Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
The foyer at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Centre looked like an NBL convention at times last July, as a mass of NBL players and coaches converged on Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League.
Adelaide duo Mitch Creek and Nathan Sobey were there, as was four-time champion Corey Webster as well as a bunch of NBL imports, including Melbourne’s Casey Prather and Perth star Bryce Cotton.
Of course, 2017 NBL Best Defensive Player Torrey Craig was also in the building, playing his way into a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets.
The two-week tournament was a whirlwind of NBL moving and shaking as players tried to make the jump and coaches from across the league scouted for potential recruits.
This year is set to be no different.
Travis Trice, Brisbane’s 2017-18 club MVP, has already revealed that he will be playing at the Summer League this year, suiting up for Milwaukee just as he did twelve months ago.
And while we don’t yet know exactly who else will join Trice in Vegas, rest assured there will be plenty of NBL talent – past, present and future – on display.
That being said, there is one thing that could complicate matters for any of our top Aussies who receive Summer League interest this year: the timing of the upcoming FIBA window.
The Boomers are scheduled to play in Japan on June 29 and in the Philippines on July 2 as they continue their journey towards the 2019 FIBA World Cup, just days before the Summer League tips off in the heat of the Nevada desert. How that scheduling impacts will be interesting to watch.
In the meantime, here are five guys we’d love to see in Vegas this year.
Creek got his first taste of Summer League action last year when he made four appearances for Utah, putting up 5.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
The Adelaide star was efficient with his touches but it was at the defensive end where Creek really made an impression.
“His attitude, physicality and aggression was something our team needed and was a welcome addition,” head coach of the Jazz Summer League team Zach Guthrie told NBL Media.
“Much like Joe Ingles provides for our team, he’s a nice little irritant… you’ve got to respect the hard-nosed toughness that he brings.”
— NBL (@NBL) July 14, 2017
Creek left no doubt that he is an NBA-level defender and with another impressive NBL campaign under his belt, as well as a successful stint in the German Bundesliga, he is ready to play a larger role in Vegas this year.
Sobey attended mini-camps with four NBA teams last year – Utah, Brooklyn, LA Clippers and Minnesota – before eventually signing a Summer League contract with the Jazz.
Unfortunately the bouncy guard suffered a strained groin just days before Utah’s schedule tipped off, limiting him to short bursts of playing time across just three games.
It was a definite missed opportunity as the 36ers star was entering the Summer League in terrific form, fresh off a stellar season in the NBL and a head-turning stint in Europe with Greek team PAOK.
Hopefully Sobey can get back to Vegas this year and truly show what he can do against other fringe NBA talent.
Conger, who starred for the Illawarra Hawks last season, told NBL Media this week that he’s keen to make his debut appearance at the Summer League this year.
After going undrafted in 2013, the high-flying forward has played in the Dominican Republic, Italy, Greece and Belgium before blowing up in the NBL last season, finishing second in MVP voting and earning All-NBL First Team honours.
Conger is currently playing in Spain’s ACB where his impressive recent form has helped Joventut avoid relegation.
The Joventut coaching staff moved ‘Meech’ into the starting line-up in early April and the move has paid dividends with the team going 7-1 since the change. Over his past four, Conger has averaged 15.5 points and 4.7 boards per game.
With Conger’s play in Spain following a terrific NBL18, the athletic import is now firmly on NBA radars as we head towards the American summer.
“The Summer League is one of the things you can’t really pass up on,” Conger told NBL Media during a phone interview this week.
“If it were to happen it would be my first time. It wouldn’t be like I’d been three years and was tired of it. I’ve never experienced it so I feel like it would be great.”
Former Cairns guard Mitch McCarron is currently doing his thing in Slovenia where his team, Petrol Olimpija, is preparing for an assault on the finals.
McCarron has been running the point in Slovenia, averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game while shooting a super-efficient 59 percent from the field and an absolutely incredible 53 percent from long range.
— NBL (@NBL) March 28, 2018
McCarron finished seventh in MVP voting in NBL18 but has made it clear that he’ll be playing overseas next season, most likely in Europe. You never know, an invitation to join an NBA team for Summer League could make things interesting for ‘Money-Making Mitch’, just as it did for Torrey Craig last year.
It’s a long shot but here’s hoping the new Breakers owners can pull enough strings to get rising New Zealand star Shea Ili over to Vegas this year.
Ili was the league’s Most Improved Player last season as he carried his impressive FIBA Asia Cup form into a breakout NBL campaign.
He’s lightning quick, can finish through traffic and possesses plenty of international experience having played a large role for the Tall Blacks over the past twelve months.
Is he ready to make an NBA roster? No, he’s not. But could Ili get some things done at Summer League and grow from the experience? Definitely. Hopefully he’ll get that chance.