When an NBA player without a guaranteed contract is fighting for a roster spot, they have a very small window of time in which to prove themselves. For many of these fringe roster players, day one of training camp is the first time that they’re meeting the players, coaches and executives within their new organization.
The clock is ticking for them to make a positive impression.
However, that wasn’t the case for forward Zach Auguste, who entered the Los Angeles Lakers’ training camp a bit more comfortable than your typical undrafted rookie. Talk to people around the franchise and you’d think Auguste has been donning purple and gold for a while. But, in reality, the 23-year-old has yet to play a single second for the Lakers (even including the preseason opener, since he didn’t enter the game).
What Auguste did do, though, was suit up for the Lakers’ Summer League squad in Las Vegas back in July, and that experience proved to be very helpful as he made the transition from Notre Dame to the NBA.
Auguste made a strong impression on and off the court during his stint with the Lakers in Las Vegas, so much so that the team’s young core essentially accepted him and made him one of the guys.
During Summer League, he averaged 5.3 points, four rebounds and nearly one steal in 15.8 minutes per game. These stats may not jump off the page, but he made plenty of contributions that don’t show up in the box score. And, most importantly, he won over his teammates and coaches with how he carried himself. He hustled non-stop, sacrificed his body and made the right play. He celebrated his teammates’ successes and offered support when they struggled.
Keep in mind, many players have a stat-driven, me-first mentality when it comes to Summer League. Everyone is trying to showcase their skills and turn their NBA dream into reality. It’s refreshing to see a player with a team-first attitude in this environment and it’s clear that Auguste’s teammates appreciated his support. Some of them are on lucrative, multi-year contracts, yet here’s this undrafted player cheering his teammates on despite having no professional contract and no idea what his future holds. Throw in a great personality and an excellent motor that Lakers head coach Luke Walton has praised, and it’s easy to see how Auguste quickly won over many people within the organization.
“Zach is a guy who everybody loves as a teammate because he’s genuinely happy for people when they do well,” Larry Nance Jr. told Basketball Insiders. “And I enjoy sharing the court with him because he knows how to play the game the right way.”
Plenty of L.A. players enjoy spending time with Auguste off the court as well. Auguste has done late-night workouts at the Lakers’ facility alongside D’Angelo Russell and other teammates, with the sessions sometimes lasting into the early hours of the morning (hence the #BreakfastClub caption he uses to describe the workouts on social media). He calls Brandon Ingram his “little brother” since he’s four years older than his fellow rookie. Nance Jr. has taken Auguste under his wing, with Auguste describing Nance as “my vet” and “like a big brother to me.” Last month, when Russell and Jordan Clarkson were the head coaches of Power 106’s Charity All-Star Game at USC, they were flanked by other members of Los Angeles’ young core, including Ingram, Tarik Black and, you guessed it, Auguste.
“That’s the special thing about basketball; you build relationships with players who are from all over the world, all over the country,” Auguste told Basketball Insiders. “The first day we got in there for Summer League, there were four or five guys from the team who were under contract and they kind of took me under their wing. They gave great advice to help me, especially Larry because he’s kind of from a similar situation as me [as a forward who spent four years in college] and has a similar playing style. I was looking forward to Summer League, and it gave me a great chance to kind of learn from players who have already been where I want to be.
“The opportunity to play with the Lakers in Las Vegas was great. It was a humbling experience to be able to go out there and showcase my skills and meet some of my coaches and teammates. I got to play against some NBA guys, some great talent. It was fun and it actually helped me a lot with my transition to the NBA because you kind of get a feel of the play, the speed and the physicality of the game.”
That physicality has been the biggest adjustment for Auguste. It’s tough going from being the biggest, most physical player on the court most nights to being the young rookie going up against grown men who have spent years bulking up for the sole purpose of pushing people around in the paint. Each step up has presented a tougher challenge in terms of how physical his opponents are.
“The physicality is definitely different from college, for sure,” Auguste said. “In training camp, it’s a little bit different from my Summer League experience too. There’s a lot more talent. We have some really good guys now that we have the vets here in addition to the young guys.
“But training camp has been great so far. It’s exciting to come out here and get some work done, learn some plays, get together as a group and get a feel for each other. It’s been a blessing to be here. The vets and coaches have been talking to me and helping me a lot, which is great. I’m loving all of this.”
It helps that Auguste attended college for four years. It makes him much more NBA-ready than many of the rookies in this draft class, both physically and mentally. On and off the court, he’s further along in his development than other rookies, which has benefited him throughout this adjustment (just as it helped Nance Jr. last year).
“I think spending four years in college kind of gives you a better perspective,” Auguste said. “You’re more mature and you kind of understand the process a little bit better. I felt it helped me in a way where I wasn’t as distracted and didn’t get as upset about things. You have quicker recoveries [rather than highs and lows], and you just really understand the game a little bit more. It just makes the transition from college to the NBA a little bit smoother.”
During those four years at Notre Dame, Auguste was very effective. As a senior, he averaged 14 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 56 percent from the field. He is also a student of the game, watching a lot of film of “bigs who aren’t just limited to the paint, who can do a little bit of everything.” He named Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh as specific players whom he enjoys watching.
“I like those kind of skilled bigs who can run the pick-and-roll, run the floor, dribble the ball if they have to and get shots up from 15 feet and out if they have to do so,” Auguste said. “I love watching bigs like that.”
After Summer League, the Lakers inked Auguste to a two-year, partially guaranteed contract that would pay him $543,471 this season and $905,249 next season.
With that said, in order to make the Lakers’ regular-season roster, Auguste will likely have to beat out a player who’s on a fully guaranteed deal (unless the team makes a trade, perhaps moving Nick Young as has been rumored at times). The Lakers have 20 players in camp and 14 of them have fully guaranteed contracts. Yi Jianlian, who has a partially guaranteed $8,000,000 salary, is expected to make the team as well, seemingly lessening the probability for a camp invite such as Auguste, Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson, Julian Jacobs and Travis Wear to make the team. Anthony Brown, the No. 34 pick in last year’s draft, has the smallest fully-guaranteed salary on the team ($874,636).
It is worth noting that Auguste’s deal is partially guaranteed ($60,000) whereas World Peace, Robinson, Jacobs and Wear didn’t receive any guaranteed money in their camp deals. Sometimes, this is an indicator that a player will start the season with their camp team’s D-League affiliate (the Los Angeles D-Fenders, in the Lakers’ case). The partial guarantee for camp is essentially a way to supplement the modest salary the player will make in the D-League. If the Lakers and Auguste do decide to go this route, it would allow the rookie to play significant minutes, further his development and then potentially get called up later in the season.
Coach Walton has been complimentary of the Lakers’ five non-guaranteed players, but admitted that the numbers game makes things difficult for them.
“It’s hard in camp; there are 20 guys,” Coach Walton said. “We’re going to continue to give the guys who are under [fully guaranteed] contracts the first and second looks, so the reps aren’t always as high [for the non-guaranteed players]. But the way they’re playing – how hard they’re going – it catches the coaches’ eyes.”
Speaking specifically about Auguste, Walton noted, “Zach is relentless on the offensive glass,” while adding that he has been shooting the ball better lately.
Each team must trim their roster to 15 players by opening night on Oct. 25. Auguste, like most players, has tried not to let contracts and the business side of the NBA affect his game or how he approaches camp.
“Everybody is aggressive, coming out here and working their hardest to prove themselves,” Auguste said. “Everyone in here obviously wants to make this team and is trying to stand out, but you don’t want to get carried away and do stuff that isn’t part of your game. You have to play within yourself. I’m just focused on working hard and doing the little things. I think those things help you stand out.
“I don’t want to play selfish, but I want to go out there and showcase what I can do. I’m going to continue to do the things that got me here. I just want to go in there, do my best, bring that energy, showcase what I can do and help the team grow.”
So far, that’s exactly what he has done. People within the organization seem pleased, but we’ll see if it’s enough for him to land a roster spot.
Sources: Gregg Popovich, Kawhi Leonard Held Meeting on Tuesday
San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard met with coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday in San Diego, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The meeting between the two faces of the Spurs’ franchise was done professionally and confidentially, league sources said.
Source: Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports
NBA Daily: Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter
With the 2018 NBA Draft less than 50 hours away, Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler digs into the last from around the NBA.
Lots Of NBA Draft Chatter
With the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday, things in NBA circles are getting interesting, specifically on the trade front.
The final 2018 Consensus Mock Draft will drop tomorrow, just after the media availabilities in New York, from there we’ll be tracking the minute to minute news, trades and rumors in the 2018 NBA Draft Diary.
So, with that in mind, let’s dig into what we know some 50 hours until the draft gets underway.
Kawhi Watch In Full Swing
With the news last week that San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard may no longer want to be a Spur breaking, there is still a sense in NBA circles that the Spurs are not going to listen to trade offers until the hear from Kawhi directly.
If you know anything about the Spurs organization, you know that we won’t hear the details of this situation in a minute by minute way like we do from some organizations, especially considering the Spurs have never had to deal with a scenario quite like this.
The interesting part of this story is how split the “sourcing” is on what’s real. There have been reports from several different reporters suggesting that the situation isn’t as dire as initially reported and that the Spurs and Leonard have had dialogue, but not the face-to-face meeting the Spurs covet.
It’s unclear why there hasn’t been a meeting, and that is what has some in NBA circles believing the Spurs will open up the phones on Wednesday and see what they can extract for Leonard if only to do their due diligence.
One league source commented that it might be tough for the Spurs to get value out of Leonard mainly because of his injury situation and the idea that he’d only re-sign with the Lakers. The same source doubted that Leonard’s camp would fence themselves inmto just the Lakers because that would make getting him traded extremely difficult, especially if the Lakers wouldn’t offer value to San Antonio.
The sense today is the Spurs are standing their ground. The thing to know is that this situation still seems very fluid, and that face-to-face conversation (or lack of one) could swing this thing in either direction. It is clear several teams would have interest if the Spurs decide to listen to offers, even if it just a rental for the upcoming season.
Trades At The Top Still Viable
It a typical NBA draft there is chatter about top tier picks being traded, but usually, it dies off the week for the draft as teams look in on who they ultimately want to draft.
This year, and unlike previous years there is a sense that several of the picks at the top of the board could be had, especially if it returns draft picks later in the draft and solid veterans.
The Sacramento Kings seem to be leaning towards keeping their pick at number two, and it’s looking more and more likely that Marvin Bagley III is their guy. The Kings took a very long look at Michael Porter Jr, and as of this weekend there was a sense they were OK with where Porter Jr is at medically, but he may lose out to the less risky Bagley. League sources continue to doubt the Kings grab Euro sensation Luke Dončić, so we’ll see if that holds true as we get to draft day.
The Atlanta Hawks have had the third overall pick on the market from almost the moment they landed it. The Hawks seem ready to use the pick but are said to still be exploring their options. The prevailing thought this week is it’s down to Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young for the Hawks, with more and more league sources believing the Hawks will draft Young at three. While the notion of grabbing Young at three may seem high, the Hawks have had eyes on Young from the start of the process, and not much seems to have changed. The Hawks have made it clear they would take on contract money in exchange for additional draft assets, so it seems likely the Hawks will be active, even if it’s not moving the third pick.
Things start to get interesting with Memphis at number four. There have been numerous reports that the Grizzlies have dangled the fourth pick in an attempt to shed the contract of Chandler Parsons. Sources close to the situation say the Grizzlies have had some offers, and most of them involve the Grizz picking up expiring contracts and additional draft assets lower in the draft. It’s unclear if the Grizzlies will pull the trigger, but they seem to have deals if they want one.
The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Grizzlies are the first real landing spot for Dončić. There is also talk of Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba landing at four.
The Dallas Mavericks at five seem open to taking on contract dollars and could be the landing spot for the fourth pick and Chandler Parsons, but league sources say the Mavericks would not give up the fifth pick unless it returned an All-Star or would-be All-Star.
There are a few other situations to watch as several teams have expressed interest in moving up. The Clippers hold two pretty solid selections and 12 and 13 and seem willing to combine them to move into the top 5. The Denver Nuggets have also expressed some interest in moving to the top five.
The Lakers and Celtics have expressed similar interest at points in the process, but both seem reluctant at this point to part with future assets to pay the price to jump to the top of the draft.
Porter Still A Possibility
The Michael Porter Jr. situation is murky. After two visits from NBA teams, the word on Porter is mixed. NBA teams have seen his MRIs and his medical, and select teams were allowed to bring their doctors and trainers to his most recent “workout.”
The worst case from one team that’s not considering him is that he may require an additional surgery down the line. This same team said their doctors didn’t think anything going on with Porter would jeopardize his career, but they felt like he’d have to be on a program and has a ways to go before they’d deem him a 100 percent.
The upside case, from a team with Porter squarely on their board, is that there wasn’t anything going on they didn’t expect and that their staff felt fairly positive they could not only manage his situation, but they felt they could get him right fairly quickly.
Amusingly, the narrative around Porter is that he could be the next Kevin Durant-type scorer in the NBA (Porter clearly isn’t as long and lanky as Durant) – but he does possess the ability to get his offense against almost anyone.
As one executive whose team wasn’t considering Porter joked, you could get Durant or you could get Greg Oden, hinting at the injury-riddled career of the former top pick back in 2007.
Where Does Luka Go?
There isn’t a more polarizing NBA Draft prospect than Real Madrid’s Luke Dončić. You would be hard-pressed to find an NBA executive who didn’t think Dončić could be special in the NBA. But you might also be hard-pressed to find one willing to bet their job on it.
Throughout this process, more than a couple of executives have expressed they are hopeful Dončić goes high, mainly because it would give them cover in future drafts to do the same thing, which is draft what appears to be the most NBA ready player in the class, despite his flaws.
The problem is if Dončić isn’t special or struggles like some have concerns he might, not only would a team leave a potential franchise cornerstone on the board to in passing on uber-talented collegiate prospects, it might cost the lead executive their jobs.
While that seems somewhat short-sighted, think about the executives drafting in the top six. How many are not under pressure to turn their franchises around? And would a huge draft miss seal their fate?
Atlanta’s Travis Schlenk at three seems pretty secure. Dallas’ Donnie Nelson at five seems pretty secure. Orlando’s Jeff Weltman and John Hammond at six seem fairly secure, but it gets dicey elsewhere in the top 10.
As we’ve seen in previous drafts, NBA executives can and often do outthink themselves, which why every draft has quality impact guys falling later in the process.
There is little doubt Dončić is going in the top 10; it would be pretty surprising if he got past Dallas at five.
Sexton Over Young?
The Orlando Magic seems to be dialing in on what’s there for them at six, assuming they don’t trade up, which they have explored with both Atlanta and Memphis. The prevailing thought among fans is that if Trae Young is there at six, the Magic will pounce.
Early on in the process, though, the Magic seemed to be seriously interested in Collin Sexton, and word is that be might the Magic’s guy at six. The Magic ultimately will catch what falls to them, and if Dončić, Bagley or Jackson are there, things get interesting. However, if the draft goes as scripted, Orlando seems more likely to go, Sexton, Bamba, Carter or Knox than Young – at least at this point.
The draft is a fluid domino effect process, so at six the Magic have to cover a lot of bases, and it seems they have with their individual workouts.
The Magic desperately covet an impact player, so don’t be surprised if the Magic pull the trigger on a move-up deal, especially as we get closer and closer to the moment of truth.
Bamba Could Slide
You won’t find many NBA executives who don’t find Texas big man Mo Bamba intriguing. The problem for Bamba if there are some many super talented bigs in the 2018 NBA draft he is caught in a numbers game.
League sources said recently that Bamba is in the mix at two to the Kings, four to Grizzlies, five to Mavericks, six to the Magic and seven to the Bulls. The problem is he doesn’t seem to be the first or second option to any of those teams at this point.
According to league sources there continues to be questions about how his offensive game fits into the modern NBA, and with more versatile guys sitting at the top of the draft, Bamba is looking more like the consolation prize later in the draft. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Bamba will be a monster defensively in the NBA, but the question remains which team is drafting defense at the top of the board?
If there is a player outside of the top five that could tumble a little, it might be Bamba, especially if the Mavericks pass at five.
Over the next few days, we’ll be posting all of the draft-related news, notes, rumors and trades in the 2018 NBA Draft Day Diary, so if you want a one-stop shop for all things NBA Draft, bookmark it.
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NBA Daily: Kaiser Gates Determined To Silence His Doubters
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Kaiser Gates knows what he’s made of.
If you’re looking to further your career at the next level but coming out of college as a prospect on the fringe, you’d better be willing to work twice as hard to draw attention from the basketball world.
Attending the Preparation Pro Day in Miami with team representatives and scouts watching, Kaiser Gates wanted to show everybody who was there that the chip on his shoulder would drive him to silence his doubters.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove,” Gates said in Miami. “I feel like a lot of the guys in the draft this year, I’m just as good if not better than (them), so I gotta show that.”
After three years at Xavier University, the 22-year-old decided it was time to move on from the program and passed on his senior year to enter the NBA Draft. The news came as a surprise to many, considering he might’ve gotten the opportunity to earn an even more expanded role next season with the departure of Musketeer favorites Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.
The numbers across the board weren’t exactly eye-catching. Primarily a wing, Gates knocked down 37.8 percent of his threes as a junior. He averaged 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in almost 24 minutes per game.
Looking at conference play in the Big East, those figures took a dip. Gates shot less than 30 percent from deep and really struggled to contribute offensively for Xavier against tougher opponents.
There was an incredible discrepancy in shot selection over his three-year collegiate career. Astoundingly enough, 300 of his 409 career attempts came outside of the arc. The other 109 tries were twos, which he converted at a 54.1 percent rate.
It’s hard to ignore statistical evidence when it comes to evaluating players, but misuse and fit could have been more prominent factors in this case. It’s something that happens quite a bit at school programs with prospects, and Gates believes that he could be added to that list of mishandled talent.
“I don’t think I’m inconsistent at all,” Gates said. “At Xavier, I know my stats showed that I was inconsistent. Playing at that school it was a great experience—great guys, great coaches.
“Just kinda like my situation and the way I was playing at that school didn’t really allow me to showcase my full talents, and with that being said, it’s kinda hard to stay consistent not doing something I’m used to doing.”
Furthering the point, it’s not easy to be judged off that information, which some use as the only indication of what you’ll bring to the pros. Gates plans on using that as motivation whenever he meets with different teams.
“I would come in and people would just assume like, ‘Oh he could shoot a little bit, play defense, a little athletic.’ But I know on the flip side, I know what I can really do and like, my full potential.
“So when I know that and see what teams already think, already have in their head, just now it’s up to me to prove to them what I can do and show them what I can do.”
So what does that exactly entail?
“My first few years or so, I’ll probably be more of a three-and-D guy—stretch the floor, play defense make hustle plays, rebound the ball, things like that,” Gates said. “But as I’mma grow, (I’ll) look to expand on my game. Maybe work out the pick-and-roll a little bit and expand from there.”
Thus far, the 6-foot-8, 228-pounder has reportedly worked out for multiple organizations, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. He is enjoying the draft process and his growth as a player since it started.
He may not be listed on some draft boards or seen as an impact player by certain individuals, but Gates knows what he’s made of. And if he can attract the right set of eyes, he’ll be in good shape.
“You could get 30 workouts and that one team could fall in love with you,” Gates said.
“That’s what [my agent] Aaron Turner’s always talking to me about. He’s always said, ‘It only takes one team.’”