5 NBA Summer League Stars Who Must Prove It in Training Camp
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The NBA Summer Leagues are July pre-training camp training camps for first-round draft picks to start learning their new teams' systems, and for second- and third-year guys to get better acclimated with what their teams like to do thanks to injuries or lack of playing time.
It's also a showcase for undrafted players and potentially forgotten veterans to get that one shot, maybe even a last one, to prove to the league's teams, coaches and talent evaluators that they have something to offer.
Those first-rounders are guaranteed a spot on their respective teams; they're just playing to get a head start on the playbook.
But for the older guys, the former college stars who've been playing in Europe or elsewhere or even the occasional former highly coveted, high draft picks who never lived up to expectations, they are trying to get back into someone's good graces.
So with that, here's a look at a group of guys who showed up well in the summer and are just hoping to hang in with continued strong play in training camp.
Tobias Harris, Milwaukee
Harris has changed addresses since draft night 2011.
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For someone who's played just 42 NBA games, Harris has certainly moved around a lot.
He played at the University of Tennessee and would wind up getting drafted 19th overall by the Bobcats in the 2011 draft with a pick they acquired from Portland in the Gerald Wallace deal at the '11 trade deadline.
But on draft night, after the Bobcats picked him, they sent him to Milwaukee with Shaun Livingston as part of a three-team deal with Sacramento that involved other players like Stephen Jackson, John Salmons and Corey Maggette.
At just 19 years old, Harris, a 6'8" tweener, got into 42 games as a Buck, starting nine of them and averaging five points and 2.5 rebounds in 11.4 minutes. He put up a season-high 19 points in just under 30 minutes in an early February loss to the Bulls.
Harris shined in Las Vegas playing for the Bucks' summer league squad, posting 21.5 points and eight boards in his five games. But he'll be facing an uphill climb for more minutes playing behind established vets like Mike Dunleavy and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, as well as Milwaukee's first-rounder from this year's draft, John Henson.
Harris' biggest issue is that he doesn't really have a position in the NBA. If he bulks up and can play more in the paint, he may be a solid power forward. Looking good on the glass and being able to finish around the rim should be his primary focus in training camp.
Adam Morrison, Portland
Morrison looks like no time has passed since his Gonzaga days.
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It's been six years since the former college superstar went third overall to the Charlotte Bobcats. Don't worry if you've forgotten him; he's been out of the league for the past two seasons.
But he rebounded with a major performance on the Clippers' summer league team in Vegas, where he put up 20 points and five rebounds per game over five games. He got himself a training camp invite from the Blazers.
So now he has another chance, and he'll get to do it close to home, where he starred at Gonzaga.
The Blazers may not be the best fit for Morrison, even if he can keep up the good work. They just committed a big contract to small forward Nicolas Batum and have a truckload of other players similar to Morrison on their training camp roster.
But what Morrison has that the Victor Clavers, Luke Babbitts and Will Bartons of the world do not is experience. That, along with his natural ability and the drive to get back to somewhere near the heights he reached six years ago, could well be enough to secure him a place on Portland's opening night roster.
Josh Selby, Memphis
Selby has some ups for a little guy.
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Selby, a former big name at Kansas, exploded at the Vegas league, breaking the 30-point barrier twice and hitting for 64 percent from three-point range in his five games for the Grizzlies.
It must have pleased the Grizzlies' higher-ups to see such a performance from Selby, who didn't get much of a chance as a rookie (28 games, 2.3 points and 8.3 minutes per).
Perhaps held up at Kansas due to a strange set of circumstances surrounding his recruitment as well some injuries, the former prep star and McDonald's All-American dropped to the late stages of the second round in the 2011 draft. But in the summer, he looked like he has something to prove.
The 6'2" Selby will be playing behind Tony Allen at the 2 and Mike Conley at the point for Memphis, and both are pretty well ensconced at those spots.
But if he keeps scoring and shooting like he did this summer during the preseason, it will be tough for coach Lionel Hollins not to give him more minutes.
Dionte Christmas, Boston
Photo courtesy of Celtics Hub.
The former Temple University star, Christmas lit it up in the Orlando summer league for the Celts, putting up 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while hitting for 48 percent from the field and 45 percent from deep.
At 6'5", 205 pounds, Christmas certainly has an NBA 2-guard's body. But what role will he play on this team as it challenges for a championship?
It's tough to see Christmas playing much with both Courtney Lee and Jason Terry ahead of him on the C's depth chart.
Avery Bradley's rehab from shoulder surgery and probable absence from the roster at least for the beginning of the season should turn out to be a boon for Christmas. He could see himself move up the depth chart at shooting guard by default.
Christmas has just a partially guaranteed deal, which means he will have to earn his way onto the roster with a strong preseason. Again, Bradley's injury should help him stick around early on. But it's going to take a lot for him to avoid the end of the bench or the D-League once Bradley returns.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago
Butler looks to have earned more minutes with the Bulls.
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It's tough to root against Butler, a former star at Marquette who was homeless for a portion of his childhood and wound up making it all the way to the first round of the NBA draft in 2011.
The Bulls took him with the 30th pick back then. Even though he didn't play much as a rookie, he looks like he has what it takes to earn some more minutes this season thanks to a strong summer.
Butler scored 20.8 points per game while adding 6.5 rebounds and two assists for the Bulls' Vegas summer league team. He's behind All-Star Luol Deng on Chicago's depth chart at small forward. It stands to reason, though, that with Derrick Rose not expected back from knee surgery until January or February at the earliest, there could be a trickle down effect on the Bulls' roster that could allow Butler to play more.
Don't be surprised to see Butler get some run at the 2, where he could create some serious matchup problems for smaller opponents. With his skill set, he could wind up as the Bulls' top offensive option off the bench.