Even with Collin Sexton's future looming over the franchise*, the Cleveland Cavaliers will open up their NBA 2K23 Summer League exhibitions today in almost always sunny Las Vegas against the San Antonio Spurs. It'll be one of five possible exhibitions Cleveland will partake in at COX Pavillion as all 30 teams in the Association descend upon Sin City.
Last year, the Cavaliers went 2-3 in their annual dessert pilgrimage after the event was canceled due to the pandemic the summer prior. Last year’s squad featured the debut of Evan Mobley, who’d just been selected with the third-overall pick, along with the previous season’s top selection, Isaac Okoro.
While this year's squad won't headline talent like Evan Mobley, it'll feature his older brother Isaiah who Cleveland took with the no. 49 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Joining the elder Mobley are fellow rookies Ochai Agbaji and Luke Travers as well as Cavaliers two-way player R.J. Nembhard too. Today, Right Down Euclid will break down the roster, the schedule as well as what to watch for in this year's Las Vegas Summer League for Cleveland.
* – Sources still say that the Cavaliers and Sexton want a reunion. But, those same sources also say that because Cleveland has limited options financially, they have to get creative in order to sign the polarizing scoring dynamo. Sexton's market has all but dried up at this point and the Cavaliers are realistically the only team left that can sign him long-term. It's partially why none of the moves Cleveland has made have been formally announced yet.
Getting to know the summer Wine and Gold (and black)
Ochai Agbaji – G/F, Kansas – 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 40.7% from three
In all fairness to Cavaliers rookie Ochai Agbaji, there was a very real possibility he wouldn't be playing for Cleveland this summer. Due to the Cavaliers not making the playoffs, they were able to keep their first-round pick this year, keeping it out of the grasps of the Indiana Pacers for now.
But, with Agbaji now in tow for Cleveland, he in theory provides them something they desperately need: shooting, athleticism and perimeter defense. You likely will see all three on display with Agbaji for the Cavaliers during Summer League play as well with plenty of opportunities to be a primary point of attack defender and also bomb away from three-point range.
While there could be nights he is lethal from three, fans may see some of the streakiness that followed Agbaji while at Kansas as well. But, that doesn't mean there is a need to panic either. It's going to take a bit for the former Jayhawk to fully adjust to NBA-level basketball. But, Cavaliers Summer League head coach Mike Gerrity shared with the media that Agbaji has been extremely mature and polished during practice leading up to the main event in Vegas so he might have a leg up on the competition a bit already. If anything, this is a good chance for Agbaji to get his feet wet and for Cleveland to figure out how they want to utilize his valuable toolkit during the regular season next year.
Ashton Hagans – PG, Raptors 905 – 10.8 points, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals
Former Kentucky star Ashton Hagans finds himself with the Cavaliers during Summer League still trying to find a chance to break through to the NBA. During his time with the Wildcats, Hagans showed some real brilliance in his second year but also showed some immaturity and glaring weaknesses as well. That's what ultimately led to him going undrafted in 2020 and why Hagans is still finding a way to reach the Association.
His biggest weakness was his jumper, specifically from three-point range, and it's still a work in progress after multiple seasons in the G League. Last season with the Raptors 905, the affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, Hagans only connected on 33.9% of his 2.1 three-point attempts per game. During the G League playoffs, that percentage dipped to 33.3% and during the Showcase Cup, it flatlined to 0.0%.
Clearly, Hagans has a major deficency in his game that will likely hold him back from sticking on an NBA roster right away. But, he is an excellent passer and also a stout positional defender as well. If he has a strong showing, don't be surprised if he sticks with the Cleveland Charge and continues to season as a quality end-of-rotation depth piece for the Cavaliers.
Josh Hall – SF, Raptors 905 – 5.6 points, 3.0 rebounds
Joining Hagans on the Summer League Cleveland squad is fellow Raptors 905 teammate Josh Hall. Hall, who, like Hagans, also went undrafted in 2020, is an interesting prospect. During his rookie season, he made 21 appearances with the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 4.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 16.0 minutes per game. Hall also drew a start with the Thunder during that span as well.
After his time with the Thunder, Hall was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract by the Toronto Raptors, eventually waived and then joined the Raptors 905. After a fairly middling time with Toronto's affiliate in the G League, Hall now finds himself with Cleveland this summer.
He's still a fairly raw prospect overall, but his physical gifts make him intriguing for Cleveland. Like Hagans, he could be a player worth watching as a candidate to join the Charge, especially if his shooting ability comes around. Hall was expected to be a high-end perimeter shooter at the NBA level but it still hasn't come to fruition for him. If he's able to show enough, perhaps Hall can get in with Cleveland's player development staff, who have a knack for turning non-shooters around.
Amauri Hardy – PG, G League Ignite – 6.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Maintaining the trend of striking gold through the G League, the Cavaliers turn to former G League Ignite prospect and undrafted rookie Amauri Hardy, the older brother of Mavericks guard Jaden Hardy. Prior to his time with the G League Ignite squad, Hardy played for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels and the Oregon Ducks, making him the first college player to join Ignite. During his four seasons in college, the elder Hardy averaged 9.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
A 2017 graduate of North Farmington High School in Farmington Hills, Michigan, Hardy was ranked as the no. 22 point guard coming out of high school. He has showcased an ability as a playmaker and shooting threat, but, the odds are against Hardy to stick with Cleveland after their time together in Las Vegas.
Aaron Henry – SF, Delaware Blue Coats – 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Originally undrafted in 2021, the Cavaliers could have a possible prospect to develop with the Charge in Aaron Henry. Primarily used as a scoring punch off the bench for the Delaware Blue Coats, the G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, Henry showcased an ability to score at three levels and is also an adequate defender on the other end of the floor as well. He's also a player that Cleveland should know since he torched the Charge not too long ago.
Henry has good size for a wing and is a solid athlete with good speed and quickness by NBA standards. The former Michigan State Spartan could garner a long look from Cleveland's front office since he fits the bill as a player as a J.B. Bickerstaff-type player. Right Down Euclid has advocated for players like Henry to be fleshed out by the Charge for a while now. If he has a strong showing this summer, it makes perfect sense to add him into the fold.
Isaiah Mobley – F/C, USC – 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 blocks
Isaiah Mobley, the older brother of Cleveland superstar Evan Mobley, is one of two players on a two-way contract with the Cavaliers. Last season, the elder Mobley shot baskets wearing Cleveland gear and wanted to join the franchise. He said he knew “decently early” that there was a chance of that after he worked out for Cleveland.
Mobley shared with the media his expected role is to provide three-point shooting, rebounding, defense, playmaking and, most of all, support and push his younger brother as well as All-Star big man Jarrett Allen. In Summer League play, he should be able to provide a little bit of everything he mentioned. Mobley connected on 35.2% of his 3.8 three-point attempts per game with the Trojans last season and could be an interesting pick and pop option for Cleveland in Vegas. Not only that, but, the Cavaliers can also run action at the elbows with Mobley, just like they do with his younger brother, to utilize his playmaking skills.
Since he's already on a two-way deal and the brother of a franchise cornerstone, Mobley doesn't have to fight as hard for job security with Cleveland. He'll likely spend the better part of the season developing with the Charge while his younger brother, Allen, Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez hold down the fort with the main club. But, once Mobley is ready, he can be a very high-quality reserve big off the bench for Cleveland that has similarities to former Cavalier Drew Gooden.
R.J. Nembhard – G/F, Cleveland Cavaliers – 24.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists (with Charge)
R.J. Nembhard, who is the second player on a two-way contract with Cleveland, recently shared with the media that he feels like he doesn't have much to prove. It's understandable since Nembhard's body of work speaks for itself since he looked flat-out dominant at times with the Charge last season. The only issue was, at times, Nembhard struggled from three-point range. But, he was able to counterbalance that by making winning plays elsewhere, stuffing the stat sheet on a night-to-night basis.
Nembhard will likely be Cleveland's de-facto starting point guard during Summer League and will be an interesting partner in the backcourt next to Agbaji. It won't be the first time they share the floor together, since they faced one another whenever Agbaji's Jayhawks took on Nembhard's Horned Frogs, but it will be as teammates. Teams will likely have to respect Agbaji's shooting and that should create lanes for Nembhard to drive to the basket.
Nembhard also can work wonders alongside Mobley as well, who he shared with Right Down Euclid, that he already has an on-court familiarity due to working out together during the pre-draft process. Speaking of Mobley, Nembhard also doesn't have to worry as much about fighting for job security since he again is on a two-way deal. Sources say the Cavaliers are a fan of Nembhard's two-way potential as a point forward long-term. If he continues his growth, he could be a high-quality depth piece down the line for Cleveland.
Malik Osborne – F, Florida State – 10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.0 steals
Like most kids, Malik Osborne played a myriad of sports growing up. When he was a junior, Osborne shared with Rookie Wire that he settled on basketball as his full-time venture, dreaming of one day becoming a pro. Despite going undrafted, Osborne carried the right mindset with him coming out of Florida State that could endear him to the Cavaliers and their fans.
"I feel like there is no limit to what I can do," said Osborne to Rookie Wire. "I just call myself a whatever man. …I love winning a lot more than I love losing so I understood what it took to win and that was sacrifice. Everybody is sacrificing for a greater cause.
"I was out there able to sacrifice my natural position of being the four and three and just playing the five and doing what the team needed, whether that was rebounding, scoring, defensive stops, energy or using my voice on the court. That’s kind of what I always prided myself on being. I know I have greater aspects to my game than others. I think my rebounding is elite. I think defense is elite. I also know that I have enough tools and have been in enough situations to know that I can do whatever is needed to win in any given moment."
At 6-foot-9, Osborne has the athleticism to guard bigger centers on the interior but also switch onto smaller guards and forwards on the perimeter. Like Aaron Henry, Osborne fits the bill as a J.B. Bickerstaff-like player and could be a sneaky good option to join the Charge next season.
Jamorko Pickett – PF, Detroit Pistons – 3.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists
Jamorko Pickett is a mobile forward that helped Georgetown get to the 2021 NCAA Tournament. He is a good spot-up shooter that can knock down plenty of threes from beyond the arc, and he also can post up on the block. But, he can be prone to taking questionable shots and to having lapses defensively, though.
Pickett is a tall three-point shooter who brings little else to the table but could compliment the likes of non-shooters like Nembhard. His tools are also intriguing. Pickett can handle the ball well enough and he shoots fluidly with extraordinary length and a high-arcing form. But, the fact he wasn’t able to get to league average from the 3-point arc in the G League as a 24-year-old doesn’t argue in Pickett’s favor for sticking with the Cavaliers long-term. Maybe he shows out like he did last summer and gets a training camp invite.
Nate Reuvers – F/C, KK Cibona – 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
A former four-star high school recruit and Wisconsin Badger, Nate Reuvers went undrafted in 2021. In 2022, he was the Adriatic League blocks leader, 2022 Croatian Cup winner and 2022 Croatian League champion. Reuvers learned early into the draft process that heading overseas was the best thing for his professional career. After a year away, maybe now he can try and make an impression on an NBA club.
Amar Sylla – F/C, BC Nevezis – 11.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks
Amar Sylla is a very athletic, energetic big man who has elite physical tools and motor that could enable him to project into a rim protector at the NBA level. He has considerable upside but could very well return overseas after a solid season in the Lithuanian Basketball League.
Luke Travers – G/F, Perth Wildcats – 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists
Selected with the No. 56 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Australian-born Luke Travers won't be joining the Cavaliers quite yet. It's for good reason too given Cleveland's roster situation. But, individually, Travers doesn't stand out due to his lack of athleticism and shooting. Thankfully, he’s able to separate in team environments, where he can showcase his versatility, intangibles as well as an all-around game.
Summer League will give Travers a platform to show he’s more than a hard-playing developmental project. He shared with the media he wants to prove that his style can translate, that he can score the ball better than his numbers would indicate and eventually become a 3-and-D guy. If he continues to grow, he could be worth the gamble for Cleveland. But, they won't find out until next year.
Cam Young – G, Cleveland Charge – 25.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Scoring guard Cam Young is already familiar with Cavaliers Summer League assistant coach Dan Geriot. Geriot is the head coach of the Charge and has helped shape Young into a potent scoring threat. Geriot once shared with Right Down Euclid that he wants to utilize Young in a similar role to Jordan Clarkson during Clarkson's time with the Cavaliers. If Young is able to provide a consistent scoring punch, it's a near no-brainer to keep him in-house with the Charge. But, sources say that other teams are monitoring Young's performance since they could add the young scoring threat on a two-way deal.
Once rivals and now teammates, Ochai Agbaji and R.J. Nembhard could form a fearsome defensive duo for the Cavaliers during Las Vegas Summer League. Photo credit: Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Summertime and the hoops are easy
After every team plays four games from July 7-15, the two teams with the best records from the first four games will meet in the Championship Game on Sunday, July 17 at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN. The 28 teams that do not play in the Championship Game will play the fifth game on July 16 or July 17. The Cavaliers game schedule is below:
- Friday, July 8 vs. San Antonio; COX Pavilion; 5PM EST on NBA TV
- Sunday, July 10 vs. Denver; COX Pavilion; 7PM EST on ESPNU
- Wednesday, July 13 vs. Charlotte; COX Pavilion; 5PM EST on ESPNU
- Thursday, July 14 vs. Detroit; Thomas & Mack Center; 5:30PM EST on NBA TV
What to watch for
- The dynamic duo of Agbaji and Nembhard: As it was said before, there's a lot of potential between the backcourt tandem of R.J. Nembhard and Ochai Agbaji. It could give a lot of creative options for head coach Mike Gerrity and could also provide a glimpse into how Agbaji functions within Cleveland's offensive system. J.B. Bickerstaff said that they want to use him as a shooter off of pin downs, cuts and movement. Well, with Nembhard's playmaking acumen, it could give everyone an idea of how things could go this season.
- Tempering your expectations: Even though there's a good chance Agbaji, Isaiah Mobley or even players like Malik Osborne or Cam Young play well, you need to remain level-headed. At the end of the day, Summer League play is nothing more than a glorified exhibition for the Cavaliers and it's not a true barometer of how things will translate from Vegas to the regular NBA hardwood. Instead, it'll likely give us a glimpse of how some players might function this season for Cleveland.
- Team bonding and togetherness: The Cavaliers posted on social media that Isaac Okoro and Lamar Stevens were traveling with the team to Las Vegas Summer League. With Sin City being the center of the NBA world for the next week and a half, don't be surprised if other members of the Cavaliers make an appearance as well. In the past, Cleveland has held full team practices while in Vegas and this could be another valuable opportunity. With how young and impressionable this squad is, the more chemistry the better.
Featured image credit: David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!