A relatively quiet summer for former Notre Dame players in NBA auditions
As summer hit its stride, they hustled indoors to watch a winter game. First, up the road from Disney World, then to a city with a backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains and finally, along the famed Las Vegas Strip in a city that truly doesn’t sleep. Too hot.
For the first 17 days of July, from the suffocating humidity of Central Florida to the dry heat of the Nevada desert, the NBA game was in full swing. Summer League allowed hoops fans to feed their fixes in Orlando and Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Big deal? It was for five former members – key members – of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team.
A few of the former Irish played a little; some played a lot. The bigs hit shots; the guards didn’t. There were a few excellent efforts and evenings, but really not enough of them for any of the five to feel really confident about their immediate NBA futures.
The teams they worked for in July may like them now, but…..
We’re often reminded that the NBA is a business. Big business. And sometimes, big business isn’t fair. The only former Irish/pro veteran to skip summer league, third-year pro Jerian Grant is the only one today assured of an NBA roster spot come opening night when he starts his second season with the Chicago Bulls
Following is an alphabetical look at how the former Irish fared in the recently-completed summer leagues. Each of their teams were guaranteed at least five games in Orlando and Las Vegas. Teams played only three games in Salt Lake City.
The years each played at Notre Dame are in parenthesis.
ZACH AUGUSTE (2013-16)
Team: Miami Heat
Leagues: Orlando and Las Vegas
Stats: Averaged 7.3 points 6.3 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 2.0 steals in 17.7 minutes over three games in Orlando. He shot 52.5 percent from the field. In Las Vegas, Auguste appeared in five games and averaged 10 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists while shooting 52 percent.
Best game: Auguste went for 11 points and a team-high 12 rebounds with four steals, an assist and a blocked shot in a 73-71 double-overtime loss to Detroit in Orlando on July 4.
Noting: Auguste was coached during summer league by former Notre Dame point guard Chris Quinn.
Outlook: An undrafted free agent who played his first professional season last year in Turkey after being one of the last players released in training camp by the Los Angeles Lakers, Auguste awaits a training camp invitation this fall.
V.J. BEACHEM (2014-17)
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
League: Las Vegas
Stats: Beachem averaged 1.3 points and 1.0 rebounds in 9.5 minutes over four games. He shot 14.3 percent from the field. He logged a DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) one game after his only start – in his first game – with the ‘Wolves.
Best game: Beachem scored four points with one rebound and one steal in six minutes in a July 14 victory (80-73) over Washington. After going a combined 0-for-11 from the field his first three games, Beachem connected on two of his three shots.
Noting: Beachem signed with the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 NBA draft.
Outlook: Beachem may play his first season in Europe.
PAT CONNAUGHTON (2012-15)
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
League: Las Vegas
Stats: Averaged 6.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 24.3 minutes over three games. He shot 24.3 percent from the field.
Best game: Working as the team’s primary ball-handler/point guard during summer league, the former Irish small forward scored 11 points with two rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes during a 70-64 loss July 9 to Boston.
Noting: While chasing a loose ball late in the first half of a July 11 game against San Antonio, Connaughton suffered a strained left hamstring and did not return. He sat out the rest of the summer league but remained on the bench the rest of the time for the Blazers, who lost Monday’s championship to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Outlook: To be determined. Portland has until July 25 to pick up the non-guaranteed third year of Connaughton’s rookie contract, which would pay him $1.4 million for the 2017-18 season.
Connaughton spent his first two seasons as a reserve guard for the Blazers.
JACK COOLEY (2010-13)
Team: Sacramento Kings
League: Las Vegas
Stats: Averaged 9.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 17.8 minutes over five games. He shot 64 percent from the field.
Best game: In his first game in Las Vegas on July 7 against Phoenix, the former Irish power forward finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 23 minutes in an 89-85 loss.
Noting: Cooley still holds the NBA Development League (now Gatorade League) record with 29 rebounds in a game.
Outlook: Undrafted after his collegiate career ended in 2013, Cooley has played on five summer league squads (Houston, Memphis, Cleveland, Chicago and Sacramento), in three countries in Europe (Germany, Spain, Turkey), has had two stints on G-league teams (Idaho) and part of one in the NBA (Utah). Next up is an NBA training camp invitation or return to Europe.
DEMETRIUS JACKSON (2014-16)
Team: Boston Celtics
Leagues: Salt Lake City and Las Vegas
Stats: In one game in Salt Lake, Jackson scored six points with one rebound, three assists and two steals in 27 minutes. He finished 3-of-12 (25 percent) from the floor. He was a DNP-CD the final two in Utah.
In four games in Las Vegas, Jackson averaged 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals in 25.5 minutes over four games. He shot 46.4 percent from the field.
Best game: Jackson scored all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter with two rebounds, four assists and a steal in 25 minutes during an 88-83 victory July 11 against Philadelphia.
Noting: Jackson was released by the Celtics prior to their fifth and final game Saturday against Dallas in Las Vegas. Boston was 4-0, then lost in the summer-league quarterfinals.
Outlook: Jackson will be paid $650,000 of his partially-guaranteed rookie contract after being released in a salary-cap move so Boston could sign free agent forward Gordon Hayward. As of Tuesday, he had not signed with another NBA team. Jackson split time with Boston and its NBA G-League affiliate – the Maine Red Claws – his rookie season.