While they’re only two games into Las Vegas Summer League action, the Cleveland Cavaliers are undefeated after handling business against the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors. Sure, a lot of Summer League is glorified AAU play with players showcasing to teams their development or guys trying to make it into the NBA through a few set plays and organized chaos. But some things have stood out so far for the Cavaliers, and, surprisingly, rookie forward Emoni Bates isn’t at the center of it all. Today, we’ll break down things that emerged early in Cleveland’s Summer League play.
What the heck is the In-Season Tournament?
But, first, there was some news over this weekend’s Summer League action as the groups were set for the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. The inaugural In-Season Tournament will tip off on Friday, November 3 in NBA team markets and culminate with playing the Semifinals (December 7) and Championship (December 9) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 67 games across both stages of the In-Season Tournament will count toward the regular-season standings except the Championship. Each team will continue to play 82 regular-season games in the 2023-24 season, including those games that are part of Group Play and the Knockout Rounds. Fourteen Group Play games (two games on each Tournament Night) and all seven Knockout Round games will be televised nationally. The game and broadcast schedule for the In-Season Tournament Group Play stage will be announced in August. An overview of the Group Play schedule is available here.
To determine each team’s opponents in the Group Play games, the 15 teams in each conference were divided into three groups of five teams via a random drawing. Before the drawing, each team was placed into a “pot” based on its record from the prior regular season. In each conference, one team from each pot was randomly selected into each of the three groups in that conference. The Cavaliers were placed into the Eastern Conference’s Group A, joining the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. There’s still much to unpack before the Cavaliers host the Hawks and Pistons to Open Group Play at home. Thankfully, it’s not until November, and for now, Cleveland is enjoying Summer League fun in Las Vegas. Here’s what’s stood out.
Despite showcasing his potential, Khalifa Diop isn’t quite NBA-ready
Leading up to Las Vegas Summer League, there was a lot of speculation regarding international big man Khalifa Diop. Last year, Diop didn’t participate in Summer League for the Cavaliers despite being drafted early into the second round by Cleveland. But, despite being fresh off winning a EuroLeague Championship with Spanish club Gran Canaria, Diop made the trip back to Cleveland this summer to play in Las Vegas Summer League with the Cavaliers.
Diop said he felt he was NBA-ready during his practice media availability, despite his limited experience playing professional North American hoops, and would stay in Cleveland if the organization felt like he was NBA-ready.
“If they want me to stay here, I’m ready,” said Diop from Cleveland Clinic Courts last Monday. “It’s not my decision, but I’m ready for anything.”
Sure, Diop did have the pedigree to say that considering he’d been playing professionally since he was nearly 15 years old. But that professional experience does deserve a massive asterisk considering that Diop has only gotten serious minutes in his last two seasons with Gran Canaria. Nevertheless, since there was so much intrigue surrounding Diop leading up to Summer League, a lot of attention was going to be thrown in his direction.
Through two games of action, Diop is averaging 4.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks in 15.7 minutes per game. Diop is also averaging 4.0 fouls per game in those fairly limited minutes and recently racked up six fouls in less than 18 minutes in Cleveland’s 99-76 win over Toronto. Sure, in Summer League play, the foul limit is set to 10 versus the usual six allowed in NBA regulation. But with Diop struggling against former Cavaliers big man Moses Brown, it may be time to pump the brakes on his NBA readiness as a prospect.
Mind you, there are still flashes of potential for Diop as a player, which should excite Cleveland and their fans. But, for now, he needs to continue developing overseas with Gran Canaria for the next year or two before he breaks into the NBA. At this point give Diop another year or two overseas with check-ins on his development during Las Vegas Summer League action.
The Cavaliers might not have to wait much longer for Luke Travers
Speaking of international prospects recently taken by the Cavaliers Luke Travers has been awesome in Summer League play. In Cleveland’s two wins, Travers is averaging 8.0 points on 60.0% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 22.4 minutes per game. You probably think Travers’ counting stats aren’t necessarily eye-popping since, you’re right, they’re not. But, compared to how he looked last season in Summer League play for the Cavaliers, Travers has shown legitimate growth as a prospect and could be joining Cleveland sooner rather than later.
Sure, Travers said he’s still a year or two away from considering entering the NBA full-time. There’s always a chance he also stays in his home country of Australia permanently. That’s part of the crap shoot for picking international prospects like Travers late into the second round of the NBA Draft. But, based on how strong he’s looked in Summer League play, Travers is checking several boxes of long-term needs for the Cavaliers.
Travers shared leading up to Summer League that he wanted to showcase his ability to play multiple positions on the floor, which would fit a major need for Cleveland. Although it’s only been two games, you can see the vision behind what Travers could be as a player for the Cavaliers. Travers is showing signs that he could fit the mold as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none that can bind bench units together, despite it not being the highest level of play possible in Summer League.
Those glimmers of potential could provide Travers an inside track to stick in the NBA if he continues to develop overseas with Melbourne United. Again, it’s unknown if he’ll ever leave home to play in the NBA. But, if Travers does decided to take the leap, it could be a worthwhile pickup for the Cavaliers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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