NBA Summer League: former Cyclones shine in Vegas


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

Former Cyclone basketball player Georges Niang waves to the crowd, before being named the Male Athlete of the Year for 2015’s season. 

Noah Rohlfing

It’s been a big summer for former Cyclone basketball players.

Georges Niang, Naz Mitrou-Long, Deonte Burton and Monte Morris were all in action the past two weeks in the NBA Summer League.

Niang played his way into a roster spot with the Utah Jazz after Summer League action in both the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues. In the Utah summer league, Niang led the Jazz in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per contest on 20-for-38 shooting in three games.

In Las Vegas, Niang continued his strong play. Through four games, Niang led the Jazz in scoring at 15.1 points per contest on 44 percent shooting, adding six rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Niang has also averaged nearly a full block and full steal per game.

That play from Niang resulted in the Jazz signing him to a three-year, $5 million deal on Friday. The deal comes with a first-year guarantee, according to Deseret News reporter Eric Woodyard.

His former Cyclone teammate and current Summer Jazz teammate, Naz Mitrou-Long, has only played in three Las Vegas contests, averaging eight points per game on 63 percent shooting. Mitrou-Long, who the Daily talked to earlier this summer about his NBA aspirations, fared much better in the Utah Summer League, scoring 10.7 points per contest.

On Saturday, Mitrou-Long signed a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season with the Jazz, staying in the organization that has kept him with his self-professed best friend in Niang.

Niang and Mitrou-Long’s summers came to an end on Saturday, with the Jazz suffering a loss at the hands of former West Virginia guard Jevon Carter and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Monte Morris came into this year’s Summer League with something to prove: could he be the Denver Nuggets’ backup point guard?

Through four Summer League games, it certainly seemed to be the case. Morris paced the Nuggets in each of their games, averaging 17.5 points, 6.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per contest as the Nuggets went undefeated in their first three games.

The former Cyclone point guard has also been limiting his turnovers, committing only five through four games, in contrast to 25 assists. That 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is higher than his NCAA-record 4.65-to-1 ratio, and Morris has shown a newfound aggression when attacking the basket.

Just take a look at this drive from an early summer:

Morris is a candidate for the Nuggets’ final roster spot, as he is one of only two true point guards on the roster alongside newly-signed point guard (and former MVP contender) Isaiah Thomas.

The Nuggets recently cleared over $40 million in salary by executing a trade with the Brooklyn Nets to dump Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur, dropping below the luxury tax threshold.

The Thomas signing isn’t the nail in the coffin for Morris, but it might limit his playing time if he does get a full deal from the Nuggets. Morris’ situation heading into training camp — if he has not been signed to a deal by then — is something to watch closely.

The final former Cyclone to play in Summer League this season was Deonte Burton, who played in the Korean Basketball League last season and is now a two-way player for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Burton was a surprise two-way signing for the Thunder only one game into summer league action on July 7, and he has since impressed in his five appearances for the Summer Thunder, averaging 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, three assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game.

Burton had a coming-out party in the Thunder’s first-round playoff game on Friday, hammering down three trademark slams before hitting a game-winning floater in the lane at the buzzer to knock off the Orlando Magic.

None of the four former Cyclones made it past the second round of the Summer League playoffs.