NBA: Picking our Aussie All-Summer League team
After ten days of non-stop action in Las Vegas, we're picking out the Australians that fared best at the 2023 NBA Summer League.
The NBA Summer League is a weird and wonderful thing. It’s high-level basketball like you won’t see anywhere else, with uber-talented players thrown together at short notice for ten days of glorified tryouts. While a handful of those players have guaranteed NBA contracts, the majority are fighting for their place in the league, and therefore scrambling to stand out more than even their opponents and short-term teammates.
It’s into this environment that ten Australians and New Zealanders dropped earlier this month. Some already had a roster spot secured for the coming season and used their time in Vegas as a tuneup, while others have never played in an NBA game and were there to fight for their chance to do so. Five players emerged as the standout performers, grabbing their opportunity, however limited, with both hands and making their case to stay in the NBA.
With another year of Summer League now in the books, we’ve put together our Aussie All-Summer League Team for 2023.
An honourable mention of sorts to both Keanu Pinder and Sam Waardenburg, who were struck down by injuries just as the Summer League was set to kick off. Waardenburg returned during the tournament but played just two minutes, while Pinder never set foot on the court. It’s impossible to know how both would have fared if healthy, but both have games that would fit snugly into the modern NBA and the fast-paced Summer League action. Both will undoubtedly get a second chance in the coming years, and that will be something for fans to look forward to.
Point guard: Dyson Daniels, New Orleans Pelicans
By far the easiest selection in this team, Dyson Daniels is primed for an NBA breakout after starring in Vegas. Spending more time running the point than previously, he did it all for the Pelicans, averaging 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. His play wasn’t perfect, as he struggled with his shot throughout the tournament, but every other box was empathically ticked.
Last week, The Pick and Roll’s Ayush G gave a comprehensive breakdown of Daniels’ Summer League campaign, looking back on the 20-year-old guard’s progress to date and ahead to what his Summer League form could mean. That piece covers every possible angle of a standout preseason campaign from one of Australia’s fastest rising stars.
Shooting guard: Dejan Vasiljevic, Washington Wizards
He arrived in Vegas out of contract and looking to strut his stuff, but Dejan Vasiljevic wasn’t even given a chance in the opening days of the Summer League. The former Sydney King lived an experience that would be familiar to plenty of players in Vegas, stuck anchored to the bench early in the tournament as high draft picks and guaranteed signings were given their time to shine.
“It’s a little frustrating… [but] the teams invest a lot of money in these players, so you’ve just got to come in, play your role, stay ready, and then when you get your chance you’ve got to take full opportunity,” Vasiljevic said of his quiet start.
There’s ‘staying ready’, and then there’s what Vasiljevic did.
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