Tai Webster’s Summer League Odyssey Continues (On to Golden State)

So… the Charlotte Hornets thing didn’t work out as planned. One more hurdle to leap over for Tai Webster, he always knew there’d be a few of those. Having sat on the bench for three straight games with the Hornets, Webster went and got the hell outta there. On to the next hurdle now.

Last time we checked in with the little bro he’d watched the first two games from the sidelines. The third game, coming after a day off, did see a slight shift in the rotations but nothing that included Tai Webster. Come game number four there was even more of a shift in things. Rasheed Sulaimon didn’t take any part in the game while Przemek Karnowski, the Polish centre who’d also seen his minutes shrink over the first few games, was nowhere to be seen. Add in that Treveon Graham and Gabe York were rested and Tai might have had a decent shot at playing this one… right?

Nah, he’d already left.

Fair enough too, he wasn’t getting an opportunity with Charlotte playing alongside a number of more experienced players, including three starters with NBA contracts and an impressive second-round draft pick. The Hornets owed it to themselves to give the folks they’re already invested in the best opportunities. There aren’t that many places left on their NBA roster and they know what they’re looking for. Turns out Webster might have only been there to make up the numbers – what they brought him in for (along with a few other prospective options) was soon provided by other players. Briante Weber specifically, who is a defence-first, hard-working point guard that isn’t the best shooter but will play unselfish basketball. Sound familiar?

Meaning Webster became surplus to requirements. Short of waiving or releasing somebody, they already have 14 players under contract. That includes Treveon Graham, Johnny O’Bryant and Briante Weber, all of whom are partially guaranteed and all of whom are at Summer League doing quality stuff. O’Bryant starred in their fourth game while Graham has been their best player over the tournament. But GM Rich Cho is still talking about signing another big and a third point guard so even Weber’s exploits might be for nothing – at least as far as the NBA roster goes. Take that into consideration and Webster never really had a chance.

All Summer League rosters are full of players who were never a chance at making the NBA team though, that’s how you fill those things out. Just because you didn’t crack it this time doesn’t mean the coaches didn’t take notice, doesn’t mean they don’t want you back for the G-League or that they won’t give you a buzz in February when somebody else gets hurt. Given Webster couldn’t get onto the court, you’d imagine that won’t happen here. But it does kinda explain how they might invite a guy they don’t really intend to use to one of these things. It also explains why he’s been allowed to leave.

And that was also the reason for those rotational shifts in game four. Graham and York had minor injuries so they were rested while Karnowski was released to join the Orlando Magic SL squad, Webster was released to join the Warriors nice and early for Vegas Summer League and Sulaimon decided to pursue some “overseas opportunities”, via the Hornets PR team. Three games and a mini training camp in they’d probably learned all they needed to learn from the players they had.

Karnowski, for example. He hardly got a shot with Charlotte. They release him to Orlando and in his first game with them he scores 14 points with 5 rebounds. One team’s trash, another team’s treasure. One more reason to believe for Tai Webster.

Webby now hooks up with that Warriors unit ahead of Vegas. The champs aren’t likely to have much room on the ol’ roster but because of the stature of the team it’d be a great experience just to hang around the G-League team, maybe watch Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant at shootarounds every now and then. And when a bugger gets hurt, cross your fingers for a 10-day deal later on. There are zero guarantees beyond Summer League so the more attention he can grab the better here and after sitting on the bench for Charlotte, the Warriors will hopefully be more generous with their minutes. Getting in early for a few extra sessions with the coaches should help things.

Kevin Looney, Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones are the stars of the squad. They were all on the team that won the championship last season – the three youngest players to feature for GSW all season. McCaw was the main man there, playing in 71 games as a backup shooting guard. The other two are big fellas so won’t stomp on Webster’s toes either. All three are on cheapo contracts for this season while Looney and Jones also have team options for the following season and beyond.

In fact those three lads were among only five players with guaranteed money coming back before free agency began. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green the other two. Of course, they’ve been busy since and as soon as the moratorium ends you’ll see deals made official for the re-signings of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston, David West and Andre Iguodala – that’s the seven biggest minute-eaters of their playoff run all returning.

With a couple of dudes there (*cough* Steph) getting big pay-rises, it could be tough to keep some of their other free agents. JaVale McGee has been in talks to come back… but he’s also spoken to the Clippers. Zaza Pachulia remains a free agent for now. James Michael McAdoo didn’t even get a qualifying offer, Matt Barnes wants to keep playing but it probably won’t be with GSW and Ian Clark will probably get more cash elsewhere. Meanwhile Nick Young and Omri Casspi have come in to strengthen the wings.

Which leaves a roster of: Steph, Klay, KD, Dray, Iggy, Liv, Westo, Swaggy and Cass plus Looney, McCaw and Jones. Can potentially fit three more players there, will definitely sign at least two. One, if not two, simply has to be a centre with Zaza and JaVale as FAs right now. Could even be those same two back again but if you’re a big man on the Summer League squad then you’re fancying an outside chance. 2017 draft pick Jordan Bell is one that fits the bill. He’s a power forward out of Oregon and the Warriors traded $3.5m to the Bulls on draft night for his rights.

Jabari Brown, Elgin Cook and Alex Hamilton all played for GSW’s G-League franchise (Santa Cruz Warriors) last season. Brown’s the most interesting there, a combo-guard type who once dropped 50 points in a D-League game and has played pro in China. This is an 18-man squad that’s been named too, even bigger than the roster the Hornets took to (and partially ignored in) Orlando. There are feisty young point guards like Tai Webster all over the show and it’s not impossible to imagine him getting benched here as well. Here are the buggers he’s gonna need to outperform in Vegas:

  • Joe Rahon (St Mary’s)
  • Xavier Munford (Rhode Island)
  • Dylan Ennis (Oregon)
  • Alex Hamilton (Louisiana Tech)

Good luck with that, although we don’t really know anything until the first game tips off and the rotations become clearer. Hamilton could be used more as a shooting guard, while Bryce Alford and Jabari Brown might see some time at PG also. As long as Tai Webster does too, no worries.

But we’ve probably gotta get this idea out of our heads that Tai can threaten for the NBA straight away. He made huge leaps in his last two college seasons but that doesn’t mean he’s there yet. It does mean he’s got the potential to keep on improving though and a season or two in the development stuff would do plenty for his career. If that stuff happens to be with the Warriors, that seems about as good a situation as you can get.

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