2018 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Rookie/Player Report & Team Breakdowns

The NBA Summer League has turned into one of the best sporting events of the summer, not only for fans of professional basketball, but especially fans of college basketball who get to watch their favorite collegiate players from a season ago play with their new NBA franchises post-draft. This year was full of excitement once again and from rookies, to players that have been in the league for a few years, to players trying to earn contracts, this year had it all! So, how did your favorite NBA team and former collegiate players fair this summer in Las Vegas? Let’s dive right in and find out!

 

 ATLANTA HAWKS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-3

Playoff Seeding: #18

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #2 Portland Trail Blazers)

2018 Draft Picks: Trae Young (5), Kevin Huerter (19), Omari Spellman (30)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Trae Young (Rookie): 4 games, 25.8 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 12-31 3pt (38.7%)

  2. Omari Spellman (Rookie): 5 games, 27.4 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 6-23 3pt (26.1%)

  3. Jaylen Adams (Rookie – Undrafted): 4 games 19.3 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 7-20 3pt (35.0%)

Surprise Performance:

Alpha Kaba (Drafted in 2017, 60th overall): 5 games, 16.0 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 14-24 FG (58%)

 

If you are an Atlanta Hawks fan like Quavo, you have got to be excited not only by the offseason moves and acquisitions your organization has made, but the impressive Summer League performance by many of the Hawks young talent. Of course, fans will be and should be excited about the three first-round draft picks from this year’s draft, and we will touch on them shortly, but they must be thrilled with the way that second-year players, John Collins, Tyler Dorsey, and international talent, Alpha Kaba performed in Las Vegas. Starting with Collins, he played in just two games, but looked like a Summer League MVP Candidate in those games! Collins averaged 24.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG and shot 5-10 (50%) from beyond the arc in only two games. After averaging 10.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG during the 2017-18 season for the Hawks, John Collins improved not only his scoring techniques, but his ability to make those around him better, making him one of the best “sophomore” players in the NBA this coming season. Tyler Dorsey also had a very solid Summer League, posting 19.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG and shooting 8-20 (40%) from three-point land. Dorsey was a second-unit and bench player for the Hawks last season behind Kent Bazemore in the rotation, but could see his minutes increase drastically after not only an impressive scoring performance in his two games in Las Vegas, but because of his versatility as a combo-guard. Standing slightly taller than 6’5”, Tyler Dorsey brings a lot to the table for the future of this organization looking for “position-less” and athletic players to build with their young core that Dorsey is a part of. Alpha Kaba had a strong showing as well in Summer League where he averaged 7.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 5 games. He started in just one game, but had a huge impact in the paint when he was on the court, especially against the Clippers in the Hawks’ Playoff Consolation Game where he had 14 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Kaba should be a solid utility guy in his first season with the Hawks after coming over from Europe and should grow into a reliable, stretch big man option behind John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon.

Now it is time for the Hawks rookies, starting with the 19th overall pick, Kevin Huerter. As a result of having surgery on his hand, the sharpshooting wing out of Maryland missed Summer League action this year, but should be ready for training camp. As for his role with the Hawks, he will likely need to change his game slightly to adjust to the tempo and speed of the NBA, but nonetheless, he will be a useful shooter off the bench for the Hawks when he is ready to go. “Kyle Korver 2.0” is not out of the question for Huerter as he progresses with the Hawks’ young talents around him. Huerter is a great spot-up shooter and has a lot of range on the court with his shot. Expect to see Huerter primarily used as a guy they look at for big three-point shots. Next up, the final pick of the first-round of this year’s NBA Draft and a guy with a lot of potential, stretch big man out of Villanova, Omari Spellman. Being featured in five games for the Hawks during the Las Vegas Summer League, Omari Spellman was productive and a very balanced player. He showed flashes of above-average play in the post, but his work is far from complete. He is still a very raw talent, but has the frame and potential to become a great post-up player, as well as a stretch big man who can shoot mid-range shots and three-pointers, kind of like Al Horford. In the Hawks’ second-round Playoff loss to Portland, Spellman had his best overall game of the summer, posting 20 points, and 5 boards, as well as shooting 7-16 from the floor and 3-6 from downtown in 29 minutes of play. Spellman is another one of those guys that with time, especially behind John Collins and veterans like Dedmon, he can become a lethal big man on both ends of the floor. The Hawks may have taken a gamble with Spellman at the end of the first-round, but they have to be happy with the Summer League he had.

Rookie Jaylen Adams also put together a strong Summer League, leading to a Two-Way Contract for the upcoming season. With a lot of depth at the guard positions, the Hawks did not want to let Adams sign somewhere else, so they inked him to a two-way deal this year and assuming they like his progression through the G-League this year, will sign him next season. The undrafted guard’s athletic ability jumps off the charts and not only helps him as a scorer, which was on display in every single game for the Hawks, but as a rebounding guard as well. Defensively, Adams was, in my opinion, the Hawks best defender of the summer and offers a lot of promise for them as a second-unit guard in the future. And finally, saving what should be the Hawks’ best rookie for last, a young-lad by the name of Trae Young. You may have heard of him in college and we are not going to relive his collegiate year. Instead, we will talk about his early struggles in Summer League, starting in Utah, and his resurgence near the end. Overall, Young had a solid Summer League, but to his standards and all the hype surrounding him coming out of college and into the draft, he had a decent summer. After averaging just 12.7 PPG and shooting a very low 23% from the field out in Utah, Young turned everything around is Las Vegas and looked like the Trae Young the Hawks knew they were drafting! Everyone, including the Hawks, know what Trae Young can do as as a shooter and facilitator, but turnovers have been a problem for him in college and were somewhat alarming here in Summer League. Behind veteran guard Jeremy Lin, Trae Young can learn the feel on how to be an NBA point guard and use his attributes to his advantage instead of always trying to be in control of the game. By letting the game come to him and settling down a bit, Trae Young can be a fantastic point guard in this league and be one of a few elite point guards in today’s game that can score 20+ a night and while knocking down three-pointers at an extremely high percentage.

It MUST be all positives the Hawks are taking away from their time in Las Vegas this year and the future is bright for a team and fan base that was the best team in the Eastern Conference not too long ago. It should not be long for the Hawks to regain their power in the East as long as they keep their young core not only healthy, but together!

 

 BOSTON CELTICS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 4-2

Playoff Seeding: #10

Summer League Playoff Result: Quarterfinals (Lost to #2 Portland Trail Blazers)

2018 Draft Picks: Robert Williams (27)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Jabari Bird (2017 Draft – Pick 56): 4 games, 29.8 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.8 SPG, 28-49 FG (57%), 3-5 3pt (60%)

  2. Guerschon Yabusele (2016 Draft – Pick 16): 6 games, 26.3 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 29-70 FG (41.4%), 6-20 3pt (30%)

  3. Semi Ojeleye (2017 Draft – Pick 37): 5 games, 28.2 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 23-54 FG (42.6%), 10-30 3pt (33.3%)

Surprise Performance:

Hassan Martin (Undrafted – 2017): 6 games, 18.7 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 20-36 FG (42.6%), 20-22 FT (91%)

 

The Boston Celtics had the Summer League that was kind of expected based on who they had participating. Obviously, lots of people wanted to watch Robert Williams, the 27th pick in this year’s draft, especially after all the controversy surrounding him. He only appeared in one Summer League game this year in which he had 4 points and 2 rebounds in 7 minutes, as a result of a knee injury. His injury is nothing major, as it was just soreness and stiffness, but as a result, it limited his playing time and did not let Celtics fans see what he could do. It is yet to be known what kind of role he will have with the Celtics this upcoming season, especially because of the performance this next guys had.

One of the best players for the Celtics this Summer League was definitely second-year forward, Guerschon Yabusele. From a very strong defensive minded player to a big-potential post-player, Yabusele definitely sealed his spot as one of Boston’s “big guys” this year. Although he shot a low percentage from three-point range in Summer League, the ability to be able to play from the outside while primarily being a post-player gives the Celtics a lot of optimism about his potential in their future plans. Expect to see him be on the Celtics’ 15-man roster during the season, but will likely end up at the 2019 Summer League to continue carving out his role for future years. Boston’s best player by far this Summer League was Jabari Bird, the second-year guard out of California. Bird is not a modern guard in the NBA that can shoot from outside at a high percentage, but can get to the rim with ease and finishes in the paint extremely well. Bird is also a very strong defender that can hold his own in isolation and pick-and-roll sets. The Celtics’ leading scorer in Summer League played in just 4 games and sat out the Celtics’ final two Summer League games for rest. His best game of the summer came against the New York Knicks in the first-round of the playoffs where Bird had 13 pts, 10 REB, 4 AST and 3 STL in an 82-75 victory. Bird not only had an impact offensively, but cleaning up on defense with forced turnovers and clutch rebounds helped the Celtics secure a late victory. Jabari Bird signed a 2-year, $2.49M contract with the Celtics this offseason and should be a player they look to develop further off the bench. And finally, a solid role-player who helped the Celtics in the 2018 NBA Playoffs, Semi Ojeleye. The second-year wing out of SMU had another productive Summer League, averaging just above 12 points per game and improving as a spot-up shooter. Ojeleye made big strides with his jump-shot mechanics this summer and was one of the Celtics’ more reliable options from outside. We already know the impact he can make on the court defensively and with the upgraded offensive play he showed this year in Summer League, Celtics fans should be happy with what Ojeleye can bring as a second-unit player again this year for a title hopeful Celtics club.

Two players surprised me this summer on Boston’s roster, one in a good way and one in a bad way. The player who surprised me in a good way was the second-year, undrafted big man, Hassan Martin. Not being on a lot of scouts radars entering the 2018 Summer League in Las Vegas, Martin surprised everyone in the Celtics’ second-round playoff loss to the Portland Trail Blazers were he tallied 16 points and 9 rebounds on 5 of 8 shooting. Immediately, people looked into Martin and realized he had put together a very solid Summer League, averaging 10.0 PPG (T-5 on team) and 6.0 RPG (T-1 on team). As a result of his performances, there is a slight chance of earning a two-way contract with another NBA team, but it is likely he will play overseas on a new contract or in the G-League this upcoming year. The player who surprised me in a bad way during the Celtics’ Summer League was Kadeem Allen. For a guy who was trying to prove himself and earn a contract or another two-way contract with the Celtics, Kadeem Allen was dreadfully bad in my opinion. He averaged 2.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 1.8 APG on 7-18 FG (39%) in a total of 5 games. As a result of his poor performances, the Celtics waived the rights to him and he immediately signed a deal with the Knicks.His one-year deal with the Knicks is non-guaranteed, so if he continues to underperform, Allen will be out of a job in the NBA. One thing to also note in relation to the Celtics and Summer League is that they signed second-year guard, P.J. Dozier, to a Two-Way Contract after another impressive Summer League, this year with the Thunder. Be sure to check out what made P.J. Dozier special this summer and why he signed his contract with the Celtics in the Thunder section below! The Celtics put together a solid Summer League overall and have some potential with their young second-year players for years to come!

 

 BROOKLYN NETS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 0-5

Playoff Seeding: #28

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #5 Houston Rockets)

2018 Draft Picks: Dzanan Musa (29), Rodions Kurucs (40)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Theo Pinson (Rookie – Undrafted): 5 games, 25.0 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 18-40 FG (45%), 11-26 3pt (42.3%)

  2. Tyler Davis (Rookie – Undrafted): 4 games, 17.8 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 19-34 FG (55.9%)

  3. James Webb III (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 18.8 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 14-34 FG (41.2%), 8-21 3pt (38.1%)

Surprise Performance:

Yuta Watanabe (Rookie – Undrafted): 5 games, 24.0 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 16-39 FG (41%), 7-21 3pt (33.3%)

 

After finishing 23rd in the NBA with a 28-54 record in the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets failed to make the Playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. They did not find much success in Summer League either, finishing with the worst record at 0-5. In this years draft, they were also without their lottery pick because this was the last year that the Boston Celtics get their draft rights stemming from the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade that seems like eons ago! Nonetheless, the Nets ended up with two picks: picks 29 and 40. With these two picks, they selected two international prospects with a lot of talent and potential for the future of the franchise as they look to continue rebuilding. Dzanan Musa was their first-round selection and to me, was one of the most under-appreciated players in this draft class. Musa is a great offensive-minded player and with NBA experience, could become the best international prospect in the NBA since Dirk Nowitzki. Rodions Kurucs, the Nets second-round pick, brings a lot of versatility with him, but has been known to be turnover-prone. Both players did not participate in the Nets’ Summer League, but will both be a part of the Nets’ roster for the 2018-19 season.

Rookie Theo Pinson, featured above, will be a member of the Brooklyn Nets this season on an Exhibit-10 Contract he signed after an impressive showing this Summer League.

Brooklyn Nets fans definitely have a lot to look forward to in the future with their organization, especially after the performance of some of their young Summer League talent, starting with undrafted-rookie, Theo Pinson out of UNC. Pinson was the Nets best “all-around” player, in addition to being the team’s leading scorer. He was always involved offensively and made his presence felt on defense, tallying one steal and one block per game. Pinson signed an Exhibit-10 Contract with Brooklyn following his performance in Las Vegas and should gin a two-way contract following training camp. Tyler Davis, another undrafted-rookie participating in the Nets Summer League, was also impressive. Davis was another offensive weapon for the Nets this summer, averaging 11.0 PPG, but proved to be an aggressive big man after lots of people questioned his ability to be an impactful center in the NBA. Although he may not be ready for the NBA game, Davis was an avid shot-blocker, averaging 1.3 BPG in four Summer League contests. Davis also shot 56% from the floor, but needs to improve with his back to the basket. Tyler Davis recently signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder and will look to develop further in their G-League system. The Nets last Top Performer of Summer League was 2016 undrafted-free agent, James Webb III. After playing for three different G-League affiliates last season, and averaging 12.9 PPG for the season, James Webb III had a very solid summer, averaging 7.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG. One of Webb’s greatest strengths throughout Summer League was his ability to shoot the three ball. He has always been questioned as a reliable option and after shooting 38% from deep this summer and 37% for his career in the G-League, James Webb III has proved himself as a reliable option from outside. Outside shooting has not been a strength of the Brooklyn Nets over the past few years, so it is possible the Nets may consider bringing James Webb III back.

One guy who was really impressive for the Nets over the course of their entire Summer League experience and ultimately earned a two-way contract due to his performance was rookie-forward, Yuta Watanabe. After his performance in Vegas, Watanabe signed a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies, but for the Nets in Summer League, he averaged 9.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG and shot the ball fairly well from deep for a big man, roughly around 33%, in just about 24 minutes per game. Power-forwards and centers who can extend the court offensively and have a well-rounded offensive game are very valuable in today’s game. If Watanabe can continue to become a reliable shooter, he could find himself on a guaranteed contract following his two-way contract this season with the Grizzlies. After some very poor and disappointing seasons for the Brooklyn Nets, success may be just over the horizon as they look to develop their young talent further!

 

 CHARLOTTE HORNETS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-2

Playoff Seeding: #13

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #29 Toronto Raptors)

2018 Draft Picks: Miles Bridges (12), Devonte’ Graham (34), Arnoldas Kulboka (55)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Willy Hernangomez (2015 Draft – Pick 35): 4 games, 28.0 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 27-54 FG (50%), 5-13 3pt (38.5%)

  2. Dwayne Bacon (2017 Draft – Pick 40): 5 games, 31.0 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 35-87 FG (40.2%), 5-16 3pt (31.3%)

  3. Miles Bridges (Rookie): 5 games, 30.6 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 27-79 FG (34.2%), 6-30 3pt (20%)

Surprise Performance:

J.P. Macura (Rookie – Undrafted): 5 games, 23.4 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 12-20 FG (60%), 3-7 3pt (42.9%)

 

The Charlotte Hornets were a team that had a lot of “buzz” circulating them this offseason. See what I did there? No… okay, let’s move on. Star-guard, Kemba Walker seemed to be in the news a lot this offseason and there were questions on whether the Hornets would move him or not, but Charlotte shot down these rumors and he still remains their star. In the draft, Michael Jordan and co. went out and grabbed three athletic and experienced players, starting with two-year starter at Michigan State, Miles Bridges with the 12th pick in the draft. One thing that has hurt the Hornets for years now has been their wing-production and after drafting Malik Monk last year, bringing in Miles Bridges gives them depth and experience behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. In Summer League, Bridges was one of the Hornets best players, averaging 15.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and having a big impact defensively, nabbing 1.4 SPG and 1.2 BPG. He was also one of the most explosive players during the NBA Summer League and I cannot wait to watch Bridges in the NBA Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend. Miles Bridges almost ended the Las Vegas Summer League and two players careers with this dunk attempt below provided by Bleacher Report: 

If this is not enough to prove to you that Bridges is an athletic freak and extremely high IQ basketball player, I do not know what does! Devonte’ Graham was also one of Charlotte’s draft selections having a solid Summer League, but after three games, Graham suffered a condylar lesion in his right knee, ending his Summer League play. It is likely he will be ready for Charlotte’s training camp, but if there is one thing we know about Devonte’ Graham and his work ethic while at Kansas, it is that he will come back better and stronger from this minor setback. With two fantastic and veteran point guards to learn from in Kemba Walker and Tony Parker, the sky’s the limit for Devonte’ Graham. Charlotte’s final rookie, Arnoldas Kulboka, out of Lithuania, did not play much during Summer League and as a result, did not post any eye-popping numbers. After playing professionally in Italy last year, Kulboka will likely play overseas again for the 2018-19 season and come to the Hornets the following season. For a tall-wing, Kulboka is very athletic and offered a glimpse of his potential in Summer League shooting 46% from the floor in four games.

Two other players who had fantastic Summer League performances for the Charlotte Hornets in Las Vegas were Willy Hernangomez and Dwayne Bacon. Hernangomez, the 35th pick in the 2015 draft, had an up-and-down year last year aftering being a part of three different organizations. It seems like he has found a home in Charlotte though after an impressive stat line in Las Vegas and the fact that they traded Dwight Howard. In 4 games for the Hornets this summer, Hernangomez averaged 18.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 1.8 BPG while shooting 50% from the floor. He proved himself as a tough, interior defender and a monster in the paint on both ends of the floor. He will likely come in behind Bismack Biyombo on the team’s depth chart for centers and should be a valuable contributor for them this season off the bench. Charlotte’s second-round selection from a year ago may be ready to make his breakout year in his “sophomore season.” Dwayne Bacon was the Hornets best shooter this summer, shooting 40.2% from the field on 87 shots, and 31.3% from deep. As stated above, Charlotte has struggled to find production from their wing positions over the past few seasons, so they should definitely be happy with the way Bacon played during this summer and give him an opportunity to increase his minutes this year. You can never have enough depth at both wing positions and with the ability to play both positions, Dwayne Bacon could turn himself into a very valuable sixth-man or rotational player for the Hornets.

The three drafted rookies played well this summer for the minutes they saw, but one rookie, who went undrafted, raised a lot of eyebrows for scouts and executives for the Hornets, leading to a two-way contract with Charlotte. Former Xavier guard, J.P. Macura played well, surprising some, but for all of you college basketball fans, this should not surprise you much. He was one of the most productive players in college ball last season and he continued to be a leader and reliable option on both ends of the court this summer. Macura averaged 6.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG, and shot 60% from the floor in all 5 of the Hornets’ games. Although he only took 7 three-pointers, he also made 43% of them, leading to Charlotte believing he could be a valuable shooter and veteran leader for them in the future. Macura will likely see some time in the NBA this season on his two-way contract, but expect to see him develop more in Charlotte’s system this season in the G-League. Charlotte barely missed the playoffs last season and with a young-core of players to pair with veterans Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker, the future is definitely bright in Charlotte. It will just be a matter of if all these young guys can be integrated together and play well with one another.

 

CHICAGO BULLS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #24

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #25 Detroit Pistons)

2018 Draft Picks: Wendell Carter Jr. (7), Chandler Hutchison (22)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Antonio Blakeney (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 4 games, 28.0 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 27-54 FG (50%), 9-28 3pt (32.1%)

  2. Wendell Carter Jr. (Rookie): 5 games, 28.8 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 27-49 FG (55.1%), 3-7 3pt (42.9%)

  3. Chandler Hutchison (Rookie): 5 games, 32.4 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 17-43 FG (39.5%), 8-16 3pt (50%)

Surprise Performance:

Donte Ingram (Rookie – Undrafted): 5 games, 26.8 MPG, 6.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 10-32 FG (31.3%), 7-22 3pt (31.8%)

 

There is no way that the Chicago Bulls’ plan of a total rebuild will only take 2-3 years right? Well, this may very well be a quick rebuild for the Bulls because between the young talent they have and the talent they drafted/found in Summer League, Chicago is not far off from being a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference once again! The Bulls made three big free-agency moves this summer, resigning Zach LaVine and Antonio Blakeney, and signing hometown kid, Jabari Parker to a 2 year/40M deal. Antonio Blakeney, after a stellar Summer League in which he led the Bulls in scoring, averaging 21.0 PPG while shooting 50% from the floor, earned himself a 2yr/3M deal with the Bulls as a backup wing next to Zach LaVine and Justin Holliday. Blakeney was always known as a shooter coming out of LSU a year ago and now, in the G-League and in Summer League, Antonio Blakeney has proved himself as a guy who can drive to the basket and not only finish in the paint, but dish it out to his teammates on the perimeter as well. Blakeney with Chicago is a great fit and I am very happy that they finally gave him the guaranteed contract he deserves. In addition to the organization’s three big names they signed in free agency, the Bulls also drafted Wendell Carter Jr. with the 7th pick in the draft and Chandler Hutchison with the 22nd pick.

Both rookies were two of the Bulls’ Top 3 Performers this Summer League, but Carter stuck out as one of the best big men in all of Summer League. Wendell Carter Jr. earned First Team All-Summer League honors as a result of his productive 14.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.6 BPG and shooting 55.1% FG and 42.9% from deep. Also a physical freak, Wendell Carter Jr. was viewed as Marvin Bagley III’s sidekick at Duke, but he can be and proved he is one in his own! Wendell Carter Jr. was a great defender this Summer League and challenged a lot of his opposing big men because they were forced to either guard him in the paint or attempt and guard him on the perimeter. Pairing Carter Jr. with Lauri Markkanen and Jabari Parker in the frontcourt could very well give the Bulls one of the top frontcourts in the Eastern Conference if they all remain healthy. Chandler Hutchison, the Bulls’ other first-round draft pick out of Boise State, is a player I was extremely high coming into the draft and after watching him in Summer League, I believe he has all the tools to become an All-Star for the Bulls, much like Jimmy Butler did in his first few seasons with Chicago. Hutchison can play both wing positions, shoot well from virtually any position on the court, and has very good vision on defense. He averaged 11.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG in Summer League, but even without the ball in his hands, he helped Blakeney and Carter get open looks a lot. Two to about three years down the road, I fully expect Chandler Hutchison to be starting for the Bulls and along with Wendell Carter Jr, be the Bulls best players and duo in the Eastern Conference. In my opinion, the Chicago Bulls hit a “Gold Mine” in this year’s draft.

One other player on the Bulls’ Summer League roster that impressed me was rookie-forward, Donte Ingram out of Loyola-Chicago. Ingram really made a name for himself in this past year’s NCAA Tournament where his Loyola-Chicago Ramblers went to the Final Four, but he reinforced his playing with a solid showing in Las Vegas. Donte Ingram was a 30% shooter from the field and from deep, and was a threat on offense for the Bulls. As a result of him being another weapon for them to turn to on the perimeter, he opened up a lot of space for Blakeney and Hutchison to drive hard to the rim. One thing that Donte Ingram must improve on is his awareness on the defensive end of the court, but overall, he has good size and offensive instincts for an NBA wing and should find a G-League team to play for this year after his solid performance in Summer League. A lot of people have brushed the Chicago Bulls to the side and think they have no shot to make noise in the Eastern Conference, but with a young and shooter heavy team, and especially with no LeBron James in the Eastern Conference; Bulls fans I hope you are ready because your team’s rebuild is almost finished!

 

 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 5-2

Playoff Seeding: #12

Summer League Playoff Result: Semifinals (Lost to #1 Los Angeles Lakers)

2018 Draft Picks: Collin Sexton (8)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Collin Sexton (Rookie): 7 games, 28.7 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 48-112 FG (42.9%), 3-13 3pt (23.1%), 38-50 FT (76%)

  2. Ante Zizic (2016 Draft – Pick 23): 2 games, 26.5 MPG, 20.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 19-30 FG (63.3%), 3-5 FT (60%)

  3. Cedi Osman (2015 Draft – Pick 31): 2 games, 31.5 MPG, 20.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 14-33 FG (42.4%), 3-14 3pt (21.4%), 9-11 FT (81.8%)

Surprise Performance:

Jamel Artis (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 31.4 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 22-40 FG (55%), 6-12 3pt (50%), 9-14 FT (64.3%)

 

A guy by the name of LeBron James, you may have heard of him, has officially packed his bags for a second time in Cleveland and will be taking his talents to Hollywood to play for the Los Angeles ‘Showtime’ Lakers. Not only was this a move a lot of people thought LeBron would make this offseason, but it was a move a lot of Cleveland fans anticipated and were ready for. The Cavaliers knew it was only a matter of time before LeBron decided to move on from his hometown team and as a result, they have a huge hole left in their roster. LeBron James carrying this year’s Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals was one of the best single-player performances in a NBA Playoffs I have ever seen and with not much talent outside one All-Star, the Cavaliers may have their work cut out for them for years to come. Without James, they will likely fall down the list of teams in the Eastern Conference, but on draft night, they went out and took a player they were extremely confident on coming out of college after one year and a player who had one of the best Summer League performances this year, earning him First Team All-Summer League honors. Collin Sexton, out of Alabama, had a tremendous Summer League for the Cavaliers, being featured in all 7 games and averaging 19.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, and shooting roughly 43% from the field on 112 shot attempts. Sexton was “the man” for the Cavaliers in Summer League play and showed a lot of one-on-one skill, as well as leadership skill. Sexton played with a high level of intensity, much like he did in college, and was really a fun player to watch. His late night games, especially against the Lakers in the Semifinals, were a thing of beauty and his one-on-one matchups with Summer League MVP, Josh Hart, were incredible to watch. In the Semifinal game versus the Lakers, Sexton and Hart combined for 64 points on 22-50 shooting. Collin Sexton looks to be the point guard of the future for the Cavaliers team as they look to rebuild without LeBron and should see significant minutes from the start of his NBA career.

 
Rookie phenom Collin Sexton taking on Los Angeles Lakers guard, Josh Hart, in the Las Vegas Summer League Semifinals.

Two other players who stood-out for the Cavaliers in Summer League were two bench players for them a year ago, Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman. Zizic was the 23rd pick back in the 2016 NBA Draft and was acquired by the Cavaliers before the start of the 2017-18 season as part of the Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas trade. Although he did not play much on the court in the regular season for the Cavs, he was one of the most productive centers in all of Summer League in just two games. He averaged 20.5 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and shot 63% from the floor. With a lot of question marks surrounding the Cavaliers’ depth at the center position with Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr, Zizic could see his role expand, especially with a great offensive performance in Summer League. The last stand-out guy for the Cavaliers, who only played in two Summer League games, was their cheerleader from the bench a year ago, Cedi Osman. The second-year Turkish wing will definitely see his role expanded upon now without LeBron in Cleveland, but his performance in Las Vegas will back this up. Osman averaged 20.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, and 1.0 BPG, making him one of the most versatile players throughout Summer League. His ability to be an impactful two-way player was demonstrated in the two games he played in and his best performance came against the Washington Wizards in the Cavs first Summer League game. Osman recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while also having 4 steals and a block. His versatility and quickness on the floor makes him a unique prospect for the Cavaliers and should be a focal point in their plans for the future as they look to grow their young talent.

Although the Cavaliers had some standout talent in Summer League, the one player who stood out to me the most was Jamel Artis. The second-year, undrafted wing out of Pittsburgh put together a very nice Summer League across the board and helped lead the Cavs to the Semifinals of the Playoffs. He finished with 11.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and shot 55% from the field, while also showcasing his ability to shoot from outside. Artis’ greatest strength during this year’s Summer League was his ability to drive hard to the paint and finish strong and well-above the rim. After his recent performance in Summer League, Jamel Artis earned himself a two-year contract with the Sacramento Kings, a great spot for him to learn with other young talent and look to earn a reliable bench role on a team looking for wings. Two other names to mention from the Cavaliers’ Summer League are John Holland and rookie Billy Preston. Both players earned two-way contracts following Summer League and may have bigger roles than expected. Holland will be behind newly acquired Sam Dekker and Cedi Osman on the wing and Preston will look to solidify a future spot and role with the team behind Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Larry Nance Jr. Preston put together a pretty solid Summer League, posting 10.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 1.2 SPG after not playing in college at all last year. If Preston can put together some nice things under his two-way contract, he will definitely find his way onto a 15-man roster for future years. With LeBron gone and some young talent to develop, the Cavaliers may fall back to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and the NBA once again, but possibly not for long!

 

 DALLAS MAVERICKS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-2

Playoff Seeding: #9

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #24 Chicago Bulls)

2018 Draft Picks: Luka Doncic (3), Jalen Brunson (33)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Johnathan Motley (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 2 games, 24.5 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 BPG, 13-22 FG (59.1%), 5-8 FT (62.5%)

  2. Jalen Jones (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 20.8 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 22-50 FG (44%), 7-17 3pt (41.2%)

  3. Dennis Smith Jr. (2017 Draft – Pick 9): 2 games, 23.5 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 6.0 APG, 3.0 SPG, 9-24 FG (37.5%), 2-13 3pt (15.4%), 4-4 FT (100%)

Surprise Performance:

Ray Spalding (Rookie): 5 games, 17.0 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 17-29 FG (58.6%), 2-6 3pt (33.3%), 4-6 FT (66.7%)

 

After a season that offered a glimpse of the future of the franchise, the Dallas Mavericks may have enough talent this year to make it back to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. It will not be easy for the Mavs this season though, especially with the amount of talent in the Western Conference now. International legend and one of the game’s best, Dirk Nowitzki, decided to remain in the NBA and signed another 1yr/5M deal with the Dallas Mavericks, making him the only player in the NBA to stay with the same team for over 20 years (this will be his 21st season with the Mavericks). In what is speculated to be his final season, Nowitzki will be joined by veterans Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and new All-Star center, DeAndre Jordan. Last year’s Top-10 pick, Dennis Smith Jr. also had a great rookie year for the Mavericks and is set for a big season ahead. Smith Jr was featured in 2 Summer League games this year and was very solid in both outings. Smith averaged 12.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.0 SPG, and shot just under 59% from the floor. Dennis Smith Jr. is one of the most athletic players in the NBA in just his second year and showed his athleticism at Summer League, being involved in every play both offensively and defensively. Even though he played in only two games, his 3 steals per game average was tops amongst all Summer League players and helped guide the Mavs. Big things are expected of DSJ in his “sophomore” year and he will be a big part of the Mavs backcourt, along with their two rookie sensations.

The Dallas Mavericks drafted Luka Doncic, the very talented combo-guard and wing from Serbia with the 3rd pick in the draft after a draft night trade with the Atlanta Hawks, and Jalen Brunson, the reigning National Player of the Year and two-time NCAA Champion out of Villanova. Doncic is one of the best international players to come to the NBA in a while. His scoring tendencies and basketball IQ are extremely high, making him one of the lowest bust potential players in this draft class. He was listed on the Mavericks Summer League roster, but after buyout complications with Real Madrid over his current professional contract, he was unable to play for the Mavs in Summer League. Ultimately, the Mavericks signed Doncic to his rookie contract and he will be ready to go and suit up in Dallas this season, making Dallas fans extremely excited and happy. With DSJ and Doncic in the backcourt, along with the next rookie, the Mavericks are going to be an extremely fast and high IQ team. Jalen Brunson, the 33rd overall selection in the NBA Draft is a first-round talent that somehow fell to the Mavs in the second-round. This was a steal for the Mavericks at this point in the draft and adds immediate depth behind DSJ at point guard. The best thing about this pick is that Brunson will not be asked to play immediately and can learn from both Dennis Smith Jr, as well as veteran guard, J.J. Barea. Jalen Brunson also put together a solid outing in Las Vegas, averaging 6.8 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.2 SPG and shot 10-44 from the field (22.7%), which is very low for his standards. His passing abilities and quick hands defensively were glimpses of the kind of player he can be for the Mavs, but his poor shooting is definitely something to note. This is very unlike Jalen Brunson and moving forward, this is something the Mavericks cannot afford to waste time with. Brunson was a natural scorer in college and if he is unable to continue doing so at the NBA level, there may not be much room for him on a team.

Besides Dennis Smith Jr, two other guys were impressive for the Mavs out in Las Vegas. First up, an undrafted-guard back in the 2016 Draft, Jalen Jones. After being released from his Two-Way Contract early on in Summer League, Jalen Jones did not let this affect him, putting up solid numbers overall. He averaged 13.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG and shot over 41% from 3pt range, making him the best long-range shooter statistically on the Mavericks’ Summer League roster. Outside shooting has always been a strength of Jalen Jones and with his proven shooting mechanics, he should be able to find his way into another Two-Way Contract unless he opts to play overseas. Johnathan Motley, even though he played in just two games like DSJ, was definitely the Mavs best player this summer, averaging 15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG and shooting 59% from the floor. Motley played last season for the Mavs under a Two-Way Contract and was recently acquired by the Clippers and signed a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season. Motley’s physicality and strength to be a dominant, second-rotation post-player makes him an interesting pickup for the Clippers and a player they may work with similarly to the way they did with Montrezl Harrell. One player still awaiting to have his contract guaranteed for the upcoming season is small-forward, Dorian Finney-Smith. Not only is he one of the few wing players the Mavericks currently have on their roster for the upcoming season, but he had an okay Summer League, averaging 9.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. Finney-Smith is the type of guy who is a natural wing, but can guard on the perimeter and in the post, as proved by his defensive stats in Summer League. It would not make sense to me for the Mavericks to not guaranty his contract for the upcoming season and I would be surprised if he is playing for someone else next season.

One Mavericks’ rookie was overshadowed during the draft as a result of the two big name rookies named above, but in Summer League, this guy went out and was an extremely hard worker and the numbers reflected his effort. Second-round selection, Ray Spalding out of Louisville, had a productive Summer League, averaging 8.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.8 BPG. Much like Finney-Smith, Spalding is a player with a lot of potential on both sides of the court and after consistently improving his work ethic over his years at Louisville, the Mavericks have a lot of upside by developing Ray Spalding further. He is naturally a post-player and strong rebounder, but he has shown flashes of having a reliable outside game as well, shooting a small sample size of 2-6 from deep this summer. Spalding signed a 4yr/7M rookie deal with the Mavericks, so he is definitely in their plans for the future of their young core and the franchise. The Mavericks have the talent to make the NBA Playoffs this upcoming season, but they will have to rely on their veterans and staying healthy to separate themselves from similarly talented teams in a heavily stacked Western Conference.

 

 DENVER NUGGETS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-2

Playoff Seeding: #4

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #29 Toronto Raptors)

2018 Draft Picks: Michael Porter Jr. (14), Jarred Vanderbilt (42)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Monte Morris (2017 Draft – Pick 51): 4 games, 28.3 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 6.3 APG, 0.5 BPG, 29-58 FG (50%), 5-14 3pt (35.7%), 7-8 FT (87.5%)

  2. Malik Beasley (2016 Draft – Pick 19): 3 games, 29.3 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 18-46 FG (39.1%), 3-12 3pt (25%), 9-12 FT (75%)

  3. Vlatko Cancar (2017 Draft – Pick 49): 4 games, 21.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 14-29 FG (58.6%), 6-17 3pt (35.3%), 2-6 FT (33%)

Surprise Performance:

Emanuel Terry (Rookie): 5 games, 17.6 MPG, 7.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 17-28 FG (60.7%), 3-4 FT (75%)

 

Every year, it seems like the Denver Nuggets are quietly getting better and better. This season, they have the talent to be able to make it to the playoffs! After inking star-center, Nikola Jokic to a 5yr/147.7M extension and extending wing Will Barton’s contract as well, the Nuggets were able to add veteran point guard, Isaiah Thomas on a one-year minimum deal. Now deep at every position with shooters and playmakers, it finally seems like Denver is ready to take the next step and make some noise in the Western Conference, something they have not seemed to do since the 2012-13 season when George Karl was still coaching out in Denver! Nuggets fans are finally ready for the 2018-19 season and it started on draft night when they perhaps got, in my eyes, the best player in this draft class when healthy, Michael Porter Jr. Although he “played” in just three games in college, there is no denying that Michael Porter Jr. is a generational type talent. If you have not seen his Team USA or high school highlights, stop reading and please go check them out because Porter Jr, in my opinion, is the best all-around player I have seen get drafted since Kevin Durant in 2007. Michael Porter Jr. sat out most of his freshman season at Missouri due to herniated discs in his back and when he returned, it seemed that things still were not right. During pre-draft workouts, he had to cancel a few times due to hip and back stiffness and he began seeing his stock drop as a result of teams fearing that he would not be able to play given his medical conditions. The Denver Nuggets saw an opportunity at Pick #14 to get the best player in the draft, when healthy, and are willing to gamble with Porter Jr. Recently this summer following the draft, Michael Porter Jr. had another surgery done, this time on his lumbar spine and his timetable is unknown at this point. Nobody knows if the Nuggets will play him at all this year or let him heal up fully, especially given his medical history, much like the 76ers did with Ben Simmons. Porter Jr. does want to play this season however, and is optimistic this will happen some time mid-season. In the second-round, the Nuggets took another “high-risk, high-reward” player by taking Jarred Vanderbilt out of Kentucky. Coming into college, Vanderbilt was ranked as the Nation’s 19th best prospect on the ESPN Top 100 Recruiting Rankings and was drawing comparisons to Jabari Parker and Harrison Barnes. After sitting out most of the season with a foot injury that never had time to heal, and not looking like he did pre-injury when returning, there are lots of questions to be had for Mr. Vanderbilt. The good thing for him is that the Nuggets believe in his talents and like Porter Jr, are going to wait for him to say he is ready before putting him back on the court. When both of these rookies are healthy and ready to go, they could make Denver’s frontcourt even more scary than it already is with Nikola Jokic!

Even though both of Denver’s rookies did not participate in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League, the Nuggets still performed very well. They finished 3-2, after entering the playoffs 3-0, and were led by last season’s 51st pick in the draft, Monte Morris. After performing well last season under a two-way contract, Monte Morris earned his money for the upcoming season and is now under contract with the Nuggets for the next 3 years, making him a reliable backup behind Jamal Murray in the rotations. In 4 Summer League games, Morris averaged 17.5 PPG, 6.3 APG, and shot 50% FG, while also shooting 35.7% from deep. Monte Morris has really turned himself into a useful offensive weapon and has utilized his speed and craftiness to beat his opponents in one-on-one situations. Much like he did at Iowa State, he has improved drastically as a passer and is a very solid option to have as a backup point guard moving forward. Malik Beasley, the 16th pick back in 2016, also put together a very solid Summer League, earning him a guaranteed contract for the upcoming season. Beasley has had his ups-and-downs since entering the league back in 2016 and this summer, really took the next step into fixing his play-style to match that of the NBA’s and his team. After averaging 16.0 PPG, 2.3 SPG, and shooting just under 40% from the field in 4 Summer League games, Beasley has gained more confidence from the Nuggets and they believe he can become a reliable second-unit player for them. With this being a contract year for Malik Beasley, he will have to prove to Denver he is worth keeping around and investing in, but after the recent draft, Denver may be ready to move on from Beasley after this season. This next guy you may not have heard much about, but that is because he has been playing in Europe after being drafted 49th overall in last year’s draft. Vlatko Cancar looks to be ready to come overseas and play for Denver, but it is yet to be determined if he will be leaving Mega Leks, one of Europe’s best basketball clubs, to join the Nuggets for the 2018-19 season. In Summer League though, Cancar made a name for himself as a shooter. He shot 61% from the floor in 4 games and looked comfortable shooting off one-foot and from anywhere on the court. Cancar has made a name for himself as a shooter overseas and if he comes over to play in the NBA this season, that will be his role on the wing with Denver.

One guy who turned a lot of heads this summer and was on Denver’s Summer League squad was Emanuel Terry out of Lincoln Memorial University. Outside of Monte Morris, Terry stole the show out of all the other guards on the court, averaging 7.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, shooting just under 60% from the field. Emanuel Terry received a lot of attention from NBA personal due to his athletic abilities and quickness. He screams athlete and potential and plays with an extremely high amount of energy that cannot be matched. He posses “game-changing” type abilities and if an NBA team does not sign him to at least a G-League contract, some team in Europe will be getting a steal! Another player to note during Summer League for the Nuggets is DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell. After averaging 12.0 PPG, 2.0 SPG, and shooting 43% from the floor, he earned a two-way contract with Denver. This Summer League was very favorable for the Denver Nuggets, even though their two star-studded rookies did not participate, as they learned more about their young talent they possed on their roster and their young talent continued to grow. This season should definitely be fun if you are a Nuggets fan!

 

 DETROIT PISTONS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-3

Playoff Seeding: #25

Summer League Playoff Result: Quarterfinals (Lost to #1 Los Angeles Lakers)

2018 Draft Picks: Khyri Thomas (38), Bruce Brown (42)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Henry Ellenson (2016 Draft – Pick 18): 6 games, 30.8 MPG, 15.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 29-97 FG (29.9%), 7-42 3pt (16.7%), 29-33 FT (87.9%)

  2. Bruce Brown (Rookie): 6 games, 30.3 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 21-73 FG (28.8%), 4-21 3pt (19%), 25-28 FT (89.3%)

  3. Zach Lofton (Rookie): 6 games, 19.3 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 26-67 FG (38.8%), 9-28 3pt (32.1%), 4-11 FT (36.4%)

Surprise Performance:

Khyri Thomas (Rookie): 4 games, 28.8 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 14-35 FG (40%), 5-11 3pt (45.5%), 5-7 FT (71.4%)

With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond making up the Pistons’ frontcourt, they will have two of the best big men in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season!

The Pistons have been up-and-down for a while now out in the Eastern Conference, but just have not been able to figure out their own internal problems. Not only did they acquire Blake Griffin last season, sending the young and upcoming wing, Tobias Harris, to the Clippers, but they also decided to move on from long-time NBA coach, Stan Van Gundy following this past season in which the Pistons missed the Playoffs. When you look at the Pistons’ roster as a whole, they look like a team who should be in the Playoffs, especially in the Eastern Conference. The only hole I can personally see in their depth chart is their lack of consistency at both guard positions. Reggie Jackson has not been the promising point guard of the future they thought he would be and they have not been able to get stable shooting from their wing positions.

In the 2017 Draft, they addressed this flaw and took the sharpshooting Luke Kennard out of Duke. In this year’s draft, they continued to build depth at their guard position, taking two combo guards who both received first-round hype throughout the year. First, they traded for the rights to the 38th pick in the draft and took Khyri Thomas out of Creighton. To me, Thomas falling this far was crazy and a steal for the Pistons this deep in the draft. Not only does he bring a craftiness and shiftiness to their second-unit from an offensive standpoint, but he is an exceptional defender and has been one of the top defenders in the Big East for years. Khyri Thomas put together a very solid Summer League for the Pistons and a very surprising and positive performance. He averaged 9.5 PPG, 1.5 SPG, and shot about 45% from deep. Not only did he show his defensive skill, but proved to be a dangerous shooter that when left open or unguarded, can make his jumpers at a high percentage. Thomas has already signed his rookie deal and should be a valuable combo-guard for them as time goes on. The Pistons’ second draft pick, four picks later, Bruce Brown, is a little bit more of an intriguing player coming out of the draft due to a foot injury that kept him sidelined for half the season. Brown, in his two seasons at Miami (FL), was a great defender both on and off the ball and was a consistent 44% shooter from the field for his career. He has improved as a facilitator and floor general, but fits the mold of a hard-nosed defender and perimeter threat the Pistons are looking to fill at their guard positions. Bruce Brown appeared in all 6 of the Pistons’ games this summer and turned out to be one of their best players statistically. Bruce Brown led the team in rebounds at 7.3 RPG, and also added 11.8 PPG, and 1.7 SPG to his Summer League resume. Although he was not the best shooter, shooting just under 30% from the floor, he was a threat to drive hard to the rim every possession, something he should and will get better at in the NBA. Bruce Brown is a player that should be better in the NBA than he was in college, much like Donovan Mitchell in last year’s draft, as a result of his athletic abilities and faster style-of-play. Khyri Thomas, Bruce Brown, and Luke Kennard are all the future of the franchise at the guard positions, making players like Reggie Jackson and Reggie Bullock’s time in question.

Another young-talent that played very well for the Pistons once again in Summer League was 2016 first-round pick, Henry Ellenson. The former Marquette big man put together yet another consistent Summer League, averaging 15.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 1.2 SPG. He did struggle at times shooting from the perimeter, but Ellenson has always been a decent shooter, so his showing this summer shooting the ball is not as quite concerning. Ellenson has moved behind both Griffin and Jon Leuer now on the team’s depth chart, so if he does not take the next step this season and play well with the Pistons’ second unit, he may be on the next bus out of Detroit for next season! The Pistons’ last top performer of this year’s Las Vegas Summer League was New Mexico State rookie, Zach Lofton. The 6’4” wing had an impressive showing in Summer League where he averaged 10.8 PPG and shot just about 39% from the field, while also shooting about 32% from deep in all 6 of the Pistons’ games. Lofton signed a contract with Detroit recently and will look to improve and earn time with the Pistons this season. With LeBron out of the Eastern Conference, a lot of doors are open for teams who missed the playoffs out east last season. Could the Pistons be one of the teams to take advantage of this opportunity and make it back to the playoffs with their dynamic frontcourt?

 

 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 1-4

Playoff Seeding: #20

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #3 Charlotte Hornets)

2018 Draft Picks: Jacob Evans (28)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Marcus Derrickson (Rookie): 5 games, 21.4 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 27-55 FG (49.1%), 9-22 3pt (40.9%), 7-11 FT (63.6%)

  2. Kendrick Nunn (Rookie): 5 games, 24.6 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 20-55 FG (36.4%), 7-22 3pt (31.8%), 11-14 FT (78.6%)

  3. J.P. Tokoto (2015 Draft, Pick 58): 5 games, 23.0 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 13-29 FG (44.8%), 1-5 3pt (20%), 8-10 FT (80%)

Surprise Performance:

Josh Magette (2012 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 26.2 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 13-43 FG (30.2%), 3-20 3pt (15%), 6-8 FT (75%)

 

After winning their third title in a four year span, I think it is time to classify the Golden State Warriors as one of the best dynasties the game of basketball has ever seen. In all honesty, they may be the best team ever assembled, based on pure basketball skill and awards/honors, but they continue to get better! After resigning Kevin Durant and Kevon Looney to short-term deals, they also signed 4x All-Star and 2x All-NBA Center, DeMarcus Cousins to a 1yr/5.34M deal using their MLE (Mid-Level Exception). Fans believed this was a joke that some of the to analysts were making up when it was first reported on Twitter, but the reports were true and a team that could not get any better did. Cousins is coming off of an Achilles tear he suffered back in January and is likely to be ready to go around January/February 2019. With him at full-strength and in the starting lineup, the Warriors will be the first team in NBA history to start 5 All-Stars together. Hate them or love them, there is no denying that Bob Myers may be one of the best General Managers the NBA has ever seen!

While the Warriors were celebrating their second-consecutive NBA Finals Championship, their GM’s office and personnel were getting ready for what GM Bob Myers calls the most important day of the year, draft day! The Warriors had one first-round pick in this year’s draft and tried aggressively to acquire a second-round pick like they did last year, but could not buy themselves back into the second round. The Warriors drafted Jacob Evans, a talented wing out of Cincinnati, with the 28th pick in the draft. Evans fits right in with the way the Warriors play because he can play multiple positions and is a guy who plays excellent defense on the wing. The First Team All-AAC rookie played in three games this summer for the Warriors and had showed Warriors fans a small sample size of what he is capable of doing. He averaged 5.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 0.7 BPG, and shot about 30% from the floor. Jacob Evans battled a toe injury all throughout Summer League and may have hindered him throughout the length of games, but nonetheless, he still put up good numbers for what he was being used for. Evans will likely be a guy that will not play a lot this season, if at all, and will be integrated into the Warriors rotations slowly.

Although Jacob Evans was the only rookie on the Warriors who was drafted, two other rookies stood out. Marcus Derrickson out of Georgetown and Kendrick Nunn out of Oakland had stellar Summer League performances and have caught a lot of NBA scouts attention. Derrickson, over his three years at Georgetown, was primarily known as a shooter who could score from virtually anywhere on the court. He shot an incredible 46.5% from three-point range last season and continued to fire on all cylinders. He averaged 14.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, and shot slightly under 41% from long-range during Summer League! He proved to not only be a knockdown shooter, but a threat from anywhere on the court even at the NBA three-point line. Marcus Derrickson earned an Exhibit-10 Contract, which will likely turn into a Two-Way Contract, with the Warriors and could be a player like Quinn Cook who worked his way up the ranks within Golden State’s organization. Derrickson can shoot and if there is one thing the Warriors like and can never have enough of, it is shooters on the wing, so definitely expect Marcus Derrickson to get valuable minutes for him throughout the course of the season. Kendrick Nunn was not known as a shooter in college like Derrickson was, but was an avid scorer at Oakland and proved to be an offensive threat in Summer League. He averaged 11.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 SPG, and shot 36% from the field. Nunn is not a big shooter, but scores in the paint at a high number for an undersized guard. The Warriors have signed Nunn to an Exhibit-10 contract, which usually turns into a two-way contract following training camp. Although he is not a rookie, third-year guard J.P. Tokoto out of UNC put together a pretty decent Summer League that earned him a contract in Israel with Hapoel Eilat. Tokoto played in 5 games, and averaged 7.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG, while shooting about 45% from the floor. He did not take many three-point attempts, making 1 of 5, but has been a decent long-range shooter for his short career. It seems like Tokoto does not have much of a future in the NBA, but should be a nice fit with his new team in Israel.

One guy who had a surprising performance for the Warriors during Summer League was Josh Magette. After playing in the G-League for four seasons, Magette finally got his chance with the Atlanta Hawks last season on their NBA roster, but did not play much nor make the most of his opportunities. In the G-League, he has averaged double-figure scoring in each season and was one of the G-Leagues best passers, averaging 8.8 APG for his career. In Summer League though, his performance was quite disappointing and not at the level I would expect him to be at. He averaged 7.0 PPG, 4.2 APG, and shot just above 30% FG. For a guy who has a decent amount of experience and has been in the NBA system since 2012, my expectations were that he would be one of the Warriors leading scorers, but that just simply did not happen and he shot the ball very poorly. His NBA future is now in doubt as this year’s Summer League was a huge opportunity for him to go out and impress teams, proving to them he could be a team’s backup point guard. Now, I am not even sure if he is worth keeping on a 15-man roster at this point.

The Golden State Warriors will once again open up as heavy favorites to win the 2018-19 NBA Championship and anything less would surprising. It may make a lot of people angry, but expect to see the Golden State Warriors win their third consecutive NBA title this season!

 

 HOUSTON ROCKETS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 4-1

Playoff Seeding: #5

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #12 Cleveland Cavaliers)

2018 Draft Picks: De’Anthony Melton (46), Vincent Edwards Jr. (52)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Danuel House (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 27.0 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 28-68 FG (41.2%), 13-35 3pt (37.1%)

  2. De’Anthony Melton (Rookie): 5 games, 30.0 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.0 APG, 3.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 29-76 FG (38.2%), 12-38 3pt (31.6%)

  3. Zhou Qi (2016 Draft – Pick 43): 4 games, 21.3 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 16-22 FG (72.7%), 5-9 3pt (55.6%), 11-20 FT (55%)

Surprise Performance:

Isaiah Hartenstein (2017 Draft – Pick 43): 4 games, 22.0 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 12-23 FG (52.2%), 17-22 FT (77.3%)

 

If you think about it, the Houston Rockets were about 24 minutes away from knocking off the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals 4-2 in Houston. Not only did they have the best record in the NBA last season, but they were so close to knocking off the team that seemed invincible in the Playoffs. What if Chris Paul stayed healthy? What if James Harden did not go into a shooting funk? What if Trevor Ariza, or P.J. Tucker, or Gerald Green had may some three-pointers in Game 7? What if the Houston Rockets actually beat the Warriors in the WCF? In a Western Conference Finals that could have been, the Houston Rockets inevitably fell just short of the Golden State Warriors and sat on their couches as the Warriors won their second consecutive Finals. There is one thing that we know for sure, Rockets GM Dayrl Morey is going to do everything he can to beat the Warriors and he beefed up the Rockets roster already. After resigning Chris Paul and Clint Capela to big long-term deals, the Rockets aggressively sought shooters and versatile players in free agency. They ended up with Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis, resigned Gerald Green, and will soon sign 10x All-Star Carmelo Anthony to a veterans minimum. They do lose Trevor Ariza, but is this enough to finally put an end to the Warriors reign in the West? Who knows, but they also beefed up their young talent in the draft and may have found some nice pieces for the future during Summer League!

The Rockets had two draft picks and selected De’Anthony Melton out of USC with the 46th pick, and Vincent Edwards Jr. out of Purdue with the 52nd Pick. Outside of Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets have not received much production from their second-unit guards, but De’Anthony Melton looks to be a steal at pick 46. Melton was a high-graded and elite point guard coming into USC, but after the recent FBI Investigations into college basketball, Melton was deemed ineligible last season and decided to enter the draft. Initially rated as a first-round pick, Melton slipped to the second-round as a result of questions about his athleticism and shooting abilities following the NBA Combine. Well… De’Anthony Melton quickly has put an end to the haters after an extremely impressive summer league. The rookie guard played in all 5 of Houston’s Summer League games, averaging 16.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.0 SPG, and shooting a solid 32% from long range. Melton was a swiss-army knife during Summer League, proving to be an elite scorer, while also being a great defender on the glass and in passing lanes. As he develops further in the Rockets’ system and learning behind one of the game’s best guards in Chris Paul, De’Anthony Melton may turn out to be one of the best point-guards in this draft class. Vince Edwards was an interesting draft selection for the Rockets at 52 because he was a guy who I personally did not think was going to get drafted. After an impressive year at Purdue, he definitely drew a lot of attention from NBA scouts, but he still lacked size and could be inconsistent as a shooter at times. Edwards, due to his smaller frame, will likely get bullied around if he plays in the paint in the NBA, so outside shooting will have to be a strength of his. In Summer League, he averaged 7.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and shot about 35% from the floor. Overall, these are not terrible numbers and if you are a Rockets fan, you should be content with the production of Edwards this summer. Much like Melton, Vince Edwards will take time to develop and behind P.J. Tucker and Carmelo Anthony, Edwards can learn a lot on both ends of the court and really become a reliable wing in the future.

Second-year wing, Danuel House, had one of the best Summer League performances this season and as a result, earned himself a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors that is not guaranteed yet, but will likely be guaranteed as the season progresses. House was extremely impressive and one of the most exhilarating players to watch in Las Vegas. He averaged 16.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, and shot 37% from 3pt range! Danuel House had a lot of question marks surrounding him coming into the summer and he emerged as a reliable and versatile wing. His athleticism and speed makes him very cunning and he has a very smooth release, making him a high-percentage shooter from anywhere on the court. Danuel House, after his great performance out in Las Vegas, is finally earning his well-deserved shot at making a 15-man NBA roster. Chinese born center, Zhou Qi, also had a pretty impressive Summer League for the Rockets after having a lot of question marks surrounding him. Nobody really knew much about Qi and if he would live up to the hype surrounding him back in the 2016 Draft, but he performed well and will retain his spot on the Rockets bench this season. In 4 games, he averaged: 12.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 3.0 BPG. Be a consistent rim-protector was something a lot of people, including myself questioned about Qi entering this summer and he proved that he can be a difference maker on the low-post or in the paint. He still needs to improve as an aggressive big man on the glass, but in time, he should develop nicely behind Clint Capela. The only question remaining is if the Rockets want to continue rolling with two big guys on their roster who can only play in the paint.

Another international player on Houston’s Summer League squad was 2017 second-round pick, Isaiah Hartenstein. The German born big played overseas last season, but he may be transitioning to the NBA sooner than later. He was my ‘Surprising Performer’ for the Rockets this Summer League and a big part of that is because of the difference he made as a defender. He proved, just like Zhou Qi, that he too can be an exceptional post-defender, averaging 8.0 RPG, and 2.3 BPG, not to mention he averaged 10.3 PPG as well. Behind Clint Capela, the Rockets do not have much depth/established talent, so a player like Hartenstein, who has played professionally for a few years overseas and still has room to improve, could be a valuable asset for the Rockets moving forward. If he can continue to develop a jump shot and extend his game past the free-throw line, Isaiah Hartenstein could be a sneaky player for the Rockets. Another note for the Houston Rockets is that they agreed to terms with rookie Rob Gray out of the University of Houston. After being featured in 2 games this Summer League and not playing much at all, Gray will spend this season with the Rockets, although the details of the deal were not released per team policy. With their own version of “The Big 3” in Chris Paul, James Harden, and Carmelo Anthony, can the Rockets finally stop the Golden State Warriors, or will it be all for not? Stay tuned…

 

 INDIANA PACERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #15

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #18 Atlanta Hawks)

2018 Draft Picks: Aaron Holiday (23), Alize Johnson (50)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Aaron Holiday (Rookie): 4 games, 30.3 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 21-61 FG (34.4%), 7-24 3pt (29.2%), 9-12 FT (75%)

  2. Alize Johnson (Rookie): 5 games, 23.0 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 23-53 FG (43.4%), 1-7 3pt (14.3%), 15-21 FT (71.4%)

  3. Alex Poythress (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 20.2 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 24-48 FG (50%), 4-11 3pt (36.4%), 9-15 FT (60%)

Surprise Performance:

T.J. Leaf (2017 Draft – Pick 18): 4 games, 24.5 MPG, 12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 20-55 FG (36.4%), 3-15 3pt (20%), 7-11 FT (63.6%)

 

In what looked to be a complete roster rebuild from the ground up after trading away the cornerstone of their franchise in Paul George, the Indiana Pacers look to be an even better team with emerging superstar, Victor Oladipo. After a fantastic All-Star season for the Pacers’ new face of the franchise, the Pacers look like one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference and have added sharpshooters and wings to go along with him. The Pacers added Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, two veteran and well respected shooters in today’s NBA. The Pacers did let go of long-term big man, Al Jefferson this offseason, but other than that, they return almost their same team from a year ago; a team that took LeBron James to Game 7 in the opening round of the Playoffs! The only weakness for the Pacers is their strength and depth at point guard, but they addressed that quickly this year in the first-round of the draft! With the 23rd pick, the Pacers selected sharpshooter and floor general Aaron Holiday out of UCLA. Not only was this pick a fantastic fit for Holiday, but a homerun for the Pacers who got their point guard of the future. With two veteran guards in Darren Collison and Cory Joseph, Aaron Holiday will likely not start right away, but have a chance to learn the speed of the NBA and how to be a successful passer behind two great facilitators. Holiday can play both on and off the ball and showed his skills in Summer League, where he was the Pacers’ best player and performer. Aaron Holiday played in 4 games, averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.8 APG, 2.8 SPG, and shot just about 30% from deep. This was not Holiday’s best performance shooting-wise, but he proved to be an extremely versatile point guard and the type of player who is a true athlete. Aaron Holiday has an extremely bright future ahead of him and if there is one thing we know about guards out of UCLA, it is that they know how to ball!

The Pacers’ second-round pick, at pick number 50, was big man Alize Johnson out of Missouri State. Alize Johnson was a player I was high on all throughout the year and performed very well in the MVC. He was voted First Team All-MVC for the second straight year, and although he did not have the spotlight on him in a weaker conference, he still drew attention of NBA scouts. Johnson at 50, in my opinion, is a steal for the Pacers because he still has some development to do and can be molded into the player Indiana wants him to be. He is a very lengthy 6’9” and a big who can play both the 4 and 5 positions. He is an exceptional rebounder and led the Pacers in rebounds during Summer League play with 8.6 per game. Alize Johnson is also a high-percentage shooter in the paint and converted on 43% of his shots this summer for an average of 12.4 PPG. Alize Johnson will likely have a small role on this year’s squad, if one at all, but I fully expect him to be a major part of the Pacers’ plans moving forward.

One veteran guy on the Pacers’ Summer League squad this year who performed very well was third-year forward, Alex Poythress. The former Kentucky Wildcat was with the Pacers organization for 25 games last year, but was never really given an opportunity over some of the other young forward-talent they had. In Summer League, he performed very well, scoring about 12.2 PPG and shot about 50% from the floor. He also proved to be an active defender, averaging above one steal and block per game. As a result of his performance, Poythress earned himself a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks for the upcoming year.

T.J. Leaf, the second-year forward out of UCLA, surprised me the most out of anyone on this Pacers’ Summer League squad because I really thought he would have stood out and earned his spot on the team this year. I have always been high on him as a sharpshooting big man, but after his recent performance in this year’s Summer League, T.J. Leaf may have just bought his ticket for the next bus out of Indianapolis when the season is done! Even though he averaged double-figure scoring at 12.5 PPG, he got bullied around on the glass and just looked out hustled. He averaged nearly the same rebounding totals as Aaron Holiday did and shot the ball poorly from deep. He shot a dreadful 20% from three-point range and only 36% from the floor for a guy that had a lot of hype and potential surrounding him as a shooter. Now, he will have to prove he belongs on this team this season and it is not looking good for him. I am not worried about T.J. Leaf, but T.J. Leaf should be worried about T.J. Leaf!

Overall, this season for the Pacers truly revolves around the play of Victor Oladipo and if he can integrate their new shooters into his playstyle. Oladipo and Myles Turner make up a strong one-two punch, but others such as Domantas Sabonis, their new free agent signings, and their first-rounder in Aaron Holiday will have to step up and make a huge impact for the Pacers to be a threat to make it to the NBA Finals out in the East!

 

 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-4

Playoff Seeding: #17

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #1 Los Angeles Lakers)

2018 Draft Picks: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11), Jerome Robinson (13)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Rookie): 4 games, 27.8 MPG, 19.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 33-72 FG (45.8%), 3-12 3pt (25%), 7-11 FT (63.6%)

  2. Sindarius Thornwell (2017 Draft – Pick 48): 5 games, 28.2 MPG, 14.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 20-58 FG (34.5%), 6-19 3pt (31.6%), 26-35 FT (74.3%)

  3. Reggie Upshaw (Rookie): 6 games, 29.3 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 23-56 FG (41.1%), 5-19 3pt (26.3%), 11-19 FT (57.9%)

Surprise Performance:

Desi Rodriguez (Rookie): 6 games, 21.7 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 18-52 FG (34.6%), 2-15 3pt (13.3%), 4-6 FT (66.7%)

This season will look very different for the LA Clippers because ‘Lob City’ is officially dead. The last man standing from the original trio (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan) was DeAndre Jordan, but after he signed with Dallas in July, the Clippers will turn to their new draft picks and look to integrate them quickly behind their talented veterans. Patrick Beverley, who was out most of last season with injury, Avery Bradley, returning on his new two-year/25M deal, and Lou Williams, last season’s sixth-man of the year, are the three veterans in the backcourt for the Clippers and will look to teach the Clippers two first-round picks to make them the rightful heirs to the throne. The Clippers obtained the rights to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 11th pick in the draft, out of Kentucky and drafted Jerome Robinson with the 13th pick in the draft. Gilgeous-Alexander comes into the NBA as a quick, crafty, and lengthy guard who finishes well above the rim and contains a solid looking jump-shot that got better over the course of his freshman season at Kentucky. Robinson enters his rookie campaign as a pure-offensive player who was one of the best all-around scorers in the ACC last season. Jerome Robinson only played in three Summer League games due to rest, but performed very well. He shot the ball around 44% from the floor and averaged 13.7 PPG. Jerome Robinson will be an excellent player in a few years for the Clippers and is a guy who will be the Clippers’ version of what Devin Booker and Klay Thompson are for their teams. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had the best Summer League performance for the Clippers; playing in 4 of the Clippers’ 6 total games. He led the team in scoring at 19.0 PPG, assists at 4.0 APG, and steals at 2.3 SPG. He also shot a very impressive 46% FG, but struggled at the free-throw line, shooting just 63.6%. Gilgeous-Alexander will have to improve from the “charity stripe”, but overall, his performance was very impressive and surprising for some folks. The Clippers expect big things from him in his rookie year and should mold nicely with veteran Patrick Beverley.


The two first-round selections by the Clippers in this year’s draft, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson are the future backcourt of the Los Angeles Clippers and are poised for success!

Another rookie who performed well for the Clippers this summer, who went undrafted, was Reggie Upshaw out of Middle Tennessee. Upshaw not only showed his athleticism, playing well above the rim, but proved to hold his ground in the paint, leading the team in rebounds at 8.2 RPG. He proved to be a very interior-minded player, but showed the ability to shoot a jump-shot, making 5 of 19 from three-point range. With both of the Clippers two-way contracts being used by Johnathan Motley and Angel Delgado, there is no more room for Reggie Upshaw, but he should find his way onto a G-League squad this offseason. Although he is not much of a veteran, second-year guard, Sindarius Thornwell, was one of the Clippers best players this summer and was leaned upon a lot to be the leader, especially in the Playoffs. He averaged 14.4 PPG, second best on the team, and was an active defender and aggressive shot-contender, averaging 1.2 BPG. Thornwell was a part of the Clippers organization last season, playing in 73 games during the regular season, and will be competing with Jerome Robinson for that second-unit guard spot. Thornwell will likely be given the role over Robinson at the start of the season, but he will really have to take big strides to improving this season as a reliable shooter from outside if he does not want to lose his job.

My surprising performer/performance for the Clippers this summer was not Angel Delgado, but his former college teammate, Desi Rodriguez. After Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson were benched for rest and held out of the Playoff games, Desi Rodriguez stepped into a big role and always had the ball in his hands every offensive possession in their final playoff game versus the Lakers, where he had 17 points on 7-12 shooting. Rodriguez was a little bit of an inconsistent shooter throughout Summer League, shooting about 35.5% from the floor, but was a surprising leader of the team and a guy who all his teammates trusted. I do not expect Desi Rodriguez to earn a two-way contract at this point in the offseason, but should be a guy we see again for someone in next year’s Summer League.

I really do not know what to think about the Clippers heading into the 2018-19 NBA season because there are a lot of unknowns on their team. Can they stay healthy? Can their veterans carry most of the weight while teaching their young talent? Who is going to be the ‘go-to’ scorer if Patrick Beverley is not 100% and Lou Williams is still coming off the bench? All these questions and more will be answered in a few months so stay tuned!

 

 LOS ANGELES LAKERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 6-1

Playoff Seeding: #1

Summer League Playoff Result: Championship (Lost to #2 Portland Trail Blazers)

2018 Draft Picks: Moritz Wagner (25), Isaac Bonga (39), Svi Mykhailiuk (47)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Josh Hart (2017 Draft – Pick 30): 7 games, 27.0 MPG, 22.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 51-114 FG (44.7%), 21-59 3pt (35.6%), 34-44 FT (77.3%)

  2. Svi Mykhailiuk (Rookie): 7 games, 24.7 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 42-87 FG (48.3%), 20-49 3pt (40.8%), 12-16 FT (75%)

  3. Jeff Ayres (2009 Draft – Pick 31): 7 games, 21.7 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 28-43 FG (65.1%), 17-18 FT (94.4%)

Surprise Performance:

Xavier Rathan-Mayes (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 7 games, 19.6 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 24-56 FG (42.9%), 4-12 3pt (33.3%), 10-16 FT (62.5%)


LeBron James is one of many NBA legends to now wear the purple and gold out in Los Angeles, but his task of bringing the Lakers back to the top of the NBA may be the toughest challenge he has ever faced!

After years of missing the Playoffs and being under a .500 win percentage, 6 straight seasons to be exact, the ‘Showtime Lakers’ are back! Well sort of… we have not seen this new Lakers squad play yet, but they have a guy named LeBron James on their team meaning they are guaranteed to make the Playoffs… right? The Los Angeles Lakers have been the busiest franchise this offseason, thanks to the aggressive moves and GM skills of President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. They have signed five different veteran players in free agency, and drafted 3 rookies, giving them a total of 8 new faces in the locker room. Only six guys from last year’s squad return under contract, seven if you count the Lakers resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but four of those six guys are big-impact players. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and 2018 Summer League standout, Josh Hart all return and are all possibilities to start alongside LeBron James. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, and JaVale McGee joined LeBron on the Lakers this offseason, creating a lot of media attention and hype for this season. Expectations are once again title or bust out in LA, especially because of #23 wearing the purple and gold!

Let’s revisit Josh Hart because not only did he have a spectacular Summer League, but he had the best performance out of anyone in the NBA Summer League, earning him Summer League MVP Honors and First-Team All-Summer League honors. Hart was absolutely incredible this summer for the Lakers, averaging a Summer League high of 22.4 PPG (min. 3 games), shooting roughly 45% and 35.6% from long-range. One thing Magic Johnson wanted Josh Hart to work on this Summer League was his offensive gameplay and his shooting techniques. Every time Hart got the ball, Magic encouraged him to shoot from the sidelines and wanted to see signs of maturity from his young guard. Well, he got just that and then some from Josh Hart this summer! He put on an absolute show, leading his team to the championship game for the second consecutive season, but ultimately running out of gas and losing to the Portland Trail Blazers, the same team they beat in the championship from a year ago. Hart had 4 games with 20+ points, scored in double-figures every game, and against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Semifinals, he dropped a Summer League high of 37-points, the second best scoring output of the summer! It is safe to say that Josh Hart will be a major contributor on the wing this year for the Lakers, but will he start over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? I guess it depends who LeBron wants really.

Focusing in on the Lakers’ draft this year, they looked specifically for guys who can have an impact scoring, but be great options around LeBron James. Even though they did not have LeBron at the time of the draft, it is easy to tell they got players that would be great shooters and contributors around him. With their only first-round pick at 25, the Lakers took veteran forward, and one of the best players in the Big Ten from a year ago, Moritz Wagner from Michigan. Wagner is not only a threat in the paint offensively, but he shoots from the perimeter at a very high percentage for a big man. Much like how Kevin Love was next to LeBron, I would expect the Lakers to integrate Wagner into their system nicely as a perimeter shooter and hard-nose defender in the paint and on the glass. Wagner only played in 3 Summer League games as a result of a left knee strain and left ankle sprain, but had a lot of energy both on and off the court, exhibiting traits to be a great leader with their young core. Wagner averaged 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.7 SPG, and 1.3 BPG. While on the court, he established himself as one of the best defenders in all of Summer League this year and if he had stayed healthy and played in all of the Lakers games, they may have won the Summer League Championship. With Wagner being one of the only big guys on the team next to JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac, I would expect him to get a solid amount of minutes, possibly anywhere from 10-20 minutes per game in his rookie season. In the draft, the Lakers were not done looking for veteran, offensive threats after drafting Moritz Wagner. In the second-round they drafted two internationally born players in Svi Mykhailiuk out of Kansas and Isaac Bonga from Germany. Mykhailiuk had a lot of questions coming out of Kansas of whether or not he could be a reliable shooter from NBA range and Svi had answers to those questions immediately in Summer League. He proved all the doubters wrong by being the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 16.6 PPG, shooting 48% FG and 41% from deep. He took 49 three-pointers, making 20 of them, and was extremely clutch for the Lakers. As soon as he went out in his first game and dropped 17 points on 4 of 8 from deep, I knew Svi was going to have a huge breakout performance at Summer League. The Lakers signed him to a 3yr/4.6M rookie deal and will be a player they will look to integrate from Day 1, much like his fellow rookie teammate, Moritz Wagner.

Isaac Bonga played sparsely in Summer League, but did not see enough time for us analysts to pick him apart and dissect his play, we can only base our opinions on him off of his EuroLeague tapes. Bonga’s main strength to his game is his size pertaining to his shooting abilities. Bonga stands just under 6’10” and is a true wing-player and sharpshooter. He shot roughly 36% from deep this season in Euroball and is an explosive player off the step. The Lakers could really mold Bonga into whatever type of player they want him to be, seeing that he is only 18 years old with a lot of time to grow as a player, but he is already an extremely well-polished offensive player with a lot of potential. Bonga signed a 3yr/4M rookie deal, so he is obviously a part of the Lakers’ plans moving forward, I just do not know where they will try and integrate him and at what position. Overall though, Bonga has an extremely high upside if he is given opportunities and with the chance to learn from LeBron James, Bonga could be an interesting player to watch develop.

Aside from Hart and Mykhailiuk, 2009 second-round pick, Jeff Ayres, had a very nice showing at Summer League. It is always great to see veterans trying to make comebacks during Summer League and Ayres had some very positive moments for the Lakers this summer. He played in all 7 games, averaging about 10.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and shot an impressive 65% from the floor. Even though most of his shots came at or below the rim, he still converted on his chances and that is what teams want to see during Summer League. Ayres has always battled injuries in his career and was never really given a second-chance after his knee injuries back in 2011. Hopefully an international team took notice of what Ayres can still do and he will get a second chance to play basketball overseas. Ayres was one of the better stories of this Summer League and am rooting for him moving forward!

You could make a case for Svi Mykhailiuk being the most surprising player and performance over the course of the Lakers’ Summer League, but I am giving this honor to Xavier Rathan-Mayes out of Florida State. The undrafted guard from a year ago played for the Westchester Knicks last season in the G-League and performed very well, earning him an invite to the Lakers’ Summer League squad. With big names around him, Rathan-Mayes did not back down and quickly gained the respect of his teammates. He quickly became a reliable target in the offense for Josh Hart and when the Lakers rotated Svi or Hart out of the game, XRM stepped up and guided the offense. He averaged a solid 8.9 PPG, and shot 43% from the field. Rathan-Mayes did not back away from contact and was aggressive, driving to the rim every chance he got. As a result of his hard work and talents he displayed this summer, AEK Athens in Greece signed him to a contract and he will join them next year to play in Europe; a well earned and deserving contract for XRM. The Los Angeles Lakers will once again be one of the NBA’s most talked about teams and after facing the Warriors in 4 straight NBA Finals and being to 8 straight NBA Finals himself, can LeBron carry the Lakers past the Warriors in the Western Conference? One of these Finals streaks is going to end and Lakers fans believe it will not be LeBron James’ streak ending!

 

 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 4-3

Playoff Seeding: #27

Summer League Playoff Result: Semifinals (Lost to #2 Portland Trail Blazers)

2018 Draft Picks: Jaren Jackson Jr. (4), Jevon Carter (32)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Rookie): 5 games, 24.4 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 3.8 BPG, 17-42 FG (40.5%), 4-10 3pt (40%), 18-25 FT (72%)

  2. Kobi Simmons (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 6 games, 26.3 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 26-74 FG (35.1%), 4-12 3pt (33.3%), 33-38 FT (86.8%)

  3. Jevon Carter (Rookie): 7 games, 22.3 MPG, 11.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 32-91 FG (35.2%), 7-30 3pt (23.3%), 9-12 FT (75%)

Surprise Performance:

Brandon Goodwin (Rookie): 7 games, 21.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 30-80 FG (37.5%), 10-26 3pt (38.5%), 14-18 FT (77.8%)

 

In one of the most surprising moves from last season, the Memphis Grizzlies fired David Fizdale in November, after the Grizzlies started the season 7-12. Fizdale was fired after an overall 50-51 record with Memphis over a span of two seasons, and after taking the Grizzlies to the Playoffs the year before. After taking over for Fizdale last season, J.B. Bickerstaff was named the new head coach. The Grizzlies will now have their fourth coach in 7 seasons and look to regain the success they recently had. With a healthy Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons back, along with veteran center Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are a decent looking team on paper. They did not make many moves in free agency either, with their biggest move being signing Kyle Anderson to a 4yr/37M deal. In the draft, the two things the Grizzlies needed to address were immediate scoring and potential to grow, as well as another reliable floor general and point guard behind Mike Conley. The Grizzlies did just that in the draft this year and drafted two fantastic players that will have an immediate impact on the franchise’s future!

With the fourth pick in the draft, the Grizzlies took hybrid talent, Jaren Jackson Jr. out of Michigan State. Jaren Jackson Jr. was a player who saw his stock rise significantly as the draft approached and he continues to be a trending rookie, especially after his incredible performance in Summer League, both in Utah and Las Vegas. Jaren Jackson Jr. was a high percentage shooter in college, but there were lots of question marks surrounding his efficiency and consistency at the next level. Jaren Jackson Jr. quickly shut down these scouting reports on him when he came out in Utah Summer League and stole the show! He averaged 15.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 2.3 BPG in Utah, shooting 10-18 from 3pt range (55.6%). A week later, Jaren Jackson Jr. continued to show his dominance as a modern NBA big man, putting up impressive numbers. In 5 games in Las Vegas, Jackson Jr. averaged 11.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 3.8 BPG while shooting 41% from the floor and 40% from long-range. Jaren Jackson Jr. got better and better each and every game he played and looks to be one of the front-runners for Rookie of the Year, as he will definitely play a lot of minutes this season for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies also selected Jevon Carter from West Virginia with the 32nd pick in the draft. Carter was one of the best defenders in collegiate hoops last season and was named the 2018 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to his defensive skills on the court, he is also a very reliable and consistent offensive player. In college, he averaged 17.3 PPG and 6.6 APG and shot 44% from the field for the Mountaineers last season and in Summer League this year, he averaged 11.4 PPG, 4.6 APG and shot 35% from the field. Carter was one of the standout performers next to fellow rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. and helped carry the #27 seeded Grizzlies all the way to the Semifinals of the Summer League Playoffs!

Another guy who had an impressive showing at Summer League and played last season under a two-way contract for them was Kobi Simmons. The second-year guard out of Arizona played in the NBA for 32 games last year, and has yet to make a decision regarding his future in the NBA. After another solid performance this summer though, Simmons should be able to find a contract either here in the states or overseas. Kobi Simmons averaged 14.8 PPG, 1.2 SPG and shot 35% from the field and 33% from 3pt range. Overall, Simmons proved to be a leader on the court, but still has question marks regarding his shot selection and if he can consistently be a threat from outside. At Arizona, Simmons was utilized more for his athletic abilities than shooting tendencies and even in this Summer League, the story was the same. He is an above-average guard in the paint and at absorbing contact, but he must improve on his shooting if he is to continue having an impact for his team.

Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter were the rookies that stole the show for the Grizzlies, but one other rookie, who went undrafted, stood out over others on Memphis’ roster. Brandon Goodwin out of Florida Gulf Coast was extremely impressive in Summer League posting 12.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and shooting just under 39% from the floor and 39% from three-point range. After coming into Summer League just trying to draw attention from any professional team, Goodwin may be getting offers from multiple professional teams overseas now. The six-foot guard showed his crazy athleticism, soaring well-above the rim and sprinting down the court every possession. He is a crazy competitive athlete and in my opinion, should find his way onto a professional basketball team at some point this year.

The Grizzlies may not have the roster to stack up against some of the other rosters in the loaded Western Conference this year, but Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter will be two fantastic players to grow in this system and represent the future of the franchise. I do not expect the Grizzlies to hold onto both JaMychal Green and Chandler Parsons throughout the whole season, so that may be something to watch near Trade Deadline. Expect to see a better season out of Memphis this year, possibly close to a .500 record, but do not be surprised if they tank again if Conley or Gasol wind up re-injuring themselves.

 

 MIAMI HEAT:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #26

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #10 Boston Celtics)

2018 Draft Picks: NONE

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Bam Adebayo (2017 Draft – Pick 14): 2 games, 22.0 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 9-23 FG (39.1%), 15-18 FT (83.3%)

  2. Jarrod Jones (2012 Draft – Undrafted): 4 games, 20.8 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 23-46 FG (50%), 4-15 3pt (26.7%), 8-9 FT (88.9%)

  3. Derrick Walton Jr. (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 4 games, 28.8 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 18-44 FG (40.9%), 2-19 3pt (10.5%), 9-15 FT (60%)

Surprise Performance:

Duncan Robinson (Rookie): 4 games, 26.8 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 17-35 FG (48.6%), 11-21 3pt (52.4%), 6-8 FT (75%)

If the Miami Heat are ever going to become a threat again in the Eastern Conference, they must create and maintain stability in their franchise. It seems like everyday during the regular season that we are having conversations about if Pat Riley is going to be trading Justise Winslow or Hassan Whiteside. The Heat just need to cut off all this chit-chat and focus on winning now, so they have a chance to attract some bigger names to a once dominant franchise. Since the departure of their “Big 3,” the Heat have not been the same and for good reason, but they have the players to be able to contend in the East, they just do not have the confidence it seems. They have yet to resign Dwyane Wade (there are rumors that he could be heading to China on a 4yr/200M deal) and with him on this year’s team, the Heat are pretty well balanced and should be a good shooting team. They have a lot of talent on the wing and have some promising young talents in Justise Winslow and second-year center Bam Adebayo, who had a strong showing in his few Summer League games. Adebayo played in just two games, to get some work in over the summer, and was a monster all over the court. I will admit, I called this pick by the Heat atrocious and thought it was one of the worst picks in the Lottery I have ever seen, but Bam Adebayo is definitely proving me wrong and has been great in transitioning into a new role with the Heat. In two games this summer, Adebayo averaged 16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.5 BPG and shot 39% from the floor. Bam did not have as high of a field goal percentage as people may want to see, but this is because he was working a lot on his shooting mechanics and trying to get comfortable with his new mid-range jumper. Honestly, it does not look too bad and with his length and talents as an on-ball or off-ball defender, Bam Adebayo continues to turn into a promising young player in Miami’s system. If Miami does ‘jump-ship’ on Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo will definitely be the guy they are ready to put their faith in.

Summer League has been notorious for introducing new talent to the league, primarily in first and second year players, but this next player, who went undrafted in the 2012 Draft, who has been in Europe for a few years now, is looking for a shot to make it to the NBA. Jarrod Jones has been an excellent shooter overseas over the past few years and is a complete-package-player in terms of his hustle and motivation on the court. In 4 games, he averaged 14.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and shot an impressive 50% from the field, doing most of his damage from his pull-up jumper. Jones is surprisingly very quick with his hands and was one of the Heat’s ‘go-to’ guys in crunch time. Jones did not stand out like other players in Summer League due to his age, but his hustle and grind should not go unnoticed because he is a very talented basketball player. It would be very disappointing if Jarrod Jones does not get a contract extension overseas or if he is not given an opportunity in the G-League at the very least.

Another second-year player who performed well for the Heat in Summer League, after being on their roster last season, was Derrick Walton Jr. Not only is he a very well-balanced player, but Derrick Walton Jr. was one of the best all-around players I watched this Summer League. From his ball handling skills to his veteran mindset he plays with, to his smart decisions and to his ability to score, Derrick Walton Jr. is just a very complete player and definitely a point-guard that can relied upon as a backup. To me, he is not ready to lead a team yet and be the starting point-guard, but there would not be as many reliable backups in the league as him. He played on a two-way contract last season with the Heat, but may be set for a guaranteed contract this season with one of the thirty NBA franchises. He has multiple offers on the table after his Summer League performance and has yet to make a decision on his future. Walton Jr. averaged 11.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, and shot about 41% from the field. Walton Jr. is not a great shooter from outside, but is not afraid of contact and has proven to be a primary ball handler. Wherever Derrick Walton Jr. lands, he will definitely have an impact and make his presence felt.

The Miami Heat did not have any draft picks in this year’s draft and were unable to buy a pick in the second-round, so they had to evaluate a lot of undrafted talent, trying to find some leftover quality players. They definitely found one in this next guy and as a result of his play this summer, he earned a two-way contract for the season with the Heat. Duncan Robinson, the rookie out of Michigan, had a surprisingly good Summer League where he was primarily used as a three-pointer shooter and was able to put his shooting techniques on display. Robinson was third on the team in scoring this summer at 12.8 PPG and had the second-best shooting percentage (min. of 30 attempts) at 49%. With a lot of wing talent this year, Duncan Robinson will likely spend a lot of time in the G-League, trying to develop and expand his offensive game a little more, but with the amount of injuries the Heat faced last season, it was a smart call to bring in a veteran shooter out of college like Robinson. Yante Maten, the undrafted rookie out of Georgia, also grabbed a two-way contract this summer from the Heat as a result of his play out in Las Vegas. Maten averaged 10.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and shot the ball well at 43%. Maten is a little less polished as an offensive player than Duncan Robinson is, but much like his rookie counterpart, he will spend a lot of time developing further in the G-League. Both guys will get time at some point over the 82 game season, it is just a matter of how well they perform in their few minutes at a time. The Miami Heat need to prove to everyone this year that they need to be taken seriously and it starts with the front office. If they can get their act together and grow confidence with their young, established talent, they can really rebuild this franchise into something special. Otherwise, they will continue to suffer until they land a big name free agent or draft pick.

 

 MILWAUKEE BUCKS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #14

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #30 Philadelphia 76ers)

2018 Draft Picks: Donte DiVincenzo (17)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Christian Wood (2015 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 27.4 MPG, 20.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.8 BPG, 41-74 FG (55.4%), 4-13 3pt (30.8%), 16-28 FT (57.1%)

  2. Sterling Brown (2017 Draft – Pick 46): 5 games, 28.4 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 31-73 FG (42.5%), 10-27 3pt (37%), 11-15 FT (73.3%)

  3. D.J. Wilson (2017 Draft – Pick 17): 5 games, 26.0 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 26-63 FG (41.3%), 9-27 3pt (33.3%), 6-6 FT (100%)

Surprise Performance:

Christian Wood (2015 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 20.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 41-74 FG (55.4%), All 5 games with double-digit point totals, scoring-high of 27 points, 4 double-doubles, Rebound-high of 15 in a game, 3 games with 3+ blocks, All-Summer League First Team Honors.

 

Over the past few years, all you have heard coming out of Milwaukee about the Bucks is Mr. Antetokounmpo. Giannis Antetokounmpo (maybe try searching YouTube to learn how to pronounce his name), with LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, may be the best player in the East now. After another sensational year, and after almost beating the Celtics in a 7-game first round series in the Playoffs, Giannis has the Bucks lined up for success NOW. Of course, all you think about when you think of the Bucks is the “Greek Freak,” but the Bucks have been secretly stashing a lot of young and upcoming talent. Malcolm Brogdon, who won Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, Khris Middleton, Thon Maker, and D.J. Wilson are all under the age of 26 years old and have all seen their roles with the Bucks increase around Giannis. Not to mention, the Bucks have brought in some very good veterans players who are eager to win in Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova. The Bucks continued to build their core of young talent, drafting one of the highest-risk, but potential big reward prospect in Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo. The 2018 NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in the Championship Game went #17 overall to the Bucks and had been on their radar for a while during the pre-draft process. DiVincenzo exploded onto the scene this season at Villanova, averaging 13.4 PPG and shooting 40% from long-range. One thing that makes DiVincenzo unique though is his abilities to impact every play on the court. DiVincenzo does all of the little things that do not go into the stat book, such as hustle, making the extra pass, and forcing opponents to pass away from him, leading to steals and transition buckets at the other end. This Summer League, DiVincenzo played very minimal minutes in just two games as a result of recovering from a previous injury that kept him out during most pre-draft workouts. On the wing, Donte DiVincenzo is an excellent fit and rounds out a young backcourt with Brogdon, himself, and veteran guard, Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks also signed undrafted rookie point-guard, Trevon Duval, to a Two-Way Contract after a stellar Summer League performance with the Rockets (Scroll back up to Houston to see my report on Duval). Trevon Duval was slept on a lot and underperformed his recruiting rankings at Duke, leading to a lot of people giving up on him when they shouldn’t. He is a very gifted athlete and although he still needs to develop further as a shooter, he knows the game of basketball very well and now has a chip on his shoulder after going undrafted. Look out for him in the future! One other notable rookie to mention is undrafted center, Brandon McCoy out of UNLV who played in just 2 Summer League Games for a few minutes each, but received a Training Camp Invite with the Bucks. Being a first-round type talent coming into UNLV this past year, Brandon McCoy will definitely be a name to watch to see if he indeed makes an NBA roster after not getting drafted.

One of the Bucks’ top players from this summer, who was mentioned earlier, was second-year forward, D.J. Wilson. The young big man played in Summer League again after playing in just 22 games for the Bucks last season. He really did not get much time on the court and is still a very raw, young-talent, but showed once again that he is worth keeping on a roster. This Summer League, Wilson averaged 13.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and shot the ball around 41%. D.J. Wilson looked more comfortable this summer with his jumper and looks to be stronger than he was a year ago around this time. This is definitely expected of Wilson and he should see his minutes increase slightly this season. Overall though, D.J. Wilson is definitely a part of the Milwaukee Bucks future plans as he continues to develop. Another second-year player that stood out for the Bucks was Sterling Brown. Aside from all the off-the-court drama surrounding Sterling Brown and his uncalled for arrest by Milwaukee PD, he played extremely well this Summer League and was the Bucks’ best guard on the court. He averaged 16.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and lit it up from outside, shooting 37% from deep. Sterling Brown is another one of those guys the Bucks have a lot of confidence in and feel he could make an impact sooner than later on a Bucks team that is generally weak on the wing. Shooting has been a consistent problem for the Bucks and could be an opportunity for Sterling Brown to see his role with his team increase. His performance this summer definitely earned him some more minutes in the regular season and should have definitely raised some eyebrows from the Bucks front office.

And now, saving the best for last, Christian Wood. The 2015 undrafted big man had, in my opinion, the best Summer League out of all the centers and big guys this year! He was name to the First Team All-Summer League Team and could not be stopped at all this summer! In 5 games, he averaged 20.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 2.8 BPG, while also shooting 55% from the floor. Christian Wood was one of two players (Ante Zizic – CLE) out of the entire summer league to average a double-double with 20+ points and 10+ REB, as well as one of three players (Jarrett Allen – BRK and Mitchell Robinson – NYK) to average 10+ PPG, 10+ RPG, and 2.5+ BPG. He was absolutely incredible this summer and has received looks by multiples teams this summer, most recently the Toronto Raptors, who are in need of a heavy rebounding and aggressive big like Wood. I fully expect Christian Wood to get a two-way contract at the very least, but he definitely earned his money this summer and should be on an opening day roster this season. Believe it or not, Christian Wood was also my Surprising Performance Player for the Bucks… surprise!


Christian Wood dunking over the Philadelphia 76ers defense in an 89-91 loss. Wood had 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks.

It make take a few more years of development for the Bucks to be “true” contenders in the East, but with LeBron gone and with Giannis, anything is possible. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo are once in a generational type talents and with them on your team, you always have a shot to win the championship year-in and year-out. Like I said, I do not expect the Bucks to win the East this year, but they will undoubtedly be one of the Top-5 teams in the Eastern Conference as they continue to grow and mature as a young core.

 

 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-2

Playoff Seeding: #8

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #25 Detroit Pistons)

2018 Draft Picks: Josh Okogie (20), Keita Bates-Diop (48)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Keita Bates-Diop (Rookie): 5 games, 33.8 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 27-68 FG (39.7%), 7-30 3pt (23.3%), 13-17 FT (76.5%)

  2. Josh Okogie (Rookie): 4 games, 32.5 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 14-47 FG (29.8%), 3-19 3pt (15.8%), 13-18 FT (72.2%)

  3. Amile Jefferson (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 28.6 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 19-42 FG (45.2%), 5-13 FT (38.5%)

Surprise Performance:

Jared Terrell (Rookie): 5 games, 21.2 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 20-50 FG (40%), 4-20 3pt (20%)

 

The Timberwolves had a great year last season, finishing 8th in the Western Conference and looking like a middle-of-the-pack type team in a now loaded Western Conference. Tier 1 teams in the West are definitely the Warriors and Rockets, and below them, I would classify Utah, Denver, OKC, and Minnesota as Tier 2 teams. In addition to a successful season last year, the Timberwolves have not changed up their roster much other than adding veterans Anthony Tolliver and Derrick Rose for experience and depth to help teach their young core. Last year’s first-round pick, Justin Patton, should be able to play this season after sitting out all of last year with a foot injury and they still have some more roster spots open to try and add a few more veteran pieces, preferably on the wing. Karl-Anthony Towns has turned himself into one of, if not the best stretch big men in the NBA and is the face of the franchise. Towns, Wiggins, and Tyus Jones are the young faces and core on the T-Wolves, along with their leader and 4x All-Star, Jimmy Butler. The only thing that the Timberwolves needed to address in the draft was athleticism and wing-scorers and they got just that in both the first and second rounds. In the first-round of the draft, The Timberwolves may have stretched a little bit for this player, but he performed very well in Summer League and looks to fit in nicely in their rotation. Josh Okogie, the wing out of Georgia Tech, was selected with the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and should see a lot of time early in his career behind Andrew Wiggins. Okogie had a fantastic year this past season at Georgia Tech, averaging 18.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and shot 43.2% from 3-point range. He was named to Third Team All-ACC this past year and was one of the most productive offensive players in the conference. This Summer League, Okogie went out and did what he does best, playing well on offense, but even better on the defensive side of the court. Okogie averaged 11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 SPG, and 2.0 BPG in 4 games for the T-Wolves this summer. He was also the only player this Summer League to average 2.0+ SPG and 2.0+ BPG (Min. 3 games) and his game will translate perfectly into the NBA. In today’s league, high-flying and athletic wings dominate on both sides of the court and a perk for Josh Okogie and his game is that he also shoots the ball above-average. He did not shoot too well in Summer League, but against second-units in the NBA, he should be able to adjust to the new range and be a lethal player in the future for this young franchise.

Okogie’s fellow rookie and second-round pick, Keita Bates-Diop was, in my opinion, the steal of the draft.The Timberwolves got him with the 48th pick in the draft even though KDB was projected to be a possible late first-round pick. Some teams may have had questions about his injury past and if he would be able to sustain the speed and tempo of the NBA game, but I am extremely high on KDB and I think the Timberwolves got one of the best prospects in this year’s draft. Keita Bates-Diop is not only an exceptionally well post-player, but he is very lengthy and can play on the wing as well. In the NBA, he will mostly be used as a 3 behind the likes of Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins, but if the T-Wolves wanted to go small in the future and build their own version of the “Death Lineup,” then he could definitely play the 4 or 5. KDB is the epitome of what a “positionless” player is in today’s NBA and will be a very important player for the future of Minnesota’s franchise. This summer, KDB averaged a team high 14.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG (2nd best on the team), 1.6 SPG (2nd best on the team), and shot an impressive 39.7% from the field. Most of his shots were jumpers other than a few fastbreaks following steals, but KDB proved to be a player that opposing teams must know where he is at all times on the court. Bates-Diop has a very bright future ahead of him and being drafted way past of where he should have gone, he has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to the rest of the teams who passed up on him.

Besides the rookies, one second-year big man also stood out for Minnesota in Las Vegas. Former Duke Blue Devil, Amile Jefferson stood out this Summer League as a big presence in the paint and one of the best rebounders this summer. Jefferson led all players this summer in rebounds per game (12.6 RPG) and a game-high of 15 rebounds. Amile Jefferson had 10+ rebounds in 4 of the 5 games he played in and was also an impactful player in the post offensively. He averaged 8.5 PPG while shooting 45% from the field. As a result of his impressive performance, the Orlando Magic signed him to a two-way contract for the season and should get some opportunities to show what he can do over the course of an NBA season. With all the rookies on the T-Wolves Summer League roster, why not just name one of them our Surprising Performance of the summer for Minnesota! Rookie Jared Terrell out of Rhode Island was great for the Timberwolves this summer after going undrafted and having lots of questions about his physicality and tempo at the next level. Terrell surprised a lot of people this summer, averaging 9.2 PPG, 1.2 SPG and shooting 40% on over 50 shot attempts. Terrell proved to the T-Wolves that he can be an impactful backup guard and they will give him a chance this year to earn a roster spot for the future, signing him to a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season. If the Timberwolves do not add more depth at both guard positions, which they probably will, Terrell will definitely see more action than most players under two-way contracts. Overall, the Timberwolves did not get better this offseason, but they did not get worse either. They are still not contenders to win the Western Conference, but should be a solid team out West all year long. As long as they have Jimmy Butler and KAT, they will be a playoff team, but nothing more than a possible second-round team in the playoffs.

 

 NEW ORLEANS PELICANS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #7

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #26 Miami Heat)

2018 Draft Picks: Tony Carr (51)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Cheick Diallo (2016 Draft – Pick 33): 4 games, 28.5 MPG, 20.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 28-49 FG (57.1%), 24-28 FT (85.7%)

  2. Trevon Bluiett (Rookie): 4 games, 25.8 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 26-46 FG (56.5%), 15-28 3pt (53.6%), 6-8 FT (75%)

  3. Walter Lemon Jr. (2014 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 28.0 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 24-55 FG (43.6%), 3-8 3pt (37.5%), 17-21 FT (81%)

Surprise Performance:

Cliff Alexander (2015 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 17.0 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 19-36 FG (52.8%), 4-20 3pt (20%), 9-11 FT (81.8%)

 

I do not think that Pelicans fans can complain about last season, especially after sweeping the #3-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round of the Playoffs. Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins, before he torn his achilles, were great for the Pelicans last year, but they are both gone, going to the Lakers and Warriors respectively, leaving superstar Anthony Davis alone yet again. The emergence of Jrue Holiday was important for the future of the Pelicans, as he looks to be very impactful for the future of this franchise, but there are still questions about Anthony Davis and his future with the organization. Davis wants to win and in the Western Conference, the Pelicans just do not have enough scoring and personnel to dethrone the Warriors or Rockets. There are questions of whether or not Anthony Davis will resign with the Pelicans following the 2020-21 season or if he will ask to be traded before then. There will be speculation all season long, especially if the Pelicans do not play well, but he is still on the team as of now and they will be a “Tier 2” team in the West with him.

The Pelicans had one second-round pick in Tony Carr out of Penn State, but he is not a player that will impact them right away. He averaged 6.0 PPG and 3.4 APG this summer and will be a player the Pelicans will look to develop for the future. Tony Carr may not have an impact right away for the Pelicans, but a few of these undrafted rookies they inked may. Kenrich Williams out of TCU and sharpshooter, Trevon Bluiett out of Xavier should have impacts right away for the Pelicans. The terms of Kenrich Williams’ deal were not released by the team, but in Summer League, he averaged 5.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG and shot 42% FG in 5 games with the Nuggets. Trevon Bluiett on the other hand had a great Summer League with the Pelicans and was their leader on the court. He averaged 18.3 PPG, and shot 52.8% from long-range! He shot 15-28 from three-point range and caught everyone’s attention as an impactful three-point shooter. A lot of teams were in talks with Bluiett about signing him to a two-way contract after his Summer League performances, but he decided to stay with the Pelicans and signed a two-way deal with them. We will definitely see a solid amount of Bluiett this season with the Pelicans and should get more opportunities to earn himself an NBA Contract.

2016 second-round pick, Cheick Diallo, also had a solid Summer League, playing in 4 games and averaging 20.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 1.0 steals and blocks per game. Diallo really has not had a chance to prove himself on the Pelicans yet and this is likely his last year to do so. The Pelicans signed Julius Randle this offseason and still have a lot of depth at both “big” positions, so Cheick Diallo may not have much playing time to prove himself. He was productive in Summer League though, using his size and strength to be a solid post-option. He did shoot 57% from the field and was impressive offensively, but needs to continue to mold into a shot blocker if he is going to have an impact in the NBA. Especially standing above 6’10”, Diallo must prove he can protect the rim and take some pressure off of Anthony Davis if he is going to keep his roster spot with the Pelicans.

Another veteran player on the Pelicans’ Summer League roster who performed well was Walter Lemon Jr. He went undrafted back in 2014, and has been fighting for another chance to get back to the NBA level. Walter Lemon Jr. will get that chance once again after inking a two-way deal with the Boston Celtics, but earned that by playing well for the Pelicans this summer. He averaged 13.6 PPG, 6.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, and shot 53% from the field. One thing lots of NBA executives liked about Walter Lemon Jr. this summer was his ability to open space on the floor and maintain possessions. He did not rush things on the offensive end of the court and was a very sound passer. Lemon Jr. always found the open man and looked very confident on the court. Who knows what kind of impact he will have with the Celtics this season, but if he wants to earn a contract next year, he must continue to show he can be a reliable, backup guard. 2015 undrafted forward, Cliff Alexander has played overseas over the past few years and is looking for a chance to come back to the NBA. Alexander has not been offered a deal yet, but he did play well in Summer League, averaging 9.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG and shot 53% from the floor. He was not the Pelicans best player this summer, but he surprised a lot of people with his motor and hustle every possession. I do not expect Alexander to ink a contract in the G-League or NBA, but he should remain playing professionally overseas. One other name to mention that played for the Pelicans in Summer League is Garlon Green. In 5 games, he averaged 9.2 PPG and shot 63% from the floor, earning him a deal with the Pelicans. It is speculated that his deal will be partially or non-guaranteed, but the terms of the deal have not been released. Green did not have the best of Summer Leagues and I did not expect him to earn a contract, so it should be interesting to see what kind of impact he will have with the Pelicans this upcoming season. Much like the Timberwolves, I do not expect the Pelicans to make it past the second-round of the Playoffs this season, if they even get that far! Overall though, they have enough talent to be able to make it back to the Playoffs.

 

 NEW YORK KNICKS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #23

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #10 Boston Celtics)

2018 Draft Picks: Kevin Knox (9), Mitchell Robinson (36)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Kevin Knox (Rookie): 4 games, 32.3 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 27-77 FG (35.1%), 10-28 3pt (35.7%), 21-26 FT (80.8%)

  2. Mitchell Robinson (Rookie): 5 games, 24.8 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 4.0 BPG, 30-45 FG (66.7%), 5-11 FT (45.5%)

  3. Allonzo Trier (Rookie): 4 games, 31.0 MPG, 17.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 22-49 FG (44.9%), 2-11 3pt (18.2%), 22-26 FT (84.6%)

Surprise Performance:

Frank Ntilikina (2017 Draft – Pick 8): 2 games, 28.5 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 9-21 FG (42.9%), 1-5 3pt (20%), 3-5 FT (60%)

Now it is time to talk about America’s favorite basketball franchise, the New York Knickerbockers, more formerly known as the N.Y. Knicks. The Phil Jackson era brought nothing but stress, The Jeff Hornacek era brought more losses, and the Carmelo Anthony era finally ended last season. So, I guess the only place to go now is up right? Well, definitely with David Fizdale as the coach. For some reason unknown to me, the Memphis Grizzlies parted ways with David Fizdale near the beginning of last season and based on first glance, it looks like the Knicks may finally have their coach of the future. New York has extreme confidence in Fizdale moving forward, although we heard that before, and believe he will be their first coach to be with the team for more than 4 years since Jeff Van Gundy back in 2000. The Knicks have not had a winning season since the 2012-13 season, but with a lot of really talented youngsters, the Knicks basketball of old may soon be back! Star big man and one of the best big men in the game, Kristaps Porzingis, is still recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season and may start the season on the sideline, but when he is back, he will lead the Knicks and teach the youngsters the ropes. Along with Porzingis, the Knicks return big man Enes Kanter and young-wing Tim Hardaway Jr. They also brought in Mario Hezonja and Noah Vonleh to fill some roles and still have veteran Courtney Lee on the roster, although his time in New York may be short-live this season.

In this year’s draft, nobody really knew who the Knicks were going to take, but they ended up receiving a lot of heat on draft night after selecting Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox with the 9th pick in the draft. Knox was consistently one of the best players on Kentucky all season long, but there were questions about how well of an offensive player he would be in the NBA and if he could adjust to his role on the wing because Coach Calipari had him playing the 4 at Kentucky. In Summer League, Knox exploded and now has the New York media buzzing! He played in 4 games, averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and shot 35.7% from long-range! Knox was one of the best offensive players in Las Vegas this summer, ranking 2nd in scoring out of all players (min. 3 games) and as a result of his performance, earned First Team All-Summer League honors. Kevin Knox is already a superstar with the Knicks and he has not even played a single game yet! If Knox is going to be successful, he has to be able to not let the bright lights and media get to him and just go out there and play his game. He has a lot of potential and I have been high on him since he was in high school, but the New York media changes players. Hopefully this is not the case for Mr. Knox! The Knicks also had a second-round pick, pick #36, and made another questionable selection in Mitchell Robinson.

The 20-year old center was originally committed to play at Western Kentucky this past year, but after enrolling and decommitting two times, he finally decided to just leave the university and not play college ball at all. Robinson drew a lot of scrutiny after his decision and did not know how to conduct himself well. He did not act very professional at all when making his rash decisions and was deemed very immature. There were lots of questions circling Mitchell Robinson in this years draft, but the Knicks saw a lot of potential in the young 7-footer and decided the possible reward was worth the risk. Well, the Knicks surprisingly got two things right in this years draft, who would’ve guess that?! Mitchell Robinson was a stud in Summer League and was one of the best centers over the course of the summer season! In 4 games, he averaged 13.0 PPG, 10.2 RPG, led all players with 4.0 BPG, and shot a very impressive 67% from the floor on 45 attempts. Robinson surprisingly did not earn Summer League Team honors, but led all of Summer League in blocked shots and was one of six players (min. 3 games) to average a double-double. Robinson was also one of three players (Jarrett Allen, Christian Wood) to average 2+ blocks per game, as well as 10+ rebounds per game. With Porzingis out, Mitchell Robinson may be lined up to start the opening game of the 2018-19 season for the Knicks, so definitely keep an eye on Mitchell Robinson this season as the former McDonald’s All-American looks to steal the spotlight in the Big Apple!


Kevin Knox, Coach David Fizdale, and Mitchell Robinson (pictured left to right) are the future of the New York Knicks organization and already have the media in New York buzzing!

While the two rookies stole the show in Las Vegas, another rookie, this one undrafted, made a name for himself and proved to everyone he should have been drafted. Long-time Arizona Wildcat, Allonzo Trier, balled out this summer and was quietly the Knicks second-best scorer. Trier played in 4 games for the Knicks, averaging 17.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and shot just about 45% from the field. Trier did not light it up from outside, but was consistently able to score at the rim and in traffic. Allonzo Trier proved to the Knicks to be a useful player to keep and as a result, earned himself a two-way contract with New York this season. Although not a rookie, second-year guard Frank Ntilikina also had a strong summer league and was surprisingly impressive. I say surprisingly because nobody really knew what Ntilikina could do on the court since he was not really utilized last year. His summer was unfortunately cut short to just two games due to a groin injury, but he proved to be a very promising and athletic point-guard who still needs some polishing to be done. Averaging 11.0 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, and shooting 43% FG, Ntilikina showed Knicks fans a little bit of his potential as their point-guard of the future. Under Fizdale, it is unknown what kind of role Ntilikina will serve this upcoming season, but if Emmanuel Mudiay does not produce, we can definitely expect to see Ntilikina take the reins. Isaiah Hicks, who played last season under a two-way contract with the Knicks, signed another two-way contract for this upcoming season after a limited summer league role. He averaged 5.3 PPG and 1.3 BPG in three games out in Vegas, but the Knicks seem to like what Hicks brings to the table as a versatile and athletic big man. Perhaps like Mitchell Robinson, Hicks will gain extra minutes near the start of the season with Kristaps Porzingis still recovering.

Personally, I still feel like the New York Knicks will fall short of the Playoffs this season, even after some very promising Summer League performances by their rookies, but the future is very bright in New York. Kristaps Porzingis is definitely one of the Top-3 players in the Eastern Conference when healthy and if Knox, Robinson, and Trier all turn out to be effective pieces within the Knicks’ organization, expect the Knicks to turn into a very good team in the Eastern Conference.

 

 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 3-2

Playoff Seeding: #6

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #27 Memphis Grizzlies)

2018 Draft Picks: Hamidou Diallo (45), Devon Hall (53), Kevin Hervey (57)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Rashawn Thomas (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 22.8 MPG, 14.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 28-47 FG (59.6%), 16-22 FT (72.7%)

  2. Dakari Johnson (2015 Draft – Pick 48): 3 games, 22.0 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 15-28 FG (53.6%), 11-17 FT (64.7%)

  3. Daniel Hamilton (2016 Draft – Pick 56): 5 games, 25.4 MPG, 7.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 6.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 15-50 FG (30%), 2-12 3pt (16.7%), 7-12 FT (58.3%)

Surprise Performance:

Deonte Burton (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 20.6 MPG, 10.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 19-32 FG (59.4%), 5-8 3pt (62.5%), 7-9 FT (77.8%)

 

The trio of Russ, Melo, and PG13 did not work as planned, so what did they Thunder do? They found a way to get another team to pay Carmelo Anthony his $28 million he is owed and added Dennis Schroder and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from Atlanta and Philadelphia respectively. The Thunder also extended Paul George’s contract for four more seasons and brought back Jerami Grant. Behind Steven Adams, they added Nerlens Noel and suddenly, the Thunder look like a very decent team, maybe better than what we expected when they acquired PG13 and Melo last year. Dennis Schroder will be an excellent backup guard and sixth-man for the Thunder this season and Timothe Luwawu has shown a lot of progression since coming over from France. Luwawu-Cabarrot did not play in Summer League this year, but has a lot of promise as an outside shooter for OKC. Nerlens Noel has not come into his own yet in the NBA, but is yet another 7-footer on their roster and should add immediate depth behind Steven Adams. The Thunder’s roster is pretty balanced now and they seem to know what direction they want to go as a franchise. With this in mind, they decided to go out in the draft and use their second-round picks on three players they can build into assets in the future.

The first player they took in the second-round was acquired via trade. The draft rights to Hamidou Diallo were traded to the OKC Thunder on draft night and the Thunder should be pleased with the potential and future value of this pick. Diallo was never the player he was hyped up to be in college, struggling to shoot from past the free-throw line, but made up for it with his insanely athletic and hustle plays. Hamidou Diallo can definitely out jump anybody he is next to and has the speed to be a very good defensive player in the NBA. If he is able to take the next step with his offensive game as well, Diallo could be a highly valued young asset. Hamidou Diallo averaged 10.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and shot 49% from the field, although most of his baskets were in the paint. Diallo is definitely in the future plans of the Thunder, but their next few picks may have to earn his spot over the next few years. With the 53rd pick, they took Devon Hall out of Virginia and with the 57th pick, they took Kevin Hervey out of UT-Arlington. Devon Hall was a player I was surprised to see get drafted, but offers a lot to like about his potential growth. He has a solid frame for a guard, standing 6’2”, 250 lbs, and is a great defensive player. He best attribute, compared to other guards, is his ability to defend in the paint and sky up over his opponents for rebounds. Hall saw about 15 minutes/game this summer with the Thunder, averaging 5.4 PPG and shooting 42% from the floor. He is a crafty player that with time, could develop into a player the Thunder want to keep around for his defensive skills. He just recently signed a one-year deal with the Cairns Taipans in the NBL, so he is a “draft-and-stash” type guy for the Thunder. He will likely spend time in the G-League when his stint in the NBL is over.

Kevin Hervey out of UT-Arlington was one of my favorite players post-combine. He had a spectacular showing at the NBA Combine and got a lot of people to notice his talents. I expected him to possibly go a little higher than 57, but he was overall a second-round prospect and you never know where those type of players will fall! The thing that makes Hervey very likable from an NBA personal standpoint is that he is a guy who can stretch the floor and play basically any position. His length and height (6’8”) gives him the ability to guard bigger and taller defenders in the paint, while his lateral quickness and explosiveness gives him the edge over smaller guards and wing players. I really like Kevin Hervey’s work ethic and is a player I am excited to see down the road. Hervey played about 13 MPG this summer and averaged about 7.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and shot just about 40% FG. Kevin Hervey will likely not play right away in the Thunder’s system and I expect him to sign a two-way deal with the Thunder so he can learn from Paul George, while also working on his game in the G-League. This would be a “picture-perfect” scenario for both sides and should offer the best chance for the Thunder to help Hervey grow and mature. With two young talents in Terrance Ferguson and now Kevin Hervey on the wing, there is a lot to like about the athleticism and potential the Thunder’s youth brings to the table.

The Thunder’s best performer this Summer League went undrafted out of Texas A&M – C.C. last year and earned himself a contract in Italy after his stellar play in Las Vegas. Big man Rashawn Thomas was the focal point of OKC’s summer, averaging nearly 14.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG and shot 60% from the field. He displayed his abilities to be an impactful player under the rim on both sides of the court and standing 6’8”, Thomas offers a lot of versatility to his team. Rashawn Thomas is one of those guys we may see again in Summer League or in the G-League, but not for a few years at least as he begins his new career overseas. 2015 second-rounder, Dakari Johnson, also had a strong showing in Las Vegas for the Thunder, averaging 13.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. Johnson has been a player who has had time to play, but the Thunder just did no feel he brought anything to the table for their immediate or future plans, so they shipped him to Orlando and he was then was acquired by the Memphis Grizzlies. Dakari Johnson now has his contract guaranteed for this season with the Grizzlies, in which may be his final NBA season. Unless he develops an outside game/jumper or becomes a better rim-protector, there is not much use for a player like Johnson anymore. I think it is safe to say that Dakari Johnson’s best chance to continue playing basketball after this year is overseas. Former UCONN Huskie and 2015 second-round pick, Daniel Hamilton, was my favorite player to watch on the court for the Thunder this summer. Hamilton was the Summer League version of Russell Westbrook; grabbing rebounds, gathering assists, and scoring the ball at a high rate, as well as having an impact on defense. He was extremely impressive in the open court and is a player who can be relied upon on a 15-man NBA roster. In Summer League, Hamilton averaged 7.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 6.6 APG and shot 30% from the field. Daniel Hamilton is a “swiss-army knife” type player and as a result of his performance and hard work, he earned a one-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks to continue and prove himself.

This next guy was the most surprising player for the Thunder this summer and as a result of his play, earned a two-way contract for the season with the Thunder. Deonte Burton, the second-year player out of Iowa State had a great showing out in Las Vegas, averaging 10.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG and shot 59% from the field. Burton also extended his game this summer, shooting 5-8 (62.5%) from long-range. Deonte Burton seems to be a very promising two-way player that is exactly what the Thunder are looking for in their young core. With his athleticism and improvements from last year, Deonte Burton is definitely a name to keep an eye on this season and next summer. Two other important names to note from the Thunder’s Summer League are second-year players: P.J. Dozier and Terrance Ferguson. P.J. Dozier, out of South Carolina, had another strong showing this year in Summer League, but was unable to win the Summer League Championship again after winning it last year with the Lakers. Dozier played last season with the Lakers under a two-way contract and after another strong summer, this time with the Thunder, he is taking his talents to Boston on another two-way contract. In my opinion, I feel that Dozier to the Celtics is a great fit and with a great coach in Brad Stevens, P.J. Dozier may find himself a spot with this franchise for future years. As mentioned before, Terrance Ferguson is a guy who the Thunder really liked in last year’s draft, even though they did not know much about what they would be getting. Ferguson had a decent rookie year for a small sample size, averaging 3.1 PPG and shooting 41% from the floor. In Summer League, Ferguson was not the best offensive player on the court, but showed a high basketball IQ and understanding for the game. He averaged 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 1.0 SPG, while shooting 30% FG. Ferguson will continue to be utilized in the Thunder’s rotation for this season, but most continue to prove himself and want to improve. The Thunder have 10-wing players on their active roster right now and there will definitely be a fight for minutes throughout the entire season. If Ferguson is to remain in OKC’s plans for the future, he must outplay his competition a.k.a. teammates on the court this season. Believe it or not, the Thunder are set to be a better team without Carmelo Anthony this year and should, once again, be a Top 5 team in the Wild, Wild, Western Conference.

 

 ORLANDO MAGIC:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #11

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #22 Utah Jazz)

2018 Draft Picks: Mohamed Bamba (6), Melvin Frazier Jr. (35), Justin Jackson (43)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Jonathan Isaac (2017 Draft – Pick 6): 3 games, 27.3 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.7 BPG, 13-37 FG (35.1%), 1-8 3pt (12.5%), 16-21 FT (76.2%)

  2. Troy Caupain (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 25.2 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 29-63 FG (46%), 5-25 3pt (20%), 4-6 FT (66.7%)

  3. Mohamed Bamba (Rookie): 3 games, 19.7 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 12-20 FG (60%), 2-4 3pt (50%)

Surprise Performance:

Wesley Iwundu (2017 Draft – Pick 33): 4 games, 28.3 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 11-34 FG (32.4%), 14-18 FT (77.8%)

 

Honestly I feel bad for the city of Orlando and Magic fans… I really do. They have not had a true winning season since the 2010-11 season and missed the Playoffs for six consecutive seasons. They are now onto their 5th coach, Steve Clifford, since the 2010-11 season, and hopefully, they can get back to having success like they did way back with Dwight Howard. The only big move the Magic made in free agency this summer was bringing back Aaron Gordon on a 4-year, $84 million deal. The Magic now return Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and last year’s #6 overall pick, Jonathan Isaac. Their frontcourt had a lot of potential last season and as they continue to gain experience and grow as players, they should be an even better frontcourt this year, especially after who the Magic drafted 6th overall this season. Orlando selected Mohamed Bamba out of Texas with their first-round pick and boy do I love me some Mo Bamba! The former Longhorn freshman was my favorite NBA Draft prospect this past year and for good reason. Not only does he enter the NBA with the longest wingspan ever recorded at 7’10”, but he is extremely fast for a big man. He clocked in at 3.04 seconds on his 3/4 court sprint at the NBA Combine and is extremely agile for a center.

Offensively, Bamba is an animal in the paint and has worked extensively on his shooting mechanics. It is unknown what kind of shooter he will be in the NBA, but after watching some pre-draft workouts of him shooting and his performance this summer, I would definitely take notice if I was 1 of the other 29 NBA franchises. Defensively, Mo Bamba may be the best player in this draft. His long wingspan obviously gives him a huge advantage over anyone trying to shoot over him and he will enter the league as one of the best shot-blockers in the game. He averaged 3.7 BPG last season at Texas, finishing 2nd in the country in this category, and continued to impress during Summer League. In Las Vegas, Mohamed Bamba averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 BPG, and shot 60% from the floor in three games. The Magic did not want to over-use Bamba and kept him out of their final two games as a precaution. It is unknown if Bamba will start over Nikola Vucevic to start the 2018-19 season for the Magic, but he will definitely be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year when this upcoming season concludes!

The Magic also had two second-round picks in Melvin Frazier Jr. at pick 35 and Justin Jackson at pick 43. Melvin Frazier Jr. out of Tulane was a late bloomer to the draft process, but stole the show at the NBA Combine. He featured his athleticism, quickness, explosiveness, and potential to be a great two-way player at the next level, even after battling back from numerous knee injuries. Melvin Frazier Jr. will definitely have a lot of opportunities to showcase what he can do as a hybrid-wing player for the Magic, and he already started out doing so in Vegas. Frazier played in 4 games this Summer League and looked extremely comfortable and confident on the court, averaging 5.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and shooting 29% from the floor. His stats do not show the hard work and grind he had on every single play on the court, but the Magic did limit his minutes. With Evan Fournier and Wesley Iwundu on the current roster, Melvin Frazier Jr. may have to earn his minutes, but by the end of the season, I fully expect Melvin Frazier Jr. to be a very impactful player coming off the Magic’s bench. Justin Jackson out of Maryland was an interesting pick for the Magic, especially after taking Melvin Frazier Jr. earlier in the second-round. After suffering a torn labrum in December of 2017, Justin Jackson was shut down and did not get to finish his season with Maryland. He was on the Magic’s roster for Summer League, but was held out as he is still not ready to go and the Magic are comfortable with being patient. They feel that they got really good value for Jackson in the second-round and his versatility is what they really like. Justin Jackson is not a well polished player yet, but has the tools and length to be a resounding two-way player on the wing or in the post. Jackson can pay both the 3 and the 4 spots on the court, so it should be interesting to see how he fits in with Steve Clifford’s plans and the rotations of the Magic. Another rookie to note quickly is undrafted wing, Braian Angola-Rodas out of Florida State. Angola signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Magic, which can usually be turned into two-way contracts, but with the Magic already at their 2 two-way contract limit, it is unknown if Braian Angola-Rodas will be a member of the Orlando Magic organization this year.

Although we briefly mentioned him before, we did not go over how well of a Summer League Jonathan Isaac had. In three games, Jonathan Isaac was one of the most positively-consistent players this Summer League, averaging 14.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.7 BPG, and shot 35.1% from the floor. Isaac showcased his improved jumper a lot during Summer League, but still needs to improve on his release from beyond the arc. Isaac made just 1 of 8 from outside and if he is to continue improving as an offensive player, he must be able to extend his skills beyond the arc. The Magic should definitely be excited with the progress of Jonathan Isaac in just one year and will definitely have him in their plans moving forward this season. Troy Caupain, the second year guard out of Cincinnati, also had a great showing for the Magic in Summer League. Caupain was the second-leading scorer this summer for the Magic, averaging just over 13 PPG and was one of their better rebounders, averaging 5.4 RPG. What the Magic really liked about Caupain was his ability to not only be an impactful player on the ball, but off the ball as well. His ability to move around with/without the ball and get his teammates open is not something you can always have in a backup player, but Caupain possess these skills. As a result of his performance, Caupain earned himself a two-way contract with the Magic this season, as did former Duke Blue Devil, Amile Jefferson, who played for the Timberwolves in Summer League.

Last year’s second-round selection by the Magic, Wesley Iwundu, was quite impressive this Summer League and surprised me with his leadership and maturity over the past year. Iwundu took charge out there on the court in Las Vegas, putting up solid numbers as well! Wesley Iwundu played in 4 games, averaging 9.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, while also shooting 32.4% from the floor. Iwundu’s outside game still is not developed and is lacking technique, but he is a guy known for taking it hard to the rim and finishing strong in the paint, as well as being a good facilitator from the wing. As stated before, Iwundu is slotted behind Evan Fournier on the team’s depth chart and should be a valued second-rotation player early on in the season. As the season progresses though, I expect Iwundu to battle it out with Melvin Frazier Jr. on who will be the wing of the future for the Magic.

The Orlando Magic did not advance past the first-round of the Summer League Playoffs, but they learned a lot more about their current players and young talent, which is exactly what Summer League is for from an NBA organization’s standpoint. The Magic finally have a young core they can start to build around and develop, so hopefully, for the sake of their fanbase and city, they will improve from last year’s dreadful season. It may take another 2, possibly 3 years for the Magic to be a legit Playoff threat in the East, but hey, anything is possible!

 

 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-4

Playoff Seeding: #30

Summer League Playoff Result: Quarterfinals (Lost to #27 Memphis Grizzlies)

2018 Draft Picks: Zhaire Smith (17), Landry Shamet (26)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Furkan Korkmaz (2016 Draft – Pick 26): 6 games, 24.8 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 31-81 FG (38.3%), 17-46 3pt (37%), 21-28 FT (75%)

  2. Isaiah Miles (Rookie): 5 games, 21.4 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 BPG, 19-40 FG (47.5%), 10-21 3pt (47.6%), 4-4 FT (100%)

  3. Norvel Pelle (2014 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 13.8 MPG, 7.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 16-31 FG (51.6%), 5-7 FT (71.4%)

Surprise Performance:

Demetrius Jackson (2016 Draft – Pick 45): 6 games, 24.8 MPG, 8.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 18-43 FG (41.9%), 2-15 3pt (13.3%), 11-14 FT (78.6%)

Furkan Korkmaz from Turkey is the latest internation player to come overseas and join the Philadelphia 76ers, giving them much needed
depth at the SG and the outside shooting they need to be contenders in the Eastern Conference.

After finally seeing a healthy 76ers squad for most of last season and in the Playoffs, it is safe to say they are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and should be a 50+ win team this season. Joel Embiid and last season’s Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons, are the young leaders of this Philly squad and have a great supporting cast of young players who all play significant minutes. Veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick returns on a one-year, $13 million deal and will look to continue teaching his skills and knowledge of the game to the rest of Philly’s young core, as well as be one of their “go-to” shooters. The Sixers look a little different this season, bringing in Wilson Chandler on the wing and Mike Muscala down low, and trading big man Richaun Holmes away. One big question mark for the 76ers this season is what is going to happen with last season’s #1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, and what kind of role will he have on this team. Fultz has been working hard to come back from a few injuries from last season and has been in the gym all summer long, posting video after video of him working out. This is definitely promising, but does not get fans as hyped up than Joel Embiid dunking on random guys in pick-up at the park! Another players apart of the young core in Philadelphia is Turkish guard, Furkan Korkmaz. He did not play many games last season with the 76ers, but being the second-string SG, Korkmaz will have a much larger role this upcoming season. In Summer League, he played in all six of Philly’s games, averaging a team-high 16.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and shot 37% from three-point range. Korkmaz is definitely known as a perimeter shooter and took all of Las Vegas by storm when he went out and dropped a Summer League high of 40 points (8-14 3pt) in Philadelphia’s first Summer League game. Three-point shooting was one of the 76ers weaknesses last season, as they were not necessarily known to be the best three-point shooting team in the East, but they should see their team average improve, especially with Korkmaz being featured more in the rotations.

With two first-round picks in this past year’s draft, the 76ers continued to add onto their young core by grabbing Zhaire Smith with the 17th overall pick in the draft and Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick. Starting with Smith, he was a guy who was not ranked in the ESPN Top 100 Recruiting Index entering his freshman year at Texas Tech, but ended up as a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. This is the first time in the modern draft era that a freshman from college outside the Top 100 Recruiting Index was ever drafted in the first-round and it was done this year for good reason. Zhaire Smith is an extremely talented and athletic two-way guard who may not be the best shooter, but has an enormous upside. His ability to explode to the rim and blow past defenders makes him a viable option to be a floor general on offense, and his length and lateral quickness makes him a reliable defender as well. In Summer League, Zhaire Smith was very stable, averaging 7.7 PPG, 2.7 APG, 1.0 SPG and shot 32% from the floor. Smith did struggle with his jump shot at times, but his mechanics are good and his follow through looks smooth. He will have to continue to grow into the mold the Sixers will want from him and he will have to improve his instincts as a passer offensively if he is to have an immediate impact for Philly when he steps on the court, which may be a little bit after the regular season begins. Zhaire Smith recently suffered a fractured foot during summer workouts and training and will undergo surgery. His timetable for return is yet to be determined, but it would be pushing it for him to be ready when the season starts. Plus knowing the Philadelphia 76ers organization, he will likely sit out until they know he is 100% ready to go. Landry Shamet, the veteran guard out of Wichita State, was a little bit of a surprising pick by the Sixers, seeing that they have an abundance of point-guards, but was a great value pick at the 26th pick. Shamet is another one of those players who will not “wow” you away with his shooting abilities or explosiveness on the court, but is a very sound basketball player with a very high IQ for the game. Unfortunately, Shamet suffered a sprained ankle during his first Summer League game and missed the remainder of the games this summer. Shamet will likely be good-to-go when the season rolls around, but much like Smith, the Sixers may keep Shamet out until they feel he is ready to go and they are ready to rotate him into their roster. The Sixers have no intentions to rush their two rookies onto the court this season, but instead have them learn by watching and practicing.

One undrafted rookie on Philly’s Summer League roster who played very well was Isaiah Miles out of Saint Joseph’s. Miles proved to be a reliable wing player in Summer League, averaging 10.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and shooting 48% from the floor. He even shot 47.6% from deep this summer, drawing the attention of some Philly scouts. There has been no announcement yet from Isaiah Miles’ camp of a training camp invite or contract with an NBA team, which is kind of surprising, especially after his performance in Las Vegas. Miles will definitely get his opportunity on a two-way contract or in the G-League, but may have to wait a little longer to earn his opportunity. 2014 undrafted big man and veteran Norvel Pelle has heard back from the Philadelphia 76ers after a good run in Summer League and will be apart of their Training Camp roster. After averaging 7.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG and shooting 52% FG, Norvel Pelle earned himself a Training Camp Invite with the 76ers. With 15 guys already on Philly’s roster for this upcoming season, Pelle will likely play under a two-way contract or in the G-League for the Sixers affiliate. Pelle brings another big, versatile body to the table that has shown potential to grow as a rim-protector. He was the 76ers best rim-protector during summer ball this year and if he can improve his strength and ability to absorb contact, he could turn into a rotational player down the road. For now though, Pelle must continue to prove himself in training camp to further his NBA career.

The Sixers were given a big jolt of energy and scoring from this next player, which was surprising to me since we had not heard his name in a while. 2016 second-round pick, Demetrius Jackson has bounced around from a few teams early on in his career, but has been given a second-life by the Sixers after they inked him to a two-way contract for the upcoming season. Jackson is likely not in the Sixers long-term plans, but he will get another opportunity in the NBA to try and prove himself to the rest of the league that he is deserving of being on a 15-man roster. Jackson was very sound this Summer League, averaging 8.2 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, and shot 43% from the floor. Jackson did struggle from deep, connecting on just 2 of 15 from beyond the arc, but is being brought in for his playmaking skills and hustle. Demetrius Jackson always gives 110% effort on the court and is a high energy guy who can definitely bring a lot of life to the 76ers bench and locker room. I like this fit for both sides!

If the Philadelphia 76ers do not get a Top-3 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season, it will likely be because their entire team got injured. They are an extremely talented and motivated team with a lot of youth and a lot of promise for not only the future, but now! The city of Philadelphia has “Trusted the Process,” and they are ready to win now! Look out for the Sixers coming out of the East this season!

 

 PHOENIX SUNS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 4-1

Playoff Seeding: #3

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #30 Philadelphia 76ers)

2018 Draft Picks: Deandre Ayton (1), Mikal Bridges (10), Elie Okobo (31), George King (59)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Deandre Ayton (Rookie): 4 games, 26.8 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 22-37 FG (59.5%), 14-17 FT (82.4%)

  2. Davon Reed (2017 Draft – Pick 32): 5 games, 25.0 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 22-45 FG (48.9%), 10-24 3pt (41.7%), 13-17 FT (76.5%)

  3. Josh Jackson (2017 Draft – Pick 4): 3 games, 24.0 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 10-41 FG (24.4%), 1-11 3pt (9.1%), 10-14 FT (71.4%)

Surprise Performance:

Shaquille Harrison (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 27.2 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.6 APG, 2.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 24-53 FG (45.3%), 4-9 3pt (44.4%), 9-18 FT (50%)

 

Coming off their worst season in franchise history since the 1968-69 season, the only direction to go in for the Phoenix Suns is up! It is very odd that the Phoenix Suns finished with just 21 wins last season, especially after Devin Booker’s breakout and All-Star year, along with other young talent in Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss having solid years. This season, the Phoenix Suns will definitely be better than they were a year ago, but they are still building for the future. Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren, and newly acquired center, Richaun Holmes are all young talents still trying to carve out their roles with the Suns for the upcoming season. Phoenix also received the franchise’s first ever #1 overall selection in this past seasons draft and they did not miss a step with their first pick. Deandre Ayton out of Arizona went #1 overall to the Suns and there was not much discussion for who Phoenix should take with that pick. Ayton was the young, hybrid big man that they need moving forward because Tyson Chandler cannot play forever, nor does any other big man on their roster have the ability to be a star. Deandre Ayton has all the tools necessary to be a next-generation star in the NBA and it is because his potential is very high to be a dominant, modern day big man. He can rebound, block/alter shots, take jumers at a consistent rate, and run the court well for a big man. Ayton has drawn comparisons to the great David Robinson, but I never like to compare young players, especially rookies to Hall of Famers, especially to some of the greatest to ever play the game! Ayton balled out in Summer League, earning Second Team All-Summer League honors and averaging 14.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG and shooting 60% from the court over a four game span. Deandre Ayton is going to have an immediate impact with the Suns, much like KAT did with the Timberwolves, and alongside Devin Booker, the Suns may have something to build around.

The Suns were not done drafting and dealing after taking Ayton #1 overall, as they still had three more picks to make in Mikal Bridges at 10, Elie Okobo at 31, and George King at 59. Mikal Bridges, the two-time National Champion with Villanova, was initially drafted by his hometown Philadelphia 76ers, but was traded a few picks later to Phoenix, where he should see a solid amount of time early on in his career and be another sharpshooter next to Booker. Other than Devin Booker, the Suns do not have many options to turn to on the perimeter and Bridges offers this threat of being a dangerous shooter. In Summer League, he averaged 6.2 PPG while shooting 46% from the floor, even though he averaged 17.7 PPG and shot the ball 43.5% from long-range last season at Villanova. Mikal Bridges is also very versatile and can play either wing position on or off the ball. His ability to create space and make plays out of nothing is something the Suns found very intriguing and saw potential in. Mikal Bridges may not be a focal point for the Suns or a star for them, but will be a very solid role player that should be in the league for a very long time.

After two first-round picks, the Suns basically stole a first-round talent in Elie Okobo out of France with the first pick in the second-round of the draft. Okobo was my favorite international player in this draft class, even over Luka Doncic, and it is because he is a silent assassin. Nobody really knows much about Okobo, but they better get familiar with his name now because he can kill teams in more ways than none. Not only was he a great scorer overseas from downtown and in the paint, but one of the best passers in Europe. In transition and in the open court, Elie Okobo is especially dangerous and extremely quick. In Summer League, Okobo did not play many minutes (14.3 MPG) due to his long season in Europe, but proved to be a great passer. He averaged 3.5 APG, which would translate to about 6-7 assists per game if he had played normal minutes in Summer League. After waiving Tyler Ulis earlier this offseason, Elie Okobo will enter Training Camp as the clear favorite to contend with Brandon Knight for the starting point-guard role. The Suns final draft pick, George King, is a guy who signed a two-way contract with the Suns and a player they see potential in. The Suns drafted him with the mindset of inking him to a two-way deal to see what he brought to the table in the G-League and if he would influence their organization in a positive way moving forward. King saw under 10 MPG in Las Vegas, but made the most of it, averaging 3.6 PPG and shooting above 50% from the floor. I would not expect to see King have many opportunities to prove himself at the NBA level this season.

Another young wing on the Suns, second-year guard Davon Reed, put together a solid outing in Summer League. Reed spent most of last year in the G-League, but will see more meaningful minutes at the NBA level this season and try to earn a spot for the future. The Suns may be ready to move on from him following this season, but he still was impressive in Las Vegas this summer. Reed averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and shot 41.7% from deep. If Davon Reed can consistently shoot at a high percentage from deep, the Suns may keep him around ,but other than that, he does not bring much else to the table for the new system they want to implement. As mentioned earlier, Josh Jackson also continues to improve and make tremendous strides entering his sophomore” season in the NBA. Jackson was one of the Suns’ most effective players in Vegas, even though he played in 3 games, averaging 10.3 PPG and 1.3 SPG. Although Jackson is still making strides in developing his jumper, he is an excellent perimeter defender and should learn alot from veteran Trevor Ariza, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal this offseason with Phoenix. All Jackson needs now is time to improve and work on some “kinks” in his game.

Overall, I was really impressed with the showing of Shaquille Harrison in Summer League. In addition to being one of the Suns’ better scorers on the court this summer, Harrison was also their best ball handler and facilitator. Harrison averaged 12.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.6 APG and shot the ball well, around 45% from the court and 41% from long-range. Harrison earned his guaranteed contract this offseason after a productive Summer League and with the Suns’ new system, Shaq Harrison may see his role expand slightly more this season in a crowded backcourt.

My expectations this season for the Suns are for them to still finish near the bottom of the Western Conference, but to be better overall as a team and record wise. I definitely see them being in the 28-34 win range, but having their young core take a major step forward in turning into really good player. One thing we can expect from the Suns this season though is for Devin Booker to once again be an All-Star and continue climbing up the list of best players in the NBA today!

 

 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 7-0

Playoff Seeding: #2

Summer League Playoff Result: 2018 Las Vegas Summer League Champions (Won vs. #1 Los Angeles Lakers in Championship)

2018 Draft Picks: Anfernee Simons (24), Gary Trent Jr. (47)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Wade Baldwin IV (2016 Draft – Pick 17): 7 games, 25.4 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 37-82 FG (45.1%), 8-16 3pt (50%), 12-27 FT (44.4%)

  2. Jake Layman (2016 Draft – Pick 47): 7 games, 23.1 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 36-63 FG (57.1%), 13-24 3pt (54.2%), 9-11 FT (81.8%)

  3. John Jenkins (2012 Draft – Pick 23): 7 games, 21.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, 32-46 FG (69.6%), 12-20 3pt (60%), 8-9 FT (88.9%)

Surprise Performance:

John Jenkins (2012 Draft – Pick 23): 7 games, 21.6 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 32-46 FG (69.6%), 12-20 3pt (60%), 8-9 FT (88.9%), 5 games with 10+ points scoring; high of 25 points


The Portland Trail Blazers celebrate their 2018 Summer League Championship victory over the Los Angeles Lakers after losing to the Lakers in last season’s Summer League Championship.

The Portland Trail Blazers have done it! They finally won the Championship…. The Summer League Championship that is! After falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in last season’s Summer League Championship game, the Blazers got a chance for redemption this season and capped off a 7-0 Summer League with the trophy at the end! Could the Trail Blazers success in Summer League translate to this upcoming NBA season? Well, maybe, but it is highly unlikely. After a very strong regular season and First Team All-NBA performance all season long by Damian Lillard, the Blazers were the #3 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, but got swept in the first round by Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. Outside of Lillard and McCollum in the backcourt, the Blazers do not have many shooters nor depth, so not only did they address this in the draft, but in free agency as well. Portland went out and signed Nik Stauskis and Seth Curry to short-term deals at a very affordable price. Both Stauskis and Curry will give Portland the depth they need in their second rotations and more productive shooing numbers when Lillard and McCollum are resting. Overall though, Portland returns basically everyone else besides center Ed Davis, who signed with Brooklyn, and Portland should once again be one of the best teams out west, even though Las Vegas has them projected to finish 10th in the conference at 41.5 wins. Going back to Portland’s draft, they went out with the intent to not only address their depth at the two-guard spot, but look for a reliable, young option as a backup for Damian Lillard.

The Blazers did just that and drafted one of the youngest players in the draft at 24 in Anfernee Simons out of IMG Academy. Simons never played college basketball and decided to enter the draft after taking the academy road to the NBA. Originally committed to play for Rick Pitino and Louisville as part of the 2018 Recruiting Class, Simons decommitted in wake of the FBI Investigation reports and the removal of Pitino from Louisville. Anfernee Simons enters the NBA still very raw, but has a tremendous upside offensively. He was one of my favorite offensive players entering the draft and his potential to become a lethal scorer is endless. From shooting, to driving hard down the lane, to being an excellent free-throw shooter, Anfernee Simons does it all! In Summer League, Simons mainly came off the bench, playing in 6 games and averaging 11.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and shooting 43% from the field. Anfernee Simons is a guy who the Blazers will ease into their rotation and will not rush onto the court. He is not ready yet to be a very impactful player off the bench for the Blazers and still needs work adjusting to the new pace of the game. Learning from Damian Lillard will do a lot for the future of Anfernee Simons and he should develop very nicely for years to come. In the second-round, the Blazers were not done yet addressing their guard position, this time drafting a pure shooter. At 47, the Blazers selected freshman Gary Trent Jr. out of Duke. Trent Jr. was one of the draftees who saw his stock fall a few days before the draft, but he still ended up in a very good scenario for his skill-set. Gary Trent Jr. is mainly an offensive weapon, although he has shown flashes of being a solid perimeter defender. The Blazers will look to utilize his shooting abilities right away on the wing, and this proved to be the case in Summer League. He averaged 11.4 PPG off the bench, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and shot 35% from the floor on 79 attempts. One thing that the Blazers really like about Gary Trent Jr. is his confidence and refusal to give up or hang his head. Even when he is struggling, Gary Trent Jr. still hustles hard and never hesitates on offense. With the additions of Seth Curry and Nik Stauskis as stated earlier, Gary Trent Jr. may not see a whole lot of minutes in his rookie season, but he definitely will not be forgotten or lost in Portland’s depth chart.

Although their rookies played well in Summer League, it was Portland’s third-year guard who stole the spotlight, earning All-Second Team honors this Summer League. Wade Baldwin IV, who has not had a lot of success early on in his career, had one of the best summers out of any player and will be getting a contract very soon! Baldwin was an excellent shooter this Summer League, shooting 45% from the floor and 50% from three-point range! It seemed like every time the Blazers needed points, Wade Baldwin IV had answers for them. Along with his high shooting percentages, Baldwin also averaged a team high 13.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 7.4 APG, which was tied for the second highest total this Summer League. Wade Baldwin IV proved this summer that not only can he be a reliable option as a scorer off the bench, but he can be a reliable combo-guard, especially off the bench as a backup point guard. After making nearly $220k last season, I would say it is safe to say that Wade Baldwin IV’s check will be worth a little more than that this season and moving forward! Another guy who earned his contract this summer and got his money guaranteed for the upcoming season is 2016 second-round pick, Jake Layman. In his first two seasons, Jake Layman has had little to no impact on the wing for the Portland Trail Blazers. He averaged 7.1 MPG in his rookie year and 4.6 MPG last season in a total of 70 NBA games over the course of his short career. This season, Layman may see his minutes increased from the previous few years, but I would not expect them to jump too much higher, especially with the free agent acquisitions for Portland. Jake Layman’s summer went very well though and he was a focal point for them offensively throughout their championship run. He averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and shot 13-24 from deep (54%)! Jake Layman showed his improvements with his jumper and was very active on defense as well, averaging about 1.4 SPG. If Layman is to remain with the Trail Blazers after this season, he must prove to be a reliable threat from outside and a guy that can be a spark for them off the bench in his role this season. Former 2012 first-round pick, John Jenkins, had a fantastic Summer League performance, and a very surprising one after not being in the league for a few years. Jenkins played in Spain last season with the San Pablo Burgos, but is looking for an NBA return this upcoming season. Jenkins had a huge role with the Blazers this summer, being one of their best shooters on the wing. John Jenkins ended up being one of the best shooters in all of Las Vegas this summer, shooting a whopping 70% from the floor and 60% from deep! He played in all 7 games this summer, averaging 12.0 PPG as well. It would be a shame if John Jenkins does not get at the least a two-way contract in the NBA, but after his recent performances, he should definitely see a raise wherever he decides to play professional hoops.

Veteran guard, Archie Goodwin, also put together some solid games and became Summer League’s all-time leading scorer. I am still trying to figure out if this is a record that one wants to hold, but congrats to Mr. Goodwin! The veteran guard averaged 9.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG, while shooting 55% FG. He has drawn interest from some NBA teams after his performance, but is expected to sign a “lucrative” deal in China according to The Athletic’s Michael Scotto. Another Blazers player under contract worth mentioning is second-year forward Caleb Swanigan. The big man out of Purdue had another strong showing in Summer League, averaging 8.4 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and shot 39% from the floor. One big thing to note with Swanigan is that he began extending his range and has improved his shooting techniques and form. He is not a consistent shooter from mid-range and beyond yet, but this is an encouraging site to see for Blazers fans, especially because of what he can already do in the paint on both ends of the court. Caleb Swanigan will definitely see an uptake in minutes in his “sophomore” season.

Although Las Vegas odds say the Portland Trail Blazers will miss the Postseason this year, I am not buying this and still believe Portland is a Top-5 team in a loaded Western Conference. I would not expect to see much, if any fall off from the Blazers this year.

 

 SACRAMENTO KINGS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: 21

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #12 Cleveland Cavaliers)

2018 Draft Picks: Marvin Bagley III (2)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Justin Jackson (2017 Draft – Pick 15): 4 games, 31.3 MPG, 19.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 28-67 FG (41.8%), 8-28 3pt (28.6%), 12-14 FT (85.7%)

  2. Zach Auguste (2016 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 21.6 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 22-33 FG (66.7%), 1-3 3pt (33.3%), 10-18 FT (55.6%)

  3. Harry Giles (2017 Draft – Pick 20): 4 games, 22.8 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 20-48 FG (41.7%), 1-4 3pt (25%), 2-5 FT (40%)

Surprise Performance:

Harry Giles (2017 Draft – Pick 20): 4 games, 22.8 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 20-48 FG (41.7%), 2 games with 10+ points; Scoring high of 17, 1 double-double, rebounding high of 12 rebounds.

 

Some people like to call them the Cleveland Browns of the NBA, but I like to call them… actually, they are pretty similar to the Browns, but that is beside the point! Yeah the Sacramento Kings have been terrible over the past decade and a half and fans have made fun of GM Vlade Divac and his decisions, but the Kings have a lot of young and talented basketball prospects. Outside of veterans Zach Randolph and newly signed forward, Nemanja Bjelica, the Kings do not have anyone else at or over the age of 30 on their roster. In fact, they have 11 players on this year’s payroll that have 3 or less years of experience in the NBA! They are by far one of the youngest franchises age wise in the NBA, but they have a lot of promise for the future. If you are a fan of college basketball, I do not know how you can hate the Sacramento Kings because their team is like a college basketball All-Star team, assembled with some of the best players over the past couple of seasons. Big college names such as: Frank Mason III, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson (UNC), Willie Cauley-Stein, and rookie Marvin Bagley III are a few of the young and very talented players they currently have. Focusing in on the lone draft pick this season for the Kings and the #2 overall selection in the draft, Marvin Bagley III had a great game in Las Vegas. Why did he only play one game you may ask? Bagley suffered a pelvic bone bruise in their first game and the Kings kept him out for the remainder of Summer League. This was slightly depressing news for fans who wanted to see Bagley ball out and wow everyone, but we will just have to wait until the regular season! In his lone game, Marvin Bagley III scored 15 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, had 1 block, and shot 5-13 (39%) from the floor. It was not a terrible outing for him in this game, but his jumper was very inconsistent. Bagley will have to work on a few mechanical things in the early stages of his rookie campaign, but will be a fantastic rebounder and post-player for the Kings this season. Expect him to be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year all season long.

Although he is technically a rookie, this next guy was drafted last season, but sat all of last season to be fully ready to go this year. Former Duke Blue Devil and #1 overall recruit, Harry Giles, is finally ready to make his highly anticipated debut in the NBA. Giles played in Summer League this year, playing in 4 of the Kings 5 games and looked extremely good for not playing for a year. Harry Giles averaged 10.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and shot 41.7% from the floor. His performances night-in and night-out were very surprising, seeing that he had not played in a while, and offered us all a glimpse of what he can do this year. Giles had two games this summer with 10+ points and posted 1 double-double. Obviously, the Kings will look to ease Harry Giles onto the court this season and will be extremely cautious with him because they feel like he can be the best player on this young team in a few years. Harry Giles has suffered a lot of knee injuries early on in his career and the Kings are not willing to risk having him get injured again and potentially ruining his career before it started. He will play his “rookie” season this year, but I would expect to see him on a minutes restriction up until All-Star break, but possibly for the whole season!

The rookies played well this summer for the Kings, but it was second-year wing, Justin Jackson, who stole the spotlight. Jackson was fantastic this summer and you can tell he really worked hard on improving his shooting and awareness from last year. Jackson averaged a team high 19.0 PPG and was T-13 in scoring this Summer League. Jackson also shot about 42% from the floor and 29% from three-point range. What made Justin Jackson impressive this summer league was his motor. There was a vast difference this summer compared to last season in Jackson’s effort levels and he looked a lot more comfortable and faster on the court in Las Vegas. With Vince Carter no longer with the team and the only other player listed at SF on the depth chart being newly signed Jamel Artis, Justin Jackson should be the starting 3 for the Kings come opening day, but you never know what Vlade is thinking! Big man Zach Auguste was also impressive this Summer League and was definitely the best big man for the Kings. He was featured in 5 games for the Kings, averaging 11.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and shot the ball at an impressive 67%. What made Auguste an interesting player this summer was his ability to play well-above the rim, but also have a positive-effect in transition as a big man. Zach Auguste was very quick on his outlet passes after getting a defensive rebound and had a lot of success running the court in transition. He still needs to improve as a rim-protector, but there is not much to question about his physicality and toughness. Auguste earned a contract with Turkish ball club, Galatasaray after his recent performance in Summer League and will spend yet another year overseas.

Second-year point guard and former National Player of the Year, Frank Mason III, had a okay showing in Summer League, where he averaged 9.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, and shot 37% FG. Mason III was not a scoring machine, but he was one of the best passers in all of Summer League. In his rookie season, Frank Mason III struggled early on as a true point guard, turning the ball over at a high volume. He finished his rookie year with an assist/turnover ratio of slightly over 2:1, but that should increase drastically after improving a lot as a passer. Frank Mason III still put up solid shooting numbers and the Kings should feel confident about having him out on the court with just about any group. He is a natural leader and should continue to be a valuable young asset for this organization. Another player to quickly note is rookie Wenyen Gabriel out of Kentucky who signed a two-way deal with Sacramento after being on their Summer League squad. Gabriel averaged 6.8 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 5 games with the Kings this summer and will have some chances to show what he can do at the NBA level next season, although he will look to improve overall in the G-League.

Mock the Sacramento Kings all you want because they cannot be too terrible too much longer! Well… they can, but I am looking at this as the glass being half-full! I am very optimistic about the young pieces the Kings have, but for me to be sold on them growing and developing to their full potential, they must add some more veterans to take these young players under their arms and teach them the ways of the NBA. If the Kings can do this and their youth can mature as well as grow as players, they will have a very special team 3-5 years down the road.

 

 SAN ANTONIO SPURS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 1-4

Playoff Seeding: #19

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #14 Milwaukee Bucks)

2018 Draft Picks: Lonnie Walker IV (18), Chimezie Metu (49)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Jaron Blossomgame (2017 Draft – Pick 59): 5 games, 25.8 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 26-45 FG (57.8%), 2-5 3pt (40%), 11-14 FT (78.6%)

  2. Chimezie Metu (Rookie): 2 games, 23.5 MPG, 12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 12-22 FG (54.5%)

  3. Lonnie Walker IV (Rookie): 4 games, 27.8 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 18-53 FG (34%), 3-11 3pt (27.3%), 7-8 FT (87.5%)

Surprise Performance:

London Perrantes (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 19.2 MPG, 5.2 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 10-21 FG (47.6%), 3-6 3pt (50%), 3-3 FT (100%)

 

Tim Duncan has been gone since 2016, Tony Parker signed with the Hornets this offseason after 17 years with San Antonio, and the Kawhi Leonard saga has finally come to an end, leaving 41 year old Manu Ginobili as the last man standing from the Spurs last championship back in 2014. After sitting out pretty much all of last season, Kawhi Leonard did not want to play for San Antonio anymore and vallantly asked for a trade everyday. The Spurs finally answered his call and got a really good player in exchange for him. The Spurs traded Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. DeRozan with Coach Pop will be very fun to watch and DeRozan should continue to grow as one of the top players in the game today. He will join veterans LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Rudy Gay in San Antonio, along with a lot of promising young talent. 2016 first-round pick, Dejounte Murray, is set to take the reins from Tony Parker and be the point guard of the future for the Spurs. He had an excellent season last year for them, averaging 8.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG. Murray was kept out of Summer League this season as a result of him being one of their starters for the upcoming year.

The Spurs continued to add youthful talent in the draft this year, selecting Lonnie Walker IV in the first-round and Chimezie Metu in the second-round. Lonnie Walker IV had a great freshman season in Miami, especially coming back from a foot injury early in the season. He played in just four Summer League games due to an ankle injury, but he should be fine for the start of the season and throughout training camp. Walker averaged 11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and shot 34% from the floor. Lonnie Walker IV put his athleticism on full-display in Las Vegas and was a threat anywhere on the court whether on offense or defense. Walker was a defensive nightmare, being very active in the passing lanes and a lethal runner in transition. I would expect Lonnie Walker IV to ease into a role with the Spurs this season, especially behind DeRozan and veteran Marco Belinelli at the 2-guard spot. The 49th pick in the draft, Chimezie Metu out of USC, also had a great showing in Summer League, but also suffered an injury and played in only two games. Chimezie Metu’s injury is a little more serious than Walker’s though, as Chimezie Metu suffered a fractured wrist. The Spurs are not too concerned with his injury and do not seem to be worried about the timetable of his return. In two Summer League appearances, Chimezie Metu averaged 12.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and shot 54.5% from the floor. Metu was heavily utilized in the post on offense and was one of the stronger rebounders I watched this Summer League. He did seem to get in foul trouble when going for blocks, but that is nothing that cannot be fixed. Metu will be able to learn from LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol this season and should be a nice fit in San Antonio. I fully expect Metu to develop into a very reliable role player off the bench for the Spurs.

The rookies were both great for the Spurs, but it was second-year wing and G-League champion who stole the show in Las Vegas for the Spurs. Jaron Blossomgame out of Clemson was fantastic for the Spurs this summer, but still does not have an NBA contract. This should not be for long, as there are a couple teams who have been reportedly interested in what he can bring to the table at the NBA level. Blossomgame was one of the best offensive players this summer, averaging 13.0 PPG and shooting 57.8% FG and 40% from long-range. Blossomgame also showed that he can be a strong defender, averaging 7.6 RPG and 1.2 BPG. The 6’7” wing makes his presence felt regardless of where he is on the court and is a true basketball player. He is the type of guy who can easily play 15-20 minutes a night for an NBA team and can turn into an excellent role player off the bench. Former Virginia Cavalier, London Perrantes had a surprising Summer League performance because I expected a lot more out of what he showed. Perrantes averaged 5.2 PPG, 3.2 APG and shot 48% from the floor, but was not an effective player every game. He was an excellent scorer in college and just has not been able to translate his game to the NBA level. London Perrantes played last season with the Cavs under a two-way contract and was effective in the G-League as a pass-first guard, but still struggled to shoot. Following Summer League, Perrantes agreed to a deal with French club, Limoges CSP, and will likely spend the remainder of his professional career overseas.

I would be very surprised if the San Antonio Spurs do not make the Playoffs this season because they are still a good team, even without Kawhi Leonard. Without Kawhi, the Spurs still won 47 games last season and made the Playoffs. I find it hard to believe that they will be worse with DeMar DeRozan. Spurs fans, do not worry, your beloved team will be just fine!

 

TORONTO RAPTORS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-4

Playoff Seeding: #29

Summer League Playoff Result: Quarterfinals (Lost to #12 Cleveland Cavaliers)

2018 Draft Picks: NONE

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. O.G. Anunoby (2017 Draft – Pick 23): 4 games, 27.3 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 23-57 FG (40.4%), 8-27 3pt (29.6%), 9-11 FT (81.8%)

  2. Malachi Richardson (2016 Draft – Pick 22): 6 games, 27.7 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.3 SPG, 25-61 FG (41%), 15-36 3pt (41.7%), 12-22 FT (54.5%)

  3. Chris Boucher (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 4 games, 20.8 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3.3 BPG, 15-30 FG (50%), 4-11 3pt (36.4%), 9-10 FT (90%)

Surprise Performance:

Rawle Alkins (Rookie): 6 games, 21.3 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 20-53 FG (37.7%), 9-21 3pt (42.9%), 5-8 FT (62.5%)


When healthy, Kawhi Leonard is arguably one of the Top 3 or 5 players in the NBA, so what kind of impact will he have on a Raptors team that was the best team in the Eastern Conference a season ago?

Remember that guy Kawhi Leonard that we were just talking about? Well, he is now a member of “The 6”. The Raptors also added Danny Green in this trade to fill the void DeRozan leaves and should still be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, especially since their kryptonite is now a member of the Lakers out West. The one big thing that is different for Toronto this season though is that this past year’s Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, was fired from his position with the Raptors after getting swept by LeBron in the Playoffs once again! I do not agree with this decision by the Raptors, but they feel like a change needed to be made to get them over the hump in the East. Toronto had one big free agent signing to make and they did so, resigning great sixth-man, Fred VanVleet. The Raptors had no picks in this past year’s draft, but this did not stop them from looking for some undrafted guys to potentially add to their team. Rookie guard Rawle Alkins out of Arizona had a great performance in Summer League and earned my Most Surprising Performance for the Raptors because there were a lot of questions about his shooting techniques and ability to be an impactful player off-the-ball. Alkins was actually one of Toronto’s better players off the ball this summer and had an all-around good performance in 6 games. The Raptors made it to the Quarterfinals of the Summer League Playoffs, losing to the Cavs once again, but Alkins was a big part of their success. He averaged 9.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.0 APG and 1.3 SPG. Alkins showed off his athleticism on the court and demonstrated his understanding for the game as a whole. Rawle Alkins signed a two-way contract with the Bulls after his solid showing in Las Vegas and should get an opportunity with the Bulls to earn a roster spot for future years.

Toronto’s best player this summer was definitely second-year wing out of Indiana, O.G. Anunoby. He was featured in four games this summer and should be an excellent role player once again for the Raptors. With Kawhi Leonard apart of the organization now, Anunoby will likely be moved to coming off the bench, but this should not negatively affect his play. O.G. Anunoby, who has one of the best first and last names in the NBA, is an extremely motivated player and has always been looked down upon in his playing career. This season, I really expect Anunoby to take a huge step and prove to all of his doubters that he is a the real deal. This summer, Anunoby averaged 15.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 1.3 BPG while shooting 40% from the floor. He is still working on his jumper and it has improved, but there is still work to be done. Expect to see a big performance from O.G. Anunoby this season with the Raptors. Another wing player, who is still trying to find a team to believe in him, who played very well this summer was Malachi Richardson. The former Syracuse guard was drafted back in 2016 by the Hornets, but has been on two new teams since being drafted. His latest team, the Toronto Raptors, liked what they saw from him this summer and guaranteed his contract for the upcoming season. Richardson was Toronto’s best shooter this summer, averaging 12.8 PPG and shooting 41.7% from deep. Malachi Richardson will definitely be utilized by Toronto off the bench this season and could see his minutes increase this year as a result of his improved shooting. Toronto needs shooters on the wing around Kawhi Leonard and Malachi Richardson could fill this role nicely for them. Former Warriors draft pick and Oregon big man, Chris Boucher, also had a good showing for Toronto in Summer League. Boucher averaged 10.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 3.3 BPG in 4 games in Las Vegas. Toronto really likes what Boucher brings to the table as a defender and shot-blocker, and is expected to earn a two-way contract with them after receiving a Training Camp Invite immediately following Summer League. Another player worth mentioning is guard Jordan Loyd. He earned a two-way contract with Toronto this season after averaging 8.3 PPG and shooting 46% in Las Vegas. He is not expected to see a lot of time at the NBA level for the Raptors this season, but should be a player they look to develop further in their system.

With Kawhi Leonard healthy, Toronto will definitely be one of, if not the best team in the Eastern Conference, and may finally be able to make it to the NBA Finals after a guy named LeBron James is not in the East anymore. The Raptors still have a very talented roster and may be an even better team without DeMar DeRozan!

 

 UTAH JAZZ:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 2-3

Playoff Seeding: #22

Summer League Playoff Result: Second Round (Lost to #27 Memphis Grizzlies)

2018 Draft Picks: Grayson Allen (21)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Georges Niang (2016 Draft – Pick 50): 5 games, 26.6 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 31-71 FG (43.7%), 8-29 3pt (27.6%), 8-9 FT (88.9%)

  2. Grayson Allen (Rookie): 2 games, 26.5 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 13-34 FG (38.2%), 3-14 3pt (21.4%), 4-4 FT (100%)

  3. Diamond Stone (2016 Draft – Pick 40): 4 games, 24.0 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 20-39 FG (51.3%), 15-19 FT (79%)

Surprise Performance:

Naz Mitrou-Long (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 4 games, 20.3 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 14-26 FG (53.9%), 2-7 3pt (28.6%), 8-12 FT (66.7%)


Former enemies now turned allies, how well will the dynamic backcourt of  face of the Jazz franchise, Donovan Mitchell, and rookie Grayson Allen work together?

Utah was not supposed to be good at all last season after losing Gordon Hayward to the Celtics, but rookie Donovan Mitchell carried them all season long and should have earned the Rookie of the Year Award over Ben Simmons this past year. He was voted the Rookie of the Year by the players and coaches this past season and has taken the NBA world by storm. Not only is he a fan favorite in the game after his rookie year, but he is one of the faces of the next generation of the NBA! The Jazz found themselves what could be one of the best players of the young generation in the NBA and should be one of the top teams in the Western Conference with him at the helm! The Jazz definitely had the best player in last year’s draft class, but will they be able to do it again with this years pick? Utah took America’s Most Hated College Basketball Player since Christian Laettner in former Duke Blue Devil, Grayson Allen. Everybody knows Grayson Allen as the kid who trips other players and is a dirty player, but not many know him as the extremely talented and athletic player he is. He has been so overshadowed by his darker moments in college than what he has achieved on the court. Grayson Allen should have his jersey hanging in the rafters one day at Cameron Indoor in Durham, North Carolina, and should be a great rookie for the Jazz. One thing the Jazz wanted to address in the draft was a scorer on the wing to pair with Donovan Mitchell and a guy who would play hard whenever he heard his name called. Grayson Allen fits this description perfectly for the Jazz and was a fantastic pick for them at #21. In Summer League, Allen was the Jazz’s leading scorer at 16.5 PPG, and also averaged 6.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 2 games. As a passer or shooter, Grayson Allen will excel in his role with the Jazz and could be a sneaky pick for the All-Rookie team in the NBA this season!

Two 2016 draft picks in Georges Niang and Diamond Stone also had spectacular Summer League performances. Niang was definitely the best player on the Jazz, averaging 15.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, and shot 44% from the floor. There were lots of questions on if Niang could make a difference defensively and he was very active on that end of the court in Summer League. He did not put up big steal or block numbers, but fought for every rebound and was a reliable one-on-one defender. With the Jazz continually looking to add versatile players, the Jazz signed Niang to a 3-year contract after Summer League. He can play on the wing, or if the Jazz wanted to go small, he could play the 4 for them. Definitely expect to see Niang earn more minutes as the season progresses. Big man Diamond Stone played well this summer and is looking to earn an NBA contract after playing for the Jazz last season in the G-League. Stone played in 4 games for the Jazz this summer and put up pretty solid numbers. He averaged 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 1.0 BPG this summer, while also shooting 51% from the floor. Diamond Stone is not as versatile as other young big guys entering the NBA today, but is a solid post-player offensively. Stone looks very comfortable playing with his back to the basket and is a big body in the lane contesting shots and being a strong rebounder. My guess is that Diamond Stone ends up in the G-League once again this season, but he offers a lot of potential as a big body in the middle of the paint for a lot of teams.

One of Georges Niang’s former college teammates, Naz Mitrou-Long, had a surprising performance this summer for the Jazz and earned a two-way contract with them for the upcoming year. Mitrou-Long played very well and was kind of forgotten at the beginning of Summer League. I originally noticed his name on the Jazz roster for Summer League at the beginning of July, but did not think anything of it. Mitrou-Long proved to be a great combo-guard for the Jazz in Las Vegas and was a guy that earned the trust of his new organization throughout this summer. He averaged 9.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, and shot 54% from the floor in an impressive showing in 4 summer games. Mitrou-Long may not have an impact on the Jazz or in the G-League this season, but the Jazz believe he possess qualities they like in young player and feel he may offer something for the future. One other name to mention is rookie Jairus Lyles out of UMBC. He signed an undrafted rookie contract with the Jazz after averaging 6.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.0 APG in 3 Summer League games.

The Utah Jazz will be a great team out West and a definite Playoff team as long as Mitchell and Rudy Gobert remain healthy for them. Do not forget about point guard Ricky Rubio or sharpshooting Joe Ingles as well! The Utah Jazz have a very underrated team because they may not pass the eye test for a lot of NBA fans, but trust me, the Utah Jazz are going to be a very good team this season in the West!

 

 WASHINGTON WIZARDS:

Las Vegas Summer League Record: 1-4

Playoff Seeding: #16

Summer League Playoff Result: First Round (Lost to #17 LA Clippers)

2018 Draft Picks: Troy Brown Jr. (15), Issuf Sanon (44)

Top 3 Performers in Las Vegas (Min. 3 games):

  1. Devin Robinson (2017 Draft – Undrafted): 5 games, 30.8 MPG, 19.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 34-66 FG (51.5%), 6-19 3pt (31.6%), 25-32 FT (78.1%)

  2. Troy Brown Jr. (Rookie): 5 games, 30.8 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 37-87 FG (42.5%), 3-19 3pt (15.8%), 15-17 FT (88.2%)

  3. Thomas Bryant (2017 Draft – Pick 42): 5 games, 30.0 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 30-49 FG (61.2%), 13-16 FT (81.3%)

Surprise Performance:

Chris Chiozza (Rookie): 5 games, 28.0 MPG, 4.8 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 10-33 FG (30.3%), 4-17 3pt (23.5%)

 

And finally, we will wrap up things by talking about the Washington Wizards. The Wizards will definitely be a different team this upcoming season, especially after getting a healthy John Wall back. Wall played half the season last year due to injuries and Bradley Beal had to step into a more featured role, which he is not accustomed to. Beal did not have as great of a statistical year last season, due to having to be the main “go-to” guy, but increased his awareness as a passer and facilitator. Beal is mostly known for his shooting skills next to John Wall, but after his recent developments from this past year and John Wall coming back, the Wizards look to be a prime team in the Eastern Conference. They also made headlines this offseason with a trade and a big name free agency signing. The Wizards traded center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers in exchange for shooting guard Austin Rivers. Not only does the acquisition of Rivers give the Wizards much needed depth at both guard positions, but it gives them options to mix the lineup up. I would not be surprised to see Wall, Beal, Rivers, and Otto Porter Jr. all out on the court at once this season, giving the Wizards a small and quick lineup. Washington also made moves signing long-time NBA center Dwight Howard to replace Gortat. Howard will be playing for his sixth team in the past 8 seasons, but he is extremely confident in the Wizards and their chance to win it all. He also stated that he is in the best shape of his life at 32 years of age, so we will see if Dwight Howard this year can be the Dwight Howard of old!

The Wizards also had two draft picks in this past year’s draft, selecting freshman Troy Brown Jr. out of Oregon at 15, and Ukrainian point guard, Issuf Sanon, at pick 44 as a “draft-and-stash” player for the future. Troy Brown Jr. was one of the best freshman on the West Coast last season at Oregon and screams potential. He was not the best scorer or shooter at Oregon, being very inconsistent at times, but made his impact felt in transition and on the defensive end of the court. Brown is still pretty raw from an offensive standpoint and will likely take this year to learn from some of the Wizards veteran wing players. The best quality about Troy Brown Jr. is that he is extremely versatile and can play just about any position on the court. He stands about 6’7” and has a very strong and lengthy frame, allowing him to be a factor at just about anywhere on the court. Troy Brown Jr. played in all 5 of the Wizards’ Summer League games, averaging 18.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG and shot 42.5% from the floor. Brown did not shoot very well from outside, just 3-19 (15.8%), but was a factor in the paint. He was excellent at absorbing contact in the paint and converting on his free-throws and should be a spark off the bench for the Wizards as the season progresses. Kelly Oubre’s time in Washington may be ticking away, especially after the Wizards put their confidence in Troy Brown Jr. for the future.

Issuf Sanon, the Wizards’ second-round selection, is a very interesting prospect that offers a lot of potential and growth. Sanon is only 18 years old, turning 19 in October, but has a very high basketball IQ. At the 2017 FIBA U18 European Championships, Sanon averaged 19.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 3.4 SPG while shooting 52.6% from the floor. He has a lot of potential as a two-way guard in his future, but still needs to develop for 2-3 more years before he is ready for consistent minutes in the NBA. He did play in four Summer League games this year, but only averaged 2.3 PPG, 1.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG. Sanon is a great defender off the ball and is one of the better players I have seen in Europe being able to gather steals like it is nothing. Keep a watch for Issuf Sanon’s name to surface in the future.

Two second-year players led the charge, along with Troy Brown Jr, this summer for the Wizards. Devin Robinson, the former Florida Gator, had another impressive showing this year in Summer League, averaging 19.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG and shot 32% from long range, a vast improvement from a summer ago. Devin Robinson has always been a very impressive athlete, soaring well above the rim for rebounds and dunks, but there have been questions about his inconsistent shooting for a wing player. The thing about Robinson though is that he can basically play on the wing or as a small post-player. His improvement in techniques and shooting ability is definitely a plus for him this season as he looks to once again prove himself within Washington’s organization under a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season.

Thomas Bryant, the other second-year Summer League player for Washington, had a great showing in Las Vegas for the Wizards, proving to be a reliable backup big man at the NBA level. What impressed me the most about Thomas Bryant was his work ethic on the court and his willingness to stick every play out and not give up on the easy baskets. He fought every possession like it was his last and that is definitely something that did not just impress me. NBA executives definitely took notice to this, which is why his contract for the 2018-19 season with the Wizards is now guaranteed. Bryant will definitely get his opportunities in the second-rotation in Washington this upcoming season and will be a valued, young talent for years to come within this organization. This summer in 5 games, Bryant averaged 14.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG and shot 61% from the floor. Bryant improved his jumper over the course of the past year and has the beginnings of a good-looking mid-range game. With a great center to learn from in Dwight Howard and through what he has done through his career, I would say Thomas Bryant has a really great mentor to learn from. Keep an eye on Thomas Bryant as he may be the successor in a few years to Dwight Howard as the Wizards’ featured big man.

Another rookie who was impressive for the Wizards this summer, although he was undrafted, was former Florida Gator, Chris Chiozza. Not only was he one of the best passers in the country this past year in Gainesville, but he continued to showcase his passing abilities in Summer League. Chris Chiozza’s performances this summer were very surprising because we all knew he could pass in the college, but there were questions on what his game would look like at the NBA level. We got a glimpse of this in Summer League and I can honestly say he looked very comfortable on the court. In 5 Summer League games, Chiozza averaged 4.8 PPG, 7.4 APG, 2.0 SPG and shot the ball at 30% FG. Chiozza had two games with 11 assists this summer and proved to have a lot of qualities that a young Rajon Rondo had when he first entered the league. Chiozza is not close to being like Rondo yet with his offensive game primarily revolving around his ball-handling and passing skills, but has the makings to lead into a career path like Rondo’s. Chiozza has yet to sign with a team, but I would be shocked if he does not receive a G-League contract or two-way deal with a franchise looking for young talent and depth at the point guard spot. Chiozza is already an established player and teams know what they will be getting with him, so there should not be many questions surrounding him. Wherever he ends up, that team will not be disappointed in his passing abilities.

Two other players worth mentioning for the Wizards are guards Chasson Randle and Jordan McRae. Randle played this Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging 8.2 PPG and 1.4 SPG, while shooting 41% from the floor. The Wizards like the 25-year old guard and have him signed to a Training Camp deal for this season. Jordan McRae was selected by the Spurs in the second-round of the 2014 draft, but has bounced around since then. He last played for the Suns and Cavs in the NBA, but most recently with Baskonia in EuroLeague. He will likely spend a lot of time in the G-League this season as he will look to polish his shooting mechanics and abilities in an attempt to reach the NBA level again. With Austin Rivers and Jodie Meeks’ contracts expiring soon, Jordan McRae may be a player that has a future within the Wizards organization, especially after signing a two-way contract for the 2018-19 season with them.

I would expect to see the Wizards finish between 4th-6th in the Eastern Conference this season and be a surprising team near the end of the season. We all know what John Wall and Bradley Beal can do, but if Dwight Howard can actually make an impact, along with the rotational players for the Wizards, we are suddenly looking at a very deep and athletic team in Washington D.C! Overall though, the Wizards have a nice young core to work with a build around their two stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Expect to see Washington in the Playoffs again this year, but be threats with a healthy John Wall.

 

The NBA Summer League season has once again come and passed too fast, but this means two important things. First, the NBA season is right around the corner, making basketball fans around our nation thrilled, but more importantly, the college basketball season is even closer! Next year’s Summer League stars will be starting their collegiate careers soon, so grab your snacks, buy a new TV and get ready for the college basketball season tip-off on November 6th, 2018!

Brett Siegel
I am currently a sophomore at The University of Louisville, majoring in Sports Administration and minoring in Communication. This is my second year being the lead NBA Draft Analyst for CPP and writer for Louisville Basketball. I am a huge sports fan that loves college basketball and watching the players transition from the college court to the big stage in the NBA! If you have any questions or comments, my email is bsiegelsports@gmail.com.