UPDATE: Amidst confusion, it looks like David Lighty will be playing for Phoenix this summer. Both the Hawks and Suns were interested in having him play. Both have been interested in his talents since he went undrafted in 2011.
The NBA Summer League gets underway this week and a handful of former Buckeyes are vying for rosters spots in the NBA. From draftees Jared Sullinger and Jon Diebler (2011), to free agents Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty and the undrafted William Buford – The Buckeyes are very well represented.
Each are heading to the court looking to prove something.
Though it might not be the best basketball to watch, the Summer leagues in Vegas and Orlando always give a glimpse of who is impressing, and who could secure jobs for their respected teams. After a year off due to the lockout, a record 23 teams will compete this July. All games will be broadcasted live on NBA TV, as well as online through the NBA’s Summer Broadband package.
The Orlando Pro League will begin today, with draftee Jared Sullinger powering the very talented Boston Celtics squad, that includes former Purdue Boilermakers JuJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore, as well as fellow Syracuse draft picks Fab Melo and Kris Joseph.
All other Buckeyes will only take part in the Las Vegas Summer League, which gets underway Friday afternoon. A majority of this year’s draft class will compete with a good mix of league veterans and younger players still trying to find a home in the Association. Not only will the former Buckeyes be competing against good competition on the other side of the floor – they are fighting to get noticed.
Whether it be in hopes of landing a contract with another team, or making the cut, most of the familiar names we’re used to seeing excel on the court, once again have their back against the wall.
Here is a look at former Buckeyes competing this summer.
Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics – It’s still hard to believe that Ohio State’s big man the last two seasons fell out of the draft lottery and to a veteran laden team like the Boston Celtics. Watching Sullinger and the amount of playing time he will get should be one of the more interesting stories coming out of Orlando. We’ve heard about the back issues, but we’ve also seen how hard he works. We know that KG is back for the next three years, but there is a place for Jared at power forward. In the hybrid system that Boston likes to play without a center, Sullinger might just be the guy to step in off the bench and be the spark that was missing in 2011. Doc Rivers could really improve Sully’s chances of playing time by going with a big lineup at times, freeing seven footer Fab Melo into a playing group of his own.
Sullinger will battle with not only Fab Melo, but also looking to make a move is 2011 draft pick JuJuan Johnson. It’s funny how the world turns, as both players battled each other during the 2010-11 season. Johnson edged out Sullinger as the Big Ten player of the year.
Power Forward Brandon Bass is back after signing a three year deal last week. He emerged in the starting lineup after the all-star break, and give the Celtics some life in the frontcourt. He averaged over 12 points and six rebounds a game. Meanwhile center Greg Stiemsma seems to be heading elsewher. That opens up even more playing time for Sullinger. It seems that Doc and company see him as a developed player that contribute right away. Fab Melo might be more of a project player that the C’s think has a “higher upside.” Either way, he will have a chance next season with the Celtics.
Jon Diebler, Portland Trail Blazers – After being selected late in the second round last year, Diebler agreed to play basketball in Greece before knowing the certainty of an NBA season. Suiting up for Panionios, Dielber led the team offensively last season, scoring nearly 11 points per game, while shooting 60% from the field and 45% from three.
Despite fellow Summer Leaguer Luke Babbit, there was nobody in Portland that came close to Diebler’s threeblerness last season. And now, it looks like the team is rebuilding it’s guard corps. Gone are Jonny Flynn, Raymond Felton, and Jamal Crawford. The Blazers will welcome back Nolan Smith and add draft picks Damian Lillard and Will Barton. All of whom like to drive to the basket to distribute or create offense.
Now Insert The Threebler, who seems like just the right fit to add into the mix. A shooter who can catch the ball on the perimeter when all these athletic points drive to the hoop. It is an open field at the guard position, as 9 of the 15 players listed on their Summer league roster are guards. Of those, Lillard (PG), Nolan Smith (PG), Will Barton (SG), Wesley Matthews (SG) and Elliot Williams (SG) should have spots on the roster.
If Diebler lights fire in his real first impression with Trail Blazer staff, he could easily steal a spot on the roster. I personally believe a team with Portland’s lack of shooting ability, they would be insane not to carry Diebler on the roster next season either at guard or small forward. Hopefully he gets a fair look.
William Buford, Minnesota Timberwolves – There couldn’t be a better fit for one of the most “NBA Ready” players to go undrafted in this class. Anyone that has saw Buford suit up for Thad Matta the last four seasons knows it.
And though he might have been frustrating at times to Buckeye fans, his game translates so well to the NBA. Buf has no fear when it comes to driving to the hoop. And we all know he is more than willing to take a shot when he has open space. Combine that with the fact that he is 6’5″ guard that can play the swing with his 6’10” wingspan and you have a scout’s dream – a playmaker that can contribute right away, while learning some of the intricacies of professional basketball.
The Wolves have looked to fill their shooting guard woes by bringing in no-kneed Brandon Roy and are hoping for a chance at bringing in restricted free agent Nicolas Batum from Portland. Even after drafting Robbie Hummel in the second round of this year’s draft, I believe there is a spot for Buford. Chances are Batum will remain with the Blazers despite his desire to play for Rick Adelman. My guess is that Minnesota will scramble with the little money they have left (If they bring in another big man) to bring in a Courtney Lee or any remaining free agent with some type of ability.
The answer though is right in front of them. Hopefully Buford proves that in summer league. He has the scoring ability and size to play at small forward if needbe. Despite his defense not being the most well rounded, his on the ball defending is a bit underrated.
Plus, he couldn’t be any worse than Michael Beasley, who started at guard last season.
Of all the former Buckeyes looking to make a team, Buford might have the best chance to make a roster, even if he doesn’t stick with Minnesota. After rough workouts before the draft though, it’s going to take some solid play over the next couple weeks.
David Lighty, Phoenix – One of the most versatile guards in the history of Ohio State basketball, David Lighty might have already been an Atlanta Hawk, if it weren’t for the NBA lockout last season. Instead, Lighty opted to sign a two year year deal with Cantu, Italy of the Euroleague. In eight games with Cantu, Lighty averaged just 15 minutes a game and nearly 8 points per contest. Looking for more experience, Lighty joined Vanoli CR to gain more time on the floor. Averaging 30 minutes a game in 23 appearances, the swing man scored 10.7 a game with time at both guard and forward.
Now, after workouts with the Spurs, Cavs, and Pacers – Lighty isjoining phoenix this summer. Where there should be a lot of competition for their open guard spots. That could play to Lighty’s advantage, as he could become a bench player that could fill in as a bigger guard, or as a forward when need be.
Lighty would fit really well off the bench as a defensive stopper, energizer and versatile guard/forward, for a very “diverse” starting lineup that could see Josh Smith play at small or power forward. John Jenkins and Mike Scott will fill two spots automatically as draft picks this season. But will they be ready to play NBA defense?
We all know that Lighty is already the pre-packaged definition of an NBA defender.
For a player that should of been drafted in the first place, it shouldn’t be hard to find a home this season in the United States. He can do so much for you off the bench. He could be a Bruce Bowen type, that comes in to shut opposing stars down and own his position on the boards. Offensively, he isn’t going to beat you with flash, but he will fuel your team with poise and consistency. Just the pure volume of interest through NBA teams this summer should be an indicator that he will land on his feet somewhere.
If the Hawks are looking for a guy that will go to work and become an instant fan favorite for the way he plays the game, than David Lighty is their guy.
Dallas Lauderdale, Golden State Warriors – Already being dubbed as the Summer League “Dream Team,” The Golden State Warriors will have a lot of evaluating to do in Vegas, simply because they have a lot of roster spots that could be improved this summer. Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green will be the talk of the Summer League inside for the Warriors, but Lauderdale could provide a inside shot swatting threat the Warriors haven’t had in quite some time. Mickell Gladness was the only respectable shot blocker on the team last year and he is not expected back. In 42 games with PGE Turow, Dallas avered 15 minutes a game and one blocked shot.
Some Warriors fans are already calling him a “summer league scrub,” but if you’re looking for a game changer on the defensive end, Lauderdale has that ability. The bench is all about spark, and when he enters the game, the opposing offense knows it.
Plus, it looks like his agility and offensive game have improved.
Despite that fact, it will be an uphill battle for Lauderdale to make the Warriors roster. Golden State has a slew of bad big man contracts. David Lee, Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bogut, Jeremy Tyler, Richard Jefferson and Dorell Wright will all be back next season. Throw in Ezeli, and it looks like Lauderdale is automatically out of the equation.
But he still could impress a team looking for someone at the end of the bench that can provide something.