The NBA Summer League wrapped up its run in Las Vegas on Tuesday night, a brief season during which two players with Alaska connections made significant impacts.
JT Thor, who played one season of junior varsity basketball at West High before deciding to pursue basketball in the Lower 48, showed flashes of greatness for the Charlotte Hornets. He scored double figures in three of the four games he appeared in and was deemed a “Summer League standout” by nba.com.
Justinian Jessup, who played middle school basketball in Nome before his family left Alaska, started all five games for the Golden State Warriors and hit double figures in three of them. He averaged 12.4 points a game and shot 43% from 3-point range.
Getting less playing time was Daishen Nix, a 6-5 point guard who left Anchorage after middle school and spent last season in the NBA’s G League. He averaged 5.0 points and about 11 minutes per game for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Thor had a thundering dunk in a Monday game against the Chicago Bulls. The Hornets lost the game but Thor won some attention with 15 points, nine rebounds — five of them offensive — and two blocks.
“The 6-foot-10 rookie stole the show in the fourth quarter, crossing up Bulls defender Troy Baxter Jr. and throwing down a huge one-handed slam that had fans inside Thomas & Mack Center on their feet,” according to nba.com.
Thor who turns 19 next week, spent one year at Auburn before declaring for this year’s draft. The Hornets picked him in the second round.
Jessup, a 6-7 guard, is a 23-year-old Boise State graduate who was drafted by the Warriors in the second round of the 2020 draft. He played last season in Australia and made his Warriors debut this summer.
Basketball News called him “a notable performer” in its recap of Tuesday’s final games of the season. Jessup scored a team-high 18 points in an 84-76 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, shooting 4 of 7 from 3-point range and 6 of 12 overall.
Nix, an undrafted free agent, was picked up by the 76ers for the Aug. 8-17 Summer League. After high school he chose the G League over college basketball; if he hadn’t, he would have played for UCLA last season.
He appeared in all five games, logging 57 minutes with his playing time ranging from 16 minutes to 3 minutes. Playmaking is his forte and he dazzled with his passing, but his nine assists came with six turnovers.
“He’s got a real good feel for passing, and he’s got good size at the point guard position,” 76ers coach Brian Adams told the Philly Sports Network. “For us, it’s about him taking care of the ball a little more, being a little more aggressive, and we got to continue to build him on the defensive end.”
Thor and Jessup are both under contract. Nix is not, and he went to Summer League hoping to change that.
If Nix isn’t offered a two-way contract from anyone, nbcsports.com speculated that he could wind up with an Exhibit 10 contract, which allows a player to attend training camp and gives the team control of his G League rights.
“NBA teams can have up to 20 players on their roster in the offseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Sixers sign a player or two from their summer league team to Exhibit 10 contracts ahead of training camp,” the website said. “Nineteen-year-old point guard Daishen Nix looks like he should be a candidate for such a deal if no NBA team offers him a two-way contract.”
The NBA regular season begins Oct. 19.
JT Thor, Charlotte Hornets
40 points (14-28 field goals, 10-13 free throws)
Justinian Jessup, Golden State Warriors
62 points (24-56 shooting, including 12-28 behind the arc)
Daishen Nix, Philadelphia 76ers
25 points (9-16 shooting, 1-5 behind the arc)