Summer League is a tricky endeavor for second-year players.
The really good ones skip the event altogether, like Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball this year, because the body of work from their rookie years negates the need to participate. The sophomores who do choose to partake really need to dominate; otherwise, their failure to assert themselves against a lower level of competition can be a harbinger of struggles to come against NBA players.
Think about Jerome Robinson in 2019. His fellow draft classmates Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet weren’t on the Summer League team because they had proven their capabilities in the NBA playoffs. Meanwhile, Robinson struggled and was outshined by Terance Mann; within a few months, Robinson wasn’t a part of the team’s future plans.
Daniel Oturu finds himself in a similar situation this year. His fellow 2020 draftee Jay Scrubb is locked into a two-way deal, so some of Scrubb’s pressure has been eliminated. Meanwhile, Oturu has a contract, but not a roster spot.
He barely got to play in his rookie season, and in his one stretch of extended minutes, shot 5-of-21 in a loss to the tank-tastic Oklahoma City Thunder. He saw the Clippers part ways with Mfiondu Kabengele last year — another center who didn’t impress immediately — and then the Clippers gave all three of their rookies guaranteed contracts this summer, so Oturu isn’t exactly on solid footing.
The Clippers have 15 players on guaranteed deals other than Oturu, which means this is chance to prove that he still belongs on the NBA team. He had a bad start against the Bucks, but has been relatively solid since. He is averaging 11.5 points and rebounds apiece while chipping in nine total blocks over two games. The fact that he has put together three solid halves in a row has not gone unnoticed by his coach Jeremy Castleberry.
“That’s what we preach to D.O.: consistency, consistency, consistency,” Castleberry said after the team’s second game. He shows a lot of spurts of what he can do and if he can get consistent in that and rim run, protecting the rim, switching one through five, guarding multiple positions and settling down, then his future is very bright and that’s what we see in him.”
Even if the Clippers don’t have room for Oturu, he could still be auditioning for a spot on another team. He’s only in his second season, so in NBA circles, he’s full of upside; however, that label won’t last forever. He needs to find a place where he can stick sooner than later. The rest of the Clippers aren’t necessarily playing for results, but this is an important week for Oturu. He’s fighting for his future.
More news for Thursday:
- The Clippers officially re-signed Reggie Jackson Wednesday. His contract has a 15 percent trade kicker, per ESPN.
- The Ringer went through the winners and losers of free agency.
- Zach Lowe does the same, with a little more love for the mid-tier teams.
- It’s not quite the death of the midrange, but Owen Phillips details the dearth of mid-size salaries in the NBA.
- Seth Partnow’s annual NBA tiers project is in full swing.