Its that time of the year again, and as we cruise not so smoothly into the treacherous and deranged ways of the NBA off-season, it’s certainly easy to find ourselves caught off guard by the start of the summer league. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, this summer may be looked upon as one of the most important—both on and off the ball court.
In Oklahoma, Sam Presti's front-office has been on the non-stop summer grind, most recently trading for Paul George who will certainly contribute to the overwhelming factor of whether or not Russell Westbrook will extend next season for years to come. Re-signing Roberson is also a huge goal for Presti's off-season campaign, with the hopes of creating a lockdown defensive super-structure with George and Adams. But nonetheless, the bench needs work, and young athleticism is needed for the longevity of the organization’s playoff success.
That's where the Summer League comes into play. Using the league's creative interest in both developing and discovering hidden talents, the Thunder have been and will continue to use on-court minutes to magnify the skills of their newly drafted talent, and pre-existing G League flair. This years roster consists of the following positional players:
- Vince Hunter
- Dakari Johnson
- Yannis Morin
- Markel Brown
- Semaj Christon
- Dylan Ennis
- Terrance Ferguson
- Malcolm Hill
- Marcus Thornton
- Marcus Paige
- Daniel Hamilton
- Shaquille Hines
- Josh Huestis
- Rashawn Thomas
*Bold-faced players are pre-existing participants of the Thunder, G League affiliate, or recent draftee*
The coming seasons for the Thunder may surely be difficult as they approach the dreaded challenges of extension distress, and the nearing worry of luxury taxes. Therefore, I highly expect this summer league to do only good for young prospects Dakari Johnson and Daniel Hamilton, as a reality may have to be faced if the Thunder can't come to terms with their current roster build after the conclusion of the coming season. Though I've expressed my interest in Johnson a plentiful amount of times regarding his readiness for the NBA and the contributions he could bring to the present Thunder squad, there's no doubt Hamilton may be approaching his debut date as well.
Oklahoma City’s 92-91 stunner over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday gave us indisputable insight upon Hamilton’s late game clutch abilities, furthermore building his case for a spot on the Thunder regular season roster. After a frustrating back-and-forth game long nail-biter, Hamilton converted off a missed shot by Huestis by pushing a remarkable tip-in and a foul, allowing the Thunder to hold a point over Detroit with two seconds to spare.
Though his consistency wasn’t present throughout the night, it’s important to note how crucial his late game clutch points came in handy, allowing the Thunder to take their first game of the summer. If the Thunder like what they see during the coming games, through heavy analyzing and more development, it would be no surprise to see Hamilton placed on a two-way contract, splitting his time among the G League and NBA.
It should be noted however, that if he is unable to make the spot on either a two-way or regular season roster, it’d surely be thanked to his inconsistency (which he has struggled with throughout his time with the Blue).
On the other hand, its quite clear to why Dakari is making his second stint at the Summer League after such a successful and well-improved year under the Blue. His current presence would most likely be explained by the possibility of an exit of the Thunder’s 6th man, Enes Kanter, within the coming season.
For the Thunder, Kanter’s former four-year contract value will be way too high if they expect to extend Russ, George, or both. Kanter’s lack of defensive presence killed Oklahoma City this past season in the first-round of the playoffs versus Houston. While Kanter has proven great for rebound-ability, creating inside space, and converting second chance points, his deficiency on defense is absolutely horrendous.
It’s been clear since the beginning that Dakari’s goal with the Blue was to improve his defensive spacing, communication, and pick-and-roll coverages, so it will surely be interesting to see how well he does versus some of the explosive Summer Leaguers who pertain former NBA experience. Hopefully both Dakari and Daniel will gain something coming out of this year’s Summer League, using it to further develop themselves for a future NBA debut that could happen at anytime.