Basketball

NBA Summer League guide: 29 players with Kentucky ties, one with a shot at history

The New York Knicks selected Kentucky's Kevin Knox with the No. 9 pick in this year's NBA Draft.
The New York Knicks selected Kentucky's Kevin Knox with the No. 9 pick in this year's NBA Draft. AP

Changes are coming to the NBA Summer League this year, and so are a load of players with ties to Kentucky, one of whom is on the verge of setting a scoring record.

For the first time, all 30 NBA teams will play in the Summer League in Las Vegas from July 6-17. Before play begins in Vegas, three-day leagues will be held in Utah and California, both starting Monday. The Orlando Summer League has folded after 14 years.

Of the hundreds of players lacing up this summer, 29 (as of Sunday) have ties to Kentucky, including former UK guard Archie Goodwin, who is 18 points away from breaking the Vegas Summer League career scoring record.

The games in Las Vegas will be played in two adjoining arenas in the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion on the campus of UNLV, concluding with a tournament. The Utah Jazz Summer League will feature the Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs. The California Classic features the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.

In addition to the players with Kentucky ties, fans will be able to get their first NBA look at such highly drafted rookies as DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley and Trae Young. All 82 games in Las Vegas will be televised live, either on NBA TV or one of the ESPN channels.

So who are the players fans of basketball in Kentucky should keep their eyes on over the next couple of weeks?

The Rookies

Drafted or undrafted, the majority of players with Kentucky ties participating in summer leagues will be rookies. Seven players with Bluegrass ties heard their names called in this year's NBA Draft, and seven other first-time pros received roster invites.

Deng Adel, Houston Rockets

Playing in: Las Vegas

Adel joins former Louisville teammate Chinanu Onuaku on Houston’s summer league roster. Both will try to make noise for a team whose official roster is loaded with athletic veterans coming off a run to the Western Conference finals. Adel averaged a career-high 15 points and five rebounds in his third and final season at UL.

Dwight Coleby, New Orleans Pelicans

Playing in: Las Vegas

The 6-foot-9 center averaged 11.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in his lone season at Western Kentucky but was not drafted. He previously played two seasons at Ole Miss and one at Kansas.

Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playing in: Las Vegas

A year after he spurned the draft as an 18-year-old to suit up for John Calipari at UK, Diallo slipped to the second round where the Brooklyn Nets drafted the athletic 6-5 wing at pick No. 45. He was traded to the Thunder and will play against former UK teammate Malik Monk when the Thunder open summer league play against the Hornets on July 6.

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Hamidou Diallo, a rookie from Kentucky, has reportedly agreed to a three-year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Otto Kitsinger AP

Wenyen Gabriel, Sacramento Kings

Playing in: Las Vegas and Sacramento

After two seasons at UK, the former McDonald’s All-American was not drafted but was quickly added to the Kings' summer league roster. Gabriel will look to join his former teammate De’Aaron Fox on the Kings' official roster after summer league concludes.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Los Angeles Clippers

Playing in: Las Vegas

The Canadian-born guard broke onto the scene as a freshman at Kentucky in 2017-2018, climbing into the lottery with his late-season play in March. Gilgeous-Alexander, who was selected with the 11th pick in the draft, averaged more than 14 points and five assists in his freshman season.

 

Former Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was drafted by the Hornets and traded to the Clippers, said foreign players are taking the U.S. by notice in the NBA. Gilgeous-Alexander is from Hamilton, Canada.

Jaylen Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers

Playing in: Las Vegas

The former U of L forward is a summer league rookie but a second-year pro. The 6-9 forward, 21, was undrafted last year and did not receive a summer league invitation. He played two preseason games for the Chicago Bulls but spent the rest of the season in the G League. 

Kevin Knox, New York Knicks

Playing in: Las Vegas

Knox was the first Wildcat selected on draft night, going ninth to New York. He averaged 15.6 points and grabbed more than five rebounds per game at Kentucky. Knox will join former Western Kentucky commit Mitchell Robinson as rookies for the Knicks.

Anas Mahmoud, Memphis Grizzlies

Playing in: Las Vegas, Salt Lake City

Mahmoud will play against former U of L teammates Damion Lee and Trey Lewis in the first two days of the Utah summer league. The 7-foot Egyptian center averaged 1.8 blocks per game throughout his four-year college career, and swatted away 2.9 shots per game as a senior.

Kelan Martin, Utah Jazz

Playing in: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City

Martin was a standout alongside recent U of L alumnus Quentin Snider at Ballard High School in Louisville, and had a productive four-year career at Butler. Martin is a 6-6 forward whose scoring average rose each year in college. He averaged 21 points in his senior season.

Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

Playing in: Las Vegas

Perhaps no rookie in the NBA had a more crooked path to draft night than Robinson. Most know the story by now: Robinson committed to Western Kentucky, arrived on campus, left, returned and left for a final time before the college season began leaving Hilltoppers fans equal parts disappointed and upset. Once considered a lottery talent and virtual first-round lock, the 7-foot center with a serious three-point shot fell to the second round where the Knicks selected him 36th.

Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers

Playing in: Las Vegas

When Simons committed to Louisville and Rick Pitino in the fall of 2016, Cardinals fans were expecting to see a one-and-done prospect on the court this past season. Of course, that never happened and Simons opted to skip college and enter the draft, where Portland took a chance on him with the 24th pick. Simons just turned 19 in June and played high school ball at IMG Academy in Florida.

Ray Spalding, Dallas Mavericks

Playing in: Las Vegas

Spalding was the lone Louisville Cardinal taken in the draft with the Philadelphia 76ers choosing him 56th and trading him to the Mavericks. A Louisville native and Trinity High School alumnus, Spalding brings length and athleticism to the Mavs. Spalding averaged 12 points and just less than nine rebounds per game last season at U of L.

Jonathan Stark, Minnesota Timberwolves

Playing in: Las Vegas

Stark fits the mold of high-volume scoring guards from Murray State to crack the NBA. Similar to former MSU guards Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne, Stark averaged 20-plus points per game in his senior season, earning him a summer league invite from the T-Wolves.

Jarred Vanderbilt, Denver Nuggets

The rookie from Kentucky is not listed on the Nuggets' summer league roster. Vanderbilt, who missed several games in his one season at UK because of injuries, was drafted in the second round, but Denver is taking a cautious approach. Vanderbilt had a cast on his right foot at his introductory news conference with the Nuggets.

Photos of Jarred Vanderbilt from the 2017-2018 Kentucky Wildcats basketball season. Music: www.bensound.com

Summer sophomores

Five former Wildcats will get some summer league action for the second straight year. All three UK lottery picks from 2017 appear on their teams' summer league rosters.

Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Playing in: Las Vegas and Sacramento

Adebayo is entering his second summer league after putting up 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in his rookie year. Adebayo started 19 games for the Heat in 2017-2018 playing alongside and behind defensive specialist Hassan Whiteside.

Isaiah Briscoe, Orlando Magic

Playing in: Las Vegas

After going undrafted and playing in the 2017 summer league with the Philadelphia 76ers, then playing in six preseason games before being waived by the Portland Trail Blazers last October, Briscoe had a standout season overseas with BC Kalev of the Estonian league. In February, the former Wildcat scored 50 points and was named MVP of the Estonia/Latvia All-Star Game. In early June, Briscoe won another award, this time being named the league's best player under age 23. He averaged 18.5 points and 3.4 rebounds for Kalev.

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Isaiah Briscoe went undrafted out of Kentucky last year and spent 2017-18 starring in Estonia. He's back for another crack at the NBA after signing with the Orlando Magic. Charles Rex Arbogast AP

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

Playing in: Las Vegas and Sacramento

The fifth pick in the 2017 draft will return to summer league after a solid rookie season for the Kings, who picked in the top five of the draft again in 2018. Fox averaged 11 points and four assists as a rookie. The former UK star will go head-to-head with former college teammate Bam Adebayo on the final day of the California Classic.

Luke Kornet, New York Knicks

Playing in: Las Vegas

The Lexington native was not drafted in 2017 but immediately signed a two-way free-agent contract with the Knicks. The 7-footer from Vanderbilt is back for another turn representing New York in summer ball after totaling 134 points, 64 rebounds and 26 assists for the big club this past season. He averaged 16 points and 6.1 rebounds in 36 G League games.

Mangok Mathiang, Charlotte Hornets

Playing in: Las Vegas

The 6-10 forward went undrafted out of Louisville last year before hooking up with Charlotte and impressing in summer league play. He averaged 10.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in 43 G League games and played in four NBA games for the Hornets in 2017-18,

Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets

Playing in: Las Vegas

Fox’s backcourt mate at UK spent time backing up point guard Kemba Walker last season in Charlotte. Monk averaged just less than seven points per game after showing explosive scoring ability in college.

Derek Willis, New Orleans Pelicans

Playing in: Las Vegas

Willis spent the 2017-2018 season with the Detroit Pistons' G-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive. The Bullitt East High School and UK graduate went undrafted in 2017 and was waived by the Pistons in October before being reassigned to Grand Rapids.

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Former UK forward Derek Willis is on the New Orleans Pelicans' summer league roster. Michael Conroy AP

Third time around

Approaching summer league veteran status, these five players will look to solidify their spots on NBA regular-season rosters three years removed from leaving college.

Damion Lee, Atlanta Hawks

Playing in: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City

After making headlines for becoming Steph Curry’s future brother-in-law, Lee is now looking to make headlines for his play. The former U of L graduate transfer spent two years in the G-League after going undrafted in 2016. He made his NBA debut in March, and scored a career-high 20 points on March 30. Lee appeared in 15 games and made 11 starts for the Hawks, who signed Lee through the end of the 2017-2018 season after giving him two 10-day contracts in March. Lee played at Drexel before coming to Louisville.

Trey Lewis, Utah Jazz

Playing in: Las Vegas and Salt Lake City

It’s hard to mention Lee without mentioning his fellow graduate transfer teammate at U of L, Trey Lewis. Lewis went undrafted in 2016, and spent time in Germany and France this past season averaging nearly 14 points and three assists. Lewis made stops at Penn State and Cleveland State before coming to Louisville.

Chinanu Onuaku, Houston Rockets

Playing in: Las Vegas

Onuaku played alongside Lee and Lewis at U of L, leaving after his sophomore year. Onuaku was drafted in the second round with the 37th pick by the Rockets. He has spent most of his time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G-League. In his NBA debut in 2016, Onuaku scored six points, two of which came on underhanded free throws.

Alex Poythress, Indiana Pacers

Playing In: Las Vegas

Poythress, one of the rare players to play four seasons at Kentucky in the John Calipari era, is back for his third dose of summer league despite spending most of last season in the NBA with the Pacers. Poythress, 24, totaled 26 points and 17 rebounds in 25 NBA games in 2017-18 and also saw action in seven games in the G League.

Kyle Wiltjer, Portland Trail Blazers

Playing in: Las Vegas

Wiltjer joins former Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin on the Blazers' summer roster. Wiltjer went undrafted in 2016, played in four games for the Rockets that season and was assigned multiple times to the G-League in his rookie year. In October 2017, Wiltjer signed with Olympiacos Piraeus of the Greek Basket League and the EuroLeague. Wiltjer was a two-year starter at Gonzaga after transferring from UK in 2012.

Summer League veterans

It doesn’t take as long to achieve veteran status in summer league as it does in other leagues, and these four former UK players will return to Vegas for another shot at cracking an NBA rotation.

Archie Goodwin, Portland Trail Blazers

Playing in: Las Vegas

After a loss in the first round of the 2013 NIT during his one-year stint at UK, Goodwin spent three years in the Phoenix Suns organization and has mostly bounced among G-League teams since. Goodwin, 23, signed a multi-year contract with the Nets in April 2017 before being waived in July of the same year. Goodwin finished last season with the Northern Arizona Suns of the G-League. He needs just 18 points with the Blazers this summer to become the all-time leading scorer in Vegas Summer League history.

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Archie Goodwin, who was drafted in the first round in 2013, will represent the Portland Trail Blazers in Las Vegas. AP

Aaron Harrison, Washington Wizards

Playing in: Las Vegas

The lone Harrison twin in this year’s summer league, Aaron Harrison, 23, is receiving another summer league invite four years removed from his last season at UK. He most recently signed with the Mavericks through the end of the 2017-2018 season. Harrison will look to make the Wizards' roster and join former Wildcat and five-time All-Star, John Wall.

Dakari Johnson, Oklahoma City Thunder

Playing in: Las Vegas

The Thunder have not yet officially announced their summer league roster but Johnson is reportedly included. Drafted in the second round out of Kentucky in 2015, Johnson played two full seasons in the G League before seeing action in 31 games for the Thunder in 2017-18, totaling 55 points and 34 rebounds.

Marquis Teague, Toronto Raptors

Playing in: Las Vegas

Teague, the starting point guard on Kentucky's 2012 national championship team and a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Bulls that year, is still looking for a place he can stick in the NBA. Teague, 25, has appeared in a total of 91 NBA games over six seasons with three teams. He was out of the league for three full seasons before resurfacing for three games with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2017-18.. He has spent the bulk of his time in the G League.

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