NBA Daily: Training Camp Invites Who Can Contribute
David Yapkowitz looks at five training camp invites who have a chance to stick and make a real NBA impact.
NBA Media Day has come and gone, and with it is the opening of training camp with preseason right around the corner. Every year, NBA rosters are filled with players looking for an opportunity.
These players are not armed with the security of a guaranteed contract. Oftentimes, the team they signed with doesn’t even have a roster spot open. Yet they’re out there grinding and putting in work, hoping to catch the eye of a front office executive. If the team they signed with doesn’t have an available spot, then perhaps they can do enough to latch on with another team that does.
Here’s a look at a few players fighting for a roster spot this training camp who, should they succeed, could have a positive impact for whatever team takes a chance on them.
1. Kobi Simmons – Cleveland Cavaliers
Kobi Simmons got his first taste of the NBA last season when he signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. He split time between the Grizzlies and their G-League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle. He did manage to see action in 32 games with the Grizzlies, including 12 starts. During that time, he averaged 6.1 points per game.
Although he played mostly point guard last season, he is more of a scoring guard. His playmaking ability at the NBA level is something that needs a bit of work if he’s to carve out a niche as a point guard off the bench. He did show nice flashes of potential during his time on the court for the Grizzlies.
The Cavaliers currently have Collin Sexton and George Hill at point guard, so if Simmons makes the team he’ll likely start off as third string. But should the Cavaliers end up making a move such as trading Hill, Simmons could get a nice opportunity.
2. Jarnell Stokes – Miami HEAT
Jarnell Stokes is hoping things work out differently the second time around. Following his 2014-15 rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies, Stokes was traded to the HEAT only to find himself playing mostly for their G-League team. The HEAT didn’t bother to re-sign him and aside from a brief stint in Denver, he’s mostly played in the G-League and China.
His time in China and the G-League has allowed him to become a much more complete player, one capable of succeeding in today’s NBA game. As a big man, he’s a tenacious rebounder, and he’s added the ability to guard multiple positions defensively. On the offensive end, he isn’t only a finisher around the rim, but he can stretch defenses with his range as well.
The HEAT have James Johnson as the current starter at power forward, with Kelly Olynyk the likely reserve. Should Stokes make the roster, he’ll also start off as a deep reserve. But as far as the end of the bench roster spots go, the HEAT could do far worse. And in Stokes’ case, should playing time open up, he is certainly able to contribute.
3. Danuel House Jr. – Golden State Warriors
Should he make an opening night roster, this would technically be Danuel House’s third NBA season. However, during his rookie season in 2016-17, he appeared in only one game for the Washington Wizards after suffering a wrist fracture and subsequently being cut. Last season, he signed a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns and ended up putting up a few impressive performances.
Towards the end of the season, House was given an opportunity by the Suns to showcase his ability on the court. He responded with a career-high 16 points against the Warriors on April 1. He’d set a new career-high also against the Warriors just a few days later with 22 points. He’s an explosive wing scorer who can put up points in a hurry as well as play multiple positions.
The Warriors are the defending champs with three-peat aspirations. Even if he makes the team, he’s likely not going to see an ounce of playing time. But he’s shown enough to warrant a roster spot somewhere, if not in Golden State.
4. Troy Williams – New Orleans Pelicans
Another player with NBA experience under his belt, Troy Williams had an impressive preseason that earned him a roster spot with Memphis during the 2016-17 season. He played only sparingly before being cut about halfway through the year.
Last season, he was picked up by the Rockets. In six games for Houston, including three starts, he put up 9.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 percent from three-point range. He was ultimately cut by the Rockets and signed by the New York Knicks, where he put up 7.5 points on 49 percent shooting.
He fits the mold of a 3&D type player and when given the opportunity, he’s produced. He’s currently fighting for a roster spot with the Pelicans along with fellow swingmen Kenrich Williams and Garlon Green. Due to his recent success and experience in the league, he could be the favorite to remain on the team past opening night. Given the Pelicans’ need for an athletic wing who can shoot, he’s a guy that can help them this season.
5. Emeka Okafor – Philadelphia 76ers
Probably the most recognizable name on this list, Emeka Okafor made a successful return to the NBA last season after sitting out the past four years due to rehabbing from a neck injury. Despite having been out of commission for that long, Okafor began his return in the G-League and looked solid.
When he was called up to the league by New Orleans, he quickly earned a spot in the rotation and even started a few games. When he was in the league before, his calling card was defense and rebounding, and he showed no real signs of that having diminished at all.
It’s going to be an uphill battle for him to make the 76ers’ roster. They’ve already got 15 guaranteed contracts. But if he impresses enough during camp, perhaps they’d consider making a move to keep him around. He isn’t a bad veteran option to have and if anything he could play the role Elton Brand did for them prior to retiring. But one thing’s for sure, expect to see him on an NBA roster this season.
There are other training camp battles that are going to interesting to watch as the NBA season draws near. Guys are literally fighting for their job, fighting for an opportunity. The players listed here are among the guys who probably have a better chance at contributing to an NBA team this upcoming season.
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