The 2018-19 NBA season has been soiled by a much improved super team. But the Las Vegas Summer League’s exponentially growing popularity, which now houses all 30 teams, serves as a week-plus buffer from basketball’s dead period. This summer, Vegas is the brief home for a number of former Syracuse players trying to make their mark in the league at a pivotal time in their young careers.
Malachi Richardson – Toronto Raptors, 13.7 PPG, 42% FG
I said on an last week’s episode of Fizz Radio that this needs to be the summer of Malachi Richardson. Well, he must have heard the noise. While the likes of Deandre Ayton, Wendell Carter Jr. and Kevin Knox are overtaking the Summer League headlines (and rightfully so), Richardson is having a spectacular summer with the Raptors. Entering his third season, the hero of the 2016 NCAA Tournament has bounced up and down between the NBA and the G-League throughout his career, as well as a trade from the Kings to the Raptors. The biggest part of Richardson’s game that made him an NBA prospect is his scoring ability, especially from range, which he has showcased so far out in Vegas. Over his last two games, Richardson has connected on 8 of his last 15 three point attempts. He’s getting the minutes and he’s making the most of them. He’s tied with former Indiana standout OG Anunoby for the team’s lead in scoring, which may be enough to keep him at the pro level with a Raptors team that may be in flux over the next couple of years.
Chris McCullough – Philadelphia 76ers, 10.0 PPG, 6 REB
From one “why the hell did he leave early” player to another, McCullough is also exceeding expectations in Vegas. After getting his fourth year team option declined by the Wizards, The big man latched on with Philadelphia and enjoyed a breakout game against his former team. He dropped 20 points on Washington to go along with 8 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action off the bench. McCullough is still team-less, which makes this summer that much more important to get picked up by a pro team. However, it may be tough to do so in Philadelphia with such a talented frontcourt that features Joel Embiid and Dario Saric in the starting lineup.
Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets, 8.5 PPG, 4.5 REB
After only seeing 2 minutes of playing time at the NBA level, Lydon got a taste of the G-League before a knee injury ended his season very early on. As a prototypical stretch the floor big man in the modern NBA, there is certainly potential for Lydon to succeed at the next level. The good news is, he’s getting the opportunity. He’s been in the starting lineup and has been an efficient shooter at 56 percent. Now, he needs to balloon those stats to show that he belongs in Denver and not Rio Grande.
Andrew White III – Minnesota Timberwolves, 1.0 PPG, 6.5 MIN
It’s surprising to see White not getting a real opportunity this summer. After a successful stint in the G-League, he dropped in 15 points off the bench in his first ever NBA game with the Atlanta Hawks. After that, he appeared in a handful of games down the stretch, but still showed some promise scoring the ball. Now, he’s stuck at the back of the rotation of a Timberwolves Summer League roster that doesn’t boast a lot of talent. But White finds himself in a difficult situation with Minnesota. He’s behind former Ohio State star and Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop on the depth chart, who is essentially a younger and more skilled Andrew White III.
Michael Gbinije – New York Knicks, 0.0 PPG, 2.0 AST
As the oldest former SU player on this list, there was some doubt as to whether or not the former second round pick would even make it onto a roster this summer. Gbinije was scooped up by the Knicks, but that’s about all he’s done so far this summer. He didn’t appear until Tuesday against the Lakers and contributed a pair of assists in 13 minutes. He’s a bigger guard who can handle the rock, but unfortunately for Gbinije, the Knicks seem more focused on developing undrafted free agent and former Arizona Wildcat Allonzo Trier than the 26-year old ex-Orange standout.