Four former Aggies set to play in NBA Summer League – Cache Valley Daily

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Utah State forward Taylor Funk (23) brings the ball down the court against San Diego State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Eli Lucero)

LOGAN – The NBA Summer League tips off next week, starting with the Salt Lake City and California Classic showcases from July 3-5 and followed up by the Las Vegas Summer League starting on July 7. Four former Utah State basketball players are currently on or expected to be part of summer league rosters. Taylor Funk, the most recent graduate from USU, signed on to play for the Miami Heat summer league team. Neemias Queta, Sam Merrill and Justin Bean — who were each already making their way in the NBA and/or G-League — will be representing their current clubs.

Here’s a look at each former Aggie and a breakdown of each individual situation they’re facing this offseason and what’s at stake for them in summer league.

Taylor Funk

Utah State forward Taylor Funk goes for a dunk in the Aggies’ 75-72 loss to Weber State on Dec. 19, 2022

Current Club – Miami Heat

Contract: Summer League Contract

Funk graduated this past spring after a season with Utah State where he averaged 13.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists on 45.1 percent shooting including 37.0 percent from three. He went on to make a push for the NBA, working out with at least two teams, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. After going undrafted, the 6-foot 8 forward very quickly signed with the Miami Heat in an agreement to play for their summer league team.

The Heat will play in the Sacramento-based California Classic Summer League along with the league-wide Las Vegas Summer League. A solid performance from Funk could produce a chance for an Exhibit 10 deal or even a two-way contract.

Neemias Queta

Sacramento Kings center Neemias Queta (88) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Current Club – Sacramento Kings

Contract: $1,0801,491 Qualifying Offer (issued June 29)

2023 Stats (G-League with Stockton Kings): 17.7 points | 8.6 rebounds | 2.6 assists | 0.8 steals | 1.9 blocks | 68.8 FG% | 18.8 3P% | 70.3 FT%

2023 Stats (NBA): 5 games played | 2.4 points | 2.2 rebounds | 0.2 assists | 0.4 blocks | 66.7 FG% | 0/0 3PA | 0/2 FTA

Queta has spent the last two seasons on a two-way contract with the Sacramento Kings, which drafted the former Aggie center 39th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. In those two seasons, Queta has appeared in 20 NBA games, playing a total of 149 minutes, while spending the bulk of his time with Sacramento’s G-League affiliate, the Stockton Kings.

In the G-League, Queta has dominated across both seasons. He’s appeared in 68 games for Stockton, averaging 17.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. This past season Queta was named a G-League All-Star, First Team All G-League, First Team G-League All-Defense, and was the runner-up to the G-League’s MVP award.

That success in the G-League hasn’t resulted in much of a chance at the NBA level, yet. Despite Sacramento hurting at times for a quality backup to its All-Star center Domantas Sabonis, Queta only played in five games this season, fewer than he did his rookie year. His lack of an opportunity has drawn some minor criticism from Kings fans (to say nothing of the Aggie and Portuguese basketball fandoms) but there isn’t much pressure on them to give Queta a chance.

For the time being, Queta will remain with the Kings’ organization. They issued a qualifying offer to Queta which will make him a restricted free agent. They’ll have the chance to re-sign him, probably to a two-way contract, and/or match any incoming offers from other teams.

Sam Merrill

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Sam Merrill (5) shoots as Charlotte Hornets’ James Bouknight (2) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland, Sunday, April 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

Current Club – Cleveland Cavaliers

Contract: $1,997,238 in 2023-24 (non-guaranteed), $2,164, 993 in 2024-25 (non-guaranteed)

2023 Stats (G-League with Cleveland Charge): 16.9 points | 3.6 rebounds | 2.7 assists | 1.2 steals | 0.2 blocks | 45.9 FG% | 43.4 3P% | 83.9 FT%

2023 Stats (NBA): 5 games played | 5.0 points | 1.8 rebounds | 1.0 assists | 0.8 steals | 40.9 FG% | 27.8 3P% | 100.0 FT%

Of the Aggies currently in the NBA/G-League, Merrill has had the most convoluted path. Drafted with the final pick of the 2020 draft, he put on a New Orleans Pelicans hat but then had to be told he was going to Milwaukee instead since the Bucks had traded for the pick. Merrill then became an NBA champion as a rookie, was traded in the offseason afterward to the Memphis Grizzlies, was waived mid-season, picked up by the Sacramento Kings seven months later but waived just prior to the season. And then finally Merrill landed where he currently resides with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a non-guaranteed contract that lasts through the 2024-25 season.

Add it all together and that’s four teams in three seasons (five if you want to include New Orleans which he’s only formally tied to because of how the NBA Draft works). Merrill only played in an NBA game for three of those teams (Milwaukee, Memphis, Cleveland). 

Merrill hasn’t been able to get into the rotations of any of these teams. His highest minute games have been blowouts or games where his team sat most of the regular rotation players (Merrill played 20+ minutes in each of Cleveland’s final two games of the season this year).

When Merrill has played more than just two or three garbage minutes at the end of a game he’s been somewhat productive but a tad inefficient. Isolating games where he’s played at least 12 minutes, Merrill has averaged 8.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals. But he’s also shot just 37.1 percent from the field and just 30.8 percent from three.

Most of Merrill’s playing time last year came with Cleveland’s G-league affiliate, the Cleveland Charge. And he was dominant for them all year. In 39 regular season appearances he averaged 17.0 points (on 45.9 percent shooting and 43.4 percent from three) along with 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 steals.

Justin Bean

Utah State forward Justin Bean throws a pass during the Aggies’ 82-50 win over New Orleans on Dec. 11, 2021

Current Club — Boston Celtics

Contract: Summer League Contract

2023 Stats (G-League with Memphis Hustle): 10.2 points | 7.3 rebounds | 1.4 assists | 1.0 steals | 0.7 blocks | 47.2 FG% | 36.7 3P% | 80.3 FT%

After going undrafted, Bean bounced around preseason rosters, spending time with the LA Clippers summer league team and then the Memphis Grizzlies’ training camp roster. Bean was waived by the Grizzlies but caught on with the franchise’s G-League affiliate and spent the 2022-23 season with them, appearing in 49 games across the G-League regular season, Showcase Cup and G-League playoffs.

Bean showed out well as a productive forward, averaging a solid 10.2 points and 7.3 rebounds. He also showed the shooting improvements he made his final season in Logan weren’t a fluke as he made 37.5 percent of his 3-pointers on decent volume (2.8 attempts per game).

Despite his solid showing, the Grizzlies didn’t seem to prioritize keeping Bean around, bringing on other players which led Bean to make the move to Boston. He’ll play with their summer league team and perhaps catch on with their G-League affiliate, the Maine Celtics.

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