping that benefits little goalies who can fetch a bucket on their own. A player like Egbunu needs a defensive and attacking scheme in place to showcase his talents, so this was never going to be the best spotlight for his player archetype. However, the chance to step onto a floor for Minnesota and do some practice and practice for them could help his chances to take the next step.
Kerry Blackshear joined Egbunu with the Timberwolves in the Summer League, completing a Florida-centric center rotation for Minnesota.
Blackshear played pretty much like Egbunu, around 10 minutes per game, and had a similar impact with 2.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.
He certainly wasn’t lighting him up, but Blackshear seemed comfortable against some really good players. His athleticism has improved noticeably since his time in Florida and he looked much better moving sideways when he had to switch to guards. His rebound was also visible as he used disciplined box-outs to carve out space and come away with plenty of boards on the defensive side.
One thing he couldn’t do was shoot it, which he will have to do if he ever wants to have a chance at the highest level.
Devin Robinson is another former Gator who is keeping his NBA dream alive after a brief stint with the Washington Wizards 2 years ago. At 6’9 “with a bit of athleticism, he’s got the frame NBA teams dream of and he’s just looking to complement his offensive and defensive skills to demand a contract.
This time around, Robinson was playing for the Indiana Pacers where he appeared in five games, averaging 5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1 interception in 16 minutes per game.
Much like Florida’s big men, the unstructured style of play was not particularly suited to Robinson who projects himself as a guy who will space the ground and reverse capture and shot attempts, requiring a targeted offensive attack. Even though he wasn’t able to go much further offensively, he made a defensive impact with his length and athleticism and came away with some tough rebounds in traffic due to his jumping ability.
Robinson has been very close to an NBA breakthrough over the past 2 years and if he continues to stay ready his next opportunity will likely present itself.