Cavaliers 2019Salt Lake City Summer League Primer
Wine & Gold Gear Up for Summer Showing in Salt Lake City
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
6/28/19 | Cavs.com
The poor guys who have to proof and publish this Primer are gonna roll their eyes because they’ve heard this old-head story before.
When I was still working for the NBA back in the early-2000s, one of my jobs was to cover the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City. It wasn’t a very memorable basketball experience except for one player who stood out – a rookie for the Blazers named Zach Randolph. Other rookies were impressive, but this pear-shaped lefty stood out – demolishing the competition night after night.
Randolph was taken 19th in that year’s Draft and certainly wasn’t the most ballyhooed prospect coming out of Michigan State. But he wound up having easily the best career of any American-born player in that year’s class.
The point is that while these games – with odd rules, aired at odd hours – can sometimes provide an interesting and accurate glimpse into the future.
The Cavaliers haven’t been to Salt Lake City since it was still the “Rocky Mountain Revue” in 2003 – compiling an 8-9 mark over three summers before returning to the three-game invitational this year. The Revue was the top perennial showcase for 24 years until Vegas became the big draw.
Cleveland will also make its annual trip to Las Vegas in early July, making it 14 of the last 15 years. (Nobody played during the 2011 Lockout.) This is the third time the Cavs have played in a pair of Summer Leagues.
The Cavaliers have three first rounders to get acclimated to the Wine & Gold way of life and a new head coach to embrace and enhance the club’s culture. The Summer League experience – in both Salt Lake City and Vegas – should be the perfect low-pressure, medium-exposure environment for both.
The Salt Lake City Summer League has been impressive in its own right over the past few years – featuring Philly’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Atlanta’s Trae Young and John Collins, San Antonio’s Bryn Forbes and Derrick White and Jazz star, Donovan Mitchell.
It feels like a new era of Cavaliers basketball is taking shape, and these handful of exhibition games – and the practices surrounding them – out West will serve as the building blocks for the future.
So as the squad gears up to head for the mountains, here’s a quick Salt Lake City Summer League Primer to get you ready for next week …
Dylan Windler drives the basketball at Day 1 of practice in Utah.
Photo by Matt North / Cavs.com
1. SCHEDULE -- All games will be played at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City and air live on NBATV. The Jazz also lay down a modified “City Edition” court for the proceedings.
Four teams are participating – with the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs joining the Cavs and, obviously, Utah Jazz. Six games will be played with a round-robin format. The Jazz will play in the nightcap in each session.
The Cavaliers begin against the Spurs on Monday, July 1 at 5 pm (7 pm ET), take on the Jazz on Tuesday at 7 pm (9 pm ET) and wrap up against Ja Morant and the Grizzlies on Wednesday at 5 pm (7 pm ET).
Summer League contests last 40 minutes with five-minute overtime periods. The first OT is played in its entirety; sudden death thereafter (although I’ve never seen it).
2. LEADING MEN
Darius Garland – Poor Darius Garland must be champing at the proverbial bit.
The kid won four straight Tennessee state championships in high school, handed out 11 assists in the McDonald's All-American game, averaged 20 points per through his first four games of college and hasn’t played competitive hoops since.
Whether he gets some run in Salt Lake City is going to be up to the Cavaliers brass. But just getting inundated with John Beilein’s system during practices will be an invaluable experience for the 19-year-old point guard.
Dylan Windler – Four-year guys tend to do well at Summer League and the Cavaliers would love to see their second first rounder make an impression in Utah, especially if Darius Garland is limited.
Unlike Garland and Kevin Porter Jr., Windler has an established body of work from his prolific career at Belmont. But going up against guys from mid-majors is different than going up against guys from major-majors, and the 22-year-old small forward will get his chance to make a statement.
Kevin Porter Jr. – Cavalier fans probably didn’t see much of Kevin Porter Jr., who – like Garland – had a limited single season at school – with a quad injury and team suspension limiting him to just 21 games at USC.
Many experts asserted that the 6-6, 218-pound Porter was a top-10 talent, and some have called him the steal of the 2019 Draft.
The Cavaliers utilized some valuable assets to jump back into the bottom of the first round to grab him and John Beilein will likely give him every opportunity to show what he can do beginning in Monday night’s opener against San Antonio.
3. SUPPORTING CAST
Sandy Cohen III – G -- Looking to make his mark as a standout mid-major performer, Cohen was dominant as a senior with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay – setting the Phoenix single-season record with 666 points, leading the team in every major statistical category – including points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
Cohen, who scored more than 20 points on 14 occasions this year, saw his sister, Natisha Hiedeman, get drafted by the Minnesota Lynx last April (she’s since signed with Atlanta) and he’d love to join her in the professional ranks.
Malik Newman – G -- It would surprise no one if Malik Newman led the Cavaliers in scoring during the Salt Lake City session. The three-time Mississippi Mr. Basketball averaged 24.0 ppg over the last four games of the season for the Canton Charge last year – and he can score in bunches.
In a pair of late-season contests with Canton last year, Newman – who dropped 32 points on Duke in the 2018 NCAA Tournament – scored 18 of his 32 points in the second half in a win over Wisconsin and notched 21 of his 30 points in a victory over Long Island.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman – G -- Coach Beilein has probably gotten a look at most of the prospects who’ll take center stage in Salt Lake City, but he’ll be extremely familiar with Abdur-Rahkman – who played for him at Michigan and was with the Charge last season.
Named after the heavyweight boxing legend, Abdur-Rahkman played in a school-record 144 games (116 starts) with the Wolverines – making three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. He led Michigan with 23 points in their championship game loss to Villanova.
Abdur-Rahkman was the 434th-ranked player in the 2014 prep class when Beilein offered him a scholarship and he left Michigan having missed just three games over his four-year career, scoring 1,313 career points in Ann Arbor.
Jalen Hudson – F -- It’s always nice to have a local product on the Summer League roster and this year that player is an Akron native who starred at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s. Of course, that player is Jalen Hudson – who, like Malik Newman, knows how to put points on the board.
Hudson started out at Virginia Tech before transferring to Florida. And he’s done some major damage to some major programs – dropping 27 points on Louisville followed by a 28-point performance against Princeton in the 2016 NIT.
As a junior with the Gators in 2017-18, Hudson went off for 35 points against Gonzaga and doubled-up with 24 points and 10 boards against Duke in the very next contest.
Hudson would go on to average 15.5 ppg and can 78 triples as a junior, but didn’t get drafted and struggled as a senior this past season.
Jaron Blossomgame – F -- A player who’s very familiar with the organization after impressing during his two-way stint between Cleveland and the Charge last season, Blossomgame had some solid showings with the Wine & Gold – doubling-up with 11 points and 10 boards in just his fourth game as a pro and grabbing double-digit rebounds twice more before closing the campaign in Canton.
One of – if not the most athletic players on the roster, Blossomgame showed last year that he’s worthy of NBA minutes. He’d love to cement that status and impress a new coaching staff over the next few days in Salt Lake City.