Five NBA training camp invitees to keep an eye on
With Summer League now a distant memory, a training camp invite provides the last opportunity for players to make the roster before the regular season. NBA teams can carry up to 20 players on their roster during training camp, but will need to trim down to just 15 immediately afterward. By necessity, most of the players invited to teams on training camp deals will be cut as soon as the season begins in earnest.
A chosen few, however, will not only make the roster, but could end up being difference-makers for their teams if things break just right. Today we’ll looking at five training camp signees with a chance to do just that.
5. HOUSTON ROCKETS: ARMONI BROOKS
In his three years at the University of Houston, Armoni Brooks shot a hair under 40% from 3 on good volume, and that pattern continued in the G-League. He got the call up to the big club with the Houston Rockets towards the end of the year last season and made the most of it. Brooks made 60 3s through his first 20 games, more than any player in NBA history to date.
Brooks didn’t do much else but bomb away from 3. And that’s just fine. A team playing multiple young centers and forward types will need plenty of room to operate, and Brooks could be a part of the solution.
At 22, Brooks is on the same timeline as the rest of the Rockets' young core. If he can prove to be an elite shooter against NBA competition, he could be a useful role player for Houston for years to come.
4. CHICAGO BULLS: STANLEY JOHNSON
The new-look Chicago Bulls should have a lot of firepower. But even with pieces like Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, their defense is not set to be one of their strengths.
If they want to improve on that end, Stanley Johnson is the kind of big wing defender that the Bulls are sorely missing following the trade of Thad Young. Johnson has never flashed the offense required of a starter in his brief NBA career, but he has shown some passing ability - and with so many other shooting and scoring threats on the court for the Bulls, it might be that his size and defensive acumen could land him rotation minutes on a defensively-challenged Chicago squad.
3. ATLANTA HAWKS: TIMOTHE LUWAWU-CABARROT
In the NBA, one can never have too many forwards.
Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Danilo Gallinari could all theoretically soak up all the forward minutes the Atlanta Hawks have available. But in reality, the Hawks rotation isn’t nearly as stuffed as all that. Even in a shortened season Reddish, Gallinari, and Hunter missed a combined 116 games last year. Reddish came back from an Achilles injury, Hunter had ongoing knee issues that had him in and out of the lineup, and "Gallo" hasn’t come close to playing a full season’s worth of games in the last decade.
Enter Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who played his last two years with the Brooklyn Nets and just finished a nice stretch for the French Olympic team. In 2019-20 he shot 38% from deep which, with his defense, makes him a valuable depth piece. But that shooting was an outlier season relative to the rest of his career, to stick with the Hawks - or anywhere else - he’ll need to hit that shot consistently.
2. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: ISAIAH HARTENSTEIN
Isaiah Hartenstein declined a nearly $2 million player option for this season to elect to become a free agent. So he’s betting on himself that he can land a guaranteed deal during training camp with the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s a good bet. The Clippers pretty much only had Ivica Zubac as a traditional center last season, and Serge Ibaka’s health remains an open question after back issues kept him sidelined most of last year. With Kawhi Leonard out for an indeterminate amount of time, the Clippers' regular season strategy should in theory be to hang around in the playoff mix without exhausting any of their core players. Hartenstein does enough on both ends to be a functional part of that strategy, saving Zubac and Ibaka for a potential Kawi playoff return.
1. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: MARQUESE CHRISS
The Portland Trail Blazers have a lot to prove this season. One thing that has put a serious damper on their aspirations year in and year out is the injury bug, with their forward and center positions being bitten particularly hard. Their offseason acquisitions, Larry Nance Jr. and Cody Zeller, often miss time themselves. The Blazers still need a reliable fourth big should worst come to worst in the long NBA season.
Marquese Chriss is a natural fit, having worked under the tutelage of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr the past couple of seasons. Chriss came into the NBA with high expectations, but his immaturity hurt his early development. He has made big strides since then, particularly on defense and as a finisher.
A broken leg set Chriss back last season, but all indications are that he’s completely healthy entering training camp. And good thing too, because he’ll have to beat out veteran Patrick Patterson to snag the last roster spot on the Blazers.