WHAT TO WATCH IN THE VEGAS GAMES
July 07, 2017
By J. Patrick
In reality, the summer league doesn’t serve much of a purpose in the grand scheme of things. The month of July is really set aside in the NBA world to evaluate recently drafted and undrafted rookies, overseas players trying to break into the league, and active pros with less than four or so years of experience to see if and where their games have grown. Since these are all youngsters who won’t see the same amount of playing time (for most) when the regular season rolls around, don’t look too much into the stats that some players may put up. It’s easy to overestimate a guy’s ability when playing time is inflated and competition is decreased. Nevertheless, hoop junkies rejoice! Summer League is like a second Christmas for us.
Las Vegas Summer League, 7th-17th
The Las Vegas Summer League is the granddaddy of them all. The 10 day event will 67 games in total. The 7th through the 11th will be like a regular season, and the last six days of the event are like a playoffs in a way, with an elimination style tournament, with the championship game being played on the 17th, and a losers bracket being played out over the the last two days of the event.
Unfortunately, the Raptors most interesting young prospect won’t be playing in summer league. OG Anunoby was their first sound selection this year, and may potentially be one of the best players from this years draft if he can recover from a string of knee and ankle injuries. The only rookie that should be fun to watch would be Kennedy Meeks, UNC’s big man. Meeks has the chance to make an NBA roster, and now is his chance to do it.
The interesting players to watch for the Raptors will be all second year players. Jakob Poeltl probably has the most to show out of the three, seeing as how Toronto is without a solid backup to Valanciunas. I loved his game at Utah, and it can still materialize and translate to the league, but he’ll have to show it here first. Siakam and Vanvleet both turned in ok rookie season. Siakam stepped in at power forward for a while and did pretty well. His role will grow this year with Pat P leaving to join the Thunder. Vanvleet spent some nice minutes at backup point guard when called upon. All three will have to step up and make good contributions in summer league if they want to take on additional minutes in the regular season.
|Fred Vanvleet||23||G||1 yr|
|Pascal Siakam||23||F||1 yr|
|Jakob Poeltl||21||C||1 yr|
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have an interesting roster. They’ve got some good experience on the roster, but I’m not sure any of them can really make a splash except for Quinn Cook, James Young, and Jordan Crawford. Both offer a skill the Pels severely need: outside shooting. Cook is the better shooter of the two, but is a little undersized even for a point guard. He’ll have to show he can make 3’s by the bucket load if he wants a chance to make the final roster. James Young is an interesting guy. He’s been in the league three years without making any significant contributions. Despite that, he’s only 21 years old so he still has a lot of his career left. His physique could allow him to be a bigger two, or a prototypical 3 & D small forward if he can get a consistent three point game going.
Another experienced guard trying to make the roster is Jordan Crawford. He’s been out of the league a couple years, but he wasn’t a bad player at all when he was in the league. He’s a capable bench scorer (career 12.3 ppg) who isn’t afraid to hoist shots up. That could be why his career three point percentage is only 31%. He has a lot of similarities to Nick Young, or Lou Williams, except slightly less efficient. Still, he has a good chance to make the final roster based off experience alone. All of these guys will be battling with the rookie PG out of Duke, Frank Jackson. I don’t know if Jackson is ready for big minutes in the NBA yet, but we’ll get our first glimpse of the floor slapping blue devil in a few days.
|Isaiah Cousins||23||G||1 yr|
|Jordan Crawford||28||G||5 yrs|
|Royce O’ Neale||24||G-F||R|
|James Young||21||G-F||3 yrs|
|Cheick Diallo||20||F||1 yr|
|Axel Toupane||24||F||3 yrs|
The sad, sad Nets. Next year will be an interesting year for the Nets, who added D’Angelo Russell via trade. Still, they have a good chance to win big in summer league, thanks to some experienced guards on the roster. I like the young crop of guards on their roster. Spencer Dinwiddie presents physical mismatches for opponents given is 6-6 height, and isaiah Whitehead was a nice surprise last year. He showed the ability to be able to score lots of points in a variety of ways. The guy I’m looking forward to the most is Caris Levert. Okay, I’ll admit some of it is fantasy related, but still, he’s an interesting young guy. He was one of the best rookies last year that showed a versatile skillset. Look for him to make big waves in Vegas this year.
They also picked up an interesting rookie in Jarrett Allen. The big man out of texas is a solid rebounder and a good rim protector. He should only get better with time. He gets most of his points in the paint, but playing under Kenny Atkinson will require him to become a better three point shooter, so that should be an interesting development. Regardless of how good or bad he does, Brook Lopez is playing for the Lakers now, so he’ll get all the minutes he needs his rookies year.
|Spencer Dinwiddie||23||G||3 yrs|
|Isaiah Whitehead||22||G||1 yr|
|Archie Goodwin||22||G||4 yrs|
|Caris Levert||22||G-F||1 yr|
|Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||22||F||2 yrs|
The Hawks have a very interesting summer league roster. It is important that they perform well since they decided to go into all out tank mode. They traded Dwight Howard for little in return, and then resigned Paul Millsap for sign-and-trade purposes. So now it becomes very important that they find solid young prospects. One they added in the Millsap giveaway is Diamond Stone, a center for the Clippers. A couple players returning this year should be key cogs in their development. Taurean Prince started breaking out at the end of last season, and should dominate summer league this year with the added experience. Bembry should show some solid improvement too. He may be important for PG depth for the team. One of my favorite perennial summer league players is Bryce Cotton. He’s a small point guard that plays with a big heart. He should be fun to watch.
I want to see how John Collins performs against more athletic competition. He’s a solid power forward who I think will have a nice career, but he still has a good amount of developing to do. He’ll need to play strong defense against stronger opponents when the regular season rolls around. Another rookie to watch would be Mr. Irrelevant, Alpha Kaba. He still has to get a lot stronger and put on weight before he can start banging with bigger NBA centers, but he does have a lot of potential. A solid leaper with the ability to take the ball of the dribble to the basket, he may have success against slower competition. His jumper has a ways to go, but his mechanics are sound.
|DeAndre Bembry||22||G||1 yr|
|Bryce Cotton||24||G||2 yrs|
|Quincy Ford||24||F||1 yr|
|Taurean Prince||22||F||1 yr|
The Rockets don’t have a lot of big names on their roster this summer, and their two biggest names, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, have just been traded the Clippers. Nevertheless, this is an important summer league for the Rockets. The Rockets have a pretty solid starting five, but are now without a strong quality 6th man.With the trade that just went down they really need more solid role players to round out the rotation. Ray McCallum will be an interesting player to watch who could help shore up the backup point guard position. He has already spent time with three teams in the NBA, so his experience may help him.
The Rockets front office will probably be more concerned with the bigs. Kyle Wiltjer is gone, so the need for a solid backup power forward is now essential. The biggest need for the Rockets is a quality backup center for Clint Capela, and one that can step in if he gets injured, like he did this past year. Onuaku is worth watching, if only for the way he shoots free throws. He still has a good amount of potential, but someone who perhaps may have a little more potential, who will be an intriguing player to watch, is Isaiah Hartenstein. He’s a 7’1 American born German ball player, who runs the floor well, has good hops, and has a decent stroke from behind the arc. He’s only 19 and weighs 225 pounds, so his body still has a little ways to go, but his raw skillset is something I’m sure D’Antoni is drooling over. If he can do a decent job of protecting the rim, rebounding, and shooting, my money’s on him to have a roster spot by summer’s end. Given his athleticism he could even slot in at power forward, sort of like Porzingis does. His roster spot may already be solidified because of recent circumstances.
|Ray McCallum||26||G||5 yrs|
|George De Paulo||21||G||R|
|Isaiah Taylor||22||G||1 yr|
|Troy Williams||22||F||1 yr|
|Chris Johnson||26||F||5 yrs|
|Chinanu Onuaku||20||C||1 yr|
The Nuggets love foreign players. It’s a trend that’s been growing for a while, and Denver is leading the charge. Juancho Hernangomez, the second year forward from Spain, is set to make a big impact at summer league this year. This guy oozes talent uncontrollably. He has the height, wingspan, and athleticism to become an incredible power forward. He can run P & R’s well, cut on the baseline towards the basket, put the ball on the floor from the perimeter, and his three point game is still developing. I like this guy a lot.
Really, the only guard to watch for the Nuggets at summer league is Malik Beasley. He’n above average athlete that could be a run of the mill shooting guard if he develops properly. Perhaps my favorite player on the Nuggets roster is Henry Sims. Not because he’s the best, or really has a realistic shot of making the team, he’s just fun to watch. He’s been in and out of the league for five years now, but always impresses at summer league. His best attribute is probably his heart and desire to make it. Most guys don’t get up after falling down four other times, much less play as hungry as he does.
|Malik Beasley||20||G||1 yr|
|Howard Sant Roos||26||G-F||R|
|Juancho Hernangomez||21||F||1 yr|
|Robert Carter Jr.||23||F||R|
|Henry Sims||27||F-C||4 yrs|
This could possibly be a very important summer league for the Clippers. Depending on what happens now that CP3 has been traded to the Rockets, the team really needs more depth at the PG position. Yes, they got Patrick Beverley, but he won’t be enough to fill the void left by CP3. The Clips picked up Jawun Evans in the second round of this years draft, so he could be one candidate. For a PG, he’s a straight up scorer who can get it done from any level. The only thing that could possibly hinder him is his size. At 6’0, 185, he won’t be a physically imposing guard. Another guard to watch is Sindarius Thornwell, another secounder the Clippers picked up. Thornwell is a solid all around guard who helped South Carolina get into the final four in this years tourney.
Blake Griffin is back, and they brought in Gallinari, but that doesn’t mean the Clippers aren’t totally moving away from a rebuild. If that happens, it will become imperative that the franchise find solid young bigs. The Clippers aren’t totally in the dark here, either, despite trading away Diamond Stone, the second year center. They have one guy from last year I kind of like in Brice Johnson, but he will have to show up big in summer league to make Clipper fans breath a little easier. Brice Johnson only played nine total minutes last year due to a herniated disk in his back. He’ll need to add some muscle if he wants to be a center in the league, and he’ll definitely need to add a jumper (which was non existent at UNC) to his game if he really wants to contribute in L.A. Regardless of what happens at summer league, it may be time for coach Doc Rivers to break a cardinal rule of his. Doc doesn’t like playing young guys, much less having them on the roster, but with the Clips on the brink of going into rebuild mode, he’ll have to do it, whether he likes it or not.
|Jaron Johnson||25||G-F||2 yrs|
|Brice Johnson||22||F-C||1 yr|
The Lakers will be one of my favorite teams to watch this summer. They have a good mix of experienced guys and rookies. Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac are both returning for their second session of summer league, and should dominate without any trouble. New GM Rob Pelinka said that Ingram would only play a handful of games, and the same may happen with Zubac. Although I’m interested to see how well these two play, I’m far more interested in the rookies.
Of course there’s Lonzo Ball, the Lakers new rookie looking to bring showtime back to L.A. He shouldn’t have a hard time meshing with his teammates at summer league, or on the real roster. One guy that should be fun to watch is Josh Hart. I’ve been high on him for a while. He’s a bonafide scorer who can work well on and off the ball. He should be a nice addition to the regular season roster for this team, and provide some quality minutes at shooting guard. Another dark horse candidate to make the regular season is Thomas Bryant. He’s huge. At 7’0, he weighs 250 pounds. A year or two from now when he’s beefed up, he could be in the 270-280 range. He’s pretty athletic for his size and his long arms allow him to protect the rim pretty well. He’s just 19 and still pretty raw, so he might be relegated to the D-league his rookie year, but I like him as a prospect, and he should be a nice contributor in the league a couple years from now.
|David Nwaba||24||G||1 yr|
|Vander Blue||24||G||2 yrs|
|Brandon Ingram||19||F||1 yr|
|Travis Wear||26||F||1 yr|
|Ivaca Zubac||20||C||1 yr|
I don’t really know what to make of this roster. I’m interested to see how a couple second year guys do. Thon Maker and Gary Payton II are coming to their second summer league. Maker is obviously a project, but showed that he might be a quicker project than we originally thought, so monitoring his progress will be fun. Gary Payton the second, son of former player Gary Payton, made a name and a roster spot for himself last year by playing really well at summer league. I’m interested to see if he has improved. He’ll need to if he wants to break into the Bucks backcourt rotation.
A couple Big Ten rookies to keep an eye on are the Bucks first round selection, D.J. Wilson, and undrafted rookie Bronson Koenig. Wilson has all the requisite tools that you look for in a big coming out of college these days. He’s tall, long, and has some good weight on him. His frame suggests he can get bigger too. He also shot the three ball pretty well in college and also protected the rim. Koenig is another interesting prospect. A Wisconsin native, and now an Wisconsin university alum, I’m sure his home state fans are rooting for him to make the roster. Like Wilson, he has pretty good size for a point guard. He also can shoot really well from deep, and can run an offense when needed. He also knows how to take a backseat to better players, which he did for two of his years at Wisconsin when he played with Frank Kaminsky.
|Gary Payton II||23||G||1 yr|
|Rashad Vaughn||21||G||2 yrs|
|Reggie Upshaw Jr||22||F||R|
|Tim Kempton Jr||22||F||R|
|Thon Maker||20 (allegdedly)||C||1 yr|
The Cavaliers have a pretty set roster this year, so don’t expect anything big to come out of this team. That being said, they do have some interesting names. We’ll start with Sam Cassell Jr. Yes, the son of former star player Sam Cassell. Jr. didn’t quite get his father’s physical attributes, but it does seem his experience rubbed off on him, because he’s a very smooth, collected presence on the court. He might have a shot if fellow teammate Kay Felder fails to impress. I like Felder a lot, but his potential is a little shaky at this point. He still has insane athleticism, and some good moves around the rim, but he’ll have to show an improved ability to run an offense, better defense, and improved three point shooting. The Cavs still have Deron Williams as the backup PG, but he’s getting older so someone will have to eventually step up.
Two guys whose names you’ve already seen pop up on other rosters are Brandon Paul and Anthony Gill. Paul is 26, but could still have a nice role as a combo guard for some team out there. He has a decent handle and knows how to score. He dropped 20 points for the Mavs in Orlando this past week. Gill on the other hand, is more about athleticism than any one solid skill. For his height, he has great athleticism that allows him to move more like a small forward than a power forward. He doesn’t have a great offensive game, but he does cut to the basket very nicely and is a solid rebounder. If he wants any shot at making a roster he’ll have to show the ability to hit three pointers, which he hasn’t quite done for the Hornets summer league roster yet.
|Kay Felder||22||G||1 yr|
|Sam Cassell Jr.||24||G||R|
|Casey Prather||26||F||1 yr|
|Malcolm Thomas||27||F||4 yrs|
|Walter Tavares||25||C||1 yr|
The Suns, for the second straight year, should have another very exciting summer league team. Marquese Chriss should resemble a little bit of what Devin Booker did last year: dominate. Another returning Suns player that should only play a few games before being pulled is Tyler ulis. I’m not sure what he’s doing back here. I’m also excited to see how Bender has improved. The guy just oozes potential. He still has a couple of years before he’ll really start showing why he was the number three overall pick, but when he does, he should be something special, mark my words.
The obvious guy to keep an eye on will be Josh Jackson. The Suns 4th overall pick this year should be a great player in years to come. This will be his chance to learn on the fly how to score against bigger, stronger NBA players. He’ll have to refine his shooting motion and become a more efficient scorer if he wants to find more success his rookie year than is expected of him.
David Stockton is the son of former NBA legend John Stockton. It’s always fun to watch the children of star athletes try and escape from their father’s shadow.
|David Stockton||26||G||1 yr|
|Tyler Ulis||21||G||1 yr|
|Marquese Chriss||19||F||1 yr|
|Derrick Jones Jr||20||F||1 yr|
|Dragan Bender||20||F-C||1 yr|
|Christian Wood||21||F-C||2 yrs|
Just a quick glance will tell you that half the Kings roster is on their summer league team. They have nine total players from the last three drafts on the roster. The biggest name is obviously De’Aaron Fox. He should be a treat to watch, especially his impending matchup with Lonzo Ball in Vegas. Buddy Hield should put on a couple big performances before he’s pulled from the team.
One guy that didn’t get talked about enough last year is Skal Labissiere. He was on fire at the end of last season. I would expect him to continue that trend in Las Vegas. I really want to see if the Kings gamble was worth paying off. Justin Jackson and Giles are both a couple years away from contributing a lot of minutes, but I’m curious to see what it might have been that Kings saw in them.
|Frank Mason III||23||G||R|
|Buddy Hield||23||G||1 yr|
|Malachi Richardson||21||G||1 yr|
|Jakarr Sampson||24||F||2 yr|
|Skal Labissiere||21||F-C||1 yr|
|Jack Cooley||26||C||1 yr|
|Georgios Papagiannis||20||C||1 yr|
In truth, there’s only two guys on this roster who will probably end up making the roster come September. Still, I’m not sure Chris Mccullough or Daniel Ochefu will make any sort of impact on the team. Both are bigs, and both are without a lot of skill.
If there’s one guy I am interested to see on this roster, is Kris Jenkins out of Villanova. He’s the guy who hit that game winner on UNC two years ago. He’s a really good scorer who can get it done in a variety of ways. He’s not undersized for a small forward persay, but his height and wingspan leave a lot to be desired. He’ll also have to show the ability to hold hid own on defense when defending some of the league’s top small forwards.
|Jared Cunningham||24||G||4 yrs|
|Sheldon Mac||24||G||1 yr|
|Ike Diogu||33||F||5 yrs|
|Chris Mccullough||22||F||2 yrs|
|Daniel Ochefu||23||F-C||1 yr|
The Grizzlies are in a weird spot as a franchise right now. They have some good cornerstone players, but they don’t have any shot at winning a title. They have some good young talent, but they’re not overflowing with it. The Grizzlies are in the weird middle ground a lot of teams are in where you don’t know whether you should build a contender out of what you have or if you should just go into all out tank mode. With Z-bo gone, they become that much more weaker, but with that also comes the chance for a couple young bigs to show their stuff. Deyonta Davis was the team’s first round selection last year. He’s a long and tall guy with a very rough skillset. He can block shots, run a pick and roll and shoot a little on the baseline. One guy he’ll be competing against for playing time is Ivan Rabb, the team’s first round selection last year. He has a lot of good things about him, but he’s also extremely inconsistent. He’s essentially a Jonathan Isaac-lite.
Another 2nd year guy to watch is Wade Baldwin IV. Mike Conley is a nice point guard, but he gets hurt far too often for me to feel comfortable with him. The Grizzlies need a good young presence in the backcourt in case he gets hurt. Baldwin should be that guy. He played really well in the D-league last year, and is crazy athletic. He’s a decent scorer, and an ok distributor. He’ll need to improve his ability to create his own shots around the rim and set teammates up to gain some real minutes.
|Wade Baldwin IV||21||G||1 yr|
|Wayne Selden||22||G-F||1 yr|
|Jarell Martin||23||F||2 yrs|
|Deyonta Davis||20||C||1 yr|
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have two interesting rookies playing in this year’s summer league in Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. Both are bigs that can play power forward or center. While Swanigan may lack the full height he needs to compete against 7 footers, he makes up for in strength. I really like Swanigan. He’s a big with a nice post up game and a good shooting touch. He shot 44.5% from deep in college. You also have to fight him (literally, almost fight him) if you want to get a rebound over him. He was a double double machine in college, averaging 18.5 ppg and 12.8 rpg last year. He should be able to contribute right away for the Blazers, who are a little thin at power forward. Zach Collins on the other hand, will be more of a project. Last year at Gonzaga he only averaged 17 minutes per game. A lot of it came down to foul trouble. In the same amount of court time he averaged 2.7 fouls, so he’ll need to work on body control and ways to defend without fouling. His outlook is good though, so long as he builds his skillset based on his strengths, which are quickness, good leaping ability, solid box out technique, and soft shooting touch. He’s only 19, so he’s got a few years to figure it all out.
The Blazers have a couple interesting guards coming to summer league too. I like Tim Quartermain and Pat Connaughton. Quartermain is an even keeled guard who can handle the ball and drive the lane pretty well. If he wants to contribute to Portland in a major way he’ll have to really work on his shooting percentage. For Connaughton, it’s all about defense and consistency on the offensive end. He’s a great shooter, but he can’t seem to always find his rhythm. With his deceiving athleticism he should be able to defend better than he does.
|Tim Quartermain||22||G||1 yr|
|Pat Connaughton||24||G||2 yrs|
|Jordan Adams||23||G||1 yr|
|Markel Adams||25||G||2 yrs|
|Jorge Gutierrez||29||G||4 yrs|
|R.J. Hunter||23||G||2 yrs|
|Nick Johnson||24||G||1 yr|
|Jake Layman||23||F||1 yr|
|Keith Benson||28||C||1 yr|
The Bulls will have a lot of eyes on them in this year’s summer league for a couple reasons. A. they let their best player go. B. They need a couple young guys that they traded for and drafted to step up in order for the Jimmy B trade to not be a complete disaster. The two guys with the most eyes on them will Kris Dunn and Lauri Markennan. Dunn had an abysmal rookie year. It wasn’t totally unexpected, but he was supposed to have a better season than he did, shooting just 37% from the field and scoring only 3.8 ppg across 17 minutes. He’ll need to show a lot of progress this season, and it may help that he’ll get thrown to the wolves (no pun intended), as long as the Bulls let Rondo go or trade him.
Markennan should be fun to watch as he develops, assuming his game does grow. Right now he’s a skinny kid with a sweet stroke, but nothing more. Players with his build and skillset usually do pretty in summer league, i.e. Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Kaminsky, etc. His weaknesses are just as obvious as his strengths; he needs to get a lot stronger and he has to learn to be a rim protector. He’ll also have to learn how to bang down low with really strong and physical guys.
|Kris Dunn||23||G||1 yr|
|Denzel Valentine||23||G||1 yr|
|Cameron Payne||22||G||2 yrs|
|Paul Zipser||23||F||1 yr|
|Jerrelle Benimon||25||F||1 yr|
Unfortunately, the T-Wolves first round pick this year, Justin Patton isn’t playing due to a knee surgery. Another rookie looking to open up a roster spot is Amile Jefferson, the senior out of Duke. He has a nice game, and one that could translate to the NBA. I think Jefferson could be a good back up for someone if he’s given the chance, and Minny might be that place.
I’d keep an eye on V.J. Beachum out of Notre Dame, whose a prolific scorer. He can absolutely bomb it from three point land, which is a skill the T Wolves will need this season. Shabazz Muhammad is nice player, but he isn’t the best 3 point shooter, so there could be room for Veachum if he can do what he does bat at summer league.
|Marcus Paige||23||G||1 yr|
|C.J. Williams||27||G-F||2 yrs|
Golden State Warriors
Believe it or not, this is an important summer league for the Warriors. Outside of the big 4, there roster is comprised of mostly veterans, outside of Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark. McCaw is attending summer league, but I doubt he’ll see much time, as his roster spot is all but solidified. The Warriors need some guys to show out at summer league to relieve some of the pressure on the vets on the team to have to log heavy minutes. Even though they are pretty set in their guard rotation, I like Bryce Alford, who may have come out a year earlier than he should. He had to play behind Lonzo, so his minutes were limited at times, but he has a strong body and decent handle. He’ll have to show that he can hit three’s with some consistency if he wants a realistic shot at making the roster.
The dubs paid for a high second round pick this year to select Oregon’s Jordan Bell. I like Bell a lot, and I think a lot of others do too. He’s got good size and speed to be a small ball four, and has a nice shooting touch from deep. His midrange game is decent, and he has a couple moves in the post. He should be an interesting guy to watch, seeing as how the warriors paid to move up in the draft to get him.
|Jabari Brown||23||G||1 yr|
|Patrick McCaw||21||G||1 yr|
|Xavier Munford||23||G||1 yr|
|Justin Harper||26||F||2 yrs|
|Kevin Looney||21||F||2 yrs|
|Damian Jones||23||C||1 yr|
Refer to Orlando Summer League
Refer to Utah Summer League
San Antonio Spurs
Refer to Utah Summer League
Refer to Orlando Summer League
Refer to Utah Summer League
Refer to Utah Summer League