A Cavaliers 2023 Las Vegas Summer League Primer

This year’s Las Vegas Summer League will feature the NBA debut of Cavaliers rookie Emoni Bates and Revere’s Pete Nance.
las vegas summer league sam merrill cavaliers
CLEVELAND, OH – APRIL 09: Sam Merrill #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball over Bryce McGowens #7 of the Charlotte Hornets during the game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 9, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Hornets beat the Cavaliers 106-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)

Later this week Sin City becomes the center of the basketball world as the Cleveland Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA participate in the annual Las Vegas Summer League. The annual event offers a glimpse into the NBA future as several marquee rookies from this year’s Draft class suit up for the first time with their new squads in the competition. It also serves as a stage for second-and third-year players looking to showcase their talents and improve their games. It also serves as a collection of undrafted players hoping to turn a great summer showing into a training camp invite and potentially a roster spot or a two-way contract.

76 games will be played over 11 days in Las Vegas, split between the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion on the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus. The Cavaliers will see action at both facilities, with their first three games at the COX Pavilion and their final matchup against the summertime Chicago Bulls happening at the Thomas & Mack Center. Here’s a breakdown of Cleveland’s schedule, along with their expected start times and where you can watch:

DateOpponentLocationTime (ET)TV
Friday, July 7Brooklyn NetsCOX Pavilion8:30 PM NBA TV
Sunday, July 9Toronto RaptorsCOX Pavilion3:30 PMNBA TV
Monday, July 10Memphis GrizzliesCOX Pavilion6:00 PMESPNews
Thursday, July 13Chicago BullsThomas & Mack Center3:00 PMESPN 2

After each team plays four games, the top four will advance to the playoffs and participate in a semifinal game (July 16). The two winners of semifinal play will advance to the championship game (July 17). The top four playoff seeds will be determined by winning percentage with tiebreakers that can be found here.

Right Down Euclid’s Newsletter

This year’s Las Vegas Summer League squad will blend new and familiar faces for the Cavaliers. Some notable newcomers include rookie forward Emoni Bates and Revere High School’s Pete Nance, who will make their NBA debut with Cleveland. There are also international prospects Luke Travers and Khalifa Diop along with Cavaliers guard Sam Merrill joining the rotation. Here’s the full roster for the Sin City Cavaliers:

NumberNamePositionHeightWeightSchool/Home Country
21Emoni BatesF6-9190Eastern Michigan University
38Mike BothwellG6-3195Furman University
2Sharife CooperG6-1180Auburn University
18Khalifa DiopC6-10231CB Gran Canaria / Senegal
39Wendell GreenG5-11175Auburn University
50Cedric Henderson Jr.G6-6200University of Arizona
5Sam MerrillG6-5205Utah State University
15Isaiah MobleyF6-10240University of Southern California
48Pete NanceF6-11230University of North Carolina
40Craig Porter Jr.G6-2178Wichita State University
55Devontae ShulerG6-2185Ole Miss
33Luke TraversF6-7208Melbourne United / Australia
49Fabian WhiteF/C6-8230University of Houston

What to watch for in Las Vegas

The Weight of Expectations

When he was just 15 years old, Cleveland Cavaliers rookie forward Emoni Bates was dubbed the next Kevin Durant by some and featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Many considered Bates the next sure-fire, generational prospect and a bonafide first-overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. But after a tumultuous collegiate career with stops at The University of Memphis and Eastern Michigan University, Bates wasn’t selected first overall. He wasn’t even picked in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. Bates didn’t hear his name called until late in the second round, when the Cavaliers, the last team he worked out for, took him with the no. 48 pick. It was a long and winding road to this point for Bates, but he finally made his dream of reaching the NBA come true.

“I was everywhere, I’m not gonna lie. There were a lot of emotions,” said Bates to the media. “I worked really hard to get to this spot. For me in general that means a lot. There were a lot of tears, and me my family were just all happy. There were just emotions everywhere.”

While under a constant spotlight and the weight of unrelenting expectations, Bates shared with the media that he lost some of his love for the game. But, in his eyes, joining the Cavaliers at such a low pick was a blessing in disguise and in little time helped him re-spark his love for the game. Bates is fine with starting his professional career with the Cleveland Charge, the NBA G League affiliate of the Cavaliers. Starting with the G League would allow Bates to grow at his own pace and tap into his god-Given potential as an NBA prospect. Some rough edges still need to be ironed out and keeping Bates away from the weight of even more expectations is the best course of action for his development.

This upcoming stint in Las Vegas will be a teaser of what Bates could be as an NBA player. He’s a player and person you can’t help but root for because, at the end of the day, all he wants to do is play basketball and be Emoni Bates, not the next Kevin Durant. When asked by Right Down Euclid who he is as a player, he said he’s an all-around player who needs to lock in and play better on defense while learning anything and everything he can from Cleveland’s coaching staff. Again, the potential is there and much of it will be displayed in Las Vegas. But it will take time for Bates to grow and develop properly.

Pete Nance, More Than Just A Name

When news broke that former Revere High School star Pete Nance would be signing an Exhibit 10 contract, everyone naturally thought of his last name. His father, Larry Nance Sr., and his brother, Larry Nance Jr., have both played for the Cavaliers organization with Senior having his number retired by the team. Naturally, when you’re the son and the sibling of former franchise faces, there are expectations on who you’ll be, which Pete Nance is no stranger to. It’s also something Nance wants to distance himself from while with the Cavaliers in Las Vegas by forging his legacy with the organization.

“I’m my own player,” said Nance. “I think a lot of the times, especially with who I’m playing for, I’m going to get compared to my family members. But I’m really totally my own player, and I have my own game that’s totally separate from theirs.

“I’m a high IQ, floor-spacing, mobile big man that can guard multiple positions, doing the little things and doing whatever it takes and what the coach needs to win the game.”

In his five-year collegiate career at Northwestern and North Carolina, Nance showcased attributes that made him his own player. The thing that stands out the most was Nance’s ability to stretch the floor, where he connected on 34.7% of his 2.9 three-pointers per game. In the limited access media members have had to the floor whenever Cavaliers practice concludes, Nance’s shooting is something he’s constantly working on with the coaching staff.

If his shot translates to the next level, it opens the door to Nance finding an easier path to sticking in the NBA. Due to the nature of Exhibit 10 contracts, Nance will keep following that path and finding his way to the NBA with the Cleveland Charge this upcoming season unless he’s signed to a two-way contract. Nance’s situation is not similar to what his father or brother found themselves in when they were traded to the Cavaliers to start their time with the organization. But, when speaking to Nance, it seems that he wants to forge his own Wine and Gold Legacy and despite taking a harder road, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Taking Stock of the Familiar Faces

Sam Merrill spent most of his time last year with the Charge before signing with the Cavaliers in March 2023. While he didn’t play much for the Cavaliers, he is still under contract heading into this season and can use Summer League as a catalyst for why he should stick with the main club as a high-quality movement shooter coming off the bench. In 22 regular season appearances, Merrill averaged 18.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and connected on 44.1% of his 8.9 three-point attempts per game.

Isaiah Mobley, meanwhile, was a two-way player for the Cavaliers that, like Merrill, spent most of his time last season with the Charge. Mobley was a catalyst for the Charge becoming a winning program last year and averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 blocks and hit on 35.3% of his three-point attempts in 31.6 minutes per game. Mobley is a restricted free agent and could return to the Cavaliers on another two-way contract. But if he can showcase growth from his rookie season, there could be a chance he signs with the Cavaliers on a more permanent basis and fills one of their two remaining roster spots.

Finally, there are former Cleveland second-rounders and international prospects Luke Travers and Khalifa Diop. Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations said to Right Down Euclid that neither Travers nor Diop will join the club this upcoming season and will remain overseas. So, Las Vegas will remain a point of reference where either player is in their development.

For Travers, who recently cut off his iconic mullet, it’s been a lot of positive growth from his last stint with the Sin City Cavaliers. In 27 appearances with the Perth Wildcats, Travers averaged 9.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 24.6 minutes per game. That’s already a shade above the 6.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists Travers averaged last year in Las Vegas for the Cavaliers. But, after getting bigger (he shared he’s added about 10 pounds since last in Cleveland), Travers wants to showcase his ability to be a multifaceted forward and a glue guy for the Las Vegas Cavaliers. That could be a player Cleveland needs right away, but if he continues to develop overseas, Travers could join the team in that role within the next year or two.

Diop, meanwhile, is joining the Cavaliers in Las Vegas fresh off winning the 2023 EuroCup Championship with Gran Canaria. In 34 appearances for the Spanish club, Diop averaged 7.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 20.1 minutes per game. Moreover, Diop showcased many of his strong, defensive-first big-man tendencies, especially finding comfort defending anywhere on the floor. Sure, he’s still somewhat unrefined on offense, but it’ll be exciting to see Diop finally play for the Cavaliers after not playing last year in Las Vegas. Since between Diop and Travers, Altman told Right Down Euclid that Diop is the more NBA-ready prospect of the two. Hopefully, we all get a better insight into Diop’s potential.

Evan Dammarell is an award-winning sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at evan@downeuclid.com. He can also be found three to five times weekly on Locked On Cavs, a part of the Locked On Podcast Network.

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