Summer League Thunder Squad Wraps Up Preliminary Round

By Nick Gallo | Digital Content Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com

On Thursday evening, the Thunder’s Summer League squad took on the Portland Trail Blazers in its final game of the preliminary round, winning by a score of 92-87 and finishing with a 3-1 record over the first four games.

Summer League News & Notes:

-       Late in the Thunder’s 2018-19 campaign, the Thunder brought in former Oklahoma State University point guard Jawun Evans in on a two-way contract. The 6-foot, 190-pound Evans was a part of the Thunder’s scout team during the postseason series against the Portland Trail Blazers. General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti called Evans, “an interesting player for us to look at,” and over the course of Summer League, the organization has gotten a longer look at the lead guard. Evans has started for the Thunder’s Summer League group, getting the team organized and playing with a quick tempo and pace.

  • “(Evans) was good for our playoff prep. He did a great job for that,” Presti noted.
  • “My goals are just to get better on and off the court, just being more vocally running teams, shooting,” Evans said, “and just doing everything my team needs me to do.” 

-       After his first game against Philadelphia on Monday, rookie Darius Bazley has continued to perform well and play with more confidence, including a nice turnaround, fall-away jumper on the baseline against Croatia on Tuesday, to go along with a game-sealing blocked shot at the rim. Bazley has a long way to go on his path of continual growth, but is settling in with some more comfort already.

  • “The first thing with these guys is you have to let them trust their instincts,” said Summer League Head Coach Dave Bliss. “Particularly Darius, he hasn’t had a lot of practice time. You put too many things in his head, he’s not going to do any of them. Just try to dial in one or two things each day that he can focus on.”
  • “It’ll be baby steps for him. We’re not going to throw everything at him at once but I’ve been impressed by his ability to translate if we give one or two keys to focus on, it shows up the next day,” Bliss added.  

-       The Thunder recently signed rookie Lu Dort to a two-way contract, giving him the ability to suit up for the Oklahoma City Blue and the Thunder during the 2019-20 season. Dort has been a fierce defender thus far at Summer League, using his robust, muscular frame to keep would-be drivers in front of him. He’s used that physicality to his advantage on offense as well, attacking off the dribble to finish at the rim through contact.

  • “I think a guy with elite athleticism, I put Hami (Diallo) and Deonte (Burton) in the same category (as Dort), you feel that you can beat your man at any time,” said Bliss. “A lot of it also is determined by what is the defense doing? Where are my driving gaps? Where are my teammates at? Where are we at in the action? He’ll learn all that stuff as he starts to have a little bit more experience in our system.”

-       Last season in 10 games with the Oklahoma City Blue after a season in Australia’s NBL, Devon Hall was a marksman from behind the three-point line, knocking down 42.2 percent of his shots from deep. At Summer League, the former Virginia Cavaliers guard has shown an ability to play more fluidly within an offensive framework, getting the ball moving from one side of the floor to the other.

  • “Devon Hall, I think he’s really progressed from game to game,” Bliss said. “He’s playing a good floor game, showing off his passing a little bit... He’s pretty good hitting the rollers, got a decent feel hitting weakside as well. Again with Devon, let the game come to you. He’s known for his defense, known for his IQ and sometimes he does things that help the other guys by just being in the right spots, being in the right timing that maybe don’t get recognized statistically but definitely helps the other guys flourish.”

-       Not every team in the league has had their head coach as locked in on Summer League as Billy Donovan has been with the Thunder’s squad this July. Watching practices and sitting courtside, Donovan has been involved as a resource for Bliss and the other Thunder coaches as they work with the young players who will be the next generation of players, and people, representing the Oklahoma City community on an NBA or G-League stage.

  • “Billy is great in terms of just being collaborative,” Bliss explained. “He does a great job of backing up guys on his staff and also just building relationships. This is a time where a lot of our main roster players are not necessarily in town. Billy is in there spending time with Deonte, spending time with Hami, making sure we’re all on the same page. I think that’s been a strength this week and why you’ve seen improvement from day to day to day with this group. The expectations are really clear. They know what’s being asked of them, and when that’s the case, that’s when you can see some improvement.”

Highlights: Summer League vs. Portland

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