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NBA Orlando Summer League: Previewing former Mountain West players

The Orlando Summer League begins Saturday, and there are four ex-Mountain West players to keep your eye on.

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at Utah State Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Summer Leagues tip off Saturday in Orlando with a 9am Eastern matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic. Despite a lowly season from the Mountain West, two players (UNLV’s Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman) were selected in June’s draft. Four ex-MWers were invited to participate in the Orlando Summer League, which will run through July 8th.

Stephen Zimmerman, Orlando Magic

One of two players selected from the Mountain West in this year’s draft, the 7-0, 240-pound Stephen Zimmerman was taken 41st overall by Orlando. The Bishop Gorman High School grad was a consensus five star recruit and most recruiting sources pegged Zimmerman in the top 10 of the 2015 class. In one season at UNLV, Zimmerman averaged 10.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Given his NBA-ready frame and wide array of skills and potential, the Orlando Magic (despite having Nikola Vucevic at center) opted to give Zimmerman a chance. There are no questions as to whether Zimmerman will make the final roster, but his role for the 2016-17 season is still very much to be determined.

Marvelle Harris, New York Knicks

The all-time leading scorer in Fresno State history, Marvelle Harris failed to hear his name called on draft night despite rumors swirling that he impressed at multiple different pre-draft workouts. It looks like now Harris will get his shot to make the league with the New York Knicks. The Knicks have a fairly open roster heading into the off-season, especially at the backcourt spots, where they’ve only added an injury-prone Derrick Rose and role player Justin Holiday. If Harris can prove the abilities which earned him a Mountain West Player of the Year award and two Mountain West All-Defensive team selections, it’s not farfetched to think he could stick on an NBA roster by the end of the summer.

Goodluck Okonoboh, Charlotte Hornets

Goodluck Okonoboh has endured a rocky and tumultuous journey up until seeing his name on an NBA summer league roster. After a fairly impactful freshman season with UNLV, Okonoboh appeared to be in prime position to embrace a larger role with the Rebs and increase his draft stock. Okonoboh’s minutes dropped significantly (from 26.7 to 15.2 per game) and Okonoboh decided to announce his intentions to transfer from UNLV, just six games into his sophomore campaign. Okonoboh surprisingly placed - and kept - his name in the 2016 NBA Draft, and went undrafted. A limited offensive presence will make it difficult for Okonoboh to make an NBA roster this summer, but there could be teams hunting for shot blockers, in which Okonoboh completely fits the bill.

Chris Obekpa, Miami Heat

Chris Obekpa was set to be a big transfer into the UNLV program from St. John’s after three impressive seasons as the Red Storm’s bruising center. Then, things got weird once he arrived in Vegas. After sitting out the 2015-2016 season for the Rebels, Obekpa decided to leap for the NBA Draft, without ever suiting up for UNLV and without any indications that he would be drafted. Sure enough he wasn’t and now Obekpa will try to make an NBA playoff team roster with the Miami Heat, as a speciality defensive player. The Heat Summer League roster boasts a crowded nineteen players, with only seven of those roster spots being filled by guards. With a lot of competition for Obekpa to fight through, the Nigerian native may find it tough to log valuable minutes and display his blossoming talents.