Twitter will be ablaze with undrafted free agent signing announcements as soon as the clock tops ticking during Thursday’s NBA draft. Some of the names finding homes, at least for the Summer League, will be former mid-major stars. It will be exciting!
And as we saw last season, it can be a path to a spot on a regular season roster. Here are the players that could earn that shot:
Yuta Watanabe | 6’9’’ Wing | George Washington
Upside: Watanabe was a productive four-year player for the Colonials and is coming off a tremendous senior season (16.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 36.4 3P%). He’s a capable defender that spent time guarding the perimeter and post, and at times was tasked with locking down the opposition’s primary ballhandler. NBA teams may see his size and versatility as worth a Summer League look.
Jock Landale | 6’11’’ Center | Saint Mary’s
Upside: The most accomplished player on this list, Landale is unfortunately not the flavor of the month in the modern NBA from a profile standpoint. But skill is skill, and he was one of the most efficient low-post scorers in the country last season (64.4 eFG%), and an elite rebounder (20.2% total rebounding rate). That’s worth a look, even if it seems likely he’ll ultimately have to “settle” for a long, productive career overseas.
Malik Pope | 6’10’’ Forward | San Diego State
Upside: One of the most decorated high school recruits of the Steve Fisher era, Pope never became the star many anticipated. But he was still a valuable part of the Aztecs’ equation. He finished in the top-9 in block percentage in the MWC in each of his four seasons, and teams could buy into his potential as a versatile rim protector. He also shot an intriguing 37.8 percent on 230 career three-point attempts.
B.J. Johnson | 6’7’’ Wing | La Salle
Upside: Johnson is a former top-150 high school recruit that originally signed with Syracuse. He spent his final two seasons in Philadelphia, where he was a focal point of the Explorers’ offense. He was a solid three-point threat at La Salle (36.0 percent on 308 3PA), and teams may see him as a three-and-D project.
Jaylen Adams | 6’1’’ Guard | St. Bonaventure
Upside: Teams willing to get past Adams’ size will get a look at one of the country’s premier playmakers. The reigning co-A-10 Player of the Year is a scoring threat at all three levels (19.1 PPG, 43.6 3P%, 6.5 FTA), and a quality distributor. He worked seamlessly setting up high-volume shooting backcourt mate Matt Mobley to form a top-74 KenPom offense. The proven producer could be seen as a nice backup point guard project.
Johnathan Williams | 6’9’’ Forward | Gonzaga
Upside: Though he may have been underappreciated at times, Williams was an important of the Zags success over the past two seasons. The honorable mention AP All-American projects as a versatile, high energy frontcourt defender that can hold his own when switched onto guards. The biggest knock on Williams is three-point shooting (33.3% on 150 career attempts) and free throw shooting (career 57.1%), but it’d be surprising if the decorated college forward didn’t get a Summer League shot.
Thomas Wilder | 6’3’’ Guard | Western Michigan
Upside: The Western Michigan star brings decent size and a history of dynamic playmaking to the table. The second-leading scorer in Broncos history was as good setting up others (24.4% assist rate) as he was himself (18.8 PPG) last year. He’s coming off a solid run at the Portsmouth Invitational, which should earn him a spot on a Summer League roster.
Adjin Penava | 6’9’’ Forward | Marshall
Upside: Penava was a big part of Marshall’s NCAA Tournament upset of Wichita State, controlling the paint against a deep Shockers team (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks). He was an elite shot blocker last season, finishing with the 13th-best block rate in the country (11.5%). Teams may find that skill worth a Summer League tryout.
Hayden Dalton | 6’8’’ Forward | Wyoming
Upside: Stretch four prospects are in demand, and that’s just where teams may peg Dalton. The Cowboy forward was a 37.2 percent career three-point shooter, and shot 42.1 percent from deep in Mountain West play last season. While his slight frame may scare some teams away, but Dalton was an efficient offensive player and contributor on the defensive glass in college. That could be enough to earn a look.
Kendrick Nunn | 6’3’’ Guard | Oakland
Upside: The former top-60 high school recruit spent three seasons at Illinois before transferring to Oakland. Under Greg Kampe, Nunn was a lethal scorer at all three levels, and a particularly effective long range shooter. He made 38.6 percent of his 762 career three-point attempts, which should draw the attention of a league falling more and more in love with the long range shot.
Donte Ingram | 6’6’’ Forward/Wing | Loyola University Chicago
Upside: The Ramblers’ Final Four run was spurred by Ingram’s game-winning three against Miami. He’ll now likely try to follow in the footsteps of former teammate Milton Doyle and earn his way into the league as an undrafted free agent. Ingram has floor-spacing potential (38.2% career 3FG), and was a plus defender for Porter Moser. He’ll need to show he can transition to the wing full-time after playing the five at times in Loyola’s small lineups.
Peyton Aldridge | 6’8’’ Forward | Davidson
Upside: Have bigs that can shoot popped up yet? That’s the name of the game, and few forwards were better at shooting from distance than Aldridge in 2017-18 (38.1 percent on 202 3PA). He was the perfect frontcourt player for Bob McKillop’s system, and the co-A-10 Player of the Year will hope teams buy into his highly efficient offensive game (21.2 PPG, 7.4 TO%).
E.C. Matthews | 6’5’’ Guard/Wing | Rhode Island
Upside: Matthews never quite returned to form after tearing his ACL during the first game of the 2015-16 season. But he was still a highly effective college player over the past two years, averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He’s not a knock-down three-point shooter, but his size and athleticism on the perimeter could appeal to teams as he becomes further removed from major surgery.
Kendall Stephens | 6’6’’ Wing | Nevada
Upside: Stephens excelled in a larger role for Nevada last year after spending his first three seasons at Purdue. He was incredible spacing the floor for a talented Wolf Pack team (43.2% on 292 3PA) and will look to parlay that into a shot as a three-and-D project.
Johnathan Stark | 6’0’’ Guard | Murray State
Upside: Like Adams, Stark will hope that teams buy into a lead guard with an excellent offensive resume. Over the past two seasons, the reigning OVC Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points per game and shot 41.2 percent from distance. The former Racer and dynamic playmaker could slot in as a backup point guard project.
Jemerrio Jones | 6’5’’ Forward | New Mexico State
Upside: Jones was undersized even by WAC standards as a high post-oriented forward, and hit just 13.8 percent of his 58 career three-point attempts. That doesn’t seem to portend an NBA career, but Jones does have an undeniably elite skill: he can rebound the basketball. The WAC Player of the Year led the nation in defensive rebounding rate at a whopping 37.3 percent, and averaged 13.2 rebounds per game. It seems likely at least one team will try and coax value out of that in the Summer League.
Tyler Nelson | 6’3’’ Guard | Fairfield
Upside: The Fairfield star may benefit from a league increasingly dominated by perimeter playmakers. Nelson was one of the country’s best offensive threats last season (22.2 PPG), and rarely left the floor. Nonetheless, the he rarely turned the ball over (13.3 TO%). He didn’t have the most efficient season, but his overall output may warrant a Summer League invite.
Xavier Cooks | 6’8’’ Forward | Winthrop
Upside: Cooks took on a starring role for the Eagles last season after playing alongside ball-dominant guard Keon Johnson the previous three seasons. He’s a tremendous defensive rebounder (22.7 career DRB%) that could be a stretch-four candidate. Teams will likely be intrigued by his sophomore season, when he went 38-for-93 from distance (40.9%) as he spaced the floor for Johnson and Jimmy Gavin.
Justin Tillman | 6’8’’ Forward | VCU
Upside: Tillman may be seen as a high energy, rim protecting rotation player down the road. He was a ferocious rebounder at VCU (9.3 RPG over the past two seasons) that flashed that all-important three-point potential last year. After attempting just three three-point attempts over his first three years, he went 27-for-82 (32.9%) last season.