As we quickly approach the end of June, it’s now the time when the NBA offseason begins to heat up. The NBA Draft wrapped up last week, free agency begins on Sunday, June 30th at 6:00 p.m. ET and the NBA Summer League begins on July 1st with the California Classic and the Utah Jazz Summer League in Salt Lake City before the more familiar Las Vegas Summer League gets underway on July 5th.
That conglomeration of Summer League play is what we’re here to talk about today. For those that are unfamiliar with what exactly the Summer League is, it’s basically a seven-day league in which all 32 teams send a roster full of first or second year players along with a number of individuals playing on G-League contracts to figure exactly what they have within their organizations.
It’s a huge opportunity for guys at the lower levels of an organization’s roster to impress and make a name for themselves. A couple of former Syracuse stars will get just that opportunity when they take the floor in just a couple of days as will a number of players with ties to the program and to the Central New York area.
FORMER SU STAR REGION
Malachi Richardson – Golden State Warriors
Many questioned Richardson’s decision to leave Syracuse after the spectacular tournament run he had back in 2016. After being drafted 22nd overall in the 2016 draft, the critics were quieted a bit, but not for long. Since then Richardson has struggled to keep a consistent spot on an NBA roster, playing no more than 25 games in his first four seasons with the Kings and Raptors. He was traded to the 76ers in February of this year, but was waived the following day which is a bit representative of how NBA clubs view his value at the current moment. But, he did perform quite well in 12 G-League games this past season with the Canton Charge averaging 20.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He’s now parlayed that into an opportunity with the Warriors where a few under-the-radar guards (Quinn Cook and Damion Lee come to mind), have found themselves playing significant minutes with the big club after good performances in the G-League and the Summer League. Will Richardson be the next one?
Tyus Battle – Minnesota Timberwolves
It’s a bit funny that Tyus Battle wound up with the Timberwolves because when we took a look at a player that he could resemble at the next level, we thought me might fit in the mold of a guy he could be a teammate of if he finds his way onto the T-Wolves’ NBA roster at some point this year in Andrew Wiggins. Battle could also become the second Tyus on Minnesota’s roster along with former Duke star Tyus Jones. Tyus could run into No. 4 overall pick Darius Garland with the Cleveland Cavaliers as an intriguing matchup to keep our eyes on.
Oshae Brissett – Los Angeles Clippers
There was some buzz and speculation that Brissett’s outstanding NBA Combine performance might see him slide into the late first or second round of last week’s NBA Draft, but Brissett went without hearing his name called by Adam Silver or Mark Tatum. Instead, the next day he revealed via Twitter that he had signed on to play with the Clippers in Summer League. Oshae’s first Summer League matchup comes on July 6th at 7:30 in a crosstown rivalry game with the Lakers. A rematch with former Buffalo big man Nick Perkins looms in that matchup. Oshae could will also see No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant against the Grizzlies on July 7th and No. 9 overall pick Rui Hachimura (a likely SF matchup for Brissett) against the Wizards on July 9th.
CNY RESIDENTS REGION
Tyler Cavanaugh – New York Knicks
This name might not be terribly familiar to Syracuse fans who aren’t super tied into the Central New York area itself, but for anyone that followed the recruitment of former Syracuse big man Dajuan Coleman, Cavanaugh’s name might sound familiar. The 6-foot-9 stretch power forward was the other impressive Division I talent on Coleman’s Jamesville-Dewitt team and SU had hoped landing Cavanaugh might help sway Coleman to the SU hill. Cavanaugh wound up choosing Wake Forest and played two seasons for the Demon Deacons before transferring to George Washington for his last two years of eligibility. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks for the 2017-18 season and averaged 13.3 MPG across 39 games for an Atlanta team that struggled mightily with injuries. He was on a two-way deal with the Jazz last year and after a reported 11 teams sought his services this summer, Cavanaugh will play with the Knicks where he has a pretty good chance to nab a legit roster spot considering the immediate need New York has at nearly every position. Cavanaugh will see No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson against the Pelicans on July 5th and former North Carolina star Cameron Johnson against the Suns on July 7th.
Jimmer Fredette – Golden State Warriors
The connection between Glens Falls native Jimmer Fredette and incoming Syracuse freshman Joe Girard III has been well-documented. Jimmer is someone that JG3 looked up to growing up and they both have very similar games as potentially prolific scorers with a lights-out stroke from beyond the arc. As for the elder Glens Falls native, his most recent NBA experience came with the Suns at the tail end of the 2019 season when he played six games for Phoenix and averaged just under 11 minutes per game. Prior to that, he lit up the Chinese Basketball Association with the Shanghai Sharks and led the league in total points scored for the 2018-19 season. Fredette is also the all-time record holder for points per game in The Basketball Tournament. He’ll get an opportunity similar to Malachi Richardson and will play in both the California Classic and the Las Vegas Summer League.
Darius Bazley – Oklahoma City Thunder
This region is reserved for non-CNY residents who either have connections to Syracuse or to the Central New York area. Bazley fits that bill and by this point we all know how things went down between the former five-star recruit and SU. A lot of people questioned his decision to take a $1 million internship with New Balance, sign with LeBron’s agent and work out in preparation for the draft rather than get a season of Division I basketball under his belt, but it seemingly worked out for him after he was selected with the 23rd overall pick by the Thunder in last week’s draft. His NBA career kicks off on July 6th against the Utah Jazz and he could see a matchup with former UNC star Nassir Little on July 11th against the Trailblazers.
Matt Morgan (Cornell) – Toronto Raptors
Perhaps the greatest Cornell basketball player of all-time, Morgan was absolutely masterful in his four seasons in Ithaca. The Big Red’s all-time leading scorer was a two-time All-Ivy League First Team honoree and torched Syracuse for 26 points in December. Now he’ll get the chance to play for a team that is situated just four-and-a-half hours northwest of Ithaca. A potential matchup with Richardson and Fredette looms on July 8th while he could go head-to-head with former Duke star R.J. Barrett and the New York Knicks on July 9th.