Just one more day until the start of the Las Vegas portion of the 2023 NBA Summer League.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) June 23, 2023
The Cleveland Cavaliers will face several talented teams as they work through their Summer League schedule. From former Cavaliers in center Moses Brown and guard RJ Nembhard Jr. to former college stars in center Adama Sanogo and forward Jalen Wilson, Cleveland’s roster will be tested from the moment it first takes to the Cox Pavilion court on Friday.
Along with former Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans and Michigan State forward Aaron Henry, Nembhard played on a 2022 Cavaliers roster that went 3-2 during its Summer League run. Cleveland capped off its 2022 campaign with a 94-90 win over an Atlanta Hawks roster that featured now-Cleveland Charge guard Sharife Cooper and former Chicago Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison.
Headlined by Cooper, forward Emoni Bates and forward Isaiah Mobley, head coach Mike Gerrity will have plenty of talent to call upon as the Cavs push through their July schedule. Guards Craig Porter Jr. and Sam Merrill will be among the Cavs players who will make their way to Las Vegas. Mobley and Porter Jr. were signed to two-way contracts earlier this week, while Merrill is listed with a non-guaranteed Cavs contract that will run until 2025.
Who are some players to watch out for when the Cavs start their Las Vegas Summer League schedule?
Nets: Noah Clowney
Clowney was taken with the No. 21 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. The former Alabama forward had a productive season for the Crimson Tide, finishing with averages of 9.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and a 48.6% field goal percentage during his lone year in Tuscaloosa.
Nets General Manager Sean Marks highlighted Clowney’s defensive ability after the 2023 NBA draft.
“I love the intangibles,” Marks said, via ClutchPoints Nets beat reporter Erik Slater. “I love how hard he competes. I love the length that he has.
“When you have a 7’3″ wingspan, I can’t teach that… I love the fact that he doesn’t shy away from shooting from the outside. He’s very versatile, can play a couple of different positions out there.”
Clowney could be a decent challenge for Cleveland’s forwards if he can carry over the defensive prowess he had during his collegiate career. With the addition of Wilson and College Park Skyhawks guard Armoni Brooks, the Cavs could have their hands full when they face Clowney and the Nets during their first matchup on Friday.
Cleveland will take on the Nets at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Friday in Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev. The game will be streamed on NBA TV.
Raptors: Gradey Dick
Dick, the No. 13 selection in the 2023 NBA Draft, can be a player to look out for if he can replicate the excellent 3-point shooting he displayed at Kansas.
The 6-foot-8 guard hit 40.3% of his 3-point shots during his time in Lawrence. He hit 40% or more of his 3-point attempts 18 different times during his freshman season, including four of his five tries from beyond the arc during a 20-point performance in a December win over the Indiana Hoosiers.
But the former five-star recruit can do more than just shoot at a high level, as highlighted by Kansas coach Bill Self in June.
“He’s a good mover without the basketball. He’s a very, very sneaky rebounder. He’s good at transition,” Self said, via All Raptors. “He’s a good finisher and can certainly finish above the rim.”
The Cavs will have a few of their own scorers to rely on during the Summer League. But Cleveland will have to try to hold off Dick, Nembhard, former Rutgers guard Ron Harper Jr. and former Iowa forward Joe Wieskamp if it wants to win against Toronto. Wieskamp hit 39.7% of his 3-point shots as he suited up for Raptors 905 and the Wisconsin Herd last season. Harper Jr. took third place on Raptors 905 with 17.3 points per outing last season.
The Cavs will play against the Raptors at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday in Cox Pavilion. The game will be streamed on NBA TV.
Grizzlies: GG Jackson II
The battle of the second-round picks will highlight Monday’s bout against the Grizzlies.
Bates and Mobley, who were taken with the No. 49 pick in two consecutive years, will go up against Jackson and Toledo-born guard Vince Williams Jr. Williams was taken two spots ahead of Mobley in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Jackson was slated to go to the Detroit Pistons with the No. 31 pick in the most recent mock draft from ClutchPoints. He had a solid season for South Carolina last year, taking a spot on the All-SEC Freshman Team after he played in 32 games and started in 29 for the Gamecocks last season. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.4 points per outing despite shooting at an inefficient 38.4% from the field and 32.4% from the 3-point line.
It will take some time before Jackson can fulfill his potential.
“GG’s gonna have to put in the work to really achieve his potential, and we’re going to give him the structure to do that,” Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said in June, via The State. “He’s a very positive, very hardworking kid who has an opportunity to be a very impactful player at the NBA level, but he’s got a lot of work ahead of him.”
But, even before then, the Cavs will have to keep the second-rounder at bay to slow him and some of the Grizzlies’ more reliable options before moving on to face the Bulls.
Cleveland will tip off against Memphis at 6 p.m. EDT on Monday in Cox Pavilion. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNews.
Bulls: Julian Phillips
The Bulls traded two second-rounders to take Phillips with the No. 35 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Phillips, a former five-star recruit from Blythewood, S.C., joined Jackson on the All-SEC Freshman Team last season.
Bulls assistant coach Thomas Bryant spoke highly of the 6-foot-8 forward as he went through the beginning days of practice.
“I’m excited to see him play because he has great length, athleticism and lateral quickness,” Bryant said, via NBC Sports Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson. “I think it’s important for him to learn how to close out. Our principles are we’re always going to have a hand up to kind of avoid any catch-and-shoot 3s. So how to use his athleticism to both pressure the shot to take away the shot and to keep his man in front.
“Nobody has really got by him in camp because he’s just that gifted athletically. Now he has to just realize how he can use that as a superpower. Man, he is gifted defensively.”
Phillips, along with guards Dalen Terry and Javon Freeman-Liberty, could be tough defenders for the Cavaliers to deal with when they face off at the Thomas & Mac Center. Freeman-Liberty earned two spots on the Missouri Valley Conference All-Defensive Team during his time at Valparaiso. Terry took a spot on the Pac-12 All Defensive Team in 2022.
One can only hope the scoring of some of Cleveland’s more dependable players, along with the size of Mobley and forward Pete Nance, will be enough to get past Chicago’s skilled defenders.
The Cavaliers will face the Bulls at 3 p.m. EDT on July 13 at the Thomas & Mac Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.