A few weeks ago it seemed like Tai Webster had a legitimate opportunity, if still a small one, to play himself a little NBA basketball. Two Summer League stints after six different pre-Draft workouts and the networking was doing its job. A few weeks later and it probably hasn’t happened for Tai like he needed it to, not really.
Forget about the Charlotte Hornets thing, for whatever reason that never got off the ground. He ended up leaving early to hook up with the Golden State Warriors and although his opportunities with the champs have been more forthcoming, it still ain’t quite what we’d hoped for. But, mate, he damn sure finished with a resounding bang.
The Warriors played the Timberwolves in the second round, having lost all three of their preliminary matches… including a double overtime defeat to the Timberwolves (they actually played them on consecutive days, by coincidence). They then beat the Timberwolves in the first knockout round. Sweet as… except once things got proper they tightened their roster and Tai Webster was nowhere to be seen. Well, he was sitting on the bench, you could see him there. But he didn’t play.
The next round he did rise back into the rotation but he didn’t have a great game as the Dubs were demolished 93-69 by the Boston Celtics (who were in turn demolished by 17 points by Corey Webster and the Dallas Mavs in the next round – the bros were one round away from playing against each other). A little under ten minutes with one missed shot attempt and no rebounds or assists.
Which left Golden State with a classification match to play against the LA Clippers to conclude their tournament and with nothing else left to do, with the team having already seen what they wanted to see from the guys likely to make their roster and all that, they went and made a few ch-ch-ch-changes. Starting five of Tai Webster, Bryce Alford, Noah Allen, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. It was good fun, after more than 35 minutes of on-court action without a single point it took less than one for TW to get the Warriors underway on his lone start.
But let’s come back to that. First of all, why did he completely fall out of the rotation in the fourth game? The main reason would have something to do with having a few too many cooks in the kitchen.
While Corey Webster is doing lovely with the breathing room of a 12-man roster, the Dubs have brought 19 fellas in total to Vegas for some reason, with 17 of them getting on the court. And one of the two who didn’t was Chris Boucher and he’s only gone and signed a two-way NBA contract anyway (to be fair, he’s recovering from an ACL or he woulda played).
Of the 17 ballers it’s no surprise that the blokes with NBA contracts are the ones who got most of the minutes. Patty McCaw led the way averaging almost 30 mins per night (and these are 40 minute games). Jabari Brown, Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Alex Hamilton also slogged away while Jordan Bell was one of the flippin’ finds of the tournament – he had a 5x5 game in one of them. By the way, as much as we all like to moan about how the Warriors have put together their incredible championship team the Chicago Bulls literally sold the draft rights to the Dubs for Jordan Bell and now he looked like Draymond Junior. So… one more reason to rip the Bulls administrators.
That was about how things went in the first game against Minny. Starting five of: McCaw, Bell, Jones, Alford & Hamilton. The only surprise there was Bryce Alford, who Tai Webster played more minutes than in each of the first two games before Alford was given the start in #3 while a couple others were rested. He responded with 16 pts and 5 rebs, although he did shoot a rather average 4/12 from the field. Good enough that Xavier Munford, after starting the first two matches, wasn’t sighted again in Vegas.
That old saying: “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us”? It’s not just for cowboy movies. Bryce Alford is a four-year college player who can cover both guard positions and just went undrafted in 2017 despite working out for numerous teams. Sounds rather familiar and it was Alford (son of Steve Alford, btw) who ended up playing 27 minutes after playing less than eight combined in the first two games, less than Tai Webster both times.
The difference between the two dudes is that Alford can be a genuine gunner from range in the NBA while Webster is a 1%er kinda player. Do the hard yards but not necessarily the flashy stuff and that inability to stand out has probably buried him a little. The coaches see all the tough yards and they appreciate it… but you’ve still gotta be able to hit a jumper. TW went 0/3 in 26 minutes his first three games. Only turned the ball over once compared to five assists and he played strong defence, that’s all good. However when your team is shooting 35% from the field, as they did in game three, having a non-shooter parked out on the wing isn’t really helping.
Hence why he disappeared for the Warriors’ knockout win over Minnesota, in which Patty McCaw did all the damage again with 26 points (10/16 FG). Elgin Cook, Dylan Ennis and Deividas Dulkys picked up the extra guard minutes. Cook was decent but the other two combined for 0/7 from the field (Ennis is the only PG of that trio though). When Webster returned to the fold against the Celtics the next day it was back in the same role he’d played the first three games, similar minutes and everything.
Losing to the Celtics meant they were out of contention though. No trophy to lift, just one more compensation game. So they went on ahead and rested a bunch of their dudes. Looney, Jones and Alford had been starting games already, though the two big fellas there had been in and out. Tai Webster you already know about. He’d played 36 minutes across four games and now here he was getting 21 and the start. Noah Allen was equally promoted for the Clippers game – he was left out in the same game as Webster was. Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell, Jabari Brown and Alex Hamilton all sat out.
Webster scored the first points for GSW and went on to make six field goals (from ten attempts). Only one assist but he protected the ball nicely with shooters around him. Also, there were a few shots that clanked out from others so that number is a little deceiving. The block late on was the big highlight but for the first time we saw what Tai Webster can offer a professional basketball team. It probably won’t be an NBA team at this stage as Summer League showed he’s got still got plenty of distance to close on the top level but pro deals will be on offer after this.
Tai played the least minutes of the starters. Plenty of that was down to the incredible play of Dylan Ennis who drained eight triples on his way to 35 points – scoring 20 in the second quarter alone (mostly while Tai was sitting, watching all those assists go to other buggers).
The Golden State Warriors have 14 players committed for next season and are expected to add a big man for their final spot. They’re not really looking for what Tai Webster’s got to offer and as far as putting himself in the shop window for elsewhere, he’s hardly the only bloke trying to sell himself. Summer League issues, mate. Everyone wants to shoot their shot and most of them haven’t played together before. And over the course of this tournament it’s fair to say that Alex Hamilton, Bryce Alford, Jabari Brown and Dylan Ennis are the guards that have edged in front of Tai Webster. Hamilton and Brown played for their G-League team last season so no surprises that they’re getting more lovin’. Alford has already been mentioned and Ennis has played more minutes than Tai in every match even before his three-point barrage.
Tai Webster, to his credit, did have a clear place in that rotation through the first trio of games. Nothing solid enough to give him any shot at the NBA roster checking in for Steph Curry or whoever but you never know about them G-League places – they’re definitely seeing something in him. He was one of only ten players to take part in at least five games for GSW, even if he went scoreless in four of them.
Also, this happened, bit of a laugh:
It’d be silly to speculate on next moves now. Let that all unfold naturally. He might end up in Europe, he might end up in the G-League… he might even end up at the NZ Breakers. If he does then this current Summer League has shown that it wouldn’t be the end of his NBA chances, not by a long shot. A Steph Curry long shot. Crazy numbers of NBL-experienced players have been running around in Vegas and he only needs to look as far as his brother to know that. A quick word with Corey and he might also see how much you can learn from an opportunity like this… and how much better you can be the next time having already been through it once.
In the meantime, another glimpse at that block. How good.
Tai Webster’s out there hustling trying to make it in the big, bad NBA… The Niche Cache is out there hustling trying to make it in the big, bad world of independent kiwi sports media. Click an ad to help us out, chur.