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Duke in the NBA: Summer League recap

Barrett struggled to begin the Summer League, but picked it up over his team's final few games
Barrett struggled to begin the Summer League, but picked it up over his team's final few games

An eventful two weeks of the NBA's Summer League have passed, with nine former Duke players having participated in the action. The Blue Zone gives you a rundown on how your favorite Blue Devils fared:

Zion Williamson, F, New Orleans Pelicans

Setting a new record for the highest TV ratings in a Summer League game, Williamson's pro debut—though shorter than expected—lived up to the hype. The No. 1 overall pick played just nine minutes, but secured three rebounds and 11 points on a flurry of dunks. The highlight of the night came when Zion snuck up behind second-year forward Kevin Knox, snatching the ball away and slamming it home, sending Knox to the floor in disbelief.


The consensus National Player of the Year would exit with a knee injury in the third quarter and, in an attempt to use "an abundance of caution" according to executive VP David Griffin, the Pelicans decided to sit Williamson for the rest of the Summer League.

Last week, Williamson's former coach Mike Krzyzewski shared his opinion on Zion's experience in the Summer League and why it might not have been the best idea to parade him out in Las Vegas.

"No, I thought really he never should've played just because he's been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything," he told Forbes' Adam Zagoria at the Peach Jam, where he's recruiting this week. "I don't think he's in the playing shape or the mental shape to play."

It should be noted that Williamson was listed at 285 pounds when he first came to Duke, a number that would make him the second heaviest current player in the NBA.

R.J. Barrett, G, New York Knicks

Barrett's first taste of NBA basketball was definitely a learning experience, but Knicks fans have found a glimmer of hope as the No. 3 overall pick started to show flashes of stardom toward their final games. Adjusting to pro ball seemed to be a struggle at first for Barrett, who shot just 34% over five games. His rude awakening came in a July 7 loss to the Suns in which the consensus first-team All-American shot 3-for-15 from the field with eight turnovers.

Barrett was settling for too many jumpers and forcing the ball too much, things he was able to tighten up over the last two games of the Summer League. His final game against the Wizards silenced his doubters, posting 21 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists with only two turnovers.

The former McDonald's All-American still has a lot of work left to improve his shooting efficiency and become an elite scorer, but becoming the first player in Summer League history to average at least 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists is a pretty solid start to any career.

Grayson Allen, G, Memphis Grizzlies

Arguably no one had a more up and down Summer League than this former Blue Devil villain, and it all started with Allen's departure from Utah in a July 6 trade to Memphis. He was on the court just a day later for his Grizzlies debut, dropping 17 points in a win over the Clippers.

Two games later, the man known for controversial plays at Duke had once again found himself tangled up in a mess with Boston's Grant Williams. Allen was assessed a series of technical and flagrant fouls and was ejected from the game, all after shooting just one-for-eight from the field.


Now back in the spotlight of the basketball world, Allen found his way back onto the highlight reel by stopping a poster attempt by none other than Aubrey Dawkins, former UCF star, in the Summer League semifinals against the Pelicans. Even Zion couldn't contain himself.



The next night, Allen was celebrating another championship as the Grizzlies defeated the Timberwolves for the Summer League title. The second-year guard led his team in scoring with 17 points and also put the game away with an athletic defensive play as the contest ended.


Same old, entertaining Grayson.

Marques Bolden, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

One of the nice surprises for Duke fans was seeing Bolden give the Cavaliers quality minutes over the course of the Utah and Las Vegas Summer Leagues. In Las Vegas, the two-time ACC Tournament champion averaged just 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, but started all five matchups and protected the rim with 1.4 blocks per contest.


Bolden's best performance came in his NBA debut in Utah, grabbing eight rebounds and scoring 10 points on perfect shooting from the field. The former five-star recruit found other ways to impact the game too, dishing out three assists while adding two blocks and a trio of steals.

Amile Jefferson, F, Orlando Magic

Playing on a two-way contract, Jefferson quietly put together one of more impressive summers for a former Duke player. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest over Orlando's five games and posted two double-doubles. Jefferson appeared in seven of the Magic's final 13 regular season games last year, but only got more than six minutes of playing time once.

The 2015 national champion's best performance this summer came in a close loss to the instate rival Heat, as he tallied 15 rebounds and three assists to go along with 24 points. Jefferson shot the ball at an efficient 54 percent clip over five games, leading Orlando in scoring and attacking the rim with purpose while using a soft touch and array of shot fakes.



Antonio Vrankovic, C, Croatian National Team

After a senior season that only saw the big man average 5.3 minutes per game, Vrankovic took advantage of an opportunity to play with Croatia’s national team, flashing some of the skills that he was never fully able to display in Durham. The seven footer appeared in all five games, reaching double-digit scoring in three of them. Vrankovic averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest while shooting 52 percent from the floor.

The Croatians weren’t able to pull off any upsets during Summer League play, though they came close in Vrankovic’s best showing. Oklahoma City needed a Devon Hall floater with under five seconds to play to overcome a 16-point, 10-rebound performance from the former Blue Devil in what was a 69-68 Thunder win.

Frank Jackson, G, New Orleans Pelicans

It did not take long for the 2017 second-round pick to show that the Summer League was below his pay grade, dismantling the Knicks in the opening game for the Pelicans. Jackson scored 30 points on an efficient 11-of-17 from the field, while also adding three rebounds.

After Williamson left the game, the 2017 ACC champ went to work and added to his highlight reel with a coast-to-coast poster slam.

New Orleans decided to shut down Jackson after the opening night with the young guard already exceeding expectations going into his third season. His 30 points-per-game average—albeit in only one contest—tied for the Summer League lead.

Gary Trent Jr., G, Portland Trail Blazers

The best single-game performance by a former Blue Devil went to none other than Gary Trent Jr., who rode a 7-of-8 shooting effort from deep to the tune of 31 points, six rebounds and five assists on July 7 against the Rockets.

Although the former second-round pick was unable to reproduce that uberefficient night, he still averaged 20.6 points and 6.4 rebounds while playing in all five of the Trail Blazers' games. Trent Jr. only played in 15 contests last season, but Seth Curry and Evan Turner departing Portland this offseason should give the 6-foot-6 guard a chance in 2019 to become a full-time NBA player.

Trevon Duval, G, Houston Rockets

The former top point guard recruit in the 2017 class was not able to improve much following a season that saw Duval appear in just three NBA games after going undrafted. He saw action in only two of Houston's five Summer League games, contributing just 4.0 points and 1.5 assists per contest.

Duval showed promise when he received more minutes during a July 6 blowout loss to Dallas, tallying six points and three assists with no turnovers. However, he was thoroughly outplayed by undrafted rookie guard Chris Clemons, who averaged over 20 points during his summer stint.

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