Photo by Devin Grimes / MTSU Sidelines Archive
Earlier this summer, we took a look at which former Blue Raider standouts were the ones to watch during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. With NBA and other professional basketball contracts on the line, three former MTSU standouts got the opportunity to showcase their abilities among the best that the NBA Draft class has to offer.
Nick King – Los Angeles Lakers
One of the biggest question marks going into the Summer League for King was his ability to defend at the next level and whether or not his exceptional scoring ability will translate over to the professional level.
In his first three games in Sacramento, King got the starting nod in two of those games. It was an excellent opportunity to show how he fit in on a loaded Lakers summer roster that included big names for the college game such as Joel Berry III, Svi Mykhailiuk, Mo Wagner and Josh Hart, who contributed solid minutes for the Lakers in 2017-2018.
When King got to start during those first couple contests in Sacramento, his shooting numbers were solid (47.4 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range). The efficient shooting allowed him to score a little over seven points per game in only 16 minutes of playing time per game.
When the Lakers played in Vegas, the team found their stride and won their first six games before losing in the Summer League championship game against the Portland Trail Blazers. During that run in Las Vegas, King became a contributor on both the offensive and defensive ends. Offensively, King’s scoring numbers went up as he averaged nine points per contest while playing an average of 19 minutes.
While the scoring numbers themselves went up, King was not putting the ball in the basket as efficiently, shooting only 35 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. Those shooting numbers could be cause for concern for NBA teams looking to add King to a roster.
Despite the poor perimeter shooting numbers, King made himself more valuable as a prospect by defending well at multiple positions. According to realgm.com, King’s defensive rating in the Las Vegas summer circuit was at a 94.5. To give an idea of how good that number is, the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, had a defensive rating of 99, in which case, the lower the defensive rating number is, the ‘higher’ the score is.
It’s certainly a small sample size, and just because King has a better Summer League defensive rating than the NBA Defensive Player of the Year after 10 games against other rookies and G-League players certainly doesn’t mean a hill of beans. However, it is certainly a positive trend for someone who was, at times, seen as a defensive liability at the college game despite being phenomenal offensively.
King showed he can still score the ball and displayed some improvement on the defensive end. If he can prove to NBA teams he can shoot the ball better from the perimeter, he can easily find his way onto a G-League roster.
Giddy Potts – Toronto Raptors
Potts was one of the most efficient shooters in the Summer League and was a big-time offensive contributor for the Raptors. The former Blue Raider great picked up right where he left off in college as an elite level three-point shooter, knocking down deep balls at 41.7 percent.
With the average NBA player shooting around 36 percent from beyond the arc, Potts displayed a next-level ability to connect on NBA three-point jumpers, even in limited minutes. Potts scoring 10 points per contest in 17 minutes of playing time per game is a positive sign that he can find a way onto an NBA roster in the future as a bench scorer and three-point threat.
But with all of those positive shooting numbers, the best number for Potts’ professional prospects is the number 22.38 PER (Player Efficiency Rating). PER is an important metric that many NBA executives use to determine how efficient a player is on offense. Here is an explanation that will explain the math behind PER much better than I can.
Potts’ PER in the Summer League is seven points above the league average in a regular season, which is evidence that Potts has a skill set that is made for the next level.
However, in the NBA, size often matters. No matter how well Potts performed in the Summer League, it will not change the fact he is only 6’2″ at a position that posts an average league height of 6’5″.
There has been no official news yet on where Potts will play professionally, but he will more than likely play overseas in a European league or perhaps even in China or South Korea. Either way, Potts will have a chance to play professional basketball at a high level. With his positive performance in the Summer League, Potts might find himself back in the circuit next summer for another organization.
Reggie Upshaw – Los Angeles Clippers
Last summer, Upshaw only scored a little over three points per contest in 12.7 minutes per game for the Milwaukee Bucks. This summer, Upshaw came back from a season in Germany as an improved offensive asset, scoring over 10 points per game and logging 29.2 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Clippers.
As it turns out, playing one season in Germany helped mature Upshaw’s game and prepared him for this summer showcase. On the offensive end, Upshaw improved his shooting from last season’s Summer League from 35 percent to 41 percent and improved his offensive rebounding from one offensive board per game to just over three.
The rebounding performance, however, might be what gets him a two-way deal to play in the NBA. In Germany, Upshaw only grabbed about six rebounds per game in 33 minutes of action. In the Summer League, he grabbed over eight boards per game while playing 29 minutes per contest.
His 121 defensive rating in Germany certainly was not ideal, but in the summer league, he scored at 101.9. This is an improvement from last summer’s 107 with the Bucks. Upshaw does not have to be an elite defender, but he will at least have to have some sort of ability to defend players much bigger than he is if he wants to play at the next level.
With a year of professional basketball under his belt, Upshaw showed that he took what he learned overseas and was able to apply it and improve on his numbers and his game. While he still might not make an NBA roster this off-season, his summer performance should give him optimism for what his future will hold.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.