Basketball is back! Sort of. Not really. The NBA’s Las Vegas Summer league starts tonight for the Thunder, and while it won’t be the most high quality basketball you see, it is a chance to get so seem some youngsters flex their wings a little. OKC’s roster was officially announced today, ahead of their opening game against Charlotte this evening.
Which player are you most excited to see in the Summer League?
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The most notable missing name, for now, is Hamidou Diallo, who OKC traded for on draft night. Due to NBA transaction rules, the trade for Diallo doesn’t become official until tomorrow (that’s true for all trades and contracts that have been agreed to). He thus isn’t officially part of the Thunder yet. He could sign tomorrow and then be added to the roster. I’ll certainly hope that’s the case, as he’s by far the most intriguing of OKC’s second round picks this year.
Besides that, everyone you’d hope to see on the roster is there. P.J. Dozier and Daniel Hamilton, who were signed with OKC on two-way deals and spent most of the year in the G-League, will be on the team as they push to make the real roster and secure full NBA contracts this season. Kevin Hervey and Devon Hall, OKC’s other second round picks, will make their first appearances for the Thunder with the summer league team. And most excitingly, Dakari Johnson and Terrance Ferguson will suit up for OKC.
This summer feels pretty big for Dakari. His future with the Thunder is unclear after OKC signed Nerlens Noel to a minimum deal. Noel has struggled in his NBA career, but he has a high draft pedigree and a ton of athleticism. Johnson and him will battle to get whatever minutes Steven Adams doesn’t play this year. If Noel is clearly better than him, Dakari could see his time with OKC quickly come to an end. But let’s see how he looks in Summer league before we immediately write him off.
The guy who will get the most attention on OKC’s roster will be Terrance Ferguson. T-Ferg didn’t play last summer, due to complications involving being bought of his old contract with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s NBL. We saw only scattered bits of young Ferg during the regular season- he played in 61 games, averaging 12 minutes per game. He started 12 games due to injuries to Andre Roberson, but he would often play the first few minutes of those games and then never return. Sharing the court with ball-dominant superstars like Russell Westbrook and Paul George (and ball-dominant non-stars like Carmelo Anthony) meant we got to see precious little of Ferguson’s offensive game even when he did play. He threw down some huge dunks and flashed the elite athleticism that drew OKC to him. He was less effective on 3-pointers; while he was a solid shooter in Australia, he shot only 33% from beyond the arc with OKC.
Improving his consistency from downtown will be critical, as will be improving on defense. When Ferg did play, what kept him from succeeding was his lack of prowess on the defensive end- at age 19 and weighing only 184 pounds, he just didn’t have the size and strength to stay in front of the NBA players who he matched up against. Hopefully we see a much stronger T-Ferg this year, starting with tomorrow’s game.
How much you can learn from summer league games isn’t clear- plenty of guys have great summer league performances and then vanish, and plenty of guys who struggle in summer league do great in the NBA. Still, it’s a chance to watch some real basketball now that free agency is starting to wrap up, and our first glimpse at OKC’s young players. With how expensive OKC’s roster now is, and with it projecting to stay that way in the future, OKC could really use one or two of these guys turning into real contributors in the next couple seasons. Ferguson is the most likely contender, but all these guys will have a chance to prove they’re the one who deserves a shot. Let’s see what the young kids can do.
Some T-Ferg highlights to get you hyped: