Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett weren’t the only standouts on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ summer league team. On a squad overshadowed by a pair of number one picks, a D-Leaguer fighting to earn a spot in the NBA made his mark.
Will Cherry traveled to Las Vegas ready to leave last year in the past. Twelve months earlier, the undrafted guard from the University of Montana averaged a mere 1.3 points in four minutes for the New Orleans Pelicans. The pace of the pro game moved “so fast” and he struggled to make an impact.
This summer would be different.
Without a place in the NBA, Cherry considered playing internationally last season. When those plans didn’t pan out, he joined the Cavaliers’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Canton Charge, in February. The coaching staff committed time and effort into getting back to basics with Cherry.
“Those last two months in the D-League were definitely a blessing in disguise,” Cherry told Basketball Insiders. ‘I know I was trying to get overseas before, it didn’t work out, and I think it happened for a reason. I was a new player coming in, a rookie, and [the coaches] really watched a lot of film with me and critiqued my game down to the lowest level. That’s what made me a lot better.”
Cherry averaged 11.6 points, 4.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 30.4 minutes over 18 games with the Charge. While he wasn’t the biggest player on the court, listed at 6’0, 185 pounds, he turned heads with well-rounded performances.
The Cavaliers took notice and gave Cherry a place on their summer league roster. He returned to Las Vegas, this time with a different perspective.
“Coming from the D-League, the game slowed down a lot and it’s a lot easier,” Cherry said. “It’s more comfortable to me and you can see that. You can kind of tell that I have a lot of confidence out there on the floor this summer league.”
Newly hired head coach David Blatt instilled confidence in Cherry by giving him the responsibility to run the floor. He ran with it.
Cherry stood out in spite of the fact he was sharing the court with Wiggins and Bennett. He had two 21-point performances and finished summer league averaging 12.8 points, three assists and four rebounds in 25.2 minutes over five games (including two starts).
While he praised his highly-touted teammates for making his job easier, there was plenty he did on his own.
“I’m an all-around player,” Cherry said. “I try to rebound, block shots here and there if I could, steals. I try to do a little bit of everything. I think they call them stat stuffers. But for the most part, I’m out there trying to make it hard on the opposing offensive guard I’m going against and speed their offense up and get out in transition and get my teammates easy buckets. But just most of all, bringing that intensity on both sides of the game, offense or defense.”
On Friday, one week after the Cavs’ summer league finale, Yahoo! Sports reported Cherry is drawing interest from the Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. It is a complete turnaround from his summer a year ago.
“I’ve just got to play my game and be me,” Cherry said. “That’s what I’ve been doing and I think it’s paid dividends for me.”
Joakim Noah Happy for LeBron James
Joakim Noah is one of the most outspoken players in the NBA. On Friday, he used his voice to speak out against gun violence in Chicago. Noah unveiled a new PSA for the Noah’s Arc Foundation, featuring teammate Derrick Rose, that will air in the Chicago area.
At the event, the Bulls big man also addressed happenings around the NBA. He spoke highly of the addition of Pau Gasol, a player he called “very, very smart,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
“He’s somebody who comes with a lot of experience,” Noah noted. “He’s not just a great player. He’s somebody who cares about the community as well. I’m excited to see him help us as well in trying to slow down the violence and help the kids out here in Chicago. It’s very humbling to play with somebody who has won championships with his pedigree. He’s somebody I can really learn from.”
When it came to opposing teams, Noah was feeling happy for other big-name players who signed elsewhere.
He said Carmelo Anthony, who the Bulls recruited, made the right decision for himself to stay with the New York Knicks. As for the biggest offseason move, Noah was on board with LeBron James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m happy for LeBron James,” Noah said. “He gets to go home. People are happy over there. But I really hope that we can kick his [butt] as many times as possible.”
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.