Former Auburn players making noise in NBA Summer League

By Jackson Love

The annual NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is a spectacle in and of itself. Rookies and rising stars come together to showcase their skills in the hopes of securing a roster spot for the NBA regular season. As the program grows in prestige, Auburn continues to have multiple former players performing on the Las Vegas hardwood.

Let’s take a look at how each former Tiger has played as the league begins to wind down.

Sharife Cooper

Quick stats: 30.3 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 9.0 APG, 51.2% shooting

The 48th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Cooper was a lifeline in a rocky basketball season for the Tigers. Though his shooting was often inconsistent during his time on the Plains, Cooper seems to have improved on that front in Las Vegas, sinking just over half of his total field-goal attempts and 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts, which is better than the average in last year’s NBA. Last Tuesday, he totaled 21 points and drilled a game-winning three-pointer from the corner to lift the Hawks over the Pacers.

Cooper has also translated his elite passing skills to the Summer League, leading the entire tournament with nine assists per game. However, he has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate of 5.7 times per game, another Summer League-leading number. If Cooper wants to prove himself as a consistently viable option for the regular season, he’ll have to avoid coughing up the ball so often.

JT Thor

Quick stats: 15.0 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 60.0% shooting

The 37th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, JT Thor hasn’t lit up the stat sheet in his three games in Vegas, but he’s been efficient. His athleticism and ability to play both the four and the five was what had some pundits predicting him as a late first-round selection, and he’s shown a defensive versatility that speaks to his potential.

In addition to playing great defense, Thor showed flashes of a dangerous three-point shooter while at Auburn. If he can continue to develop his shooting ability while honing his already impressive defensive skills, Thor could grow into a formidable 3-and-D option for the Hornets.

Isaac Okoro

Quick stats: 29.0 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 59.1% shooting

The highest draft selection in over 30 years for Auburn, Isaac Okoro was the subject of several highlight-reel plays in the 2020-21 regular season. He drove to the basket like a seasoned veteran, and statistically, he appears to have maintained his level of production since the end of his rookie season, where he scored in double figures 12 times in his final 13 games.

Okoro has also been successful at the free-throw line, converting 80% of his attempts. However, he continues to struggle from downtown, making only 28.6% of his three-point shots. It was an area that he struggled in as well while at Auburn, and in an increasingly three-point-happy NBA, it’s a skill that must be improved on. Even if this production is against young, inexperienced competition, Okoro’s consistency bodes well heading into his sophomore season with the Cavaliers.

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