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2017 NBA Summer League: Top 5 Skyforce Alumni

By Matt Dykstra | July 18, 2017

Ten former Skyforce players landed on 12 different NBA Summer League rosters this month (some played for multiple teams). We ranked the top 5 based on their 2017 NBA Summer League performances alone, and focused on the strengths that each player has displayed both this summer and in the past.

1. Okaro White (Miami HEAT)

The consistency of Okaro White’s play throughout both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues is why he stands atop this list, and why he has all but solidified himself a spot on the Miami HEAT roster heading into next season.

With the HEAT struggling offensively at times, White was allowed to explore a new role as a go-to playmaker and scorer, one that he’ll likely not be able to carry into the regular season playing alongside players like Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside. However, developing in other areas of one’s game is never a bad thing.

White played and started in seven games this summer for Miami, posting at least 12 points and at least six rebounds in each contest. He finished his Summer League play with averages of 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Strengths:

White has always been a solid defender and a solid rebounder. In 23 games with the Skyforce during the 2016-17 season, White averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. He’s athletic, lengthy, and strong: a good combination when guarding multiple positions at the professional level. His role last season with the HEAT was to come off the bench and utilize those strengths. He was an energy guy, and continues to be this summer now in a primary, starting role.

White has also shot the ball extremely well from the free throw line this summer, converting 34 of 42 attempts for a 81 percent conversion rate. These numbers aren’t surprising, as he shot 86 percent from the line with the Skyforce, and 90.1 percent from the line with the HEAT last season.

Attacking the rim in Vegas! #HEATSummerLeague

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2. Jarnell Stokes (Unsigned)

Jarnell Stokes has the best offensive footwork in the post out of anyone in this 2017 NBA Summer League. That’s a personal opinion, but hardly a “hot take”. The problem is, at somewhere between 6-7 and 6-9, he doesn’t quite jump off the page as a dominant presence in the paint to NBA teams, especially in today’s fast-paced, three-point-shooting league.

However, when given the opportunity, Stokes has demonstrated time and time again that he can produce quality numbers. The former Skyforce forward and NBA G League MVP averaged 13.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while starting eight of twelve games for both the Indiana Pacers (5, Orlando) and the Portland Trail Blazers (7, Las Vegas).

He scored in double figures in all five games with the Pacers in Orlando, and has four times in seven contests with the Portland Trail Blazers in Las Vegas. Two of the three times he failed to reach 10 points, he has played less than 20 minutes coming off the bench.

Stokes totaled 16 points and 17 rebounds in 27 minutes in a win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, July 12 in what was his first start for the Trail Blazers. A couple games later, he posted 22 points and 15 rebounds against the Memphis Grizzlies in the Summer League semi-final game to help lead Portland to the Summer League Championship game.

Strengths:

Stokes’ power, footwork, and rebounding ability have been a strength throughout his entire career and have been evident throughout his 12 Summer League games. He continues to score well in the post when given space, off of pick and roll situations, and on short jump shots while shooting at a 62.1 percent clip (67.2 percent in Las Vegas). He’s also rebounded the ball particularly well on the offensive end of the floor, averaging 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.

One of the biggest knocks on Stokes in recent years has been his inability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line. However, he’s shown an improved willingness to both shoot and make shots from long distance when left open. Stokes made three of five attempts (60.0 percent) from three-point range in Las Vegas after not attempting a three in Orlando with the Pacers.

Though his percentage would certainly come back down to earth with more attempts, there’s something to be said about finding your spots on the floor, and not casting up threes just because you have the ability to. Stokes continues to rotate the ball well, and score efficiently when he gets touches.

3. Malik Beasley (Denver Nuggets)

Denver’s second-year guard Malik Beasley found his stride toward the end of the 2016-17 season with both the Nuggets and the Skyforce, and brought his offensive game to a new level during the Las Vegas Summer League. Playing and starting in all five of Denver’s games, Beasley averaged 19.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

Beasley exceeded 19 points in four out of five games, including a 29-point, six-rebound performance in the Nuggets’ 2017 Summer League debut in a loss to the Houston Rockets. His lone mishap came by way of a nine-point outing in which he shot just 4-14 from the field and 1-6 from three-point range in 34 minutes.

Malik put up 19.4 ppg in Vegas 💪 #NBASummer

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Strengths:

Malik Beasley gets buckets. When given both the playing time and the opportunity, he will score points. In 16 games played (12 starts) for the Skyforce last season, Beasley averaged 18.9 points per game. He gets to the basket well, finishes at the rim, throws down some of the best dunks you’ll ever see in transition, and can score in bunches when he’s hot. The key for Beasley is being able to consistently stay in that zone.

Beasley also rebounds very well for his position. He averaged 7.6 rebounds per game for Sioux Falls during the 2016-17 season and has carried that over into the summer, averaging 5.4 rebounds for the Nuggets. He’s got good size and strength for the shooting guard position, listed at 6-5 and weighing in at about 195 lbs. All of this, combined with a willingness to attack the offensive and defensive glass, has equated to some solid rebounding numbers in the first year of Beasley’s career.

4. Briante Weber (Charlotte Hornets)

Briante Weber does almost everything well. After tearing through the NBA G League last season, totaling 11 double-doubles and five triple-doubles in just 31 games, Weber was called up first by the Golden State Warriors, and then by the Charlotte Hornets where he remains.

Much like his former Skyforce teammate Okaro White, Weber’s play this summer should help him move toward solidifying an NBA roster spot heading into next season. There’s beginning to be a log-jam at the guard position in Charlotte, though, with Kemba Walker, Michael Carter-Williams, Nicholas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, and newest draft pick Malik Monk all slated to get playing time. However, if Charlotte chooses not to bring back Weber’s contract (which is non-guaranteed for the upcoming season) after training camp, he’ll undoubtedly land on another NBA roster.

Weber played in all five of Charlotte’s Summer League games in Orlando, averaging 11.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.8 assists in just over 27 minutes each night. He consistently finds ways to stuff the stat sheet, even when his shot isn’t falling. He is a vocal leader, and backs up his talk with his defensive intensity and play-making ability.

Strengths:

Weber’s on-ball defense is stifling. “#BRIFENSE” quickly became an actual “thing” at the G League level last season, and has played a large role in putting Weber on NBA radars across the league. Weber averaged a league-high 3.3 steals per game before being called up a season ago, including a performance in which he nearly recorded the league’s first-ever quadruple-double with 18 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds and nine steals in a loss to the Oklahoma City Blue on January 31.  All good teams need a lock-down defender, and with all of the other skills Weber brings to the table, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through.

5. Larry Drew II (Unsigned)

Larry Drew II, once again, put together a pretty solid Summer League. After playing well alongside number one overall draft pick Markelle Fultz in his debut, Drew II has since been the beneficiary of Fultz’s injury (thankfully not severe) by receiving more playing time because of it.

Between the Utah and the Las Vegas NBA Summer Leagues, Drew II started five of six games for the Philadelphia 76ers and was extremely consistent, finishing with averages of 8.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.5 rebounds per game. He’s played roughly 26 minutes per contest, and has proven he can run an offense.

Most notably, he hit a step-back, game-winning jump shot that lifted the Sixers over the Golden State Warriors 95-93 on Saturday, July 8 in a game that he finished +23 in the box score.

Strengths:

Drew II drops dimes. His passing ability is second-to-none. He’s demonstrated it time and time again in the NBA G League, overseas, and in his brief stint with Philadelphia as an NBA Call-up during the 2013-14 season. He even holds the NBA G League record for most assists in a single game with 23, which he totaled on Christmas Day in 2014. Drew II’s 5.7 assist average this summer is fairly modest compared to some of his numbers in the past, but he’s done enough to demonstrate that strength, and continues to make smart decisions with the basketball.

Honorable Mention: Juancho Hernangomez (Denver Nuggets)

Juancho Hernangomez is a special player, and will be a great contributor for the Denver Nuggets over the next few seasons. The only reason he isn’t ranked first on this list is because of his small, three-game sample size in the Las Vegas Summer League in which he averaged 16.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game in just over 30 minutes per contest.

Hernangomez played in only one game for Sioux Falls while on assignment from the Nuggets, but he made the most of it by tallying 17 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks in just 26 minutes in a home win over the Texas Legends.

Juancho led us in rebounding in Vegas with 7.3 boards per game. #NBASummer

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Strengths:

Listed at 6-9, Hernangomez has shown an excellent ability to space the floor and knock down three-pointers, a growing necessity for forwards in today’s NBA system. After shooting 41.4 percent from distance for the Nuggets last season, he carried that into the summer and converted on nine of 23 attempts (39.1 percent). Though he saw a slight dip in success rate, keep in mind that he only played in three games, and made at least two three-point field goals in all three of them.