Cavs 2018 Summer League Primer

The Wine & Gold Make Their Perennial Pilgrimage to Las Vegas as Summer League Tips Off
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Cavaliers 2018
Summer League Primer

The Wine and Gold Make Their Perennial Pilgrimage to Las Vegas as Summer League Tips Off

It’s almost inarguable ...

There is no professional league with an offseason as loaded with drama and excitement as the NBA.

It’s already been both – and Summer League hasn’t event tipped off in Vegas. It’s about to, and the Wine & Gold get it going on Friday night, bringing a strong squad to the desert, including a pair of promising international soon-to-be sophomores with Finals experience, Cleveland’s prized incoming rookie point guard from Alabama, a top-level two-way veteran and a player or two who might’ve slipped through the cracks in the recent Draft.

This year’s showcase is the first time that all 30 teams will head to Las Vegas for what’s officially called MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018, with games played at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. Each team will pay three preliminary games then be seeded into a tournament, with the invitational champ crowned in the title game on July 17.

The Cavaliers open on Friday night, 9 p.m. ET, at Cox Pavilion against the Wizards (NBA TV), followed by a meeting with the Bulls on Saturday night at 9:30 ET at Thomas & Mack (ESPN2) with the initial round wrapping up Monday afternoon, July 9, against Indiana at 5 p.m. ET at Cox Pavilion (ESPN2).

While the Association begins its annual post-Independence Day pilgrimage out West, here’s a brief preview of what to look for over the next couple weeks in Las Vegas …

Cavs assistant coach James Posey will helm the Wine & Gold's Summer League squad this year in Vegas.
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

1. The Staff -- Summer League gives a team’s head coach the chance to re-charge his battery (and possibly make a stop in Vegas). And although Mike Brown and David Blatt have actually helmed the squad in recent years, this year the squad will be led by James Posey, who’s been an assistant with the Cavs and Charge since 2013.

The Twinsburg native – who played with six NBA teams over the course of his nine-year career, winning titles with Miami (2006) and Boston (2008) – will be joined by Big Dan Geriot, Mike Gerrity, Charge head coach Nate Reinking, Sam Jones, Melvin Ely, Dan Vincent and Steve Frankoski.

Current Cavs assistant Damon Jones was the team’s head coach in Cleveland’s previous two trips to Vegas.

2. History -- NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League officially began in 2004 with six squads playing a total of 13 games. Last year’s invitational featured 24 NBA teams playing 67 games and this year 82 contests will be played over a 12-day span. Each team will play at least five games and as many as eight.

The Cavs – along with the Celtics, Nuggets, Magic, Suns and Wizards were the initial six squads to participate, with Cleveland and Washington as the only two teams that have played in all 14 seasons.

Last year’s Cavaliers squad went 4-1 in the desert and Cleveland’s all-time overall record in Vegas Summer League – dating back to their 0-5 record in 2004 and 6-0 mark the very next summer – is 35-33.

The Los Angeles Lakers won last year’s Tournament, topping the Portland Trail Blazers – with Lonzo Ball taking MVP honors. The previous five years’ winners were Tyus Jones (2016), Kyle Anderson (2015), Glen Rice Jr. (2014), Jonas Valanciunas (2013) and co-winners, Damian Lillard/Josh Selby (2012).

3. Odds and Ends -- Some of the interesting non-Cavs that some of us will be keeping an eye on out West include son of the aforementioned Mike Brown, Elijah Brown, who prepped at St. Ed’s and will suit up for Golden State’s Summer League squad. The Greek Freak’s little brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, was drafted 60th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2018 NBA draft, and his draft rights were then traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

Current Cavs assistant Larry Drew will be keeping an eye on his son, Larry Drew II, who will run the point for the Pelicans. And Trey Lewis – who attended two of the finest educational institutions in Northeast Ohio – Garfield Heights High School and Cleveland State University – will play for Utah’s squad.

Summer League also produces some of the greatest monikers in the game. In the past, we’ve seen the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Souleyman Diabate and Boubacar Moungoro.

This July in Nevada, it’s a group consisting of Chance Comanche (ORL), Alpha Kaba (ATL), Guerschon Yabusele (BOS), Duop Reath (DAL), Mangok Mathiang (CHA), Abudurexiti Abudushalamu (GSW), Melo Trimble (CHI), Travis Trice II (MIL), Bogdan Bliznyuk(LAC), Antonius Cleveland (ATL) and my personal favorite, Rockets big man, Zhou Qi.

And, of course, what Summer League primer would be complete without a quick explanation of the funky overtime and personal foul rules.

Players are allowed 10 personal fouls in pre-tournament games. There’s a two-minute overtime period and if the game goes to double-OT, it’s sudden death. The first team to score wins.

Sophomore big man Ante Zizic had a very solid run in the second half of last season, posting five double-digit scoring performances and shooting 73 percent (49-67) from the floor in limited action.

Summer League Roster Spotlight

4. Main Men -- The Cavaliers will be sending some players to Las Vegas who’ve just come off a long postseason run and who’ll be counted on to step up next season as the Wine & Gold continue to get younger.

Cedi Osman didn’t see much action in the Playoffs, but he definitely made an impression on coaches, teammates and fans as a rookie last year – playing in 61 games with a dozen starts. The fresh-faced Macedonian swingman tallied double-figures on seven occasions, netting 16 points in his first start of the season.

Sophomore big man Ante Zizic had a very solid run in the second half of last season, posting five double-digit scoring performances and shooting 73 percent (49-67) from the floor in limited action.

John Holland was a two-way guy for Cleveland and Canton last season – playing in 24 games with the Cavaliers, highlighted by a 21-point effort against the Knicks on April 11, and 23 contests for the Charge, punctuated by a career-high 43-point outburst against Maine on November 12.

Last but certainly not least is the Cavaliers’ most recent selection in the 2018 Draft – the Young Bull, Collin Sexton, who’ll make his debut on Friday night against the Wizards.

The 19-year-old point guard from Alabama averaged 19.2 points on 45 percent shooting and scored a school-record 79 points in the Alabama’s three SEC Tournament games. The 6-3, 190-pounder posted 29 double-digit scoring games in his single season in Tuscaloosa – including 16 games of 20 more points and three games topping the 30-point plateau. Sexton’s 40-point performance in the wild loss to Minnesota was a freshman school record.

5. Supporting Cast -- Just a little bit on some of the Wine & Gold’s supporting cast over the next two weeks …

Jamel Artis, F – Four-year man from Pitt who appeared in 15 games (one start) for the Magic last season, averaging 5.1 points and 2.5 boards. Artis notched a career-high 18 points against Dallas and, in his lone game as a starter, posted 12 points and six boards against Charlotte in early April.

Brayon Blake, F – As a senior for Idaho, started all 31 games and averaged 17.0 points and 9.6 rebounds – shooting 50 percent from the floor, including 45 percent from deep. Blake notched 12 double-doubles and scored 20 or more points 11 times while leading the Big Sky Conference in rebounding.

Marcus Lee, C – The 6-11 California native played three seasons under John Calipari at Kentucky and one for Cal. His .680 field goal percentage in 2015-16 is the best single-season field-goal percentage in school history (minimum of 150 attempts).

Dakota Mathias, G – Two-way guard from Lima, OH, Mathias was a two-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection (2016-17, 2017-18) during his four years at Purdue. Mathias finished his career first in Purdue history in games played (141) and career three-pointers made (250).

Billy Preston, F – Not the “fifth Beatle,” the five-star athlete from the 2017 class was eventually recruited by Kansas, but never played a game in Lawrence due to an investigation following an on-campus car accident. After missing two months, Preston opted to play overseas – spending a brief time with BC Igokea in Liga ABA.

Scoochie Smith, G – Four-year man from Dayton, split last season between the Cairns Taipans of the Australian NBL and the Canton Charge, Smith was the only three-time captain in Dayton basketball history, playing and starting in his final 101 games for the Flyers.