A Quick SummerWolves Primer

Later today, the Minnesota Timberwolves will take the floor at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV to kick of their MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2017 schedule. The MGM Resorts NBA Summer League is sponsored, of course, by MGM Resorts, and is a basketball “league” of sorts played in the summer. It’s really more of a slapdash tournament of “NBA” teams whose rosters are populated by new draft picks, underachieving second or third year veterans, and (mostly) NBA longshots, all of whom are typically coached by the General Manager’s cousin or whoever.

Here is everything you need to know about the goings-on in Sin City:

–The Wolves’ roster contains only one man who has a good chance of ever seeing action for them in a real game, and that’s Justin Patton… who isn’t playing in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2017’s slipshod festivities due to the broken foot he suffered in a workout last week.

–Minnesota holds a distinct advantage when it comes to coaching, as they’re sending Ryan Saunders to lead the SummerWolves for the 3rd consecutive time. As mentioned above, most teams just find some drunk off the street, or send a scout’s failson to doodle on white boards for three games, or just put three toddlers in a trenchcoat and hope no one will notice, but the Wolves are actually sending a real coach. Hardware to follow?

–Action starts at 5:30 CST Saturday versus the SummerRaptors; the game will be broadcast on NBATV. Sunday, the SummerWolves take on the SummerNuggets, also at 5:30 CST, but this one is on ESPN2. Finally, the SummerWolves will face off against the SummerWarriors at 7:30 CST on Tuesday, 7/11, also on ESPN2, thus wrapping up Round Robin play.

–From there, I have no idea what happens. But rest assured, the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League Schedule will not just end there – they keep going. There are more MGM Resorts Summer League games after the round robin. It’s some sort of tournament. An MGM Resorts Summer League Tournament.

–The Roster… well, you know, the Wolves are very nearly capped out, and may have to fill out their actual, regular season roster with guys on minimum deals. So despite this offseason’s sizzle, all of the relatively obscure players below have a real shot to make a name for themselves in Las Vegas, and maybe even secure an NBA job for this coming season. Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of all the guys the Wolves are bringing to the MGM Resorts Summer League 2017:

  • V.J. Beachem – Rookie out of Notre Dame, was the 67th-ranked prospect on DraftExpress going into the draft. The 6’8 4-year senior averaged 14.5 points and 4.1 rebounds during his final season in South Bend, and interestingly, got a little writeup on the Wolves’ official site already.
  • Deonte Burton – Rookie from Iowa State, was the 78th-ranked prospect on DraftExpress going in to the draft. He’s 6’4 and a well-built 240 lbs, and plays bigger than his frame, as he averaged 1.4 blocks per game during his senior season in Ames.
  • Charles Cooke – He is a lanky rookie swingman from Dayton by way of James Madison University. Please, please do not confuse him with Charles W. Cooke, who is the editor of the very bad National Review Online. Do not let the name similarities fool you. One is a basketball man, the other is a dopey libertarian who should be ignored entirely.
  • Matt Costello – This is a 2K Create-A-Player ass name if I’ve ever heard one
  • Perry Ellis – After attending the University of Kansas for what seemed like a decade, Ellis finally matriculated in 2016. He spent last summer on the Mavericks’ roster, appeared in one NBA preseason game with Charlotte, and spent most of the 2016-17 regular season with the Greensboro Swarm of the D-League, which is now the G-League (long story). He’s almost certianly the best (healthy) big on the SummerWolves roster, so he should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
  • Jack Gibbs – Kid can get buckets. Rookie from Davidson who averaged 22 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists during his senior season and connected on 39% of the 7.7 threes he took per game. The problem? He is listed at 6’0 on the Wolves’ official release, and was listed at 5’11 at school, so there’s a good chance he’s really about 5’8 with 5’9 wingspan.
  • Amile Jefferson – A 5-year player at Duke, Jefferson obtained a medical redshirt during his original senior season, allowing him to return for his victory lap second senior season in 2016-17. He averaged 7.2 points and 6.4 boards on 62% shooting during his 150-game career with the Blue Devils.
  • Moses Kingsley – This is a powerful, Biblical name.
  • Marcus Paige – You may have heard of him.
  • Justin Patton – Get well soon.
  • Raphiael Putney – NOW WE’RE TALKING. A year and a half ago, I argued for the Wolves to sign him with an end-of-season 10-day contract. (They didn’t.) After going undrafted out of UMass in 2014, Putney bounced around a bit before landing with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for the 2015-16 D-League season. There, he was an All-Star, averaging 17.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.3 blocks per game. At 6’10 and just 185 pounds, he’s a very lanky player, but he has pretty good handle for someone his size and plays much more like a wing than a big. He spent last season with an Italian League team, where he struggled a bit, but perhaps a move back to the States will be good for him. He is, to me, easily the most intriguing guy on the roster.
  • Levi Randolph – After going undrafted in 2015, he spent time with the Thunder, Jazz, Sixers, and Grizzlies in Summer League play, and appeared in two preseason games with the Celtics in 2015. After spending the year in the D-League, he spent last season in Italy’s Serie A (much like Putney). A shooting guard who hit 41% of his threes overseas; with the exchange rate, I am fairly sure he’ll hit 50% in Vegas.
  • C.J. Williams – I don’t know if Williams is the oldest player at the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2017, but at 27, he’s got to be close. After going undrafted in 2012, Williams has played overseas in Cyprus, Italy, and France, for the Lakers and Mavericks’ D-League affiliates, and for the Bucks (2014), Wolves (2015), and Spurs (2016) at Summer League. I hope he makes the team. I’m exhausted just typing all the places he’s been; the guy deserves a shot.

–In conclusion… The Wolves’ roster is very much up in the air, so one of these guys just might pull off the Cinderella tale and go from a Summer League invite to the end of the NBA bench. It’s a longshot, but there are a few intriguing pieces (Beachem, Burton, Ellis, and Putney in particular) to keep an eye on.

–Addendum: I mentioned MGM Resorts as the sponsor of the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2017 ELEVEN different times in this post. If anyone at MGM Resorts wants to throw me a bone, you can DM me at @BreakTheHuddle on Twitter. I would accept cash, or credit to stay at one of your fine MGM Resorts locations (more than 40, worldwide!) or even just a coupon to eat at the buffet at the Bellagio or Circus Circus. Much appreciated. Thanks.

–Addendum two: See that image right below this? That could be your spot, MGM Resorts. That could be your spot, but you’re playing.

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4 Responsesso far.

  1. pyrrol says:

    I was told by a friend to watch Burton. Seems like an interesting player… Sort of an undersized linebacker Big. I believe his wingspan is much greater than 6’4″. That said, I’m not sure this team has guys with a good chance to sneak onto the roster, even as the days stretch on with openings in the big show. But we will see.

    • Mebert says:

      It looks like he has a 7 foot wingspan. After reading some reports he was powerful enough to body up Caleb Swanigan. He also hit 38% from 3. He seems like a smaller version of Draymond. I am in no way saying he is as good, but a shorter powerful player able to protect the rim (1.9 blocks per 40 ), push the ball up the floor, hit the 3, and defend multiple positions is a similar type.

      If he can be half the player he would be a great find.

  2. After last year with Dunn I’ll take the performances with a grain of salt

  3. Mike says:

    I watched Burton at Marquette his freshman year. He’s a beast and definitely a sneaky good player. Great handles and feel for the game for a guy who truly looks and plays more like a football player. Is he NBA quality? I doubt it, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.

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