The NBA Summer League is one of the most interesting parts of the offseason. Young and upcoming prospects get to play against each other and see which team has the best young core. Many NBA players really got their name on the map from the Summer League, while others have struggled.
The Summer League doesn’t really portray how a player will be in the league. Players like Steph Curry have played poorly in their Summer League careers, but obviously, Curry has turned out to become one of the best NBA players ever.
That doesn’t mean the Summer League isn’t important. It is a time when young players can get a lot of minutes, as in the regular season, they might not get a chance to get a lot of playing time. Looking at a player like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Emoni Bates, chances are that he won’t get a lot of minutes on the Cavaliers. In the Summer League, however, he can really work on his game and get better with a lot of minutes.
Do the Cavaliers have a hidden gem on their Summer League team?
That leads us to another Cavs player, Sharife Cooper, who was one of the best players on the court during the Cavs’ game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night. Cooper put in 27 points and also had three rebounds. His two blocks as a 6’1″ guard were very impressive, as well as a steal added on top to prove his defensive impact.
Cooper shot 8-for-12 from the field, 2-for-4 from distance, and a really impressive 9-for-11 from the free-throw line. The thing that stands out to me most from his game was his free throws. Obviously, the 81% free throw percentage is great, but the amount of free throws he took is insane. 11 free throws in 27 minutes is great. Getting to the foul line that much is super valuable to a team, and was one of the key reasons in the Cavaliers’ 101-97 win.
With that being said, does Sharife Cooper deserve a standard contract from the Cleveland Cavaliers? The Cavs have two roster spots left, and Cooper definitely could be an option for one of those spots. Let’s look at his stats last season in the G-League.
Cooper was one of the best players in the G-League last year, as he was on the NBA All G-League 2nd Team. He averaged 21.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game last year on the Cleveland Charge, playing in 25 regular season games. His shooting percentage was decent, as he shot 43.1% from the field, 31.6% from distance, but a great 85.3% from the free throw line.
However, in Cooper’s 18 games in the Showcase Cup last season, he averaged 24.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.3 rebounds per game. Also, he added in 1.2 steals per night. His shooting percentages also were great, as he shot 48.3% from the field, 40.2% from distance, and 81.5% from the free throw line.
Cooper’s play in the Showcase Cup was really incredible and proved why he deserves a standard contract from an NBA team. However, one thing to notice is he averaged 5.0 turnovers per game in the Showcase Cup, which is not great by any means.
Also, in the regular season, he averaged 4.0 turnovers per game. This is nothing new. He averaged 4.2 turnovers per game in college at Auburn, which was one of the main reasons that he dropped into the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft.
If Sharife Cooper can limit his turnovers he’ll be a deadly player on the offensive end. However, another thing to mention is his defense. Being 6’1″, defense isn’t necessarily a strong suit of his. Not a lot of 6’1″ guards are great on defense, which is okay. Darius Garland isn’t a really great defender in himself, but he’s still a great player nonetheless, and is an All-Star-level player, even with his defensive liabilities.
Sharife Cooper can become a great player, I really do believe that. Entering the 2021 NBA Draft, I thought for sure that Cooper would be a first-round pick. I was really high on him entering the draft, and I still am a fan.
Now, would I give Cooper a spot on the Cavaliers? Personally, I’d say yes. I think his upside is still there, as he’s only 22 years old, so his best years are only ahead of him. If he gets more reps and can limit his turnovers, he’ll be a really great player. His scoring is already amazing, and because of that, I think that he deserves a spot on the Cavaliers.