Las Vegas Summer League is one of the weirder sports events in modern existence. On the one hand, it’s essentially a festival. Some of the biggest and most important names in the sport mingle with commoners and watch a sport which can be considered basketball. On the other hand, summer league play goes on for a wildly ridiculous amount of time, past the point of common sense. Oh, and the basketball is bad. I mean, we watch it, so how bad can it be, right?
That said, there’s something to take away from all this hoop. Maybe we are over or underreacting, but we’re reacting all the same. Here are some of our thoughts following the Las Vegas Summer League action.
We saw Dennis Smith Jr. and the Mavericks in summer league (no Luka Doncic unfortunately). But past the Maverick players, which other rookies stood out to you? Who are you concerned about?
Dalton (@Dalton_Trigg): I know the original question says “past the Maverick players,” but I haven’t really payed much attention to anyone else’s players this summer league. So, I’m going with Ray Spaulding. He’s been a really nice surprise for me, and so far he’s looking like he’s going to have more value than the average mid-50s second round pick would. Spalding is a natural finisher around the rim, can rebound and has a really good feel for running pick-and-rolls. He also has a good frame that should fill out nicely. This year, I’d expect Spalding to spend more time with the Legends than with the Mavs, but I think he’s a really strong candidate for a 2-way contract. I like what I’ve seen so far, and I hope the Mavs have found themselves a diamond in the rough.
Sam (@SamGuertler): The player that has stood out to me is Wendell Carter Jr. Playing in Marvin Bagley’s shadow at Duke, WCJ didn’t receive a lot of the pre-draft hype that many of the other big men in this draft class did. Yes, it’s just summer league, but Carter has looked fantastic - arguably better than all the big men that went before him. He’s scoring in the paint, connecting from distance and finding open teammates. On defense he’s shown the ability to stay with guards, protect the paint and gobble up rebounds. He looks like the real deal. On the flip side, Carter’s former teammate - now Sacramento King - Bagley has been concerning. His summer league was cut short, but his time on the court was not very convincing. Although he put up 15 points and seven boards against DeAndre Ayton and the Suns, he also scored one whole point in 29 minutes against the Miami Heat. He’s a premier athlete, but his offensive game is so raw that he didn’t display any quality shot creation abilities. That could be a problem in the NBA where players can’t generally get by on athleticism alone.
Kirk (@kirkseriousface): For the Mavericks, it would have to be Ray Spalding. He’s essentially the only guy who played that hasn’t had a terrible game. I’m not sure if he’s a NBA player (I’d lean towards no) but he works here and I wasn’t expecting that.
If we’re expanding beyond Dallas and we have to stick to rookies, it would be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. What Carter did was impressive, but SGA is going to have the ball in his hands a lot. Look at these two threads (here and here) and tell me that’s not a guy who will impact the game immediately. I like post players, but SGA is a dark horse rookie of the year if he get’s minutes in my opinion. The other guy I was astounded by was Mitchell Robinson. Look at this! I’m happy with Jalen Brunson but I think Dallas may regret not giving this guy a chance.
In terms of players to be worried about, the only one who really stood out was DeAndre Ayton. He’s clearly good, but one day he’s going to have to be motivated. He doesn’t play hard, he settles for shots, and only uses his best asset, his athleticism, only every so often.
Doyle (@TheKobeBeef): Lonnie Walker is going to be a potential problem for the league. He looks so smooth and effortless on the court. He already has a shot that can best be described as a floating hook that he employs effectively around the paint. If there’s a knock on his game it might be the mechanics of his jumper. Regardless, the Spurs drafted a good player.
I’m not sure that I’m necessarily concerned about any one player. There were some that didn’t seem to take Summer League seriously (Ayton) and others who couldn’t get going offensively (Young) but overall, most looked OK. That said, TJ Leaf doesn’t look like an NBA player.