Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving completely overshadowed all the other activities going on in Las Vegas, but with summer league now in the rearview mirror, after the Nets posted a 3-2 mark, it’s an appropriate time to go back and review the storylines that got pushed to the back burner for Brooklyn.
Can Cam Thomas’ summer league improvement carry over?
No, we don’t mean him bumping up his average by a few tenths of a point. His scoring has never been in question, and he followed up his summer league-best 27.0 points per game average from last year with a 27.4 encore. The most important numbers for Thomas’ growth are his playmaking. He more than doubled his assists from a paltry 2.0 to 4.2 and nearly halved his turnovers from 3.8 to a more manageable 2.0.
Thomas will always be a score-first guard, and — presuming Durant and Irving are back — he won’t have the kind of usage rate or control over the offense this season as he did in Las Vegas. But his playing time was slashed down the stretch last season, so if Thomas wants an increased role, he must continue to improve his playmaking and at least attempt to shore up his sieve-like defense.
Alondes Williams, on the other hand, is nowhere near ready
In fairness, it was never fair to expect him to be. Sure, he’s the highest-rated of the Nets’ rookies, and they somewhat surprisingly handed him a two-way contract. But the fact is, he went undrafted, and just because the Nets could have a dire need of a backup point guard — if Irving gets traded — doesn’t mean Williams will be ready for that role because he’s clearly not.
Though Williams has an NBA-ready frame as a big guard and has some passing skills, he finished summer league averaging 4.6 points, 2.6 assists and 2.2 turnovers. His lack of a jumper let defenders sag off him, and the result was Williams shot just 32 percent overall and went 0-for-7 from 3-point range, dead last on the Nets in offensive rating and PER.
If the summer league showed anything, it’s that if Irving is dealt, Ben Simmons will have to be purely a point guard and in desperate need of backup help.
David Duke Jr. leveled up in the offseason
After Duke made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, the combo guard made strides this summer league. Thomas, Kessler Edwards, Day’Ron Sharpe and Duke all came to Las Vegas for an encore, and Duke had the most on the line. After rejecting the Nets’ two-way contract offer in the hope of a standard deal, Duke was banking on proving himself with his play.
Duke Jr. averaged 19 points, 4.6 rebounds, four assists and 1.4 steals, all of those, other than the boards, second on the Nets’ summer league squad. It showed his strides in working with the Nets’ assistant coaches and player development staff. The only glaring thing missing was a jumper, which is still a work in progress.
Considering the uncertainty with the rest of the roster, he still seems bound for a two-way deal that could be converted later as needed.
Sharpe was solid in Las Vegas other than in the opening loss when the offense was so discombobulated that he never got the ball. But he was hardly dominant, which is a concern. With Nic Claxton the nominal starter, Andre Drummond headed to Chicago on a two-year, $6.6 million deal, and both LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin seemingly gone as well, one would expect a rotation player to dominate summer league, and Sharpe didn’t do that.
Wing Donovan Williams, known as “Stretch” for his 7-foot wingspan, performed well playing at his old UNLV home. He showed range (3-for-4 from 3) and athleticism (an acrobatic open-court lob from Thomas). He’s unlikely to get a two-way, but he could stick in Long Island or get an Exhibit 10 invite to camp.
Kyle Korver, who spent last season as a player development coach — is finalizing a deal with Atlanta for a front office role, according to The Athletic. Korver, initially drafted by the Nets in 2003, played for the Hawks from 2012-17, and made the 2015 All-Star game.
The Nets’ preseason slate is out. They’ll host Philadelphia (Oct. 3) and Miami (Oct. 6), before going on the road top against Milwaukee and Minnesota.
The Hulu comedy starring Ronny Chieng as the newly-hired Nets GM is expected to start shooting Wednesday. None of the production will actually be at the team’s facility, and there are no words on cameos.