Analysis: Assessing how former Irish fared in summer league
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ...
That might be nice advice for a boys weekend out or a bachelorette party hitting town for a couple of days, but probably not a rule that two former Notre Dame men’s basketball players will want to follow after the recently-completed Samsung Summer League.
Former Irish teammates Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant may have rediscovered their basketball groove during their week-long stay along the Strip, something they both could take into their second seasons in the Association.
The other three Irish looking to do enough out there and earn an NBA roster spot? Well …
Following is a look at the five former Irish who recently completed summer league. Players are listed alphabetically with a comment from Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.
• ZACH AUGUSTE
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (3-2 record)
Stats: Averaged 5.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 15.8 minutes. Played in four games with one start. Shot 45 percent from the field and 25 percent from the foul line.
Best game: Auguste scored nine points on 4-of-7 from the field with four rebounds in 15 minutes in the Lakers’ summer opener July 8 against New Orleans. He combined for 12 points and 12 rebounds the other three games.
Noting: Auguste delivered his best game on his 23rd birthday.
Outlook: There were times when Auguste played his summer role – run the floor, defend, rebound, offer solid reserve minutes – well. Other times, he struggled with the speed of the pro game. He looked lost in halfcourt sets, often calling for the ball in post-ups that were too wide of the basket. He also had difficulty creating his own shot in the halfcourt and is limited on his jumper’s range. If the Lakers like him enough and are patient enough, he could work on those areas in the Development League with their affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Quoting: “I think the Lakers really like Zach. I think they’ll sign him and he’ll have a real chance to make the team. They were excited that they were able to get him and I think they feel he played really well.”
• PAT CONNAUGHTON
Team: Portland Trail Blazers (2-3)
Stats: Averaged 14.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.6 steals in a team-high 32.2 minutes. Started all five games. Shot 34.8 percent from the field, 27 percent from 3 and 82.4 percent from the foul line.
Best game: Connaughton scored a team-high 23 points with four rebounds and a steal in 33 minutes July 15 against Boston.
Noting: Connaughton was involved in one of the more unique summer-league sequences July 12 against Utah. Summer-league rules stipulate that double-overtime games be decided by sudden death (first basket wins). Connaughton connected on a shot-clock beating 3-pointer on Portland’s first possession for a 92-89 victory.
Outlook: Needing to deliver a big effort this summer after spending much of his rookie season on the bench, Connaughton did. Though his shooting percentages are still on the shaky side for a shooting guard, Connaughton was more comfortable finding his shot, driving it and creating than he did last summer, when he often looked to pass the minute he got the ball. He looks more confident spacing the floor and making plays.
The question now for Connaughton is will there be enough minutes for him heading into the final guaranteed year of his three-year contract? Portland also re-signed fellow shooting guard Allen Crabbe and added free agent swingman Evan Turner.
Quoting: “This is a big year for Pat to kind of establish himself. With what he did in the summer league, he’s got to be feeling better because he didn’t get much opportunity last year.”
• JACK COOLEY
Team: Chicago Bulls (7-0).
Stats: Averaged 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 9.5 minutes over six games with no starts. Cooley shot 52.6 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the foul line.
Best game: He scored 11 points on 4-of-7 from the field with eight rebounds and a steal in a July 9 game against Boston.
Noting: Cooley played a combined 14 minutes with one DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) over the final three games.
Outlook: Cooley entered summer league listed at 278 pounds (a little generous, he told the Tribune earlier this month in a tweet) and played like someone who’s been around the big-boy basketball block. He carved space around the bucket, converted a high percentage of his chances and battled for loose balls. Was it enough to earn a training camp invite on a team that enters camp with only three possible roster spots available? The Bulls are thin on bigs, and Cooley has enough NBA (Utah) and overseas experience to fill a reserve role.
Quoting: “The ultimate journeyman. I wouldn’t be shocked if he hangs on on that roster because they have so much up-in-the-air stuff on their frontline and everyone knows what Jack does.”
• JERIAN GRANT (7-0).
Team: Chicago Bulls
Stats: Averaged 12.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and a team-high 3.9 assists in 25.9 minutes. He started all seven games and shot 34.9 percent from the field, 22 percent from 3 and 84.6 percent from the foul line.
Best game: Grant scored 24 points with 10 rebounds, five assists and a steal in a summer-league high 34 minutes to earn summer-league championship game most valuable player honors in Monday’s 84-82 overtime victory over Minnesota.
Noting: Prior to his team-high 10 rebounds in the championship, Grant had grabbed a total of 10 rebounds the previous six games. He scored double figures in five of seven games.
Outlook: He still struggles to consistently make perimeter shots, which is stunning given the work he put in at Notre Dame. Grant did show more signs in late-game and close-game situations of being that “ultimate creator” that made him a first team All-American his final year at Notre Dame.
With the addition of veteran Rajon Rondo, Grant will be the backup point guard after being traded this summer for the third time in his brief professional career. Grant and rookie swingman Denzel Valentine developed a nice chemistry in Vegas — Grant found guys; Valentine made shots. Grant should be better in his second season playing in the guard-friendly system of coach Fred Hoiberg.
Quoting: “Thrilled for Jerian, obviously, because it’s the right spot for him. He comes in really confident. He’s kind of found his rhythm again.”
• DEMETRIUS JACKSON
Team: Boston Celtics (1-4).
Stats: Averaged 4.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.8 steals in 15.8 minutes. Jackson shot 33.3 percent from the field, 10 percent from 3 and 60 percent from the foul line.
Best game: He scored nine points with two rebounds and an assists in 15 minutes during a July 13 loss (98-94) to Cleveland.
Noting: Jackson also averaged 7.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 18.0 minutes during Boston’s three games (3-0) in the Salt Lake City summer league prior to Las Vegas. In his lone Salt Lake start, Jackson had 11 points, three rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes in a July 7 win over San Antonio (87-86).
Outlook: Jackson had to play phenomenally well in summer league to stand out and stick as a second-round pick, but showed only snippets of what made him really good at season’s end for Notre Dame. He can defend, but struggles against bigger guards getting the ball up the floor and getting the Celtics into their offense. He also was hesitant to shoot. Jackson had more turnovers (14) than assists (10) and was 1-of-10 from 3 in Vegas.
Boston has only one roster spot available if it re-signs free agent Tyler Zeller. Jackson is vying for that spot with first-round pick Guerschon Yabosele (16th overall), who has a guaranteed contract, and fellow second-rounders Ben Bentil (51st) and Abdel Nader (58th).
If the Celtics don’t make a big offseason trade, Jackson likely will spend a good chunk of his rookie year with the team’s Development League squad in Portland, Maine or possibly overseas where he can get consistent minutes and grow his game. There’s plenty to work with, but a team designed to win big this year may not have the patience to wait.
Quoting: “Demetrius did a solid job for them. I think they’re interested in giving him a guarantee (contract). It will be interesting to see what they do.”