More Buckeyes than usual suited up for NBA Summer League action this offseason.
Malaki Branham (drafted No. 20 overall) and E.J. Liddell (No. 41) gave Ohio State its first multi-player draft class since 2007 at the end of June, and the pair arrived in Las Vegas last week to take part in the summer league with the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively.
While Branham has shown flashes of standout play, Liddell’s summer league experience quickly turned into a nightmare on Monday as an awkward fall turned out to be an ACL tear that will keep the rookie out indefinitely.
Besides Branham and the unfortunate injury to Liddell, Duane Washington Jr. has also participated in summer league play with the Indiana Pacers this offseason – before he was waived by the organization Thursday evening, that is. Suffice to say the NBA offseason has proved eventful for more than one Buckeye in recent days.
The Pacers are waiving guard Duane Washington and waiving and stretching the three players who arrived in the Boston trade for Malcolm Brogdon: Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan and Nik Stauskas, sources tell ESPN. That'll create the cap space to sign Ayton to the max offer sheet.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 14, 2022
Below we take a look at how all three former Ohio State players have fared in the NBA Summer League with just a couple of days left to play in the Las Vegas tournament, with stats and details from every game the trio has taken part in over the past week.
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 39.6 FG%, 33.3 3FG%, 4 RPG
Game 1 (July 8): Cavaliers 99, Spurs 90
Branham had a bit of an off night shooting the ball in his summer league debut, but still managed to connect on 40 percent of his attempts as he shot 6-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-6 from 3-point range in the nine-point loss.
The former Buckeye scored 15 points in nearly 28 minutes of action against the Cavs, and both those figures were third-best on the Spurs roster behind only starting guards Blake Wesley and Joshua Primo. Branham also pulled down three rebounds, but his plus/minus of -25 was the worst on either side in the contest.
Game 2 (July 10): Warriors 86, Spurs 85
Branham’s second summer league appearance saw a significantly less impressive performance on offense from the rising rookie. Branham shot just 1-for-6 to finish with six points despite playing for nearly 27 minutes. The Spurs dropped their second game in a row as their first-round draft pick shot just 16.7 percent from the floor, although Branham upped his overall contributions with five boards, three assists and a steal.
Game 3 (July 11): Rockets 97, Spurs 84
The Spurs continued to trend downward with a double-digit loss to the Rockets on Monday, but Branham had his best performance yet with a 20-point effort on 8-of-18 shooting. Branham hit three of his seven 3-point tries and was the lone Spur to score more than 14 points in the ballgame, but it wasn’t enough to slow down No. 3 overall pick Jabari Smith Jr. and the Rockets. Branham added six rebounds, two assists and two steals, but his five turnovers were the most on either team.
Game 4 (July 14): Hawks 87, Spurs 86
Despite leading for much of the way, the Spurs suffered their second one-point defeat of the summer league in a fourth consecutive loss Thursday to Atlanta. Branham went 6-for-14 from the field to finish with 13 points, the third-most on the team, but once again had the worst plus/minus on the roster at -14.
Stats: 4 PPG, 44.4 FG %, 4 RPG, 1 APG
Game 1 (July 9): Trailblazers 85, Pelicans 68
It was a woeful offensive performance by New Orleans as a whole in its first summer league contest, and Liddell struggled in particular. The 41st overall pick in the draft hit just one of his six shot attempts to finish with two points on the game, shooting 16.7 percent in a forgettable summer league debut. Liddell added four boards and a block to his final stat sheet, but also committed twice as many fouls as he had points.
Game 2 (July 11): Pelicans 101, Hawks 73
Unfortunately, a bounceback performance by Liddell in his second summer league appearance was cut short by the aforementioned ACL tear he suffered while looking for the ball with a defender on his back on a high-post look in the third quarter. To that point, Liddell had tallied six points on 3-for-3 shooting from the field in less than 13 minutes, and the former Buckeye also pulled down four rebounds and dished a pair of assists.
After suffering an injury to his right knee during the first quarter (and then returning after being checked out by team doctors), former Buckeye and current New Orleans Pelicans rookie EJ Liddell suffered another knee injury during the third quarter. pic.twitter.com/DIESBfvMwR— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) July 11, 2022
The Pelicans blew the Hawks out of the water in the end, but the biggest headline of the night was Liddell’s long-term injury, which will likely keep the second-round draft pick sidelined for most or all of his first professional season.
Thank you all for the support. Trying to get to everyones messages.— E.J. Liddell (@EasyE2432) July 14, 2022
Duane Washington Jr.
Stats: 8 PPG, 34.6 FG%, 22.2 3FG%, 2.7 APG
Game 1 (July 8): Pacers 96, Hornets 84
The Pacers picked up a double-digit win but Washington had a poor offensive performance, shooting just 25 percent from the field amid a 10-point effort on the night. Aside from two 3-pointers that went down for the former Buckeye, Washington sank just one of his seven 2-point attempts. Washington did manage to facilitate offense for others, though, dropping six dimes in under 20 minutes of action.
Game 2 (July 10): Kings 103, Pacers 96
Washington had a quiet day, scoring just six points on 3-for-8 shooting and failing to record an assist, as the Pacers suffered a seven-point loss to the Kings. Washington’s -24 plus/minus was among the three worst on the Pacers’ roster, and he didn’t hit a 3-pointer in the defeat.
Game 3 (July 12): Pacers 101, Pistons 87
In his fewest minutes of summer league action (16:19), Washington had his best shooting performance of the summer on 3-for-6 shooting from the field. Washington finished with just eight points, but turned in an efficient offensive effort with just one miss from 2-point range and a couple of assists to boot. The Pacers didn’t need much from Washington in the commanding win as they saw four other players score at least 12 points in a high-scoring affair.
As of now, Washington's summer league run figures to be over as his next NBA landing spot remains uncertain following the Pacers' decision to waive him on Thursday.