With the 2021 NBA Summer League fully underway, the Blue Zone takes a look at the former Duke men's basketball players looking to make their mark:
Jones plays hero in thrilling Spurs win
Of all the Duke alumni participating in this year’s Summer League festivities, second-year San Antonio guard Tre Jones has put them all to shame thus far. After shining last Tuesday with an efficient 23 points in a close loss to the Bulls, Jones let loose for a monstrous 34-point, eight-rebound and nine-assist performance against the Hornets in Vegas. Oh, and not to mention, he also nailed the game-winning layup with less than a second remaining.
If one thing is clear, it’s that Jones is well-positioned for a breakthrough in the upcoming NBA campaign. Summer League basketball may not be the best measuring stick of a player’s abilities, but it sure is becoming difficult not to notice the confidence and tenacity that Jones brings to the floor on a nightly basis. Look for Jones to continue his high level of play throughout the summer, and definitely look out for how he fits into Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation once the season begins in earnest.
Johnson starting strong for Atlanta
To put it simply, Jalen Johnson has been brilliant for the Hawks in his first four Summer League outings. With three consecutive double-double performances (20 points and 10 rebounds, 18 points and 10 rebounds, 13 points and 11 rebounds) and, most recently, a personal-best 25 points, the Duke product—who unexpectedly decided to depart the Blue Devils in February—has shown off the same pace, versatility and overall skill that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. While Johnson still certainly has a ways to go towards cementing his place with the reigning Eastern Conference runners-up, it’s hard to envision a better start.
Steward, Hurt struggle in limited time
The outlook has not been nearly as sunny for DJ Steward and Matthew Hurt, the other two players to leave the Blue Devils after the 2020-21 campaign. Steward, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Sacramento Kings, has not seen much court time and has shot poorly from the field, while Hurt—an undrafted signing of the Houston Rockets—has found some minutes early on but has struggled to make any sort of real impact to this point. Both players should, however, be in line for opportunities down the Summer League stretch, and both will likely need to impress their respective organizations when those opportunities come along.
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