clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ex-Wolverines in the NBA: Summer League Edition

Catch up with all the ex-Wolverines in the NBA through both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Burke (Picked 9th in 2013, Utah Jazz):

Stat Line: 4 games, 27.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.304 FG%

Best Game: July 15th vs the Denver Nuggets

In a very Lions like move the Utah Jazz drafted international man of mystery Dante Exum with a "Best Player Available" mindset. The response was a mixture of hype about the unknown talent mixed with worry about how this pick will work with last years lottery pick, Trey Burke. While Burke had an above average rookie season he struggled transferring his shooting from his time at Michigan to his time in the Pros, something hardly unusual for rookies not named Hardaway. As many NBA experts predicted he struggled to find his game inside as the size difference between the pros and college took its toll. Yet despite these struggles Trey still averaged double digit points with a great assist to turnover ratio and found himself receiving all manner of rookie awards.

When Summer League began Trey, as a second year player, was expected to dominate summer league and show some more skills than he had the year before. Now while he was better than his dismal summer performance last year he was certainly less than expected as his numbers show. Even his best game was just an 11 point, 3 assist win over Denver. AllThatAmar chalked this poor performance up to a couple of things:

"[Trey] was winning Western Conference rookie of the month awards and hitting game winners in the NBA. He went 2-0 head to head against Victor Oladipo and then . . . well . . . the season ended. Something must have happened since the season ended and THIS year's summer league because it appears like he took a step back. As a Burke supporter I'm going to blame this on three obvious things:

1) New coach, new system -- going from Tyrone Corbin to Quin Snyder is like going from taking to bus to driving a Lamborghini
2) Division of responsibility -- during the season he was the starting point guard and played over 2,000 minutes a game with the ball in his hand. In Vegas he had to split ball handling duties with Dante Exum and even Rodney Hood
3) It's just summer league

Probably the third point needs more explanation -- but the picks he was getting from Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter gave him a lot more space to get his shot off than the picks he was getting from Erik Murphy and Greg Somogyi."

Amar went on to praise Trey Burke's play, citing his recent selection to the 2014 USA Men's Basketball team as proof that his work is greater than the scoring line indicates. This seems to be a consensus around the league and many believe that Trey is still recovering from the pounding he took over an NCAA Tournament run, full summer league, finger injury and NBA season. On draft night last season Trey told Amar that he hadn't even dribbled "for a few weeks because the media requirements from the NCAA Championship game, all the award dinners, and then all the NBA draft stuff took him far from the court." It very much seems like Trey is still trying to get his NBA legs underneath him but the early returns are promising and the many around the Jazz are excited about his progress.

Amar had this to say about Trey's progress: "From what I have seen he is expanding both the types of shots he is proficient in and the ranges where he is dangerous from. For the more naturally athletic guards this means moving out. For Trey, a shooter's shooter, this means learning how to finish in the paint and use floaters, and one handed shots off the glass. The aspect of his game that will really elevate him is if he can learn all of those Tony Parker shots that make him so dangerous. Evidence suggests that he is on his way, as he had some nifty finished in Vegas. This upcoming season it's not just going to be outside shots. He's not Jameer Nelson. Trey is going to finish closer to the basket as well, and go to the line more."

With regards to Trey's interaction with Dante Exum Amar was hopeful about the two interacting: "It was suggested that Dante would be more naturally pass first, and Trey, finally allowed to spot up, who be the main beneficiary. However during the summer league what we saw was Trey setting the rooking up for easy scores over and over again. On the break Trey drove, drew in the defense, and kicked it out to a spotting up Exum for the transition three a few times. But the big highlight came in the halfcourt where Trey threw up a perfect lob to a back cutting Exum for a dunk. It was Exum's first in-game basket in America, and in my opinion, the start of a great on court chemistry between the two point guards."

Overall it seems the consensus is optimistic about Trey Burke. Assuming he can continue to develop his shooting and finish better around the rim he has a chance to develop into the star we all saw at Michigan, only against better competition. The addition of Exum should only improve his chances of becoming a star and a winner with the Jazz as we all know the effect he had on guys like TIm Hardaway and Mitch McGary.

Jamal Crawford (Picked 8th in 2000, Cleveland Cavaliers):

Jamal Crawford has been an NBA stud for years now and has locked up his role with the LA Clippers. Although even Crawford got in on a little Summer Basketball and the forward put up 104 points in two games in a Seattle Pro-Am League, 3 of which came on a game winning shot.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (Picked 24th in 2013, New York Knicks):

Stat Line: 5 games, 26.6 MPG, 22.8 PPG, 2.6RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.381 FG%

Best Game: July 11th vs the Dallas Mavericks

Easily the most successful Wolverine in the Summer League, Hardaway followed up a better than expected (by some) rookie season with an excellent Summer League. His first season in the NBA showed that the floor for Hardaway is no worse than solid NBA rotation player but his second season in the Summer League may show his ceiling to be much higher. Hardaway never took less than 12 shots but never made less than 6, including a blistering 8 for 17 night against the D-League squad that saw Hardaway tally 25 points, including 4 3-Pointers. However his best game was his first game against Dallas. When at Michigan we all learned how Hardaway can be lights out on some nights but completely disappear whenever his shooting goes away. Knicks fans saw this streaky shooting continue into the NBA season, but he gave all his fans hope with a 25 point performance against Dallas on a night when he shot 3 of 10 from deep. That night the Summer League Second Team All-Star dominated inside as he shot 3 of 5 inside and hit 10 of 12 free throws.

This kind of performance demonstrates the truly untapped potential within Hardaway, something that didn't go unnoticed. Hardaway was listed to the All-NBA Summer League Second Team and was invited to stay in Vegas and practice with the U.S. National Team at the end of the month. The Knicks have noticed as well, going so far as to call him "untouchable" in recent trade talks. As Jim Cavan of Bleacher Report notes in his article Is Tim Hardaway Jr. the New York Knick's Shooting Guard of the Future "Hardaway arrived NBA-side with the much more polished game—as adept at canning the corner three as he is attacking the tin in transition. And while he still has a ways to go before he can be considered a par defender, Hardaway's tenacity and work ethic are bound to yield dividends in that department."

Cavan continued to described some traits of Hardaway often found in Beilein products: "A confident stroke, vocal leadership, the bulked-up body of someone clearly committed to hitting the weight room: It's safe to say Fisher ... saw plenty to be excited about from his sophomore gunner. In an era where the shooting guard position has arguably never been weaker, Hardaway has a golden opportunity to assert himself as a top-tier prospect at the position—perhaps a future All-Star if all breaks right."

All of this seems to point to a bright future for Hardaway with the Knicks with a chance at stardom if he maximize his potential. Hardaway's NBA future definitely seemed like a question during his time at Michigan but his shooting and athleticism are showing that he may be more of answer for the Knicks.

Mitch McGary (Picked 21st in 2014, Oklahoma City Thunder):

Stat Line: 4 games, 26.0 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.500 FG%

Best Game: July 7th vs the Brooklyn Nets

Mitch McGary grew a beard. Mitch McGary played solid basketball. Mitch McGary went to Red Lobster.

After the Thunder surprised a lot of draft projections by taking Mitch McGary in the first round Mitch McGary surprised no one by coming to Orlando and being the same hard playing, quick passing, unicycle riding bull in a china shop player he was at Michigan. After a rough outing his first game McGary put up 18, 15 and 18 points on 53% from the field and 81% from the line. His best game was his second against the Brooklyn Nets where he added 2 asts, 2 steals, 1 block and 13 rebounds to 18 points in a 98 to 84 Thunder win.  His back seems to have healed completely and seems ready to take on both the NBA games and the media.

John Zitzler of Basketball Insiders described McGary as a straight "steal" touting his "motor and the energy he brings to a team." Zitzler went on to describe McGary's overall summer league: "Despite coming off a significant lay-off McGary hasn’t seemed fatigued at all. He was his hard-playing physical self and appears to have worked diligently to maintain his conditioning. He still may have some work to do prior to the start of the season but for a guy who hasn’t been out on the court for quite some time he looks good."

McGary also had great success with the media as he expertly handled an interview on the Jim Rome Show. What did Mitch McGary talk about in this interview you ask? Unicycles and Olive Garden.

Mitch McGary showed a lot of potential in his NBA debut and it looks like his forced departure from Michigan was for the best. As a diehard Michigan and bored Piston fan I'm thrilled to see him find some early success and be drafted by a watchable team.

Jordan Morgan (Undrafted in 2014, Minnesota Timberwolves):

Stat Line: 3 games, 17.3 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.389 FG%

Best Game: July 18th vs the New Orleans Pelicans

I don't know if I've wanted an undrafted player to make the pros this much since Jordan Kovacs, but I do know that I really wanted to write how Jordan Morgan averaged a double double and looks like the steal of the year. Sadly Morgan fell short of my dreams. He played in three games and while none were particularly impressive he did improve with each game. His first game was a short 13 minute stint against the Mavericks where he missed all three of his shots but he did make both free throws. 3 days later Morgan played the most minutes of his short season putting up 6 points and 6 rebounds on 2 for 9 shooting over 21 minutes. His last game however was his best and gives Michigan fans some hope for the five year big man who gave us so much down the stretch this year. In 18 minutes JoMo put up 10 points on an extremely efficient 5 for 6 shooting (this was also GRIII's best game). Sadly all signs point to JoMo not making the pro squad and perhaps choosing to take advantage of his Master's in Industrial Engineering over the D-League. I have no doubt JoMo will find success wherever he goes but his the sight of John Beilein watching every player get drafted while he waited for JoMo combined with JoMo's poor summer league performance are just to sad to think about. Instead let's all remember how he literally teabagged an OSU player... and also this:

Darius Morris (Picked 41st in 2011, LA Lakers):

Stat Line: 6 games, 21.7 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.478 FG%

Best Game: July 14th vs the New Orleans Pelicans

Regardless of his summer league performance things are looking up for the other Michigan point guard in the pros. After bouncing around teams last season Morris settled in to the D-League where he improved his skills and showed he had the talent to be an NBA player. He even dropped 51 points and 18 assists in a D-League playoff game.

The result of all this D-League success was a chance to prove himself for the Champion San Antonio Spurs. In 6 games Morris put up solid numbers including double digit points in half of them. His best game came during an 88-86 Spurs win over Pelicans where he put up 19 points and 4 assists on a very efficient 7 for 12 shooting. According to NBA.com's Melcom Ruffin Morris "orchestrated the Spurs' offense, executing high pick-and-rolls beautifully and using his size advantage against smaller opposing guards on drives to the basket." Ruffin also added that "[i]t's just a matter of time before Morris lands in the right situation and stays in the NBA permanently," suggesting that odds are quite good for the 23 year old combo guard.

Unfortunately Morris appears to be on the wrong team to restart his NBA career. While his stats are solid and the talent is there he is simply not what the Spurs are looking for. According to Pound the Rock's own Jesus Gomez "[Morris] can’t really defend either guard spot or hit the three with any regularity. The Spurs have Manu Ginobili to act as their primary ball-handler, scorer and creator off the bench, so what they need is a disruptive defender who can hit the open three. Mills filled that role perfectly and the Spurs might need someone other than incumbent Cory Joseph to replace that production. But Morris doesn't look like the right player for the job, even if he seems more talented and NBA-ready than Bryce Cotton, who the Spurs have reportedly invited to training camp.

"The curse of the combo guard seems to be haunting Morris, as he doesn't fit any of the traditional roles. Hopefully he will have another shot of making a case for himself as a solid back up in the league next season.The talent is certainly there. But I doubt he will get that chance with the Spurs"

So it seems likely that Morris wont likely be joining the Spurs but his summer league stint seems to have in position to join and contribute to an NBA team in need. Regardless, his summer league stint at least gave us a chance to see John Beilein's two best PG's to date go head to head for the first time.

Glenn Robinson III (Picked 40th in 2014, Minnesota Timberwolves):

Stat Line: 6 games, 22.5 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.385 FG%

Best Game: July 18th vs the New Orleans Pelicans

Several of these Wolverines have transferred their college game well to pros well so far and GRIII is no different. Unfortunately, while this means streaky but deadly shooting for Hardaway and unpolished but energetic play from McGary, it means large moments of nearly invisible play with sparse moments of brilliance. In his first five games GRIII averaged  5.6 points on just over 5 shots a game but scored 17 points on 13 shots his last game against the Pelicans. Just like with Michigan, GRIII did nothing particularly bad (shot well from mid, from deep and from the line) but failed to do anything truly spectacular which is unusual for a guy with seemingly so much raw talent.

None of this is news to Michigan fans and I'm sure many of us are sitting here wondering why he didn't pull a Hardaway and return for the third year in order to improve his game and his draft slot (many had GRIII as a lottery pick after one more season). The result is a player who is much more of a prospect than a finished product and yet the Timberwolves believe they have found a second round steal in Robinson. As told to the New York Times Summer League coach Sam Mitchell said "they saw plenty of good things from Robinson, and believe he could progress even quicker than most rookies, thanks to a great mid-range game, and his abilities inside for offensive rebounds and return to defense so quickly due to his athleticism."

So it appears Minnesota fans will have to take a wait and see approach with Robinson, although the prospects of a Muhammad-Wiggins-GRIII lineup certainly sounds fun if the Cavs do end up trading the other Canadian from this years draft. Most likely Robinson will turn into a solid NBA player with star potential if he ever finds a way to dominate the game over the course of a season the way he can over the course of a stretch of one or two games. Unfortunately, us Michigan fans will be left wondering why he couldn't have spent a season figuring it out in Michigan instead of Minnesota.

Nik Stauskas (Picked 8th in 2014, Sacramento Kings):

Stat Line: 7 games, 28.9 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.434 FG%

Best Game: July 11th vs the San Antonio Spurs

If you had told me a year ago that Nik Stauskas would be drafted a year after Trey Burke I would have been pleasantly surprised. First rounder? Fairly shocked. Higher than Burke, Mitch, Timmy and GRIII? Downright flabbergasted. The Canadian King of Swag really grew as a player last summer and his great B1G and Tournament play locked him in to the lottery where he was drafted by the Pistons... or where he would have been had the Cavs not stolen the pick (FIX!) or had the Pistons lost just two or three more games. So for the second year in a row my Pistons came tantalizingly close to drafting a Wolverine (at least this year they didn't pass him up) and instead the B1G Player of the Year went to the Kings in a move many thought bizarre.

Akis Yerocostas of Sactown Royalty thought "most Kings fans were a little perplexed when we drafted Nik Stauskas. Most of us didn't really expect to keep the pick even, and if we did, we knew the Kings were likely targeting a Point Guard like Marcus Smart or Elfrid Payton.  So when Stauskas' name was called, that was a surprise, as he wasn't on the radar for most Kings fans.  We had just drafted Ben McLemore as a SG in the prior draft"

This confusing decision was amplified by the Kings willingness to crowdsource their draft and post the results to youtube. In this video the Kings bring in a bunch of self taught fans from various schools and backgrounds to give advice and who to draft. In the end these analysts listed out their top prospects, suggesting the top three as Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Noah Vonleh while Nik Stauskas was outside the top 10. Despite all this analysis and despite having drafted McLemore a year ago and despite having Vonleh still on the board the Kings took Stauskas. Why bring in all that talent if you've already made up your mind? Who knows? All I know is Nik did alright in Summer League.

Let's start with this: Nik shot well from 3, like 47.8% well. This skill will likely follow Stauskas throughout his career but, as I'm sure we heard at some point during literally every basketball game this year, he is more than a shooter! His best all around game was his very first against the Spurs, the only game where he did not make a three pointer. Instead Nik collected 14 points on 4 of 9 shooting and 6 of 7 at the line. He also added 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks and he showed just how much raw basketball talent he possesses.

Throughout the league Stauskas demonstrated the same play we've come to expect from students of John Beilein, as told by Akis Yerocostas: "Nik seems like a guy who can come in and help the Kings right away, either through starting or coming off the bench. His shot has to be respected at all times, and he's also a very smart player for his age. During Summer League, he was playing with a bunch of more experienced players and thus deferred more than most other rookies might have. He opted instead to play within the team system and not force anything. My two favorite plays of his in Summer League involved him catching the ball at the 3 point line for what was probably a good shot but then making the extra pass to a teammate for an even better shot."

Plays like these show that Stauskas has the potential to be a true stud in an increasingly positionless NBA. As we saw at Michigan he can run the point, he can find his own shot, he has a quick step and can shoot with the best of them (please do the 3-Point contest). Stauskas is a lot like Hardaway in that his floor is very high as at worst he will be a solid rotation player for years to come. The real question is how high his ceiling is, but given how quickly he developed at Michigan I would bet on Stauskas. Never before has Canada or Bieber Fever been so cool.