Happy 4th everybody! The NBA ‘Cats get today off too, but starting as soon as tomorrow, some of the program’s most recent alumni will get back on the court to secure their spots on NBA rosters. And while we’ve already been given a first taste of the newest Wildcats attempts to earn a shot on the NBA stage - with the Warriors’ Eric Paschall and the Cavaliers’ Phil Booth playing their first professional games (with mixed results) in the California Classic and the Utah Jazz Summer League, respectively - these competitions are just the first course for NBA and college fans alike. While many fans are still recovering from today’s Fourth of July celebrations tomorrow, the Las Vegas Summer League will begin. And while many household names of the college game over the past few years will see their first professional action, Villanova fans have four names in particular towards which to pay attention. Paschall and Booth, of course, will continue to work towards securing their place on their teams, half of the ‘Cats quartet from the 2018 NBA Draft is back in Vegas to work on their games as well. While Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges played their way out of cutting their offseason short this year, Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman have important preseasons ahead following rookie seasons that did not go as they would have hoped. Here’s what to watch for and how to watch these four ‘Cats as you’re hopefully anchored to your couch this July 5th and over the weekend.
Omari Spellman - Atlanta Hawks
When on the court for the Hawks, Spellman more or less proved that he plays the type of game made for the modern NBA. In limited minutes over 46 games, Big O showed his potential as a stretch big, both shooting over 36% from behind the arc and flashing the ability as a rim protector we saw so often on the college stage. Limited minutes, however, was the problem Spellman faced his rookie season, and the one he has to prove he can overcome as a professional. Once he departed from the sometimes magical-seeming fitness environment provided by coach John Shackleton’s ShackFit regime, Spellman’s old demons came calling. At one point, his weight ballooned to 293 points, up from his listed 245. This summer, Spellman needs to prove that he can achieve and maintain the athleticism necessary to allow his skills to shine. If he can achieve this, look for him to feast on summer league competition like Josh Hart did as a second year player this time last year.
7/6 @ Milwaukee
7/7 vs. Minnesota
7/9 vs. Indiana
7/11 @ Washington
Donte DiVincenzo - Milwaukee Bucks
DiVincenzo started his NBA career on a high, garnering praise for his ability to come into the NBA and immediately make an impact for one of the best teams in the league. However, despite the positive contributions he made early in the season, injuries, as well as the fact that the success DiVincenzo had shooting the three in college did not translate right away led to him spending a lot of time either with the Wisconsin Herd of the G League or rehabbing. DiVincenzo has proven he can keep up with the speed of the NBA game. Now he needs to show the Bucks that his shot will start falling at a high enough rate to make him a useful complementary piece to Giannis Antetokounmpo, that he’s fully recovered from the injuries that prematurely ended his rookie year, and that he is able to stay in the floor going forward.
7/5 vs. Philadelphia
7/6 vs. Atlanta
7/8 @ Toronto
7/10 vs. China
Eric Paschall - Golden State Warriors
For a fifth year player, getting drafted after transferring programs is impressive. Eric Paschall now needs to beat the odds again to prove he can provide significant value for the Warriors or another NBA team as a second round pick. And as a 5-year college player, Paschall needs to show Steve Kerr and Bob Myers this summer league that he can contribute right away, and in multiple facets of the game. In the California Classic, his scoring and defensive skills have already been on display. It’s now his job to show that not only does he possess these skills, he can sustain them over multiple weeks packed with games, a test he will face in Vegas.
Golden State’s Schedule:
7/5 vs. Charlotte
7/7 vs. Toronto
7/8 @ Los Angeles Lakers
7/10 @ Denver
Phil Booth - Cleveland Cavaliers
Phil’s NBA career got off to a rocky start... to say the least. After shooting 0-11 combined over his first two games in Utah, Booth scored 9 points - but shot only 3-9 from the field - in the Cavs’ final Salt Lake City game against Memphis. This is a problem, for him and anyone rooting for his professional success. As long as Booth is paying his bills playing basketball, he’s going to have to do so on the back of his ability to create offense. As an undersized two, there’s no other way - he has to score. No doubt he is good enough to make a solid living for a long time in Europe. But if Booth wants to cash NBA checks for the foreseeable future, he needs to show up and show out in Vegas, so that the Cavs and any other teams keeping an eye on him forget about his rocky start in the Mountain time zone.
7/5 vs. Minnesota
7/7 vs. Chicago
7/8 @ Boston
7/10 @ New Orleans
Once this initial slate of games comes and goes, the Vegas Summer League transitions into a tournament format. Check back here throughout to see where and when to watch these four ‘Cats in action.