Just because a team doesn’t call a player’s name with one of the 60 picks on draft night, doesn’t mean teams don’t covet them. Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen, and more recently, Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, and Fred VanVleet all went undrafted. This year, there is plenty of undrafted talent out there. For them, Summer League is a time to prove themselves. Which undrafted rookies will shine on the Summer League stage?
(No, LiAngelo Ball isn’t one of them.)
Trevon Duval, PG, Houston Rockets
I was in the minority with my opinion on Duval during the draft process and I stick to it now. Most had Duval as a mid to late second round talent, where I had him as a fringe first-round talent. Clearly, his inability to shoot the basketball is far more debilitating than we are aware of. NBA scouts must believe that Duval is incapable of scoring at the NBA level, which isn’t something I saw on tape.
Sure Duval has wonky mechanics and isn’t a natural scorer but he showed some promise with his shooting and scoring on occasion. On the season, he averaged 10.3 points, 5.6 assists, and 1.5 steals on a poor 29% from deep. However, he did shoot a respectable 35% from three in conference play. To be fair, college shooting splits often don’t translate as we’ve seen with Justice Winslow, who shot 41.8% from three in college but is a non-factor from deep in the pros.
Given Duval’s upside, I’m very surprised a team didn’t take a flier on him late in the draft. The former five-star point guard is a twitch, explosive athlete who showed off his impressive vertical at the combine. He’s a solid finisher around the basket and showed a better ability to lead the Blue Devil offense and pass the ball as the season progressed. He limited his turnovers and mistakes as Duke pushed into the tournament. Given his athleticism and 7’0″ wingspan, Duval has great defensive potential. He’ll lace up for the Houston Rockets in this Summer League. Hopefully, Duval reminds us all why he was the top high school point guard in his class and signs a contract somewhere in the NBA.
Bonzie Colson, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
The NBA doesn’t often see guys with the profile and skillset of Bonzie Colson. He is the closest thing to Draymond Green coming out of college that we’ve seen. He’s a stocky, 6’5″ undersized power forward in a wing’s body. Colson’s primary weapon on offense is his back to the basket post scoring ability. Although it is refined, he’ll have a hard time using that skill against bigs in the NBA.
His mid-range jumper opens up his drives and he uses runners and floaters with good touch to finish around the rim. Colson is a career 35% three point shooter but will need to improve to be able to effectively space the floor in the NBA. However, his 77.2% free throw clip could be an indicator of shooting improvement to come.
He is a very good rebounder, using his IQ and positioning combined with his strong lower body to clean up the glass as opposed to athleticism. Colson isn’t super quick but he is competitive on defense and has shown some ability to switch onto guards. During his title run this season, LeBron James could have desperately used a Draymond Green-lite on his roster. Don’t expect Colson to light up the box score but do pay close attention to his impact on the court. Even if James leaves town, I expect Colson to make Cleveland’s roster in 2019.
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Malik Newman, G, Los Angeles Lakers
Right after the draft ended, the Lakers picked up the phone and signed Newman to a two-way contract. The sharpshooter transferred to Kansas from Mississippi State and played well in his Junior season. In 2018, Newman averaged 14.2 points shooting 41.5% from beyond the arc. He is an incredibly smooth shooter with pristine shot mechanics. He will be a sharpshooter on the offensive game. Newman also is a fairly good scorer, using his solid handle and fluid athleticism to get to his spots and get to the rim. His defense and size are concerning but he shouldn’t be asked to do much of that early in his career.
The Lakers clearly made shooting a priority in their draft, as providing floor spacing and acquiring cheap role players are two essential parts of building a super team. Los Angeles drafted Moe Wagner, the offensively gifted big in the first. They took a chance on the 6’9″ German point guard Isaac Bonga who will likely be stashed overseas.
Lastly, they selected another Kansas sharpshooter in Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who I tout as a worse prospect than Malik Newman. Given his two-way contract, Newman will be getting games for the Los Angeles Lakers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him work himself into a full-time role off of the bench, especially if the Lakers sign a superstar or two.
Rawle Alkins, G, Toronto Raptors
Alkins is one of two Arizona guards to go undrafted, the other being Allonzo Trier. During his sophomore season, a foot injury pestered Alkins and undoubtedly impacted his play. Alkins is a jack of all trades and projected as a valuable wing role player in the NBA.
His calling card in the NBA should be his defense. His 6’5″, 220-pound frame helps him wall off defenders; he hounds opposing ball handlers with his motor and energy. His foot injury noticeably zapped a bit of lateral quickness out of him as compared to his freshman season but if he can fully recover, he should be a menace on the defensive side of the ball.
In his sophomore season, Alkins recorded splits of 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 steals shooting 43.2% from the field and 35.9% from three. His three-point percentage declined from his freshman year but his mechanics look good and his foot injury could have impacted his balance. Alkins rebounds well, can attack the rim, and is a capable playmaker. He likely will never be an All-Star but could be a guy who sticks around in the NBA for many years. Alkins will sign with the Toronto Raptors, who already boast a young, stacked bench mob. If Alkins can get back to 100%, he could be a valuable cog in Toronto’s machine.
Billy Preston, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Preston is a former five-star recruit who signed with the Kansas Jayhawks. Before making his debut due to eligibility issues, Kansas suspended Preston indefinitely for a car accident on campus. He eventually went the LiAngelo Ball route and went overseas to play in Bosnia. Unfortunately, Preston went back to the States after a three-game stint ended by a shoulder injury, effectively wasting a year of development. Still, Preston could have been a lottery pick if the one-and-done rule didn’t exist.
Preston is a physical freak using his 6’10” frame and 7’2″ wingspan to his advantage on both ends of the floor. He is a great shot blocker, a good rebounder, and showed flashes of a jump shot and some advanced scoring moves at Oak Hill. Coming from the same high school as Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, Preston certainly has some experience against high-level competition. However, not playing against NCAA competition will hinder the former McDonald’s All-American. Preston, the proclaimed “number one LeBron James fan,” finds himself in Cleveland. A team was almost certainly going to take a chance on the potential of Preston, whether it is with a draft pick or not. I’m excited to see him compete in the Summer League, against high-level pro competition.