Words by Graeme Wallace | Team On Point
It was an historic NBA draft for Canadians with Andrew Wiggins getting selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers at number one, the second straight year a Canuck was taken with the top overall pick. Nick Stauskas was selected by the Sacramento Kings seven spots later at number 8 and Tyler Ennis was scooped up by the Phoenix Suns at pick number 18. Then the re-spawned Charlotte Hornets drafted Dwight Powell with the 15th pick in the second round (45th overall). Powell was subsequently traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers giving their roster a 4th potential Canadian.
As successful an evening it was for Canadian Basketball, not as many Canadians were drafted as some expected. As many as eight were projected to have their name called. In no way does that mean that the journey is over for those undrafted players. It simply means their potential road to the NBA will be a little tougher. Here are some players to keep an eye on during Summer League:
Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Boston Celtics
No he’s not a rookie and as a first round pick in 2013, his spot on the Celtics roster is guaranteed. However, he is in the midst of a pivotal off-season and figures to have a bigger role on the team in his second season. He was named the Orlando Summer League MVP last year and certainly possesses the skills to dominate again. The Celtics are once again participating in the Orlando Summer League and action actually got underway this past Saturday. Olynyk got off to a great start in his first game against the Miami Heat, finishing with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals in a 85-77 Celtics win. He did commit six turnovers in 31 minutes so that’s a part of his game he will surely look to improve. Olynyk led the Celtics with 15 points, 6 boards and 4 assists in the second game Monday. The Orlando Summer League wraps up on Friday July 11th.
Melvin Ejim SG/SF, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs
It’s rare for a player to compete in both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues and for two different teams but Ejim is obviously trying to maximize his chances of playing in the league. So far, it appears that he may get a better opportunity to play in Las Vegas. The Sixers played on Saturday and Sunday and Ejim didn’t see the court at all. The Spurs’ roster appears to be a tougher one to crack but hopefully he can at least get some burn to show what he can do. After a standout career at Iowa State, Ejim deserves a shot, although he certainly appears to have his work cut out for him.
Khem Birch, PF, Washington Wizards
Birch was a somewhat surprising early entrant into the draft after foregoing his senior season at UNLV. Birch racked up 211 blocks in three seasons and averaged a double double (11.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg) in his Junior season. However, despite shooting over 50% in each of his three seasons he is viewed as a limited offensive player that needed more seasoning before turning pro. Birch does have a 7’3″ wingspan and is a gifted shot blocker and rebounder. Washington is a fairly young team on the rise and would be a great landing spot for the Montreal native. He will need to showcase his strengths and limit his weaknesses in order to make the team. Also, at 6’9″ 220 pounds Birch is considered a little small to be a an NBA power forward.
Jordan Bachynski, C, Charlotte Hornets
After a record setting career at Arizona State, Bachynski also failed to have his name called by a team on draft night. Bachynski was an elite rim protector throughout his career in Tempe. He averaged over four blocks a game in his senior season and it’s that skill he will need to show in order to make the Hornets roster. It’s not often that you can say a 254 pound man could stand to put on a few pounds but at 7’2″ that’s exactly what Bachynski should do. He actually has a somewhat lean frame for his height and needs to make sure he doesn’t get outmuscled in the post. At 24 years of age and already a father, Bachynski has a maturity and drive about him that could help propel him to where he wants to go.
Sim Bhullar, C, Sacramento Kings
Bhullar surprised many by leaving New Mexico state after his sophomore season. He has had NBA scouts intrigued for years with his size (7’5″, 360 pounds) and shot blocking ability. However, there have been many concerns about his weight and conditioning. Bhullar realizes players his size don’t typically have long careers and he wants to make the most of this opportunity. He would instantly be the biggest player in the NBA and the first player of Indian descent in the league’s history. It’s no secret that the NBA is a global game and wants to attract fans from around the world. That’s not to suggest that he will make a team’s roster simply because he’s huge and from India but that won’t hurt him either.
Myck Kabongo, PG, Toronto Raptors
In four years, Kabongo has gone from highly touted high school phenom to a player just hoping to crack an NBA roster. After leaving Texas following his sophomore season, Kabongo spent last season playing for the Austin Toros of the D-League. He averaged 9.1 points,4.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 45 games (37 starts). Now after a tumultuous college career which saw him get suspended for 23 games in his final season, the Toronto native gets a chance to play for his hometown team. The Raptors have re-signed Kyle Lowry and traded for Lou Williams. If the team also re-signs Greivis Vasquez, its hard to envision Kabongo being on the Raptors this season, although some teams do keep three point guards and Williams is considered to be more of a scoring combo type of guard. Kabongo’s strengths are his speed and his passing skills. He is also solid rebounder for a point guard.
What Kabongo and the rest of these players must realize is that if they don’t end up making the roster on the summer league team they’re currently on, there are 29 other teams watching. It only takes one to like them enough for the hoop dreams to come true.
Posted by Drew Ebanks