One of the highlights of the basketball calendar has become the NBA Summer League, an offseason showcase where teams roll out their young players for evaluation and development purposes as well as use the event as a chance to try out undrafted free agents.
Luckily for Florida, they had a number of alumni in the Summer League. The Gators have had appearances from a few of their alumni the last few seasons, but none as high profile as their year after Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis were drafted. Considering they were the first Florida draft picks since 2013, this was a huge positive step forward for the program who needs to be able to sell an NBA development track to recruits.
Here is how the former Gators performed at Summer League.
After getting drafted 18th overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder there were lots of eyes on Tre Mann. Ultimately he only ended up playing in two games, having to withdraw due to personal reasons. In those two games he averaged 9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, with his best game coming in the second contest where he had 12 points and 7 assists.
Mann’s role was elevated after 6th overall pick Josh Giddey (from the Australian NBL) was injured in game one. He started things off as Oklahoma City’s point guard, suggesting that at least for now the Thunder might see Mann as a secondary ball handler, or perhaps the point guard off the bench. When Giddey went down, Mann took over primary ball handling duties and showcased his tight handle, drawing “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd after using crossovers and behind the back dribbles.
While his ability to create space was apparent, he did struggle with his shot. He didn’t hit a three in either game and he had a number of layups fall off the rim leading to a field goal percentage of 24.1% between the two games. While the shots not falling was unfortunate to see, his ability to create separation against elite athletes was encouraging and you have to think the poor shot making was just a cold couple of games after Mann spent his entire sophomore season hitting tough shots.
Something else encouraging was Mann’s ability to defend. He certainly wasn’t the best defender on the floor, but he wasn’t at all a liability like some who had him lower on their mock drafts suggested. Overall, this was a positive couple of games for Mann.
Scottie Lewis was drafted late in the second round to the Charlotte Hornets and they were keen to get a look at the bouncy wing giving him a lot of looks throughout Summer League. In four games, he averaged 8.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.8 blocks.
As you would expect, Lewis brought a ton of energy, hustling on every transition play and picking up opposing guards 94 feet.
Just like in his time at Florida, there were some moments of defensive brilliance where he made huge recovery plays, rotating over from one side of the court to the other and swatting away shot attempts or getting into a passing lane and coming away with a steal. However, just like in his time at Florida, his constant gambling and over playing allowed some dribble penetration and defensive breakdowns.
There were some good moments offensively for Lewis and you can see that he has clearly worked hard in the offseason to improve his ability to score, something he needed to improve from what he brought in college. Most notably was a play where he attacked comfortably off the dribble, baiting a defender to his left before spinning acrobatically to his right and finishing with full extension.
Turnovers were a problem for Lewis who got himself caught in some bad situations trying to do too much offensively. While there were some notable improvements in his individual offensive game there are still some reads he needs to improve and his handle will need to get a lot better if he’s going to be at all an initiator. Lewis is a skilled passer, but he’ll need to improve the ball handling and processing time to get to positions where he can showcase the passing.
Lewis was able to sign a partially guaranteed two-way deal with the Hornets so he still has work to do to prove he’s an NBA player but his performance in Summer League was a positive one.
Michael Frazier has been on the cusp of making the NBA for a couple of years now after a few successful seasons in the G League and he performed like a veteran should in the Summer League setting. Competing for the Phoenix Suns he had 10 points points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game, while most importantly hitting 41% of his threes. Shooting has never been a problem for the sharpshooter but he is still trying to improve the other areas of his game. Unfortunately he struggled to get to the hoop and finish in the paint, shooting 35% from two point range. However, it seems like every team in the NBA is looking for shooters so Frazier getting another NBA opportunity seems like a reasonable possibility, though he looks likely on his way to another season in the G League awaiting a call up.
One of the great stories of the Summer League was John Egbunu getting a look with the Minnesota Timberwolves. As you may remember, following his knee injury at Florida it was thought that Egbunu’s career was over after the devastating damage to the ligaments.
However, Egbunu worked tirelessly for years to get back on the court and has been playing in Europe after spending some time in the NBA G League. He’s still keeping the NBA dream alive with a cup of coffee in the Summer League.
Egbunu got in three games for the Timberwolves averaging 3.5 points and 3 rebounds. Just like when he was in Gainesville, Egbunu looks like a physical marvel, a giant of a man who looks like he was carved out of stone. Unfortunately, he’s not moving quite like he did at Florida, as much as he has been able to recover from the devastating injury. He wasn’t able to move laterally to dominate pick and roll coverage like he did in Florida, nor was he able to soar above the rim for blocked shots. However, he’s still a stout defender who now relies a bit more on angles than sheer athleticism.
Unfortunately for Egbunu the Summer League isn’t a good environment for bigs to showcase their abilities. The Summer League is fairly unstructured basketball, the kind of hooping that benefits small scoring guards who can go get a bucket on their own. A player like Egbunu requires a defensive and offensive scheme in place to showcase their talents, so this wasn’t ever going to be the best spotlight for his archetype of player. However, the chance to get on a floor for Minnesota and go through practices and workouts for them could help his chances at getting to the next step.
Joining Egbunu with the Timberwolves in Summer League was Kerry Blackshear, rounding out a Florida-centric center rotation for Minnesota.
Blackshear played about the same as Egbunu, around 10 minutes per game, and had a similar impact avering 2.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.
He certainly wasn’t lighting it up, but Blackshear looked comfortable out there against some really good players. His athleticism has noticeably improved since his time at Florida and he looked a lot better moving laterally when he had to switch out to guards. His rebounding was also on display as he used disciplined box outs to carve out space and come away with a lot of boards on the defensive end.
One thing he wasn’t able to do is shoot it, which is something he’ll have to do if he’s ever going to get a chance at the highest level.
Devin Robinson is another former Gator keeping his NBA dream alive after he had a brief stint with the Washington Wizards 2 years ago. At 6’9” with some athleticism he’s got the frame that NBA teams crave and he’s just looking to round out his offensive and defensive skill set to demand a contract.
This time around Robinson was playing with the Indiana Pacers where he got in for five games, averaging 5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1 steal in 16 minutes per game.
Just like Florida’s big men, the unstructured style of play didn’t particularly fit Robinson who projects as a guy who will space the floor and knock down catch and shoot attempts, something that requires a focused offensive attack. Even though he wasn’t able to get much going offensively he was impactful defensively with his length and athleticism and he came away with some tough rebounds in traffic due to his leaping ability.
Robinson has been very close to an NBA breakthrough over the last 2 years and if he continues to stay ready, his next opportunity will likely come.