Nets Get Revenge on the Bucks in 97-91 Summer League Victory

The Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks could be the next great rivalry in the NBA. They’re the two best teams in the East, each have one of the two best players in the world under contract through at least 2025, and already had a seven-game series for the ages earlier this year. Their next meeting after that series? August 11th in the NBA Summer League, where Cam Thomas led Brooklyn to a 97-91 victory over Milwaukee. Here are some notes and takeaways from the game:

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Cam Shines Again

The main bright spot from Monday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was first round pick Cam Thomas, who put up 19 points in nearly 25 minutes off the bench. Thomas did it again versus the Bucks, with 22 points in just about 30 minutes. Thomas shot a fairly efficient 42.9 percent from both the field and from three. Many of his misses brought him to the free throw line, where he shot 7-of-10. He has established through the last two games that getting to the line will be a major part of his game, so ideally his free throws marks of 75 percent and 70 percent, respectively, from the past two games will improve slightly.

The highpoint of his game today was a stepback three where he baited the defender into fouling him for a four-point play, something certain to make James Harden proud. Thomas’ passing and hustle were also impressive, such as when he cut through the defense to give Alize Johnson a layup. Later in the game, he fell down but managed to get the ball to fellow rookie Day’ron Sharpe, who converted the play. Thomas followed that up with a steal and a pass to Quinndary Weatherspoon on the break, who finished the play.

The main negative from Thomas’ overall impressive game was his shot selection. Though he generally took good shots, some stood out in a negative light, such as the very long two (may as well have been a three!) that he started the game with, and when he Eurostepped right into a block.

Thomas came off the bench again for Brooklyn, presumably to get him comfortable in the role for the regular season.

Day’ron is Looking Sharp(e)

Day’ron Sharpe, despite only playing around 15 minutes in both games, has been a standout for the Nets this summer league. His rebounding presence was on full force, grabbing six offensive boards and eight total. It seemed like any ball off the glass was destined to fall into his hands, such as when he grabbed two straight to make up for his teammates’ misses and finished the play himself with a layup. Another standout was his grab from Steven Enoch.

In addition to his rebounding, Sharpe did the little things on both sides of the ball. He played solid defense and forced multiple turnovers. Thomas was in trouble in a mismatch on defense against Sandro Mamukelashvili, but Sharpe was able to switch on Mamukelashvili to force a turnover. He also had a great rejection in the fourth. He was also able to keep up in transition, highlighted by his dunk off a feed from Weatherspoon.

Sharpe is proving himself to already be one of the better rebounders on the Nets roster, and could end up playing some real minutes when the season starts. Sean Marks admitted early during his press conference that the Nets needed more rebounding, be it external or internal: Sharpe could be the key to increasing rebounding while mostly keeping the same roster.

David Duke Jr. — From Undrafted to the Roster?

David Duke Jr. has been impressive throughout two games in the summer league, and could earn himself a two-way contract if he continues to excel. He put up a near double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. 

The offensive energy has been present, mostly through his drives to the rim. He shot 0-for-4 from deep, which is worrisome but not a huge issue. 

His rebounding has been very impressive. Early on, Reggie Perry led a rebound go right by him, but Duke was able to grab it. He grabbed two rebounds in one possession after misses from Brandon Knight and himself, but the play ended when Duke was called on a charge. His defensive game has been present as well, such as when he pressured the Bucks into burning most of their shot clock late in the fourth.

Sean Marks may have found himself another gem with Duke, as it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll be on the roster as a two-way contract. Duke said during halftime that he is “doing whatever I can to maximize that and work my way into the rotation.”

Perry and Johnson: Good, but Good Enough?

Reggie Perry’s game is about as much of a mixed bag as one can have. He was bad to start the game off. He lost a handle that should’ve been a steal, but the ball went out of bounds. After Jordan Nwora missed a three, Perry let the rebound go right by his hands. His most impressive rebound let to him shooting a very long two, which he missed. And then during a fastbreak from Theo Pinson, Perry did not contest it and was unable to keep up.

Despite his poor start, Perry started to turn things around later. He grabbed rebounds, took a mid range shot in traffic which fell, and nearly got a slam dunk! It’s fair to question if this mixed bag of play will be enough for Perry to get a roster spot or a two-way contract next year.

Alize Johnson is in a similar boat. He showed some real spark in two games last year: the game against the Utah Jazz where most of the Nets roster sat out, and his 20-20 game against Indiana. With a not fully guaranteed contract, Johnson needed to come into summer league and really impress to earn his roster spot. He’s played pretty well, but is it well enough?

His rebounding was very strong in the fourth quarter, and he managed to finish with four offensive boards and five defensive ones. He hasn’t been the most impressive player on the team by any stretch of the imagination, and unless he heats up in the last two games, he could easily lose his roster spot to Duke or a veteran player.

For Knight and Other Veterans, Things Look Dark

For the second game in a row, Brandon Knight started and played hefty minutes (he played the most in the first game, the second most behind Thomas this game). However, Knight’s play has been consistently poor. He shot 3-12 from the field and converted just one-of-six from deep during the game, took threes that were too far back, and played mediocre defense throughout. Early in the game, Perry was open in the corner, but Knight made a sloppy pass that allowed defenders to get there. There’s a strong argument that Knight’s minutes should either be severely limited or eliminated altogether for the next few games in favor of younger players that have yet to play.

Quinndary Weatherspoon’s game was a mixed bag. He put up 15 points, mainly due to his ability to get to the line and nail his FTs (nine for nine!). Overall, he played well offensively, and was able to make passes, such as when he drew a defender away from Day’ron Sharpe for a dunk. Despite this, his defense left something to be desired, and he had seven turnovers, limiting how effective he was.

Other Notes

Kessler Edwards made his debut on the team. He forced a bad three from Milwaukee immediately, and another one from Nwora later in the game. He shot zero percent from the field, but had some defensive pop.

Kaiser Gates had his moments, such as shooting 2-of-4 from three and getting a great block in the fourth. However, that block then got rebounded by the Bucks and they scored.

Jordan Bowden, Brandon Rachal, and Chris Silva did not play after having played in the game against Memphis. RaiQuan Gray and Marcus Zegarowski did not play for the second game in a row.

Up Next

The Nets take on the Washington Wizards tomorrow at five p.m. ET.