NBA Undrafted Free Agents Making Their Case in 2018 Summer League
NBA Summer League gives undrafted prospects a second chance to build their case for a roster spot.
Kobi Simmons, Luke Kornet and Antonio Blakeney were among those who did so last year. They wound up landing two-way deals with the Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, respectively, and Blakeney went on to win G League Rookie of the Year as well.
This year, five surprise players have already emerged after slipping through the cracks during the predraft process. And it isn't only the top scorers in summer league who went undrafted.
NBA teams aren't strictly looking for dynamic offensive weapons on summer-league rosters. The following players possess either untapped potential or specific skill sets that could be valued by the right team.
Trevon Bluiett (New Orleans Pelicans, SG/SF)
Las Vegas Summer League's leading scorer after the first weekend, Trevon Bluiett, went undrafted in June. In fact, he didn't even receive an invite to the NBA combine despite averaging 19.3 points during his senior season at Xavier.
The lack of athleticism that likely caused teams to pass on him hasn't held Bluiett back through two games in July. He shot 17-of-24 overall, including 12-of-18 from behind the arc.
He drilled 105 threes at a 41.7 percent clip across 35 games this past year, so his shot-making hasn't come out of nowhere. Bluiett has flashed his quick release and ability to convert without needing much space.
He won't blow by defenders or get creative off the dribble, but he's building a case as a shooting specialist in summer league. And the New Orleans Pelicans may want to surround their core of Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton with as many shooters as possible.
JP Macura (Charlotte Hornets, SG)
After going undrafted, J.P. Macura signed a two-way contract with the Charlotte Hornets, and it wasn't for his scoring or playmaking. He's a classic glue guy, and he's validating that reputation early in summer league.
He did a little of everything Sunday against the Miami Heat. The stats weren't overwhelming—he finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. But he made and finished offensive plays without needing his number called, and he remained active and disruptive on defense despite lacking standout size, strength or athleticism.
Macura's appeal stems from his backcourt versatility, competitiveness and effort.
A capable ball-handler, shooter and passer who hustles and understands his limitations, Macura will win over teammates and fans. He'll also make some enemies, as he's the type of player who gets under the skin of opponents.
Marcus Derrickson (Golden State Warriors, SF/PF)
Marcus Derrickson has been one of the pleasant surprises early in summer league. Despite not being invited to the NBA combine, he left Georgetown after his junior year, but he went undrafted in June.
He has since put himself in the conversation for a two-way contract, particularly after finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes against the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Undersized for a traditional 4 at 6'7", Derrickson compensates with a powerful frame and an improved shooting stroke. He shot 47-of-101 from deep last season and has gone 9-of-22 so far during summer league.
He's both a spot-up threat around the arc and a go-to option in the post, where he spent most of his time last season (34.7 percent of offense) and ranked in the 88th percentile, per Synergy Sports. Derrickson also has been a tough cover from the short corners thanks to his back-to-the-basket work and his ability to face up and rise for a shot over the top of his man.
To date, Derrickson has outperformed the Golden State Warriors' first-round pick, Jacob Evans. Regardless of whether he earns a contract with the defending champs, he's worked his way onto the NBA radar.
Jared Terrell (Minnesota Timberwolves, PG/SG)
The eye test on Jared Terrell is more convincing than his stats.
A strong combo guard at 6'3" and 220 pounds, Terrell looked solid Sunday, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting against the Toronto Raptors, flashing the three-ball, floater and step-back jumper.
He plays with a nice mix of pace and balance handling the ball, though he's also shown he can work off of it. His jump-shot mechanics are fluid and easy to buy into, as he shot 41.4 percent from three this past season at Rhode Island. And though he isn't a dazzling playmaker, he shakes off the dribble with a nice change of speed to penetrate and dish.
Unselfish and tough defensively, Terrell gives off admirable role-player vibes, which the Minnesota Timberwolves should value. He signed a two-way contract and should eventually get his chance.
Trevon Duval (Houston Rockets, PG)
The positives outweigh the negatives for teenagers in summer league. And we've seen both from Trevon Duval, who opened with 20 points against the Indiana Pacers on Friday and then missed all eight of his shots in a win over the Warriors two days later.
Though he isn't ready to contribute at the NBA level, Duval possesses untapped potential fueled by size, length and athleticism, plus time and room to improve his skill set. Despite his lack of polish, the Pacers couldn't keep him from getting to the basket.
If nothing else, Duval can still put pressure on opponents with drives and transition play. He also made two threes during his debut, which suggests he's capable of punishing defenses if left open.
It's worth finding out how much Duval can sharpen his ball skills, jumper and decision-making over the next few years.
Stats up to date through Sunday, July 8.