Just 2 weeks ago, Canes guards Lonnie Walker IV and Bruce Brown Jr walked across the stage in New York City as they were drafted into the NBA by the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons respectively. In that short period of time, both players had to adjust to life in a new city, as well as life as a professional athlete. Now Walker and Brown, along with former Canes Davon Reed, Trey McKinney-Jones, and Kamari Murphy return to the court to try to prove themselves in the NBA Summer League. Let’s take a look at where each former Cane stands with their squad:
Lonnie Walker IV - San Antonio Spurs
First round picks typically don’t have as much at stake during summer league, but it serves as a mini-introduction to NBA-level basketball. If you glance over ESPN right now, you can find articles about Trae Young’s struggles shooting, but don’t expect the Hawks to rethink their decision to take him at the top of their draft. Lonnie is in the same scenario, which is fortunate because his first exposure to the NBA did not go as planned. The Spurs were one of a select number of teams that took part in the Salt Lake City portion of the summer league, which started last week. In their first game against Utah, the Reading, PA native shot 3-16 from the floor finishing with 7 points, but showed plenty of flashes of his athletic ability, particularly on the defensive end, contributing 3 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. After sitting out the second game against Atlanta, he was listed as a DNP-REST on the box score, Lonnie returned for their third game in Salt Lake City against Memphis and had his best game so far, dropping 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.
Bruce Brown Jr - Detroit Pistons
Summer League for second-round draft picks has a different feel, as teams often don’t feel as tied to their second-round picks, meaning they still have to leave an impression. What intensifies this situation is if a team is unsure of their rotation and/or acquires more than 2 players on draft night. Bruce Brown Jr’s new team falls into one of those categories, as the Pistons finished last season 39-43, 4 games out of the playoffs and falling further behind East contenders Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Washington, among others. The Pistons didn’t have a first round pick, so they selected Bruce with their only pick, but later acquired similar-sized guard Khyri Thomas in a trade. Now Brown must start building his case for playing time during the regular season:
The entire Detroit squad struggled on the offensive end in their first game in Las Vegas, but according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News, “Bruce Brown looked good in his debut, but didn’t shoot well, either. He played at both guard positions throughout the game and got more comfortable as the game progressed.”
Davon Reed - Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns drafted Davon Reed with the 32nd overall pick in last year’s draft, and spent the 2017-18 season splitting time between the Suns and their G-League affiliate the Northern Arizona Suns. The Suns were the NBA’s worst team last season, and as a result have had a busy offseason. They drafted 4 players and signed Trevor Ariza, which leaves the summer league session as an crucial opportunity for Reed to stake his claim for a spot on the roster moving forward. On Friday night, Reed got off to a great start, dropping 18 points on 7 of 8 shooting (including 4 of 5 from deep)
Trey McKinney-Jones - San Antonio Spurs
Joining Lonnie Walker IV on the Spurs summer league roster is 2013 Miami graduate Trey McKinney-Jones. TMJ has logged some significant miles in his 5-year professional career, alternating between the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the G-League and various stops in Europe. With a 2014 G-League Championship to his name, TMJ was selected to represent Team USA in the last round of FIBA World Cup Qualifying. For an undrafted G-League journeyman, the summer league presents an opportunity to market your talents to not only the team you compete for, but other teams around the league for a 2-way contract. The Spurs were a playoff team this past season, but have an aging core and unhappy franchise player in Kawhi Leonard, so the roster is in a transitional state, hopefully leaving the door open for a G-League player looking to break in to the big league.
Kamari Murphy - Brooklyn Nets
After going undrafted in the 2017 draft, Kamari Murphy signed on to the Brooklyn Nets G-League affiliate, the Long Island Nets. Starting 48 out of the 50 games last season, Murphy averaged 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds, and is hoping to carry that production into the summer league to secure a spot with the Brooklyn Nets or another organization looking for a wing/stretch 4 combo player. The Nets were 15 games out of the playoffs last season, and look to be in much worse shape than their cross-town rivals, so there’s a shot for the former Cane to secure a 2-way contract or a 10-day contract someday down the line.
How do you think these 5 former Canes will perform in summer league action? Keep the conversation going in the comments below.