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Evaluating Syracuse in the Summer League

Oshae Brissett – Pacers

Maybe the biggest compliment Brissett could receive right now is Syracuse fans wondering why he’s even playing in the summer league. After all, he just inked a three-year contract, was the most valuable player for the Pacers down the stretch last year (including a 31 point double-double against Charlotte), and was invited to the Canadien national team’s camp ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. This is likely Brissett’s final stint in Vegas. With very little to prove, the number one priority should be not to get hurt. Beyond that, the Pacers might just want to make sure last season’s success was no fluke. After all, he only played 21 games last season after the Pacers were bitten by the injury bug late last year. But this is an interesting opportunity for Brissett. For the first time since high school, he will be the best player on his team. This time around, there’s no Tyus Battle to steal the spotlight. This is Oshae’s team. So, how does he adapt to that accelerated role?

B.J. Johnson – Pacers

Johnson is just 25 years old. That might be surprising to a lot of Syracuse fans that are struggling to remember a time he played for the Orange. That’s because when he was with SU he didn’t play much. Johnson averaged just 12 minutes per game in 35 contests with four starts in two seasons on the Hill. His limited playing time led to his limited production (3.4 points per game). That prompted him to take his talents to LaSalle. In two years in the A-10 Johnson erupted with 19.1 points per game. But Johnson has only played in 17 NBA games since leaving the collegiate ranks in 2018. Now the Pacers are giving him a chance to sneak back in the league. The reason being that Johnson continues to show glimpses of what he’s capable of in the G-League. In three G-League seasons, the forward averaged 18.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Of all the Syracuse representatives in the summer league without an NBA deal, Johnson might be the most complete player. It seems like he’s been on the cusp of landing a long-term stay in the league for a while, and this summer is no different. 

Malachi Richardson – Jazz

As a 2016 first round pick, and at just 25 years young, everyone always knew Richardson had a role in the NBA. That was true when he was drafted by the Kings. It was true when he was playing two ways for the Raptors. It was certainly true over the past few weeks during The Basketball Tournament. The reason being that Richardson has one of the most indispensable skills in the modern game. He has the ability to step in and be a knock-down shooter. Richardson has a career 36% mark in the NBA. The Jazz place a huge emphasis on the perimeter, ranking first in the league last year in three-pointers made (1,205) and fourth in three-point percentage (38.9%). So this summer stint is simple for the former All-ACC freshman. If he can shoot well, then the Jazz will be inclined to play him in the G-League and with the big squad. If that doesn’t happen, other teams will likely take notice in their tireless pursuit of shooting depth.

Elijah Hughes – Jazz

Here’s another Utah project. Hughes was a rookie last year, but his biggest contribution to the Jazz in 2020-2021 in just 18 games played was becoming a meme with his famous reaction to a big play from the bench in a promo. The Jazz are still optimistic that their second round investment could still pan out because of the way he performed in the G-League last season. Hughes notched 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. What made him effective is what made him so exciting on the Hill. He can score from all three levels. If he can prove that he isn’t a defensive liability and can move the ball well then he will be back with Utah, with a chance at a bigger role next season.

Alan Griffin – Lakers

Alright, outside of Oshae Brissett (who already signed a three-year deal) Griffin has the clearest path to parlaying this summer into a true NBA stint with his respective team. That has nothing to do with his talent. His NCAA Tournament disappearance and undrafted status proved there are still plenty of holes in his game. But the reason Griffin should feel optimistic while playing for the summer Lakers is that they are miserably deficient in shooting. Wayne Ellington is probably their best three-point shooter right now, but is 33 years old. After him, Kendrick Nunn can hold his own and Malik Monk should be able to fill the “stand in the corner and wait for the ball” role. But a team with two of the best rim runners in the game and one of the best big men needs all the shooting they can get. Griffin’s shooting was a little streaky at Syracuse, which is the exact opposite of what the Lakers need from him.

On the Hill, Griffin hit 36% of his perimeter shots, but couldn’t connect on one in five contests, including three of the final four games (ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament). In the final four games, Griffin went just 1-13 from range. Every shooter goes through slumps, but the reason Griffin went undrafted is likely because NBA teams were afraid of the prospect that the pressure may have hit Griffin. If he can shoot well enough in Vegas, almost nothing else matters.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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