Nine former North Carolina basketball players take on the 2017 NBA Summer League
Five Tar Heels from the 2017 national championship team were in action
Justin Jackson stood out.
The Sacramento Kings forward topped all former Tar Heels with 16.7 points per game in six contests in the 2017 NBA Summer League. While Jackson’s team struggled to a 2-4 record in Las Vegas, he was a bright spot and continued to show his aggressiveness as a shooter. Any doubt that his floater could fall in the NBA was answered, as he utilized the shot time and time again.
The league, which ran from July 7 to July 17, featured eight more UNC alumni. Former First-Team All-American Brice Johnson was part of a Los Angeles Clippers squad that also featured Isaiah Hicks.
Both players performed well, as Johnson averaged 14.4 points per game on 58 percent shooting, and Hicks averaged eight points and three rebounds. The most significant play for any Tar Heel during the summer games was Johnson’s dunk on Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
Kendall Marshall, who also played for the Clippers, led all former Tar Heels in assists, dishing out 7.8 a game. He also averaged a respectable 6.3 points per game. Marshall is fighting to get back on an NBA regular season roster for the first time since the 2015 - 2016 season.
The Utah Jazz were represented by two former Tar Heels, including Tony Bradley, who was UNC's first one-and-done in 10 years. He put a solid 10.6 points per game.
He was joined by J.P. Tokoto, who last played for UNC in the 2015 season. Tokoto didn't see much playing time for the Jazz and was relegated to bench duties behind former Louisville star guard Donovan Mitchell. He averaged 2.7 points per game.
Kennedy Meeks played for the Toronto Raptors squad and averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. What Meeks lacks in pure athleticism he makes up for in veteran savvy and honed skills, like offensive rebounding. He signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Raptors after the league ended.
Former backup point guard Nate Britt was the fifth Tar Heel from this year’s national championship team on a summer league roster. After signing with the Atlanta Hawks as an undrafted free agent, Britt didn't see much playing time and averaged just 1.7 points and 1.7 assists per game in three appearances.
Fan favorite Marcus Paige participated in the Las Vegas Summer League for the Minnesota Timberwolves and also played for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Orlando Summer League.
Paige averaged 8.3 points, two assists and 2.3 rebounds a game in three appearances for the Thunder and shot 54 percent from 3-point range. He boosted his stats in Las Vegas, putting up 12.4 points and five assists per game for the Timberwolves.
Among these nine players, Jackson, Johnson and Bradley are all virtual locks for their respective teams' rosters. For the rest of the Tar Heels, it may be an uphill battle.
One interesting rule that may help these players on the fringe of the roster is the two-way contract. It's brand new the NBA this season, and it encourages teams to invest more in development.
Each team can sign two two-way players to its roster. The players will not count toward the team's roster limit of 15 and will primarily play for their teams' G-League affiliates. However, in case of an injury, the two-way players are allowed to spend 45 days on their teams' active NBA roster.
Paige signed a two-way deal with the Charlotte Hornets earlier this month, which keep him close to home as he plays with the Greensboro Swarm. Other UNC alumni could very well find themselves in this same situation.