Men’s Basketball: Blue Raiders to watch in NBA Summer League


Senior Nick King looks to pass the ball up ahead on offense against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Mar. 3, 2018, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines)

Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines

The NBA has arguably the best offseason of any professional sport due to the fact that there really is not an “offseason.” It has roster shakeups, free agency and an offseason league that is unique to any other league: the Summer League.

The NBA Summer League provides fans, scouts and coaches their first sneak peak of rookie NBA players as professionals. The league also provides players on the verge of making a regular season roster a chance to impress coaches and executives and land a training camp invitation.

For three undrafted former Blue Raider basketball stars, the NBA Summer League will provide them with an opportunity to showcase their abilities and a chance to further their basketball careers in the world’s best basketball league.

Nick King, Los Angeles Lakers

One could make the case that King had the best single season of any Blue Raider in program history. As a graduate transfer from Memphis and Alabama, King came to Murfreesboro and had an immediate impact on an MT squad that won the regular season C-USA title.

While King’s 21 points and eight rebounds per game were enough to lead his team to a 25-win season, they were also enough to make him a third-team AP All-American and the first All-American in program history. King’s 694 total points on the season were enough to cement his name into the MT record books as the highest single season scorer in school history.

King went from being a college basketball player that only averaged five points per game in three seasons at two different schools to an All-American over the course of year. Will it be enough to land him on an NBA roster? It certainly wasn’t enough to get him drafted, but the Los Angeles Lakers still gave him a spot on a loaded summer roster that features other former college basketball stars such as Mo Wagner from Michigan, Joel Berry III from North Carolina and Kansas stars Malik Newman and Sviatsolav Mykhailiuk.

With a roster that is full of collegiate stars and legitimate NBA prospects, King will have a perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities with players that are of NBA-caliber. But what exactly will he have to show other coaches and executives around the league? First, he’ll have to prove he can score against NBA defenders, especially from the perimeter. At MT, King mastered his scoring from inside the paint as well as being a gifted scorer from around the rim. While king did prove to be a threat from the perimeter at times, shooting at an efficient 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, he will have to prove he can do it from NBA range and shoot at a higher rate. In today’s NBA, three-point shooting is more important than it has ever been, and offenses around the league have become more and more perimeter oriented.

King’s size will keep him from playing power forward in most NBA lineups. So, a move to the perimeter will be an obstacle King might have to adjust to at the next level. While playing for the Lakers this summer, look for King to handle the ball beyond the three-point line and spend more time displaying his dominant scoring ability in order to steal a training camp invite.

Giddy Potts, Toronto Raptors

The winningest player in program history will be a Toronto Raptor for the summer in hopes of making an NBA roster. Potts leaves Murfreesboro as not only the school’s winningest player, but the school’s record holder for career three-point field goals.

Potts was a key player for two C-USA tournament titles and two NCAA tournament upsets, including the stunner over two-seeded Michigan State. The sharp-shooting guard from Athens, Alabama, had one of the more decorated careers of any Blue Raider and is one of the most recognizable fan favorites of the Kermit Davis-era of MTSU basketball.

After going underrated in the NBA Draft in June, Potts quickly inked a deal to play for the Raptors summer squad. There are certainly some elements to his game that translate well to the NBA, such as an ability to shoot the lights out from three-point range. Potts connected on 286 three-pointers as a Blue Raider, many of which were attempted from NBA range. Therefore, the perimeter shooting adjustment should not be an insurmountable task for Potts. Shooting consistency won’t be a concern for teams interested in Potts since he made three’s at a 41 percent clip over the course of his four year career. This includes a 50 percent three-point shooting season in his sophomore year, which led the nation in that category.

The biggest concern for Potts will be his size and ability to guard NBA-caliber players on the perimeter. As a shooting guard, Potts is undersized at 6-2, which would not do him many favors if he’s guarded by a 6-5 guard (league average height at the position). While he is still an exceptional shooter from deep, an incredibly valuable tool in today’s NBA, he will need to be able to guard bigger players in order to keep him from being a defensive liability. If Potts can prove himself on the defensive end against taller, longer players, he can make himself an appealing option for an NBA team to sign to a G-League contract.

Reggie Upshaw, Los Angeles Clippers

In June, Upshaw announced on twitter that he would play for the Clippers summer team. The announcement came one year after he played in the same Summer League with the Milwaukee Bucks following his graduation from MTSU. Before Potts broke his record, Upshaw was the last all-time wins record holder. Like Potts, Upshaw is one of the most recognizable faces of the Davis-era.

Upshaw was another key player for the monumental upset of Michigan State, scoring 21 points, including the game sealing dunk in the final minute to put the game out of reach.

In his first Summer League appearance, he averaged three points and four rebounds on 35 percent shooting. Following his appearance in the Summer League, he signed a contract with Walter Tigers Tübingen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field.

With one year of professional basketball under his belt, Upshaw will enter this Summer League looking to prove himself worthy of a training camp invite. While Upshaw is an efficient scorer at MT and in Germany, his ability to defend might be the key to getting him on a roster this fall.

Like Potts and King, Upshaw doesn’t have ideal size for his primary position. Therefore, defending NBA players at his position would be challenging. However, despite the possible questions on the defensive end, Upshaw’s performance this season in Germany and a second invite to the Summer League should give him much-needed optimism and confidence.

 

To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

For more sports stories, follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter and Periscope at @Sidelines_Sport.

 

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