STANZ: Five reasons to be excited about the Vegas Summer League

Feb 9, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris (11) dribbles the ball during the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas version of the NBA Summer League tips off on Friday afternoon when Houston and Indiana square off. For the first time ever, all 30 of the league’s teams will partake in the Vegas Summer League and that gives me plenty of evidence for why Iowa State fans should be excited for the only form of competitive basketball we’ll get for a few more weeks before The Basketball Tournament commences later this month.

Here is a list of reasons Iowa State fans should care or watch the Summer League with some of my own analysis to close things out.

Four former Cyclones are on rosters

Iowa State greats Monte Morris, Deonte Burton, Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long will all see time on the court in Vegas over the next week and a half.

Morris will continue the process of impressing Denver Nuggets management enough to earn a roster spot in his second professional season. The Cyclones’ all-time leader in assists and steals spent his rookie year as a two-way player for the Nuggets, averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 assists in three NBA games, but is in position to battle for the team’s backup point guard spot in 2018-19.

Niang and Mitrou-Long travel to Vegas fresh off of their performances in the Utah Summer League that concluded with a Jazz victory over the Trae Young led Hawks late Thursday night. Niang was one of the 

standouts of the three-day slate, averaging 16.7 points (fourth-highest in the league) and shooting 53 percent from the field.

Mitrou-Long showed flashes of his potential as well while averaging 10.7 points on 67 percent shooting. Niang remains on a two-way contract with Utah entering his third professional season while Mitrou-Long hopes to earn a training camp invite that can better his chances of landing a contract with an NBA team.

Burton is the only one of the four players who did not play in the NBA system last season. Instead, the high-flying former Cyclone spent his rookie year earning Korean Basketball League MVP honors and leading his team to the league finals. It will be interesting to see how Burton’s game has evolved since we last saw him on American soil in last year’s summer league and how that evolution can help his chances of landing in an NBA organization.

Former Iowa State opponents and Cyclone ties

I went through all 30 summer league rosters in search of former Big 12 players and opponents on past Iowa State schedules. Believe me, that was an awfully long list and for the sake of not making this column 600 miles long, I’ve narrowed it down to guys who have played against Iowa State in the past several seasons and a few other notable names.

I also probably missed some but I’m putting this together at 11 p.m. and nobody who wants to tweet at me to say I missed some names can say I didn’t warn them. It is still a really long list, but here are some of the names you will probably recognize if you tune in to the action in Vegas.

Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young – Oklahoma

Zach Smith – Texas Tech

Houston Rockets

Gary Clark – Cincinnati

Danuel House – Texas A&M

Vincent Edwards – Purdue

Philadelphia 76ers

Cameron Oliver – Nevada

Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech

Boston Celtics

Jarrod Uthoff – Iowa

Los Angeles Clippers

Feb 8, 2017; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Jawun Evans (1) dribbles as Baylor Bears guard Jake Lindsey (3) defends during the second half of a NCAA basketball game at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Baylor won 72-69. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Juwan Evans – Oklahoma State


Phoenix Suns

Josh Jackson – Kansas

Brooklyn Nets

Tyler Davis – Texas A&M

Jarrett Allen – Texas

Los Angeles Lakers

Alex Caruso – Texas A&M

Svi Mykhailuk – Kansas

Malik Newman – Kansas

Jeffrey Carroll – Oklahoma State

Demarcus Holland – Texas

Portland Trail Blazers

Caleb Swanigan – Purdue

Chicago Bulls

Chandler Hutchinson – Boise State

Melo Trimble – Maryland (Played last season with the Iowa Wolves)

Memphis Grizzlies

Jevon Carter – West Virginia

Sacramento Kings

Marcus Foster – Creighton/K-State

Daxter Miles Jr. – West Virginia

Frank Mason – Kansas

Devin Williams – West Virginia

Cleveland Cavaliers

Vlad Brodziansky – TCU

Dakota Mathias – Purdue

Billy Preston – Kansas (Uh… sort of?)

Collin Sexton – Alabama

Miami Heat

Rashad Vaughn – UNLV

Derrick Walton – Michigan

Dallas Mavericks

Manu Lecomte – Baylor

Johnathan Motley – Baylor

Milwaukee Bucks

Perry Ellis – Kansas

Denver Nuggets

Kenrich Williams – TCU

Minnesota Timberwolves

Isaiah Cousins – Oklahoma

Egor Koulechov – Florida (which he chose over Iowa State as a graduate transfer from Utah State)

Utah Jazz

Isaac Haas – Purdue

Golden State Warriors

Jacob Evans – Cincinnati

Keenan Evans – Texas Tech

Okay, I’m glad that part is over. I hope you’re still here.  As a test to see if you made it through the list, which player listed was taken by his home-state school rather than Monte Morris? Tweet me the answer and you’ll have my respect for the remainder of my days.

First chance to see the top picks as pros

Well, sort of.

We’ve already gotten our first glimpses of Trae Young and Jaren Jackson Jr. during the Utah Summer League this week. My first impressions of Young as a pro are not exactly glowing. He really struggled to create space and will have to get a lot stronger if he hopes to play similarly to the way he did as a freshman at Oklahoma. He’ll be interesting to watch over the next week and a half to see how much more comfortable he gets against other pros.

We really will get our first looks at DeAndre Ayton (Suns), Marvin Bagley (Kings), Luka Doncic (Mavericks) and most of the other top picks in this year’s NBA Draft.

Player I’m most excited to see – Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

The 6-foot-7, 19-year old wing from Slovenia is a legend overseas after leading Real Madrid to all sorts of championships and winning basically every accolade under the sun this past season.

This will be our first opportunity to see how his game translates to the NBA system against primarily American competition. Will he see the floor and pass at the same elite level he did against European competition? Can he really be the next great European in the NBA?

This obviously won’t be the final gauge of those questions, but it will certainly be the first step.

Under the radar guy I’m interested in seeing – Jacob Evans, Golden State Warriors

Looking for the next versatile, “where the heck did that guy come from” piece we could see in the Warriors’ rotation during next year’s NBA Finals? Evans would be a solid first place to look.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound wing is a tenacious defender and showed flashes of being a high-level scorer during his career at Cincinnati. He turned that into becoming the No. 28 overall pick in this year’s draft and a chance at quickly working his way into the Warriors’ rotation.

Evans did get a little banged up during the Utah Summer League, which makes it unclear how much he will play in Vegas, but I’m sure he will get his fair share of run.

In conclusion…

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you the Vegas Summer League is worth following over the next several weeks. It really is an awesome event and one I think is difficult to truly appreciate until you’ve been inside the Thomas and Mack Center to take in a day of action.

It is hard to put together while watching on TV, but the games are played simultaneously in two gyms inside the same building with a who’s who of basketball royalty and celebrities on in attendance. It is something I highly suggest any basketball junkie experience in their life.

Just last season when I went with my friend Ryan Grove (a sponsor of the FAWcast and someone you definitely should buy a house from in the Ames area) and we saw Magic Johnson, J. Cole, Floyd Mayweather, Lavar Ball, DeMarcus Cousins and Vlade Divac… on our first night in town.

Of course, Ball got the loudest ovation of them all when he walked in the gym.

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.