Obviously being able to catch a glimpse of the old school and real NBA legends like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson strolling around the Thomas & Mack center and wondering what they actually and really think about many young future NBA players and what they would never disclose to the press is mind boggling, but really everyone who is in the arena is really there to watch exciting new NBA talent and good basketball. When observing the hoop talent, you really come across three types of players at the NBA Summer League. First you have the NBA lottery picks like the Deandre Ayton´s and Marvin Bagley´s who have that unending athleticism and one wonder´s at times what their mommy´s have secretly fed them for breakfast all that time. Second you have the rest of the current 2018 NBA draft picks like a Michael Porter Jr of the Denver Nuggets who for many got drafted quite late, a Moritz Wagner of the Lakers where many wonder can he already be an impact player as a rookie or a Hamidou Diallo of the well known basketball institution Kentucky who is property of the Brooklyn Nets and one of many talented players that will either make the NBA or play in the G-League. Third you have that already professional player who has gained some experience overseas, but still listed as an NBA rookie like Shavon Shields who has two years of pro ball in Europe under his belt or a Phil Goss who at age 35 could be Isaac Bonga´s dad and the oldest in the competition having played 13 professional seasons and nine in Italy having called the breathtaking city of water ways Venice home for two seasons a place that a Trae Young probably has never visited, but could in the summer time as a tourist or a Reggie Upshaw who was a rookie in Germany and looking to make that next step perhaps in the NBA?
Reggie Upshaw had a stellar NCAA career at Middle Tennessee State and a fine rookie outing in Germany with the Tigers Tuebingen. Often the guys that have played in Europe get hooked up by their agent who has the right connections or simply have garnered some interest from a NBA teams international scouts who are all over Europe looking for that next Daniel Theis who played many years in Europe and got a chance in the NBA a lot later than earlier. Upshaw is a 24 year 203cm modern forward that has a very versatile game comparing his game to a Draymond Green and can fill up a stat sheet with ease. He already got his first taste of the NBA Summer League in 2017 with The Milwaukee Bucks and played 5 games averaging 3,2ppg and 3,6rpg. The Chattanooga Tennessee native remembers what the Bucks organization told him after his debut. “They just told me to keep being who I was and do the things that had gotten me to that point and to keep working”, stated Reggie Upshaw. The American did just that and had a stellar rookie campaign with the Tigers Tuebingen playing 33 games averaging 14.4ppg, Reb-4(6.6rpg), 2.2apg, 1.1spg, FGP: 53.6%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 64.4%. He played for team that won only 1 game, but did all he could scoring in double figures in 29 of 33 games and registered 6 double doubles. He had a 27 point game against ratiopharm Ulm and a 24 point effort against Giessen. Sometimes when a guy puts up big time stats for a major bad team one wonders if he was playing just for the stats, but people often forget that sometimes when the teammates aren´t functioning you just try to do the best you can for the good of the team and he did just that. He also profited very much from Alexsandar Nadjfeji the legendary Serb who belonged to the best power forwards in the BBL 10 years ago worked countless hours with the American to help fine tune his game and it worked. This summer Upshaw has had a smooth and successful Summer League with the Los Angeles Clippers. He has played six games logging 29 minutes per game and is averaging 10, 3ppg, 8,2rpg and 2,0apg, 1,0spg and is shooting 41% from the field. In his last game against the Los Angeles Lakers which resulted in a 82-69 loss, he showed everyone his vast versatility scoring seven points while picking his spots well, hauling down 8 boards, dishing out 4 assists, getting 2 steals and swatting away one ball.
Sky is the limit is one of those standard phrases that get stamped on young players and for Reggie Upshaw it´s no different. He had a great rookie season and has turned heads at the 2018 NBA Summer League. What is the next step for Reggie Upshaw? With his strong rookie season in Germany in the books and a successful 2018 NBA Summer League season, the options for Upshaw will be huge. Whereas in the summer of 2017, he struggled to get minutes, but he knew what he had to do as a rookie to make the next step. “I need to have the ability to take control of games and close games out in the final moments”. That he was able to do as a rookie and in the 2018 Summer League and now it will be interesting to see what his next step will be. Obviously with his NBA Summer League performance still fresh in the minds of NBA teams, he very well may get invites to NBA training camps or even get signed by a team. If that doesn´t work, then he could just about play anywhere in Europe now. The Euroleague is still a step too early, but he should have ample offers from German BBL teams at the moment. Since he knows the BBL and it is a respected and growing league, there is a good bet that he could land with a Eurocup team or Basketball Champions League team. The perfect fit could be the Fraport Skyliners who are playing Eurocup and would be the perfect destination for his second professional season. He could fill the role of Shavon Shields from two seasons ago and no doubt will heighten his game playing for the strong coaching duo of Gordon Herbert and Klaus Perwas. Herbert surely remembers Upshaw from last season and it would be interesting to know if Upshaw is on Herbert´s shopping list or not. Where ever Upshaw ends up playing next season, one thing is for sure, it will be a major upgrade from the Tigers Tuebingen.
Back to the 2018 NBA Summer League games. On Friday there were two Fraport Skyliners in action with Shavon Shields and Philip Scrubb. Shields and the New Orleans pelicans faced off against the New York Knicks falling 102-83 as the Pelicans fall to 2-3. Shields had a DNP and observed as another ex BBL player Garlon Green did all he could to for once get out of his brother Gerald´s shadow for a night as he poured home 23 points in 28 minutes and led all scorers. Rookie DJ Hogg out of Texas A&M (NCAA) contributed 16 points. It has been a solid NBA Summer League for Shields who is averaging 10,0ppg,5,orpg,3,3apg and 1,3spg and shooting 63% from the field. It has been a NBA Summer League to forget for Philip Scrubb as he has been an unbelievable 0/14 through his first four games and had a DNP in the 96-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks as the Washington Wizards fell to 1-4. As usual most of the Wizards damage was done by their big three of Brown Jr, Robinson and Bryant who combined for 60 points and 25 boards, but it didn´t matter as they ran into hot shooting Josh Adams out of Wyoming(NCAA) and last season played for Besiktas Sompo Japan Istanbul and Jalen Jones out of Texas & AM who had 21 points apiece. On Saturday two Germans were in action with Isaiah Hartenstein of the Houston Rockets and Fraport Skyliner Tai Webster who is playing with the Miami Heat this summer. Hartenstein fell for the first time in Las Vegas losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers 92-87. The Cavaliers had a very balanced attack using their bench well and had five players in double figures with Collin Sexton who played at Alabama(NCAA) and Scoochie Smith who played at Dayton(NCAA) an din Australia and G.League last season added 17 points apiece. Danuel House from Texas A&M led all scorers with 30 points and continued to perform for that NBA job. Hartenstein had another solid game scoring 7 points on 2/5 shooting grabbing 9 rebounds, getting a steal and two blocks while his 4 turnovers was a sore spot. The German kid continues to let his presence be felt at both ends of the court. His stats don´t lie either as he is averaging 11,3ppg,7,7rpg,1,0apg,1,0spg and 2,3 bpg while shooting 56% from the field. The German big man continues to do everything in his power to earn him an NBA job this season and should be able to attain it.
Tai Webster played his last NBA Summer League game losing a 74-72 heartbreaker against the Boston Celtics. 22 year old 201cm French forward Guerschon Yabusele who started his career with Chorale de Roanne Basket and was a Celtics #1 pick in 2016 and played 43 games in the green jersey won the game on free throws. Pierria Henry out of Charlotte(NCAA) and another player out of the NBA Summer League category 3 player trying to reach the NBA after playing overseas for some years is also an ex BBL player who played with Ulm led Boston with 15 points and showed that there is enough worthy talent coming from experienced guys that have balled in Europe. The Miami Heat were led by point guard Derrick Walton Jr with 15 points while Rashad Vaughn out of UNLV(NCAA) and played 25 NBA games with three teams last season added 10 points. Webster had another usual 2018 NBA Summer League stat line playing 13 minutes hitting a trey, grabbing a rebound, handing out 3 dimes and getting a steal. They were solid stats, but when looking at other guys like Yante Maten out of Georgia(NCAA) and Justin Tillman out of VCU(NCAA) who are 203 cm forwards and play other positions who played around the same number of minutes, they were a lot more efficient than the Skyliner guard.. Webster finished his second NBA Summer League averaging 13 minutes per game and averaging 3,0ppg, 1,3rpg and 1,3apg while shooting 40% from the field. Derrick Walton finished at 11,6ppg and 6,6rpg while playing 28 minutes per game. Walton did a lot more in the minutes he got. It isn´t easy with so many guys looking for minutes and awareness on the court that even when an aggressive player like Webster wants to play his game, he can´t because he just gets lost with the overall aggressiveness of everyone. Webster gained valuable experience and will head back to Europe with ample confidence after showing he can at times take over a BBL game and be able to put up big stats and demonstrate he can play with and against anyone. Resigning with the Fraport Skyliners would be beneficial for the club for their chemistry, but he most likely will sign elsewhere. Isaac Bonga battles in the semi finals today with the Los Angeles Lakers against the Detroit Pistons.