Mbakwe, Williams struggle in first NBA steps

The ex-Gophers have started slowly in the NBA’s Orlando summer league.

The Gophers' Rodney Williams slams in two points during a game against Nebraska Saturday, March 3 at Williams Arena. Williams scored a career-high 24 points in Wednesday's 78-72 win against Middle Tennessee State.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

The Gophers’ Rodney Williams slams in two points during a game against Nebraska Saturday, March 3 at Williams Arena. Williams scored a career-high 24 points in Wednesday’s 78-72 win against Middle Tennessee State.

Jace Frederick

Former Gophers forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams’ reunion in the Philadelphia 76ers’ summer league team won’t last long.

Mbakwe has agreed to join the Toronto Raptors for the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League July 12-22, he confirmed via text message.

Mbakwe and Williams, who both went undrafted in the NBA’s June 27 draft, are currently participating in the NBA’s Orlando summer league. The league runs from July 7-12.

The forwards both have to perform well in summer league play to earn invites to NBA training camps in the fall and further their chances of making NBA rosters.

Mbakwe started slowly in two games with the 76ers (0-2). He’s averaging just 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in fewer than 13 minutes of action.

As a Gopher, Mbakwe often had size and strength advantages, but he doesn’t with the 76ers. He hasn’t been able to establish the position in the post necessary to create scoring opportunities for himself due to his lack of size. He’s had just three field goal attempts.

While he’s not expected to be an offensive weapon, he also struggled on defense in the 76ers’ 88-80 loss to the Houston Rockets on July 7. Mbakwe had a plus-minus rating of minus-26 points, the lowest on the team.

But Mbakwe has had some bright moments. He provided a spark with blocked shots on back-to-back possessions in the 76ers’ 96-75 loss to the Indiana Pacers on July 8, but he saw just two minutes of action in the second half.

Williams has received plenty of opportunities — he’s started both games and played at least 24 minutes in each. But he’s already suffering from the same inconsistency that plagued his career with the Gophers.

He scored 12 points and blocked three shots in Philadelphia’s loss to the Rockets. He also displayed his highlight-reel potential, finishing an alley-oop from three-quarters court. Williams is attempting to play on the perimeter at the NBA level, something he never became comfortable with in his time with the Gophers.

His struggle to adjust to the position was evident during the 76ers’ loss to the Pacers. Williams appeared lost on the offensive end, floating around the three-point line much like he did in college, unable to dissect the defense off the dribble with his cutting ability.

Williams finished with just one point and no rebounds.

He’s also 0-for-5 on three-point attempts in two games. Williams shot 25 percent from beyond the arc in college.

He has been solid defensively, using his length to match up with smaller guards and alter shots from all areas on the court. Williams’ defense has likely contributed to the bulk of his playing time.

The 76ers have three more games in Orlando before moving on to Las Vegas.