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2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Initial Reactions | The Morning Dunk
For this special offseason edition of The Morning Dunk, our own Nathan Grubel recaps the few days of action during the 2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League
Welcome to the party!
Las Vegas Summer League (really, the entire two-week stretch of Summer Leagues in general, including Utah and the California Classic) is my favorite time of year apart from the NBA Draft itself.
Not only do fans get to see the debuts of some of the top young players in the league, but plenty of guys are competing to earn contracts or extended playing time with their squads during the NBA regular season.
While the basketball is far from the highest quality and sloppy at times, the fun factor is nevertheless at a 10 for basketball diehards like myself and everyone at No Ceilings.
So it’s only right to offer our supporters a full recap of the first few days of the Las Vegas Summer League. IF you missed the latest episode of Draft Deeper where Maxwell Baumbach and I went over some top performers from the Utah and California Classic Summer Leagues, I have you covered below as there were plenty of standouts from that action as well!
While I truly could discuss over 60 players in detail based on an entire week’s worth of action, this column is reserved for those who truly stood out and performed up to expectations. Therefore, if I missed discussing someone in this column that you’re a fan of, know that Summer League as a whole is far from over, and some of those players could make the cut in a full recap!
SO… let’s not waste any more time and get down to business!
* All statistics and evaluations are as of 7/8, except for what’s noted*
Top 2023 NBA Draft Pick Debuts
Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
Vs. Hornets: 9 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST, 2/13 FG, 1/6 3P, 4/4 FT, 5 BLK
Vs. Trail Blazers: 27 PTS, 12 REB, 0 AST, 9/14 FG, 2/4 3P, 7/12 FT, 1 STL, 3 BLK
Let’s be honest, no one could’ve lived up to the hype in a debut, even on a Summer League floor as opposed to one during the NBA’s regular season.
There was plenty that we didn’t see from Victor Wembanyama, like efficient scoring, shooting proficiency, and a post-up game. But what we DID see, like his fluidity with the ball in his hands, tremendous ground coverage to protect the rim, and passing acumen are all things that will help him find comfort within the San Antonio Spurs system from day one.
Wembanyama definitely had some moments where it’s clear his lack of strength affected his performance. Life wasn’t easy for him on the court during his first outing. But that’s ok! A number of rookies struggled in their debuts, but I was still impressed with his patience and commitment to making his teammates better on both ends, even when things weren’t going his way in the box score.
Will he win every single award in the book en route to multiple championships? Who knows. What I DO know is that Wembanyama has plenty to offer in terms of defensive versatility, timely play-making, and budding perimeter skill that makes him as unique of a talent as pegged before he set foot on the floor in Las Vegas. Adding to his physique while polishing his footwork and game in the post will only open up more opportunities for him as a potential lead scorer and two-way presence in due time.
Normally, I wouldn’t make an add to a column like this given our publishing deadlines, but Wembanyama’s performance Sunday night against the Trail Blazers is worthy of a mention, as he lived up to how I thought he would perform in a second game.
As mentioned above, there was a weight that was lifted off his shoulders after that first game against the Hornets. Being able to play free, Wemby found a good grove in the second half to help rally his team back to a close loss along with the help of Blake Wesley and Dominick Barlow.
From posting, to nailing deep jumpers, to crashing the offensive glass and getting to the line, Wembanyama soaked up every opportunity to assert himself and wow everyone in the crowd. What is the precedent for a 7’5” player doing what he did on the court?
I’ve enjoyed hearing the Ralph Sampson comparisons, as my dad was in the sports marketing industry with a number of shoe companies back in the day and told me stories about players like Sampson. Wembanyama feels like an evolution though, and if there was any doubt about who he could become in the league, watch the Portland game one more time and just sit back in awe.
Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
16 PTS, 11 REB, 1 AST, 5/15 FT, 3/10 3P, 3/6 FT, 3 STL, 1 BLK
Brandon Miller got plenty of run before he went up against Victor Wembanyama, and it played to his advantage.
No, he hasn’t exactly been efficient in each of his outings so far, dating back to the California Classic, but Miller has continued to impact the game even when his shot hasn’t fallen. Grabbing 11 rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs, Miller’s effort level was the best I’ve seen it so far this summer. Throw in how he had Wemby on skates for a possession, as well as his continued passing flashes, and there’s real optimism to be had in Charlotte.
It’s going to take him time to round out his offensive game and grow accustomed to being a featured scorer on a professional floor, but seeing Miller adjust and better get to his spots in the halfcourt is a positive development nonetheless, even if all of his shots didn’t fall.
Miller was ready to hit shots, though, right out of the gate, as he did opening up the Hornets’ attack with a made three. He’s always ready to shoot it, and his quick release will help him get shots off right away, especially with his size at 6’9” and length.
While he doesn’t quite look like a “star” few rookies are going to pop like that this early on. Players take time to learn and adapt to the NBA, but I’ve seen enough good from Miller to suggest he was a worthy selection near the top of the draft.
Scoot Henderson, Portland Trail Blazers
15 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 5/13 FG, 1/3 3P, 4/4 FT, 1 STL
There’s a reason why I was incredibly high on Scoot Henderson from Day One.
When he stepped on the floor Friday night for the Portland Trail Blazers, his impact was felt in the air of the arena. The intensity he plays with and his will to compete no matter if he’s missing shots or turning the ball over spread like wildfire across the team and brought a different kind of attitude to an exhibition setting.
And his opponent on the other side was no joke, as I’ll discuss Amen Thompson and his debut with the Houston Rockets in a second. But it didn’t matter, as Henderson was in control of the game from the moment the ball tipped. Hitting mid-range jumpers, getting to the basket, playing competitive defense at the point of attack, and rebounding the ball to push the tempo. Henderson’s skill level, energy, and physicality are all ready to compete at a high level in the NBA.
It’s a shame his debut was cut short due to a reported shoulder injury, but even if his time in Las Vegas is done, he showed what he needed to on the floor. Henderson is built to make his teammates better while also leading a squad as a primary or secondary scorer. He’s the total package for the point guard position.
Amen Thompson, Houston Rockets
16 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST, 6/13 FG, 1/1 3P, 3/4 FT, 3 STL, 4 BLK
There are few players who impressed me in a short time as much as Amen Thompson did.
Even though there are clear warts in his game that relate to the lack of effectiveness in the midrange due to jump shot concerns, that didn’t matter for Thompson in his first NBA action.
Still finding a way to stuff the stat sheet, Thompson was in control of the offense for the Houston Rockets right away. His poise in making decisions in the halfcourt, impressive vision, and a flair for making the near impossible look easy, it was a show from the tip.
Perhaps what impressed fans the most was his tenacity on the defensive end. Guarding opposing ball handlers from the second they brought the ball up over halfcourt, jumping passing lanes, and making key rotations for blocks and contests, Thompson was all over the floor. THAT is the energy the Rockets haven’t had defending at the top in quite some time, and he’s the perfect complement to the other backcourt options who are more focused on scoring and spacing, like Fred VanVleet, Jalen Green, and Kevin Porter Jr.
And when Thompson did pick his spots to score, there was no one on the Portland Trail Blazers outside of Scoot Henderson who could realistically keep him in front. His first step was never in doubt of translating, but his ability to contort and finish at ridiculous angles around the rim wasn’t something I was comfortable projecting to be a strength at the next level. Clearly, his touch matched the at-rim percentages at Overtime Elite, and he’s ready to put up points off driving lanes in Houston.
Few players have the same upside that Thompson does, meaning Rockets fans should be thrilled that he will have plenty of time to develop and become the best version of himself.
Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons
7 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST, 1/4 FG, 0/0 3P, 5/6 FT, 1 STL, 3 BLK
Despite not blowing everyone away with his point total in his debut for the Detroit Pistons, Ausar Thompson had some impressive moments of ball control and passing that stood out.
Thompson kept the ball on a string, and he wasn’t afraid to whip it across the court or up ahead in transition. A willing playmaker just like the tape suggested at Overtime Elite, Thompson had some dimes and key dishes just like his brother Amen did for the Houston Rockets.
And when he did get a chance to put the burners on, Thompson proved he’s no slouch in that department either. Clearly, he’s going to need to improve his jump shooting just like his brother, but Ausar’s comfort level inside the arc in terms of coming to a stop and using the space given to him should give him a leg up as he irons out his perimeter game.
Defensively, Thompson will come in and impact that side of the ball from the jump as well. His technique in choosing when to guard and when to look for a turnover is sound, as he never looked out of place in terms of his anticipation and awareness. When Thompson is locked in, there’s some real juice there as far as All-Defense potential, which is likely a big reason why the Pistons drafted him.
Detroit doesn’t have another perimeter defender like Thompson who can grow into the team’s best option to guard the other squad’s offensive machine. As he adds strength, there’s little that Thompson won’t be able to do on that side of the ball, while having off-ball juice to cut, slash, and connect on open jumpers as a connector.
Thompson will fit well around Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Jalen Duren in the long term.
Anthony Black, Orlando Magic
17 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST, 7/10 FG, 1/2 3P, 2/3 FT, 3 STL
Despite some mixed feedback regarding Anthony Black and his fit with the Orlando Magic roster, he did his best to prove to any doubters that he was the right player to be selected sixth overall in the 2023 draft.
Stuffing the stat sheet across the board, Black impacted the game in every way possible while also shooting well from the outside. Not known for someone who was regularly creating his own shot from the perimeter, Black got himself into a few pull-up jumpers that looked smooth from the 6’7” point guard.
Using his drives to manipulate defenders and create passing lanes, Black’s playmaking was also on display as one of the best connective tissue players in this entire class.
What separates him from some other guys in a similar mold is that his first step is explosive. Black is able to constantly get downhill and put pressure on the rim. It’s progress that he got a few to go, since he’s still figuring out how to change gears and go to that jumper more often. It’s difficult to stop him from generating offense one way or another if that jumper is falling.
Defensively, Black was reading passing lanes and forcing steals. He’s not the greatest pick-and-roll defender, but he’s fully capable of bodying up an opponent, using quick hands, and communicating well with others from a team perspective. He’ll hold himself up just fine on that end, as he did against the Pistons.
The future is bright for Black moving forward, as I’m sure he has another good few outings in Vegas with his Magic teammates.
Jarace Walker, Indiana Pacers
8 PTS, 13 REB, 5 AST, 3/13 FG, 1/5 3P, 1/2 FT, 3 STL, 3 BLK
Jarace Walker did literally everything he could’ve on the floor but hit outside shots.
And don’t get me wrong—he certainly looked comfortable pulling up, turning and shooting over his shoulder, and taking transition looks in stride. Even though the shots didn’t fall, I would expect Walker to continue improving his perimeter game and connecting sooner rather than later.
What can’t be taught is how Walker made his presence felt on the interior defensively. Consistently looking to rebound on both ends, block and alter shots, and shut down opposing drivers, Walker brought an intensity AND understanding on that side of the ball that the Indiana Pacers need for the long term.
Granted, the Pacers didn’t struggle to force turnovers and block shots last season, ranking near the top of the league in both categories. But limiting opposing shooters and contesting looks wasn’t something the team did well as a whole, particularly in space. Walker knows when to rotate, stay home, and play up on his man. Rarely was he out of place, and it showed in spades.
Having a defender who communicates and moves well will only help Indiana contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. His connective passing both in the halfcourt as well as on the break only feeds the pace of play for a squad that thrived at high speeds.
Players who can process the game quickly while also having the physical tools and athleticism that Walker does are few and far between in the league. There’s a reason why he was a projected lottery pick for virtually all of the 2023 NBA Draft cycle.
Where the home run comes into play though is that Walker has tremendous upside of his own while also fitting perfectly with what the team loves to do. Threading the needle between short and long-term viability isn’t always the easiest thing to do in the draft, but the Pacers seemingly pulled it off by introducing Walker into the mix.
Bilal Coulibaly, Washington Wizards
9 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 4/13 FG, 0/2 3P, 1/4 FT, 1 BLK
The debut of Bilal Coulibaly was certainly interesting, to say the least.
To start the game, he was essentially on the outside looking in offensively. Playing in the corner, not really getting opportunities to catch the ball and make something happen other than an early-game turnover in the halfcourt, Coulibaly was “frozen out” of the offense in the same way Johnny Davis was last year during Summer League.
Despite that, Coulibaly defended his tail off the entire game and proved he belongs on that end. Opposing ball-handlers couldn’t get around him one-on-one, and he was in the right place away from the ball denying passing lanes and opportunities for his man to go to the ball. He did get backdoored a few times, but overall Coulibaly’s defensive display was impressive from start to finish. He even had one of the best blocks of the night that got some thunderous applause from the crowd.
Then, the second half came around offensively. Coulibaly FINALLY got some chances to run the show and bring the ball up the floor. Playing in pick-and-roll sets, working off designed handoffs, Coulibaly found ways to probe the defense and score at the rim. His jumper was off the entire night, both off mid-range looks and from distance, but it didn’t take away from his aggressiveness in the second half. Good things happened when the ball touched his hands, as he set a great tone for his teammates to follow who also hadn’t gotten terribly involved early on, like Patrick Baldwin Jr.
The Washington Wizards put up one heck of a fight against an experienced Indiana Pacers team, and that result wouldn’t have happened without Coulibaly’s two-way energy. His length, athleticism, and strides all had time to shine as they did for Metropolitans 92 next to Victor Wembanyama. As he gets more involvement within the offense, Coulibaly’s game should only continue to grow and develop to match his defensive engagement and impact.
It’s only up from here for Coulibaly.
Cason Wallace, Oklahoma City Thunder
20 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST, 7/15 FG, 6/10 3P, 0/0 FT, 2 STL
Before Keyonte George put on an absolute display Saturday night, this was the most impressive perimeter shooting debut to my eye. Cason Wallace came out of the gates firing on all cylinders from three, knocking down six triples en route to 20 total points for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Creating offense off the bounce, spacing away from the ball, and providing a sense of calmness within the flow of the game for the Thunder, Wallace’s presence was felt from start to finish.
Clearly ready to play a role no matter how big or small, Wallace wasn’t sped up and instead brought his hard hat and did his job against the Dallas Mavericks. He guarded multiple positions and played a very team brand of basketball.
What Oklahoma City wants to build is a team filled with guys who can dribble, pass, and shoot at every position. The fact that Wallace can also defend and (should) scale up the lineup in time is an added bonus.
The concerns for Wallace coming out of the draft were just how assertive he will be as a scorer and facilitator at the next level. There were a number of games at Kentucky where he was more than content to stand to the side and let others try and create.
Wallace didn’t blow the doors off from a passing perspective, but made great decisions and, most importantly, didn’t stop the ball when he got it. Wallace’s decision-making was exactly what the Thunder prioritize as an organization, even when it came time for him to let it fly.
I’ll be curious to see how many more games he plays during Summer League, as Wallace is ready for the league. He’s the perfect complementary option and third guard for a team looking to potentially go deep in the playoffs in the Western Conference next season.
Keyonte George, Utah Jazz
33 PTS, 2 REB, 10 AST, 12/24 FG, 6/15 3P, 3/3 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first rookie who I was VERY CLOSE to saying was “too good for Summer League,” an honor I would never give out to a rookie as everyone needs reps to continue developing.
Nevertheless, Keyonte George put on a show for the ages against the LA Clippers Saturday night in Las Vegas.
George not only went off for 33 points but also added 10 assists, rebounded the ball, and defended his position. George had one of the most complete games I’ve ever seen from a rookie in Summer League, as it goes far beyond the fact that the perimeter shots he took went in.
Everything George did on the floor was in control. No one sped up George or forced him to make poor decisions like he had a tendency to do at Baylor. George’s control offensively as the team’s point guard only raised the floor of his performance, as everyone who has watched him before knows his ceiling is sky high as a superhero late in the clock of games.
Few guards can make shots off the bounce like George, as his release is silky smooth. The ball just floats off his fingertips on pull-up jumpers, catch-and-shoot threes, and layups at the rim. Having a better command over his dribble allowed him to better pick his spots, as his pace was electric yet also in rhythm with the rest of his team.
Did he have some heat check moments? Absolutely, but it’s Summer League! George was having fun out there and dominating at the same time.
Scouts discussed how George needed to prioritize developing as a passer and playmaker in order to reach his potential as a combo guard in the league. So far so good for the rook, as his ball placement and timing on dimes has been great all week, dating back to his earlier performances in the Utah Summer League.
He’s had multiple great games now, and Saturday night’s explosion was the icing on the cake. If I were to choose a dark horse for Rookie of the Year, George has my vote so long as he gets the opportunity.
Leonard Miller, Minnesota Timberwolves
16 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST, 7/11 FG, 2/4 3P, 0/1 FT, 2 STL, 1 BLK
What Leonard Miller showed for the Minnesota Timberwolves in his debut was that he clearly was taken far too low in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Many analysts had a Top 20 grade on the 6’10” forward from G League Ignite, yet Miller fell to the second round. Even though there are questions about his jump shot, decision-making, and offensive role in the NBA, Miller proved that his motor and tools are enough to make an impact in the minutes he sees on the floor.
From going after loose balls, grabbing rebounds, always moving, and playing heads up, no player outside of his teammate Josh Minott matched Miller’s activity level in the team’s performance against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Overall, Miller finished with a double-double showing his relentless glass cleaning, interior finishing, and improving outside stroke. Even though the shot isn’t quite where it needs to be, Miller’s mechanics are improving and smoothing out into one motion.
As Miller continues to fill out physically, he should absolutely scale up to play some center in the NBA. And when he’s able to offer his combination of skills off the bounce and from the perimeter at that position, he could become an absolute problem next to a stretch big like Karl-Anthony Towns.
Jordan Walsh, Boston Celtics
18 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 6/11 FG, 4/6 3P, 2/2 FT, 2 STL, 1 BLK
Who said Jordan Walsh couldn’t put the ball in the basket?
All jokes aside, Walsh’s first game in Las Vegas was filled with runs of shot-making from the outside. Not only did he hit on the first three triples he took, but Walsh even got it going pulling up from the midrange with confidence!
And that was a key observation I made about Walsh towards the end of his college season. It wasn’t about the makes and misses for Walsh, but rather how did he look taking spot-up shots and creating for himself off the dribble.
Clearly, those things have been emphasized during his workouts and training in the summer. Known for his lockdown defensive ability given his size, foot speed, and motor, Walsh’s offensive developments between his passing flashes at the NBA Draft Combine and his perimeter attack here in Las Vegas only add to the upside oozing out of him in the long run.
Continuing to polish his handle to take advantage of his long strides to the basket and secondary vision off a live dribble is definitely something that still needs some work. But his willingness to experiment and try new things offensively will serve him well in the G League next season, and it could give him chances to prove himself up with the Boston Celtics at points during the regular season.
After all, given the pieces that Boston traded away in Marcus Smart and Grant Williams, the team could use a defensive presence like Walsh. If he can hang on the court from an offensive perspective, he could get run sooner than anyone was initially anticipating.
Too Good For Summer League
Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
21 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 7/21 FG, 3/9 3P, 4/5 FT, 2 STL, 2 BLK
There may not be a more effortless shot in Summer League than Shaedon Sharpe.
Be it off the catch or off the bounce, Sharpe’s stroke is as smooth as they come from the perimeter. No player can properly contest his shot given his release point as well as how high he gets off the ground in terms of lift.
And it’s one thing to be mechanically sound as a shooter, but it’s another to have the confidence to take and make tough shots. That was exactly what was on display for Sharpe apart from the athleticism he showed defensively and on the glass.
Skying for rebounds, chasing down blocks, and playing a tough brand of defense against the Houston Rockets, Sharpe looked like he was ready to take a star’s leap during this upcoming NBA season.
Sharpe has the tools and ability to defend multiple positions, play with or without the ball, and make the right plays to keep his team ahead on the biggest stage. His upside is nearly limitless as a prototypical shooting guard.
Playing alongside an electrifying talent like Scoot Henderson will only make Sharpe’s life easier, as he has the freedom to hunt for his shot first. He’s wired to score and serve as a mid-range maestro, and the fact that he can bring the same type of brilliance behind the arc as well helps to space the floor for Henderson to probe and operate inside of it.
Both are going to work well off one another, but it was clear from the jump that Sharpe is too good for Summer League.
Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets
33 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 8/18 FG, 3/8 3P, 14/17 FT, 1 BLK
Can I just say I’m so happy for Jabari Smith Jr.?
The fact that he came out of the gate cold and ineffective, yet lit it up in the second half and hit a game-winning shot was everything for Smith’s supporters.
Generally, many are too quick to come to conclusions about a player both positive and negative. The discourse around Smith’s rookie year was disappointing to say the least, as he was written off despite playing a considerable number of games while providing effort on both ends of the floor. Smith was one of the best defenders for the Houston Rockets, and had plenty of games after the All-Star break where he proved he has plenty in the tank as a shot-maker.
What jumped to my eye though was the fact he got to the line against the Portland Trail Blazers 17 TIMES! That level of aggression off the bounce wasn’t even on the Auburn tape for Smith, let alone apparent in any of his rookie action. If Smith can continue to find ways to get to the charity stripe where he excels, that’s a game-changer for him in terms of upping his efficiency.
And when he’s stroking jumpers from the outside? Forget about it. There’s a reason why he was discussed as a possible top pick last year. His combination of switchability on defense, secondary rim protection, and perimeter shooting is one that every NBA team wants on its roster.
Kudos to Smith for having an attitude that recognized he still has plenty of work to do as far as becoming the player he wants to be. There isn’t much more for him to prove in Summer League at this point, yet I’m sure he’ll continue competing to show his ability off the bounce wasn’t a one-game fluke.
Look out for Smith as a player who pops next season.
Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
20 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 7/14 FG, 2/4 3P, 4/6 FT, 4 BLK
Speaking of too good for Summer League, Tari Eason made the game look effortless on both sides of the ball.
His combination of strength, speed, and overall awareness proved to be too much for his opponent at times. Eason’s improvements he’s made as a ball handler since the start of last season were on display yet again, as he’s able to better navigate traffic to either get to the rim and finish or make the right kick-out pass to an open teammate.
Factor in how relentless he is as a rebounder and defensive playmaker, and it’s easy to see why Eason was drafted too low at 17. Few forwards have his gifts and understanding of how to play the game. And those who can make that argument, are generally All-Stars or greater in the NBA.
I admitted early on last summer that I had Eason far too low on my personal board, and what he continued to show against the Blazers in this Summer League run is that keeping him on the bench as a reserve is getting harder to justify, even with the signing of a veteran like Dillon Brooks. Jabari Smith was the higher draft pick, and will likely hold onto the starting spot alongside Alperen Sengun in the frontcourt, but Eason has every argument to earn more significant playing time for the Rockets.
Having the versatility to potentially lock down multiple positions on top of his open-court game and budding half-court shooting is blended well together when adding in how willing of a passer he is. Underrated is Eason’s vision off a live dribble, and I would expect that skill to continue popping for as long as he’s on the floor in Vegas.
Oh, and of course he’ll continue to take everyone’s breath away with crazy athletic highlights.
Max Christie, LA Lakers
22 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 6/11 FG, 3/5 3P, 7/7 FT, 2 BLK
Few players have had a better full week across multiple Summer League outings than Max Christie for the Los Angeles Lakers.
And his first game in Las Vegas against the Golden State Warriors kept that trend upward, as he once again came out swinging from the perimeter.
Known almost exclusively as a spot-up shooter and transition finisher last year for the Lakers and even back to Michigan State, Christie is getting an opportunity to show there’s more to his offensive game during Summer League.
Running some pick-and-roll actions, getting the chance to take on guys one-on-one, and finding driving lanes to finish or make passes, Christie is thriving with the ball in his hands. His confidence off the dribble is shining in a big way, and that takes his ceiling far higher than that of a play finisher—especially given that he’s 6’6” with great length.
As Christie continues to find his footing as a defender, his two-way game could prove to be too much for the Lakers to let further developing in the G League. Christie isn’t just too good for the South Bay Lakers at this point, but he’s done enough to sit out the rest of his time in Vegas.
The Lakers need the best version of Christie next year, and he’s ready to step up and offer more than just corner spacing.
Malaki Branham, San Antonio Spurs
17 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 6/16 FG, 4/7 3P, 1/2 FT, 1 STL
I was a massive fan of Malaki Branham in last year’s draft, having him as a sure-fire lottery pick on my personal board.
Towards the end of last year, he was starting to justify that type of evaluation and has carried that positive trajectory into Summer League.
Coming off a 32-point outing in the California Classic, Branham dropped another 17 in his first Vegas game against the Charlotte Hornets. From corner spacing, to pick-and-roll craft, to spot-up shot-making, Branham’s bag is deeper than people realize.
He commands the ball well, has the vision to make the right read when needed, and has the patience to score in the halfcourt against crowded defenses. Branham just knows how to put the ball in the basket, to where his scoring is becoming too much for any team to ignore.
While I haven’t seen the defensive improvements shine through yet that could earn him real starter’s minutes for the San Antonio Spurs over some of the other top young options in the backcourt, I don’t think he’s too far away on that end either. Branham clearly added good muscle to his body and can withstand contact on both ends.
So long as he keeps improving his off-ball defensive awareness, Branham has a clear runway to impacting the game for a long time in the league. After all, his confidence with the rock is some of the best we’ve seen in multiple Summer League runs this offseason.
Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
16 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 5/10 FG, 1/4 3P, 5/8 FT, 1 STL, 2 BLK
Alright, I owe the public a number of words on the Oklahoma City Thunder past recapping the debut of Cason Wallace.
Because this team is built as a POWERHOUSE for years to come, rich with young talent. Perhaps no one has greater upside if everything clicks than Chet Holmgren, who is getting more comfortable by the game.
Coming off a year lost due to injury, Holmgren’s rookie year is shaping up to be a competitive one, as the Thunder look to make a run in the playoffs. That means the team will need Holmgren to play bigger than his frame suggests on the interior, while also bringing all of his perimeter skill to the table as a creator off the bounce.
Still getting a handle on keeping the ball secure in the halfcourt, Holmgren is taking greater strides in that department apart from getting knocked off his spots due to his lack of strength. He’s shown some shake with the ball, and it’s helped him develop as a shot-taker around the free-throw line.
Already very capable as a finisher off easy dumps down low and in transition, adding the self-created shooting into the mix is a game-changer for Holmgren as a stretch center. Providing the space for drivers like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddy, and Jalen Williams to operate with is crucial to this team’s success offensively, and Holmgren’s comfort level away from the basket along with his passing flashes can take the Thunder to another level on that side of the ball.
Defensively, Holmgren’s shot blocking is as good as it’s ever been. Few can appropriately challenge him around the rim even when they go into his body. His length, anticipation, and instincts aren’t those to be messed with by inexperienced drivers, so it’s only natural that his anchoring has been impressive in Summer League.
While there were certainly moments where Dereck Lively got the best of him, those were few and far between as I still saw Holmgren do what he wanted to on the floor. And going back to his runs in Utah, Holmgren has the goods to impact an NBA game during the regular season right now.
Future playoff success aside, Holmgren’s proven to my eye that he’s made the “too good for Summer League” team.
Tre Mann, Oklahoma City Thunder
11 PTS, 0 REB, 5 AST, 4/8 FG, 3/6 3P, 0/0 FT, 2 STL
Trust me when I saw this is going to be a common theme for the Oklahoma City Thunder Summer League starters.
Dating back to his time at Florida, we’ve known he can make shots off the bounce and cause chaos athletically on both sides of the ball. But too often during his first two years, Mann played at one speed and didn’t change gears nearly as effectively as he did in college.
That was a shame because part of what made Mann’s game so special for the Gators was his ability to stop on a dime and cross anyone over into another universe. Sure, those moves have come out at times, but his entire game wasn’t under control the way it’s been during Summer League.
Against the Dallas Mavericks, it wasn’t any different as he got to his spots and played within the flow of the offense as opposed to potentially doing too much.
His more dazzling displays came in the Utah Summer League, but seeing Mann find rhythm off the catch in Vegas should bode well for his time with the Thunder during the regular season, as Oklahoma City needs his spot-up shooting more than his on-ball creation at times.
Across all games, Mann proved that his creativity, shot-making, and overall understanding have risen to a new level past that of Summer League. Many had questions as to the future of Mann with the Thunder, but by now those have been answered. His outlook within the organization is still very bright.
Ousmane Dieng, Oklahoma City Thunder
13 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 5/9 FG, 3/7 3P, 0/0 FT, 1 STL
I’ve been most impressed with Ousmane Dieng and his apparent growth during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Summer League slate.
Again, development in these settings is about more than just makes and misses. How a player looks handling the ball, finding his spots, and playing within himself as well as the team are all things I’m looking for in terms of improvement. Thankfully, Dieng passed all of those tests in Utah and brought those improvements with him to Vegas.
In the game against Dallas, Dieng not only defended well on the perimeter but also created shots for others. Specifically, the wrap-around assist along the baseline Dieng had to Cason Wallace was a thing of beauty, as he whipped that ball on a dime out to the top of the key.
Live-dribble passes like that were what fueled Dieng’s upside and draft stock last cycle. Everyone could see the appeal of a 6’10” shooter who could create looks off the bounce, but his proficiency in running pick-and-roll sets as well as the ball placement and timing of his passes had scouts raving about his potential. Those skills are what make him an excellent addition to the Thunder long-term, and have been on display this summer.
Sure, plenty have raved about Dieng taking and making big shots from the outside, but it’s the little things like how he’s reading the game on both ends that have me excited about his future.
Jaylin Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder
9 PTS, 7 REB, 3 AST, 4/8 FG, 1/4 3P, 0/1 FT, 2 STL, 1 BLK
While I haven’t necessarily noticed “new” wrinkles in his game, Jaylin Williams has continued to justify his spot in the Thunder’s rotation with key reads on both sides of the ball.
Williams doesn’t just take charges. He plays the ball well, bodies up opposing post players, and can grab and go with the likes of any other big man in the NBA. Having another guy who can bring the ball up the floor and initiate a set or execute a perfect hit-ahead pass only adds to the dangerous nature of the Thunder’s offensive attack.
So long as Williams can continue to space the floor effectively, he’ll get more opportunities to attack closeouts and operate out of short rolls to make plays for others. He doesn’t need to do everything or have great games in the box score for Williams’ impact to be felt, just like it was against the Mavericks.
He’s there to make everyone else better and open things up for his teammates, and that’s what he’s done now in both Utah and Vegas. I expect nothing less when the new year kicks off in October.
Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers
14 PTS, 3 REB, 8 AST, 6/14 FG, 0/4 3P, 2/2 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
What can’t Andrew Nembhard do on the basketball court?
Turnovers and fouls aside from his first game in Vegas against the Washington Wizards, Nembhard proved he’s ready to kick it up a notch during his sophomore campaign as a leader and secondary ball handler next to Tyrese Haliburton.
Nembhard made a name for himself on the defensive end as a rookie, guarding the other team’s best scorer more often than not either in the backcourt or on the wing. But when he was given the keys to the offense, he made timely shots and dropped times to open teammates.
Doing more of the same against the Wizards, Nembhard stepped up to help Bennedict Mathurin when the Pacers needed some buckets to stop the bleeding of a late 30-7 run by Washington. Snaking ball screens, finding ways to navigate traffic and get into the paint for runners, and pull-up looks are what make Nembhard’s game so mature beyond his years. He showed more of that in the fourth quarter for Indiana, and he had control as a playmaker earlier in the game as a pass-first point guard.
Even when his shot wasn’t falling or he wasn’t able to properly turn the corner while keeping control of the ball, Nembhard found ways to defend up, rebound, and keep the tempo pushing for his team to succeed. It’s not just his game that screams “too good for Summer League” but his leadership is what takes his teammates to another level even in high-pressure moments.
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
27 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 9/21 FG, 3/10 3P, 6/6 FT, 1 BLK
He got off to a slow start, but Bennedict Mathurin really picked it up in the second half when the Indiana Pacers needed some key buckets to finish off the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Mathurin delivered more often than not as an isolation shot-maker on the wing. He was able to consistently size up his man and score over them on tough pull-up jumpers. When he chose to attack the defense, Mathurin was able to slip past his man and find ways to get to push shots along the baseline or convert on contested floaters in the paint.
While the game didn’t come “easy” for Mathurin, his size and athleticism allowed him to thrive even when he had a great defender on him like Bilal Coulibaly. Pushed off his spots or denied entry, it didn’t matter because of how good of a pull-up shooter Mathurin is.
And when he came back down the other end, Mathurin competed defensively and on the glass to help his team get out on the break. Outside of passing at a high level, Mathurin brought everything else to the table which is what helped him stand out as a rookie last year.
Even though he’s more of a play finisher at this point than an overall offensive dynamo, Mathurin’s growing confidence as an isolation scorer is driving his upside forward after his initial run in Vegas. He’s shown enough to sit out the rest of Summer League, but will likely continue playing to continue polishing his ball handling and live-dribble playmaking.
Potential Breakout Candidates
Peyton Watson, Denver Nuggets
23 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 6/12 FG, 1/3 3P, 10/13 FT, 3 STL, 3 BLK
Mixed results aside, perhaps no one was more aggressive in his first Vegas Summer League game than Peyton Watson.
Finishing with 23 points, Watson would not be denied attacking the rim as he finished with a thunderous slam more often than not. The way in which he was determined to get to the basket was inspiring to watch, as his confidence is going up another level after some successful outings towards the end of the regular season for the Denver Nuggets.
Even though there’s more to be done with his perimeter game, Watson has a path forward as a cutter, transition finisher, lob catcher, and multi-positional defender. Perhaps no one protects the rim better from his position than Watson, at least among his age group.
No one on the Milwaukee Bucks could effectively keep Watson from doing what he wanted in terms of pressuring the rim, and I would expect some if not all of that confidence to carry over off the bench next year for Denver.
MarJon Beauchamp, Milwaukee Bucks
Vs. Nuggets: 23 PTS, 8 REB, 2 AST, 9/18 FG, 2/7 3P, 3/5 FT, 1 STL
Vs. Suns: 20 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 7/13 FG, 1/3 3P, 5/8 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
While he didn’t exactly shine in the way I expected him to with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, that is primed to change for MarJon Beauchamp this time around if Summer League is any indication.
Making shots off the bounce, taking spot-up jumpers with confidence, and still leaking out in transition and defending on the break, Beauchamp’s athleticism and skill combination was on full display against the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
Given that he followed up 23 points against the Nuggets with another 20 on Saturday against the Phoenix Suns, Beauchamp’s scoring has jumped another level because of his perimeter confidence. It’s one thing if he was just slashing and finding ways to cut and finish without the ball, but Beauchamp is taking on defenders and hitting shots over them inside the arc as well as beyond it.
Milwaukee needs wings who can make shots and help impact the game on both ends in between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. I’m eager to see if this is a leap Beauchamp can take with him into the upcoming regular season.
Dyson Daniels, New Orleans Pelicans
18 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 6/14 FG, 0/4 3P, 6/8 FT, 4 STL, 1 BLK
Outside shooting notwithstanding, Dyson Daniels showed a level of aggressiveness attacking and looking to score against the Minnesota Timberwolves that he didn’t quite show during his rookie year for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Finishing with 18 points, Daniels got to the basket and finished while also at least taking jumpers in stride. He still has work to do polishing his outside shooting mechanics, but his approach in getting defenders off balance to either make the most of his paint touches or kick out to open shooters really took pressure off his teammates like Jordan Hawkins to create one-on-one.
While I expected more from Daniels in the second half, the start to the game was enough for me to see of him to have confidence he has a real chance to take steps and potentially break out this year with the Pelicans. His size, burst, and passing vision will help him as he continues to embrace serving as a jumbo playmaker, but he’s got to remain locked in defensively to justify extended minutes with his lack of a jump shot.
But if that jumper comes around for him, it would go a long way in making scoring outbursts like this more of the regular.
Julian Champagnie, San Antonio Spurs
20 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST, 7/15 FG, 4/10 3P, 2/3 FT, 1 BLK
I continue to remain upset that the Philadelphia 76ers let this man walk for nothing. Kudos to the San Antonio Spurs for picking him up and giving him a real chance to impact an organization offensively.
Now having a real contract under his belt, Julian Champagnie has lit Summer League on fire with his dazzling display of perimeter shot-making. He’s been the best catch-and-shoot player across both the California Classic and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, and he doesn’t appear like he’s going to slow down any time soon should he keep playing.
What this Spurs team needs on the wing more than anything else is consistent spacing. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell can drive, finish, and make plays for others. But both are at their best (right now) operating inside the arc and either getting into the paint or pulling up on the wing. Champagnie is a legit shooter than can open things up for guys like Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Malaki Branham to operate and probe.
Apart from his hot shooting, Champagnie has rebounded well, defended his position, and committed to doing more of the little things. He proved he could shoot back at St. John’s as a spot-up wing, but molding his game into a nice blend of what he previously showed along with what his brother Justin brings to the table is a welcomed addition, and that was apparent against the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.
I’m convinced he’s a rotation player next year in the league. Look for him to make an impact with the Spurs.
Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers
15 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 6/8 FG, 2/2 3P, 1/2 FT, 1 STL
Lost in the hoopla that was the debut of Scoot Henderson and Amen Thompson was the great performance on both sides of the ball for Jabari Walker, a combo forward who was arguably drafted far too low last year.
Walker posted 15 points, impacted the game on the boards, and showed some defensive versatility both in sliding his feet on the perimeter as well as helping to contest shots on the interior.
An underrated athlete and competitor, Walker acted as the perfect glue guy for the Trail Blazers against the Rockets, hitting catch-and-shoot looks and operating as a release valve of sorts for Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe.
Portland will need Walker to step up this year as a forward that can compete for minutes behind Jerami Grant with Nassir Little. There’s an argument to be made that Walker is the better player between the two, and should he continue to shine from a feel perspective that question may be answered sooner rather than later.
Jaden Hardy, Dallas Mavericks
24 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 8/18 FG, 4/12 3P, 4/5 FT, 2 STL
Look, we all know Jaden Hardy can put the ball in the basket. His shot chart in the G League last year was utterly ridiculous.
But now we’ve seen it dating back to last year’s Summer League up through the G, appearances for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA, and now during this year’s Summer League. His consistency in providing offensive firepower both from a shooting and playmaking perspective is helping him stand out as a prime sophomore breakout candidate amongst his peers.
Against a good Oklahoma City squad, Hardy looked comfortable playing in pick-and-roll along with new center Dereck Lively. Able to manipulate defenders and get them off balance with his mid-range shot-making, Hardy is a tough cover because of his footwork and ability to hit on multiple step-back shots.
He got opportunities to catch and shoot it alongside Luka Doncic last year, but continuing to grow his game as a lead ball handler should give him opportunities to captain second units for Dallas and get more chances to score. So long as he balances his scoring and passing attacks and steers from bad habits, Hardy could jump as an x-factor for a Mavericks team looking to get back to making noise in the playoffs.
Jaden Springer, Philadelphia 76ers
23 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 8/14 FG, 2/6 3P, 5/8 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
This was an important Summer League for Jaden Springer to assert himself as a leader.
Coming off a championship in the G League for the Delaware Blue Coats, Springer was brought to Utah and Las Vegas to help set an example for the other young guards and set the tone on both ends of the floor.
So far, Springer has done that as an aggressor. Getting all the way to the basket and settling less for mid-range jumpers, Springer has made an effort to pressure the rim for playmaking opportunities. Even though his assist totals aren’t taking massive leaps, his vision is much more noticeable on the tape and popped in tandem with his scoring against the New York Knicks on Saturday.
He’s always rebounded and defended well for a guard, but finding ways to get to the line and generate efficient offense is what will help him play a role for the 76ers during the regular season. So long as he continues improving at this level, it will be hard for head coach Nick Nurse not to reward him with an opportunity to earn minutes in the league.
Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons
17 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 5/8 FG, 1/2 3P, 6/10 FT
Damn did I enjoy watching Jalen Duren work during the win for the Detroit Pistons over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.
It wasn’t just that he showed more of the rebounding intensity or rim protection that was on display during Duren’s rookie campaign. He’s begun to experiment offensively away from the basket, nailing mid-range jumpers and looking to lean into some passing creativity that he utilized last Summer League.
Duren will roll to and throw down dunk after dunk to get points. Because of how he drives and levels players around the rim, he’ll draw contact to get to the line. But finding ways to remain effective no matter if he’s near the nail or along the baseline is huge for Duren if the Pistons are to lean into more of these dual big lineups.
Having James Wiseman occasionally space from the corners while Duren is in the dunker spot or coming off a short roll opens up the floor for drivers like Ausar Thompson and Jaden Ivey to do their thing while also not suffering because of a lack of reliable spacing. I’m a believer in Duren’s mid-range shot whether he’s the only true big on the floor or not.
More passing opportunities will only open up two-man game sets between him and ball-handler of choice, Cade Cunningham included. And that means exciting times ahead for the city of Detroit.
Johnny Davis, Washington Wizards
17 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 8/18 FG, 1/1 3P, 0/0 FT, 2 STL
Don’t sleep on Johnny Davis as a potential sophomore breakout!!
I know everyone is focused on the additions of Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole for the Washington Wizards, but seeing Davis emerge as a confident threat off drives, post-ups, and catch-and-shoot looks was music to my ears Saturday night.
Overall, Davis scored 17 points on not only good shooting splits but also a healthy shot diet. He was quite literally scoring from all three levels on the floor, which is something that didn’t happen with regularity during his rookie year as he struggled to consistently get to the rim or generate open looks from three.
While Davis isn’t a hyper athlete on the floor, he’s a determined scorer when the ball is in his hands. His strength, footwork, and balance help keep him in rhythm even when defenders try to knock him off his spots. And it didn’t matter who the Pacers threw at him in his first Summer League contest this year, Davis found ways to be effective.
He’s always engaged defensively, an area where his bulk as a guard really helps him. But seeing more offensively was a bright spot on the night for the Wizards moving forward. Davis could really help Washington off the bench this year, and break out as a sixth man.
Kenneth Lofton Jr, Memphis Grizzlies
23 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 8/14 FG, 2/3 3P, 5/7 FT, 2 STL, 3 BLK
A player who is trying his hardest to prove scouts like myself wrong, Kenneth Lofton Jr. has been on FIRE in both the Utah Summer League as well as in his first game in Vegas against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Lofton finished with 23 points, and he chipped in on the glass as well as distributing and making plays defensively. What has really impressed me even when going back and watching film of him with the Memphis Hustle in the G League, is his ability to really make things happen off the bounce.
When you look at Lofton, you’re expecting a bruising post player who can pick up a few dimes based on the amount of attention he can generate off double teams. While that’s certainly an outcome that takes place during a game for Lofton, he’s also very comfortable ripping down a rebound, driving up the floor, and dropping an assist off the dribble. Even though he didn’t record an assist against the Bulls, we saw it plenty in the Utah Summer League. He can create space on jumpers, hit trailer threes, and reads the floor better than a large number of his peers.
Lofton’s talent is honestly off the charts between his mental capacity as well as his touch. He’s going to find major minutes with the Memphis Grizzlies off the bench this year if he can keep working on his body and getting that under control.
Under-The-Radar Top Performances
Josh Minott, Minnesota Timberwolves
20 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 7/13 FG, 0/2 3P, 6/6 FT, 1 STL, 2 BLK
A standout Summer League performer last year, Josh Minott began his impressive follow-up with another 20-point outing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
A live body running the floor in transition, Minott makes the most of cutting and runout opportunities without the ball to position himself for easy buckets. While an off-ball scorer isn’t always the “sexiest” player to evaluate or write about, Minott’s effectiveness can’t be understated at this point.
A multi-positional defender who had some moments blocking shots against the Pelicans on Friday, Minott’s size, athleticism, and motor are great complements to Leonard Miller and the other young talents within the Timberwolves organization.
Jalen Pickett, Denver Nuggets
12 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 5/9 FG, 2/4 3P, 0/0 FT, 3 STL
One of a few players who have the chance to earn minutes in the rotation for the defending champion Denver Nuggets, Jalen Pickett’s impact was felt on both ends during the team’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.
Pickett finished with 12 points, dished out some assists, and looked good guarding the ball as a strong body in the backcourt.
It’s hard to push Pickett off his spots or bully him. He plays his own brand of “booty ball” (shoutout Maxwell) that he also utilized in Vegas to get to spots and create looks for himself and others.
He’s an experienced guard who provides value as a third guard especially if he’s hitting his catch-and-shoot shots. Pickett is deserving of the guaranteed contract he got and should help the Nuggets leave Vegas with a few wins during Summer League.
Hunter Tyson, Denver Nuggets
21 PTS, 5 REB, 1 AST, 7/13 FG, 3/7 3P, 4/5 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Hunter Tyson was the best player for the Nuggets in their Summer League outing against the Bucks, cashing in on jumper after jumper to pour in 21 points from the perimeter.
A plus-sized wing shooter, Tyson brings experience, toughness, and a sweet stroke to help space for drivers and big men. All Nikola Jokic needs are guys who are willing shooters or cutters, and Tyson can provide both with the strength and size to score over defenders.
His movement away from the basketball and understanding of where and how he needs to position himself to succeed were as clear as day against Milwaukee, and I’d expect nothing less from him for the rest of Summer League into the regular season for Denver.
Mouhamed Gueye, Atlanta Hawks
10 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 4/10 FG, 1/4 3P, 1/1 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Albeit not the most productive outing in terms of scoring, Mouhamed Gueye had some nice moments as a comfortable shooter spacing the floor, live-dribble passer, and defender at his size.
Gueye got the chance to do a little bit of everything against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night, and he showed he has the type of two-way game that can grow and justify the guaranteed contract he signed with Atlanta.
Mobile, fluid, and long, Gueye’s game and impact fit what the modern NBA is looking for from the forward position. I’m eager to see him get more scoring touches both on easy finishes as well as catch-and-shoot jumpers. Upping his awareness defensively will also help him stand out as he does play hard and run the floor well.
Jazian Gortman, Milwaukee Bucks
Vs. Nuggets: 13 PTS, 0 REB, 1 AST, 5/7 FG, 1/2 3P, 2/4 FT
What a great two-way pickup Jazian Gortman out of the Overtime Elite is for the Milwaukee Bucks.
In Summer League, Gortman has gotten the chance to show how he can stop on a dime, knock down shots, and space the floor for others. His ridiculous length has also let him make some plays on the ball and force steals to get out on the break.
Even though he didn’t shoot it well during the Bucks’ second game against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, I came away impressed with what he did against the Denver Nuggets in the first of the team’s back-to-back. His speed and gear-changing really pop at the NBA level, and I’d expect him to develop well with the Bucks in the hopes of possibly experiencing a sophomore breakout like some other names I’ve mentioned here.
Lester Quinones, Golden State Warriors
15 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST, 5/15 FG, 2/7 3P, 3/3 FT, 1 BLK
Someone needs to sign Lester Quinones to another two-way contract.
All he’s done in both the California Classic and Las Vegas Summer Leagues is drill jumpers off the bounce and provide a level of energy on both ends for the Golden State Warriors.
Going back to his days at Memphis, Quinones has always been a decent to good shooter, but the types of shots he’s made after getting more opportunities with pace and space in the G League are on another level from what he did in college.
His confidence right now is on another level, and his added firepower gives this Warriors Summer League squad a chance to win any game in Vegas. Plus-sized guards who can get their own shot deserve a contract!
Gui Santos, Golden State Warriors
25 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST, 9/15 FG, 3/8 3P, 4/5 FT, 2 STL
Speaking of electric shooters, no one had a better outing for the Warriors in Vegas so far than Gui Santos.
The combo forward dropped 25 points hitting triple after triple on Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.
What stood out to me the most though was when he got opportunities to run the floor and finish at the basket. Some of his footwork and touch reminded me of another wing who got drafted fairly high in 2023, Jaime Jaquez Jr., drafted 18th by the Miami Heat.
Not the most vertical athlete, Santos’s game is predicated on what the defense gives him. Against the Lakers, if LA wasn’t racing back to beat him in transition, he got down the floor for the score. If they sagged off him and gave him space, Santos nailed the jumper. And when they closed out hard on his shot? Santos made guys miss on the way to the basket for the deuce.
I think Santos has a real shot to make Golden State’s roster and find some minutes during the regular season. As long as he can hold his own defensively, he has the type of offensive game that can pop in a movement-based system like the Warriors run.
Colin Castleton, LA Lakers
13 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 4/5 FG, 0/1 3P, 5/8 FT, 2 STL, 1 BLK
Colin Castleton looked like a man amongst boys against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night, as they didn’t have another big man that could keep him from what he wanted to do.
A legit post-up threat, Castleton can turn and score over either shoulder on the block and did so against Golden State. Not just around the rim, but away from the basket Castleton is an excellent screener, and he has some real passing chops and handoff game off the short roll.
One of the best shot blockers in all of college basketball last year, Castleton protects the rim with length, strength, and toughness. Few guys can actually get him off his spots.
Even though he’s not quite a consistent shooter or speedy operator, Castleton can still attack other big men and make them pay with his legit handle. His instincts and high feel help him to find opportunities before anyone else, leading to easy points and consistent production. I’m really intrigued by his game and what he could bring to the Lakers long-term. Great two-way signing.
Orlando Robinson, Miami Heat
36 PTS, 11 REB, 4 AST, 13/22 FG, 3/4 3P, 7/8 FT, 2 BLK
Miami Heat fans were likely thrilled with what Orlando Robinson did on the floor in a win against the Boston Celtics.
Robinson dropped 36 points in nearly every way imaginable for him to score. Interior buckets, perimeter touch: Robinson was everywhere showcasing why he was a valuable option in last year’s draft class. Viewed more as a stretch big, Robinson’s footwork and craft around the rim were great to see, especially finishing through contact and over other post defenders.
Miami needs more centers who can not only put the ball in the basket but keep it moving if an initial move isn’t there. Robinson racked up some easy assists, while also crashing the glass and providing rim protection.
It’s one game in Summer League, but this is a great sign for the Heat moving forward if he can keep this up for the rest of his time in Vegas.
Toumani Camara, Phoenix Suns
20 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 8/13 FG, 1/4 3P, 3/4 FT, 1 STL
Toumani Camara was ON FIRE as a shooter Saturday night for the Phoenix Suns.
In his debut, Camara poured in 20 points while getting close to putting up a double-double in a hard-fought game.
Viewed as a play finisher in this class, Camara is not only an underrated athlete who can board, body guys up defensively, and run the floor, but his shooting stroke is real as he can legitimately space the floor.
Camara did so against the Bucks, drilling spot-up shots and remaining effective in drawing the defense’s attention over the course of the entire game.
Even though his production primarily came in the first half, it was nice to see Camara go on a run and prove he’s a capable scorer when he plays with guys who know how to set him up for good looks. That was the story during the Portsmouth Invitational, which really helped boost his draft stock.
He’s a guy who could play real minutes for the Phoenix Suns next year in spurts, as that team needs size that can shoot around Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal.
Jason Preston, LA Clippers
15 PTS, 4 REB, 10 AST, 6/10 FG, 2/6 3P, 1/2 FT, 1 STL, 1 BLK
He’s not a player I was expecting to write words about coming into Las Vegas Summer League, but Jason Preston controlled the offense for the LA Clippers against the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
He certainly gave them a chance to win, as he kept the ball on a string and delivered well-placed passes for easy shots, on top of knocking down open looks when he had them both on threes as well as runners in the paint.
Preston’s feel is legit, and he can really get hot from outside when he gets it going. Even though he has a little microwave shooting ability as a point guard, he put his teammates first against the Jazz which is what that squad needed.
Committed to making plays, rebounding for his position, and playing a brand of basketball that generally limits turnovers, Preston hasn’t lost any chances of breaking out in the NBA. Maybe this year he can get a real chance at a backup role for the Clippers.