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NBL connections and Aussies shine at NBA Summer League

As the NBA Summer League ramps up in Las Vegas, the Aussies and several players with NBL connections are still making their mark. The Vegas Summer League is the longest of the three locations, running for ten days and giving coaches and fans an extended look at the NBA prospects on hand. Leading the way is former Melbourne United import, Jordan McRae, who is playing a feature role for the Cavaliers. McRae dominated on Thursday (Australian time) with 32 points and one clutch block. https://vine.co/v/575Hv71YY6T He is now the fourth best scorer in Las Vegas with 23.3 points per game. McRae is also chipping in 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, while making a living at the free throw line where he’s now made 44 FTs from 54 attempts in his four games in the desert. Right there beside McRae was Diamon Simpson (former Adelaide 36ers import) who continued his solid play with an impressive 13 points on 6-7 shooting in just 17 minutes. This was easily his best offensive output so far and he added 4 rebounds, 1 steal and another 3 blocks for good measure. Simpson is now averaging 6.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and has blocked 9 shots through 4 games for the Cavs’ Summer League team.   Majok Deng, who signed to play for the Adelaide 36ers recently, saw his first action earlier in the week for the Timberwolves, playing 6 minutes and making his only field-goal attempt. He finished with 2 points, 1 rebound and 1 steal but minutes have been hard to come by as he received another DNP-CD yesterday. He’ll have another opportunity as Minnesota advanced past Memphis today, but it's unlikely he play much as the knockout phases progress. Former Perth Wildcats import DeAndre Daniels finally stepped on court for the Toronto Raptors after missing the opening game with an ankle injury. Daniels, who the Raptors made the 37th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, played 11 minutes on Monday (Australian time) and just 5 minutes the next day. He is averaging 3 points per game and hopes to fare better in their next game when Toronto takes on Golden State. Last year’s New Zealand Breakers big man, Charles Jackson has found court-time a little hard to come by the past two games, playing just six minutes in each for the D-League Select team. Overall, Jackson is averaging 4.2 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal per game. Another whose minutes have been in decline is last year’s Sydney Kings import guard, Marcus Thornton. After being drafted by Boston in the second round in 2015 and playing well in the Utah Summer League, Thornton has struggled for time in Las Vegas averaging just 8 minutes per game. For the second straight game, he missed his only field goal attempt. In a looser NBL connection, the cousin of NBL legend Dean “The Man Mountain” Uthoff (Nunawading Spectres, Sydney Kings) has been in action for the Sacramento Kings. Jarrod Uthoff, who played collegiately at the University of Iowa, went undrafted last month after having some second round buzz, but he’s been getting solid time for the Kings in Vegas. Uthoff is averaging 18 minutes a game with his best outing coming against New Orleans on Tuesday with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Maybe we’ll see him follow in his cousin’s gigantic footsteps as an NBL import some day. Meanwhile, recent Milwaukee Bucks first round pick, Thon Maker, was leading all players in Las Vegas in rebounding heading into Thursday’s game. His stretch game was on display yesterday connecting on two triples, while he continues to make an impact defensively with his length and athleticism. Maker had 17 points and 2 steals against Dallas. Through four games, he is averaging 14.8 points, 1.3 blocks, 1 steal and 1 three-pointer to go along with his strong work on the glass where he’s pulled down 9.8 rebounds per game. While Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had a little fun about the rumours of Maker’s age during the broadcast stating, “For a 40-year old he can still play,” ESPN analyst Jon Barry was a little more complimentary. “Maker was a guy that I was really looking forward to seeing here and he looked awfully comfortable. He’s able to space the floor, I like his activity. He played very well,” said Barry post-game. Finally, the headline act of Las Vegas, number one draft pick Ben Simmons, continues to impress. His passing skills have been so entertaining, the Sixers have made a request for a dime emoji. When talking about Simmons’ passing, ESPN’s Jon Barry said: “His vision is spectacular. It’s Magic Johnson like; it’s Steve Nash like.” Whoever it’s like, there’s no doubt it’s special. Simmons sat yesterday against the D-League Select team, but has been more aggressive in Vegas than he was in Utah. He had his best scoring game of Summer League earlier this week against Chicago with 18 points (7-13 FGs) and is averaging 11.3 points, 7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 3 games in Las Vegas. Simmons was excited to move into the tournament stage in Las Vegas. “We’ve just gotta come together and focus,” said Simmons. “We’re ready to play, I think everyone’s ready to get to the tournament and play...That’s what we’re here for; to play in the tournament." The Sixers play again today, Friday Australia time, versus Brooklyn.
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