Basketball is (technically) back!
The Milwaukee Bucks have games* coming up this week! pic.twitter.com/SsGFMC3RRE— Mitchell Maurer (@Mitchell_NBA) August 8, 2021
The Milwaukee Bucks might be the reigning NBA champions, but basketball never sleeps. This week, the Bucks will participate in the Las Vegas Summer League, an annual extravaganza that combines young prospects with more experienced players (many of whom will never see a minute of time in the NBA) to put on a tournament punctuated by highlight plays, rampant fouling, and turnovers. So many turnovers. This morning, the Bucks announced their roster that will represent Milwaukee this time around:
Here is the Bucks Summer League roster: pic.twitter.com/chFhU9YPQL— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) August 8, 2021
Conspicuously absent from the list is the Bucks’ second second-round pick from this past NBA Draft, Georgios Kalaitzakis. Per Harris Stavrou, an international sports journalist, the availability of Kalaitzakis is an open question that may or may not be answered in time for Vegas.
Milwaukee Bucks are still waiting to get Giorgos Kalaitzakis' letter of clearance, in order to evaluate him in Las Vegas Summer League. Unfortunately FIBA is not operating 24/7.— Harris Stavrou (@harris_stavrou) August 8, 2021
Another surprising omission is Elijah Bryant, a last-second regular season signing by the Bucks who has no other previous NBA experience, outside of his previous participation in Summer League and training camps. As we discussed ad nauseam during the opening week of free agency, Bryant has a fully non-guaranteed contract for this season, and would be the most obvious candidate to be waived in order to free up another roster spot. Given that the Bucks aren’t sending him to Vegas, it’s possible that they’ve seen enough to know what Bryant offers and, if circumstances demand it, are comfortable cutting him loose without any additional attention.
In terms of who is attending Summer League, Jordan Nwora and Mamadi Diakite are the only players representing the 15-man roster. Nwora is coming off a stellar scoring performance with Nigeria at the Olympics, and Diakite remains the Bucks’ only reserve center behind Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis. These two figure to get the majority of attention from fans and scouts alike, and each has a clear area of improvement to focus on. For Nwora, offense is never an issue (when you can hit shots like he can, passing is a secondary focus), so most will be paying attention to his defensive performance to see if there is any noticeable improvement. For Diakite, he clearly knows how to play the game and use his length, but his general athleticism and strength have kept him from breaking through into the league.
Going down the list, the Bucks’ (two-way) signed second-round pick will also be with the team, and Sandro Mamukelashvili might be in the running for the “Most Fun Summer League Player” award. The Seton Hall center was drafted 57th overall and obviously has fundamental questions about his viability as an NBA big man. Even still, a perusal of his highlights shows a player who moves remarkably well for his size, is eminently comfortable with the ball in his hands, and appears capable of both hitting shots and setting up teammates. His scouting report gives the viewer the impression that Mamu plays like he’s trying to imitate Nikola Jokic, the league’s reigning MVP. Jokic, too, was a second-round pick and largely overlooked until he was given the keys to the offense and allowed to simply produce. Expecting the same from Mamukelashvili is, in a word, unrealistic, but Summer League is the time for takes as hot as the temperature, so let’s sit back and enjoy the show.
The last player worth examining on the Bucks’ Vegas roster is Theo Pinson, most recently a member of the New York Knicks on a two-way contract. The Bucks have been previously tied to guards from the Westchester Knicks before, but Pinson’s acceptance of the Summer League invitation suggests that Milwaukee may have some interest in him as a two-way candidate, especially if Kalaitzakis is unable to join the team for some reason. Pinson, 25, has a statistical NBA resume that might make onlookers question why he’s playing basketball at all (seriously, his numbers are atrocious), but reports indicate that he’s simply a great presence in the locker room and someone that you want around your team. The Bucks do have one last regular-season roster spot remaining, and perhaps the team wants to push Thanasis Antetokounmpo to continue developing as a hype man?
A source confirmed that Theo Pinson is playing for the Bucks’ Summer League team. Pinson was on a 2-way contract w/NYK last season, cited by several teammates as an important part of NYK’s chemistry in 2020-21. MIL posted video of Pinson earlier tonight: pic.twitter.com/YjvOWraCFf— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) August 7, 2021
The madness that is Las Vegas Summer League starts tomorrow, at 8:00pm central. What are you hoping to see from this year’s Bucks team?