It certainly didn’t take former Hawkeye center Luka Garza long to get another shot in the NBA.
Just days after being cut by the Detroit Pistons, Garza has already found another squad, at least for the summer. According to Detroit News reporter Rod Beard, the 2021 Naismith Trophy award winner will be joining the Portland Trail Blazers’ summer league squad.
Garza is hoping to stick and carve out a role in Rip City. The former Hawkeye standout will join a Portland squad that features a good mix of youngsters and familiar faces to Blazers fans.
All eyes will be on the 2022 NBA draft’s No. 7 overall pick, Shaedon Sharpe, a former No. 1 overall recruit who sat out his only year at Kentucky. Multiple players on the roster, including Trendon Watford, Keon Johnson, and Greg Brown III, saw game time for Portland last season.
On the official team release of the roster, Garza is the only pure center listed on the roster. While Kyle Alexander and Romello White may both receive some time at the five, it seems like Garza will get a real chance to show some improvements heading into his second season. He never really caught on with Detroit last year, only averaging a hair over 12 minutes per game in 32 appearances.
Garza was much more enabled to showcase his skills in the G League, making the All-NBA G League third-team. In 16 regular-season contests, the big man averaged 20.6 points and 9.5 rebounds.
The hope is that his run in this upcoming summer league will be more akin to his time spent in the G League with the Motor City Cruise. There are a few things he will need to improve on from last year to try and crack the Portland roster. While he’s been relatively reliable as a post scorer—not a surprise given that was his strength in college—the 3-point shot needs to keep improving. He averaged around 30% in both leagues, and struggled from the free throw line at 62%.
He will need to provide that shooting spark off the bench and help spread backup bigs out of the paint. That is how he will stick. He might never be a great defender, but if he can show during this summer league that he provides a spark on offense in a multitude of ways, he could make a run for a spot on the back end of the Trail Blazers’ roster.
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