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NBL 3x3: Our big takeaways from NBA Summer League

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Luke Travers with the spin and flush (0:17)

Australia's Luke Travers flashes smart footwork in the paint for the Cleveland Cavaliers. (0:17)

Las Vegas Summer League was back in its traditional format and timeslot in 2022, but what wasn't traditional was the number of NBL connections on the hardwood.

As Australian basketball continues to thrive, it was almost impossible to keep your eyes on every familiar face, which has prompted us to revive 3x3 for an offseason special.

Kane Pitman, Peter Hooley and Steve Smith got together to answer three questions as the book closes on another edition of the summer showcase.


What was a key takeaway or thought from Las Vegas Summer League?

Kane Pitman: In what could be an unpopular opinion, I'm not totally sure an Aussie Summer League team makes a lot of sense.

I suspect this is largely just offseason talk anyway, but I look at Jack White as the perfect example of the beauty of possibility that Summer League brings.

Scouted heavily by the Nuggets, Summer League allowed White to work with the Denver coaching staff, giving the team and player a golden opportunity to spend the better part of two weeks learning from each other. The result? Denver inking White to a valuable two-way slot for the 2022-23 season. It gives athletes across the world an opportunity to dip their toes in an NBA system in attempt to carve out a role and impress.

An Aussie team would without question be fun for fans, but so is putting the feet up and watching wall-to-wall games with NBL talent featured across multiple NBA teams as we were able to for the last fortnight.

Peter Hooley: One thing that has stood out to me over the last couple years, became even more evident during Summer League this year. The NBA is falling in love with the Australian style of play.

The culture that the Boomers have created has drip fed down to every level of Australian hoops, and players are starting to see the benefits of that now. Whilst some players are still capable of being strong offensive weapons at the highest level, it's the other guys who are now getting the attention.

Those who do all the little things to impact winning without the need to score at a high level. Passing, rebounding, defending, all combined with a high IQ is what NBA teams are realising they can find within Australia and the NBL.

Steve Smith: Is there an international league that is currently contributing more new talent to the NBA than the NBL? I don't think so.

Between Jack White and Luke Travers displaying their ability to contribute at both ends of the court, to Josh Giddey showing his rookie year was only just the beginning of what will be a sparkling NBA career, the NBL Aussies have already made a big impact across the board. Add in some impressive Summer League performances from Makur Maker and there could yet be more additions from the NBL.

Which Australian player made the most of their opportunities to impress?

Kane Pitman: White will be featured later in this column so let's show some love for Makur Maker.

The big man only averaged 12 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls, but he cashed in those opportunities to average 7.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, including three straight double-digit scoring outings to finish the tournament.

Small sample size alert withstanding, Maker shot 53 per cent from the floor and 44 per cent from three, highlighting his ability as a rim runner and a floor spacer. After a COVID interrupted college year at Howard and an injury and illness hampered NBL22, Maker remains a very intriguing prospect with high upside.

Peter Hooley: Take your pick! I was super impressed with Luke Travers throughout the tournament.

I had my concerns about how he would fit into the summer league style of play, but he was fantastic in sticking to what he does best. His stats won't jump out to anyone, but he looked very comfortable out on the floor for Cleveland.

What most impressed me was his willingness to catch and shoot. With that being the most significant area for his improvement, he would know how many eyeballs are on every shot he takes.

It's clear that he's been putting in the work with his shot, and the confidence is coming along with it. It will be interesting to see what the next 12 months holds for him. I personally don't know if the G-league is the perfect place for him to show what he can really do, but I do believe we will see him get his chance in the NBA one day.

Steve Smith: Jack White. Despite arriving late to Summer League thanks to his commitment to the Boomers, the Melbourne United do-everything swingman played his way into a coveted two-way deal with the Denver Nuggets.

In his first two games, White showed he was ready to make the jump to the next level. He started out with eight points, 15 boards, three blocks, two assists and a steal in a game that showed his true versatility against the Cavs before following that up with 14 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block against the Clippers.

Having made it all the way back from a torn achilles, White will spend most of the season with the Grand Rapids Gold, the Nuggets' G League affiliate.

Are Melbourne United in real trouble two months out from NBL23?

Kane Pitman: What looked like a simple offseason plan is now going to require some serious navigation for United.

Speaking with ESPN on the weekend, head coach Dean Vickerman expressed how proud the club is for creating a genuine pathway to the NBA, while also admitting the perennial contender is in complete limbo while attempting to build a roster.

Vickerman revealed the team was after a bucket getter to add to their fearsome defence, with the issue now being that fearsome defence has been decimated with the potential loss of Dellavedova in addition to their frontcourt moving on.

While Melbourne have been waiting, unable to commit to players, other clubs have been locking in key imports. Just how United navigate the situation has quickly become the most curious storyline of the offseason for mine because as of today, they are an entirely unknown quantity.

Peter Hooley: As of this point in time, absolutely.

One thing is for certain, United will already be scouting the world for some big-time signings for the upcoming season. They always manage to find pieces that put them in contention to win it all. But for right now, they just lost their most important piece to the winning puzzle.

Jack White has proven in the two years he played in the NBL just how important he is for them to win. He's the type of guy that any winning team wants, and his record in a United uniform proved that. Add to the fact that Lual-Acuil is leaving as well, and they are two almighty spots to fill. Yes, they will find some world class talent to bring in, but a guy like Jack White is extremely rare.

Steve Smith: A South East Melbourne Phoenix foundation member texted me this week: "It's so great to see more Aussies in the NBA and at the same time see Melbourne United get absolutely decimated!" And they're not wrong.

A team that could ill-afford to lose any more quality players has been further ravaged. If they also lose Matthew Dellavedova to Sacramento, it's going to take some serious additions of star power to prevent United from going from perennial contender to league also-rans in the space of a single off-season.