Chiozza Impresses At NBA Summer League

It was certain that multiple NBA teams would offer Chris Chiozza the chance to play for their Summer League teams, it was just a matter of which team the former Gator point guard wanted to audition for. Ultimately, he chose the Washington Wizards where he played five games next to Troy Brown (Oregon), Thomas Bryant (Indiana), Aaron Harrison (Kentucky), and, of course, our very own Devin Robinson (I’ll have an article on his summer league up later this week). With so few four-year players selected to the NBA these days it wasn’t a shock for Chiozza not to have his name called on draft night but with the current prominence of the Summer League and the large number of undrafted players who have earned contracts because of their performance there I’m sure this has always been a focus for him since his college career ended. Here is how he faired in his five games with the Wizards.

28 Minutes Per Game
4.8 Points Per game
30% Field Goal
23.5% 3-Point Field Goal
7.4 Assists Per Game
1.6 Rebounds Per Game
2.0 Steals Per Game
0.8 Blocks Per Game
3.6 Turnovers Per Game

If you didn’t have a chance to watch any of Chiozza’s Summer League games then let me tell you, it was truly a treat to watch him operate within the spacing of the NBA game. With a little bit of extra room he was able to do some pretty interesting things out of the pick and roll that you don’t always have a chance to do in the college game. With there being a lot more hard-hedging of screens in the NBA (where the big man defending the screen setter jumps out hard towards the ball handler) Cheese was able to showcase his ability to protect the dribble, swinging out his hip to shield a defender before using his speed to turn the corner and attack. With his speed being so noticeable in college I was curious how electric he was going to look against a slightly higher tier of athlete but there wasn’t much of a change here, he was an absolute blur. When he would get the ball on an outlet pass he was still beating multiple players down the floor and forcing defensive collapses, something I’m sure the Wizard’s front office noticed.

We as Gators fans are also as knowledgeable as anyone when it comes to his passing ability and it was on full display as he came third in the Summer League in assists with 7.4 per game trailing only Wade Baldwin IV (a familiar name from Vanderbilt with 7.7) and Frank Mason (Kansas, with 8.0). Though he was making everyone on his team look good with his room service dimes his symmetry was particularly felt with former Indiana big man Thomas Bryant who was the perfect pick and roll partner to catch pocket passes from Cheese. Ever since John Egbunu went down Chiozza was without an elite rim rolling big and we didn’t get to see much of him hitting rollers his senior year at Florida but with Thomas’ great timing on rolls and soft hands to finish Chiozza was feeding him all Summer League long. The NBA game continues to be more and more based on transition and this is an area Chiozza thrived at, either hitting a rim running big like Bryant or just simply firing the ball ahead to the wing early in the transition to force the defense to shift drastically. In a game that is based more and more on the fast break I think Chiozza did a great job to brand himself as a point guard who can really play with pace and orchestrate a cerebral transition attack. Turnovers were a tad bit of a problem for him averaging 3.6 per game but given his amount of assists and the nature of the Summer League game with a limited number of practices and athletes playing together for the first means there is likely going to be a bit of confusion at times that leads to the ball being turned over. Most of his turnovers were the result of a miscommunication with a player he thought was going to cut but didn’t or thought was going to flare off a screen but instead stayed stationary and I don’t think the turnovers are going to be something that hurts him in the eyes of scouts.

Let’s talk defense. This was going to be one of the big questions for Chiozza in regards to his NBA prospects with his the sleight frame and the way the NBA is becoming a league that switches often. Fortunately for Chiozza, Mike White was hyper-aggressive in switching all around the floor and Chiozza is used to battling bigger players and that experience definitely helped him at Summer League when he was switched onto a bigger player. His experience in playing switching defense also allowed him to be a vocal leader when it came to defensive switching and that helped his team rotate smoothly and is something that I’m sure impressed the coaching staff. Hawking the ball and pressuring his man all down the floor, Chiozza was great at the point of attack in making his check feel uncomfortable and he forced a lot of hurried passes before an offensive set could materialize. He even picked the pocket of his man a handful of times which lead to some uncontested fast break layups for the Wizards. If Chiozza were to earn an NBA role it would be as a backup change-of-pace player and that ability to pressure the ball will be a key part of his job. Something I found interesting? The 4 blocks he accumulated throughout the 5 games. As a (perhaps generously) listed 6’0” point guard Chiozza didn’t have the chance to contest many shots in college and only had 7 career blocks in his 3494 minutes played with the Gators but somehow was able to swat 4 shots in 5 games against even higher caliber and more athletic competition. This is probably an anomaly and I don’t think any team is looking at shot blocking as a key metric for what they’re looking for in a backup point guard but I think it was a nice showcase of his instincts and timing on the defensive end.

Scoring didn’t come easily for Chiozza and that will likely be one of the knocks on him as he seeks NBA employment. Finishing inside has never come easily to Chiozza and playing against bigger and stronger defenders made that even more difficult as evidenced by his mere 30% from the field. He got a lot of good looks from behind the line but wasn’t able to convert efficiently and that 23.5% 3-point stroke, though from a small sample size, won’t do him any favors. I don’t think his current shooting stroke is conducive to the further 3-point line of the NBA and I think he may have to do some adjustments there to be a more efficient long-bomber at the pro level.

Now, what do we think about his chances to make an NBA squad? With their being lots of possibilities, let’s stick to just his chances of making the team that gave him his tryout in the Washington Wizards even though it’s possible another team saw him and could swoop in with an offer. The Wizards have never been known for their depth and with lots of money tied up in their starters they will need to round out their rosters with players on rookie scale contracts instead of more expensive journeymen NBA players, something that could benefit Chiozza. Another benefit for Chiozza’s chances is that Washington currently only has two point guards on contract in superstar John Wall and recently acquired Austin Rivers. NBA fans reading this will also be aware that Rivers has played a lot of shooting guard in his career and in my opinion has been a lot better off the ball and there is a chance the Wizards see him more in that role meaning they could really use more point guard depth. No other ball dominant guards played well for the Wizards on their Summer League team which could further help Cheese’s chances. With all these factors in play, I think we could see Chiozza in a Washington Wizards jersey next year.

A jersey we might all have to buy.

Photo via Cassy Athena.