Blake Ahearn, one of the Wolves point guard summer league hopefuls.
I miss the summer league games down at the Target Center. Who can forget Nate Robinson's first appearance as a Knick, Nikoloz Tskitishvili's lights out performance against Milwaukee, Ndudi Ebi's last try at making the Wolves roster, or some of the Wolves regulars trying to make their...um, pitch with the Lynx players? Ah, the sights, the sounds, the lack of multiple concession stands...so much has changed since that time. It's all Vegas and Orlando now, baby.
The dreams of fringe players trying to make a roster remain the same however. With the Wolves, point guard is this year's theme, having dealt Jaric to the Grizzlies and Telfair's status with club still unresolved. Two prime candidates, Blake Ahearn and Pooh Jeter are slated to be on the Wolves summer league team. Both were exemplary in their D-League and European stints respectively. Here's a rundown of Ahearn's play for the Dakota Wizards, from an official team release:
Ahearn played in 41 games (15 starts) for the Central Division leading Dakota Wizards, where he averaged 19.0 points and 3.5 assists and shot 48.6 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from three-point range and 96.0 percent from the free throw line in 29.5 minutes of action. He led the Wizards in three-point field goals made (108), was second in points (778), field goals made (239), free throws made (192), assists (142) and was third in minutes played (1,208) and steals (30).
Ahearn, 6' 2'', 190 lbs, got called up by the Heat for the last 12 games of last year. In a word, he was terrible. This from the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader:
Ahearn said NBA teams didn't see him at his best in the brief stay with Miami, especially shooting. He made only 29.4 percent of his 3-point attempts and 26.3 percent from the field.
Ouch. I think Marcus Taylor--one the Wolves second round failures from years ago--probably could put up those numbers. You can read the entire News-Leader article here. Still, a lot of folks who've coached and played with him are pulling for the guy, so hopefully he'll get a good look as he feeds Love and Richard in the post. It's telling however, that a team like Miami with point guard issues of their own didn't bring him back for at least another summer look.
Jeter's issue is size--he's only 5' 11". On the court, there seems to be no issue with his skills. You can read a December 2007 Draft Express profile here, and an April 2008 DE blog post from the man himself here. Looks like he's a big enough star in Europe that if he doesn't get the right guaranteed deal stateside, he's content playing overseas.
I'm not forgetting about Drew Neitzel, the Michigan State PG who dropped off a bit in his senior year. Being just 6' 0" along with a lack of athleticism are his primary issues. He's going to have shoot the lights out (only .405 percent last year at State), show a knack for running a team (under 3 to 1 turnover ratio), and at least defend a little if he's going to get invited to someone's fall preseason roster. My sense is the deck is a little stacked for Neitzel to be on an NBA roster this year, if ever. He'd be better off in the D-League or Europe to develop the "floor general" parts of his game.
Truth be told, to find a jewel in this bunch might be tough. Since Duhon inked with the Knicks (if he couldn't beat Hinrich out in Chicago, what makes anyone think he will be successful with D'Antoni in NY?), trying to re-signing Telfair or acquiring a veteran with a little gas left to come off the bench at the minimum seems like a better plan. Still, these moments are the stuff of dreams; it's always entertaining to see if one of these hopefuls can make it happen.