Five undrafted players from 2022 NBA Draft worth watching

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Fred Van Vleet. Udonis Haslem. Alex Caruso. Duncan Robinson. Gary Payton II. T.J. McConnell. Joe Ingles. Gabe Vincent.

That is just the tip of the iceberg of undrafted players making a difference on NBA rosters. Some big-name players didn’t hear their name called at the 2022 NBA Draft — Shareef O’Neal out of LSU, Shaq’s son, for one (he will play in Summer League for the Lakers).

Here are five names you may not know but are worth watching both at Summer League and over the coming couple of years. Players who could make a difference for their teams down the line.

• Dom Barlow, 6’9″ power forward/center, Overtime Elite. He signed a two-way contract with the San Antonio Spurs almost immediately after the draft.

Barlow was the best player in the OTE class this year, he has NBA size, length (7-3 wingspan) and athleticism. He can switch on defense and hold his own, and he showed some skill as a ball handler and shooter this past season. That said, Barlow is still raw and is a development project — the NBA Draft Combine scrimmages showed he has a ways to go to catch up to the speed of decision-making and reactions that have to happen. But he has all the raw tools. The Spurs are the perfect organization to bring him along.

Julian Champagnie, 6’8″ forward, St. John’s. He signed a two-way contract with the 76ers soon after the draft ended.

The brother of Justin Champagnie from the Raptors, the hope is the younger Champagnie brother can be a 3&D player at either forward spot. He was asked to do everything for the Red Storm offense last season and, in a positive sign, showed the ability to hit tough shots in college. If he can develop as a catch-and-shoot guy and prove he can defend better athletes at the next level, he could become a rotation forward in the NBA.

Justin Lewis, 6’7″ forward, Marquette. He quickly signed a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls after the draft.

He has the physical tools and athleticism that everyone hopes to find in a wing — 7-2 wingspan, physical and tough, can jump out of the building, can switch on defense and hit a jumper. He’s a force when playing downhill. Lewis was inconsistent and didn’t play with a high enough motor at Marquette to keep everyone happy, and there are concerns about his lateral quickness on defense. But he competes. Lewis could be a solid wing rotation player in a few years.

Jean Montero, 6’2″ guard, Overtime Elite. He has signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Knicks, meaning he will play for them at Summer League, be invited to training camp, and get a bonus to join their G-League team (unless he plays his way onto the big club).

A pass-first point guard with impressive handles and quickness, he was a top-20 projection in this class back in early 2020, but his development seems to have stalled out. He’s considered undersized but without the athleticism to counter that, leading to concerns about his defense and ability to finish inside. The hope is that if his jumper can be developed, he could be a backup point guard.

Dereon Seabron, 6’5″ shooting guard, North Carolina State. He signed a two-way contract with the New Orleans Pelicans almost immediately after the draft.

He’s quick and has a natural skill for getting downhill and into the paint against a defense (where he doesn’t shy away from contact and is a decent passer). That quickness and desire to get to the rim makes him fantastic in transition. However, if he’s going to stick in the NBA he must become a much better shooter (25.4% from 3 last season). His defense also is going to have to improve. He’s a project, but it’s hard to teach quickness and the ability to get downhill, so not a bad roll of the dice by the Pelicans.

Wembanyama scores 37 Scoot Henderson 28, both make case to go No.1

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The NBA league office hates tanking — the action, the word, the mere suggestion of it.

But there is going to be some serious tanking in the NBA this season, and anybody who watched the Victor Wembanyama vs. Scoot Henderson game Tuesday (also known as the G-league Ignite vs.  Metropolitans 92 from France) knows exactly why.

What. A. Show.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, showed why he is a true 7’4″ unicorn who can do seemingly anything. He finished the game with 37 points, hitting 7-of-11 from 3, with five blocks, showed off some handles and even brought the ball up court a couple of times.

This play sums him up well: at 7’4″ Wembanyama is the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, looks smooth, and when the defender goes under the pick casually drains a 3.

Scoot Henderson, expected to go No.2 in the next draft, flashed his explosive athleticism to the tune of 28 points, nine assists, and five rebounds.

Ja Morant was impressed.

There was a lot for fans, scouts, and GMs to be impressed with.

For all his shooting an offensive game, Wembanyama was just as impressive on defense. His length and mobility forces players to change their driving angles to the rim. He also showed a fearlessness in going after the big block.

Henderson showed high-level athleticism and an ability to get to the rim at will, but he also set up teammates and an improving shot. Henderson is a dynamic athlete and a season playing against the men of the G League is only going to sharpen his skills.

Henderson made his case Tuesday to be the No.1 pick — scouts say he has the potential to be a franchise cornerstone point guard, a top-10 player in the league, and he looked it in this game. He showed no fear, even going at Wembanyama a few times.

However, Wembanyama will go No.1 because he just breaks the mold, there is nobody like him. Anywhere. He looks like a generational talent, even if there is some work to do to realize it. Wembanyama started to show that Tuesday night.

These two teams face off again on Thursday night in Henderson, Nevada.

Royce O’Neal on Durant, Irving trade rumors: ‘That was the summer’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets
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The Brooklyn Nets are trying to move on from a turbulent, awkward summer where their two best players tried to get tradedone throwing down a “me or the coach and GM” ultimatum — and they are tired of talking about it.

It sounds like they have moved on from the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving drama in the locker room, at least based on what Royce O’Neal told Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

“That was the summer. Nobody cares about it now. We’re all here, and we’re going to make it work. We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

No doubt that is the mantra in the locker room, and it’s easy to do during the carefree, optimistic days of training camp or even the first preseason games. The players believe they have moved on.

The real question about these Nets is what happens when adversity hits? And it will hit, it does every team. How will Ben Simmons handle the stress? Irving? Can coach Steve Nash keep the Nets all on task, or will the finger-pointing start, and will the locker room get split?

Those questions are why everyone is finding it hard to predict these Nets — they could win a ring, they could have Durant demanding a trade again by Christmas. Most likely they land in the middle somewhere, but every possibility is on the table.

Speaking of teams being broken up, Scotto also asked about O’Neal’s former team, the Utah Jazz, and Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell this summer. Ainge said “this team didn’t believe in each other,” but that’s not how O’Neal saw it. He was surprised the team was blown up.

“I was definitely shocked. I had been there for five years. The team we had for a couple of years fell short. I thought we were going to build on it. Things happened, so keep it moving.”

The question is will the Nets keep moving when things get hard?

Collin Sexton expects to start for Jazz once he gets back to full speed

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After the blockbuster trade that was centered around Donovan Mitchell sent Collin Sexton to Utah, the immediate expectation was that he would start for the Jazz and have the ultimate green light.

However, that wasn’t the case in their first preseason matchup with Toronto on Sunday. In 18 minutes off the bench, Sexton finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) to go along with one rebound, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers.

It came as a bit of a surprise to most viewers that Sexton didn’t get the starting nod, but he told Sarah Todd of Deseret News that he expected to come off the bench for this game. He acknowledged that it was because he hasn’t played much since his meniscus surgery, but he expects to start once he gets back to full speed.

Utah hit the reset button by dealing away four of their five starters from last season. They’ve ushered in a new era that is centered around Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt, and a ton of first round picks. Sexton has talked about wanting to improve on his assists numbers this season, which we should definitely see him get the opportunity to do.

The Jazz have cemented their place in the center of the Victor Wembanyama race, so they’ll have no problem letting their young guys learn through trial and error. Sexton averaged 4.4 assists per game for Cleveland just two years ago. However, he won’t be playing alongside another young guard like Darius Garland, so Sexton should have the ball in his hands more than he ever has in the NBA.

Ben Simmons looks fine in return, is ‘grateful just to be able to step on that floor’

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Ben Simmons played in an actual, live basketball game on Monday night.

It’s preseason, sure, but the Nets rolled out their likely starting five — Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris, and Nic Claxton — and had Simmons initiating a lot of the offense early.

The results were not bad. Fine. Good in flashes. Simmons ran the floor well and finished with six points on 3-of-6 shooting, five assists and four rebounds. He missed both free throws he took and all three of his makes were at the rim, his three missed shots were all in the paint and included an ugly skyhook-like thing and a turnaround that missed. There was clear rust.

The Nets got him a lot of touches, having him initiate the offense early. Whether that is something that carries over into the season remains to be seen, the offense moved better with the crisp passing and decisions of Kyrie Irving.

Simmons sounded comfortable after the game, quotes via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m grateful just to be able to step on that floor,” Simmons said. “Step on an NBA floor again. I had a lot of fun out there.”

“That’s the one thing, I thought I was going to be nervous,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t nervous. I was excited.”

Simmons pushed for a trade off these 76ers a year ago, then sat out all last season due to mental health concerns. Having him back on the court for 19 minutes over a couple of shifts was enough for the Nets.

The 76ers sat Joel Embiid and James Harden for the night, but Tyrese Maxey was the best player on the floor with 20 points in 14 minutes and showing a confident 3-point stroke.

Furkan Korkmaz, another player coming off an injury, added 15 His play will add depth to the Sixers roster.

Claxton ran the floor hard and finished with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting (all at the rim), while Durant led the way with 13 points.