NBA Summer League Storylines

NBA Summer League Storylines

NBA Summer League Storylines

ZION EXPERIENCE WAS SHORT-LIVED

  • As with almost all NBA rookies, Zion seemed to struggle a bit out of gates getting used to the speed and size of the NBA game. After a couple of eye-opening plays, including a grown man rip away and dunk courtesy of Knicks Kevin Knox, Zion finally seemed to be hitting his groove. Williamson was later shut down by the Pelicans management after bumping knees with a player in the first half of action against the Knicks. In all, we got 9 minutes of Zion Summer League mania.  
  • SUMMER LEAGUE SOLD OUT

  • If you've never been to Summer League...this is like an urban myth. Summer League NEVER sells out. The one other time it sold out was for Celtics vs Lakers and that was the Lonzo Ball/Ingram vs Tatum/Jaylen Brown days. The fact that it reportedly sold out twice this year is just insane and shows you how much Summer League continues to grow each year. Thanks, RJ and Zion.

THERE WAS AN EARTHQUAKE

  • Yeah, and it was absolutely insane. Trust us, we were there. 

RJ BARRETT STRUGGLED BUT FINISHED STRONG

  • Everyone loves to jump on the early draft selection that struggles out of the gate and RJ Barrett was this year's victim. Summer League is the King of overreaction season. Yes, it's notable when some of the first-rounders come out and show they can flat out play, but it's also important to remember that just because some players struggle it doesn't automatically mean they are busts. Barrett struggled a bit out of the gate with his shooting but ended his Summer League experience on a high note. In 5 games, Barrett averaged 15.4 PTS, 8.6 REB, 4.2 AST, while shooting 34% from the field. Be patient Knicks fans, growing pains happen. 

JAXSON HAYES MIGHT HAVE COMMITTED A CRIME ON NATIONAL TELEVISION

  • Seriously, we need to have someone interrogate Hayes because he got away with a potential murder in front of millions of eyes. Why is no one bringing him in for further questioning? The video is below and we recommend you get the Children out of the room before hitting play. 

 

NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER LOOKS LIKES A STEAL

  • Previously in one of our Team Reports, we talked about how the Pelicans look to have struck gold with the players in their draft class not named Zion (Link is here for those interested). Nickeil Alexander-Walker looks to be one of those players that we potentially will look back as an absolute steal for this Pelicans franchise at 17th overall. In 4 games of play this summer, Nickeil would go on to average 24.3 PTS, 4.8 REB, 6.0 AST, 2.8 STL and shot 41% from the field. The former Virginia Tech Hokie looked fantastic and stood out as one of the top surprises of Summer League with his play and ability to distribute the ball. Highlights of one of Alexander-Walker's best games are below.

 

SOPHOMORES SHINED

  • One of the most underrated storylines each Summer League is the sophomores coming into play. As NBA fans we want to see nothing more than a motivated second-year player who spent the whole offseason training like a possessed demon. A number of players jumped off the screen in their sophomore campaign in Las Vegas. Lonnie Walker IV of the Spurs was fantastic throughout his Summer League play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, but we will have more on him later. Pacers Aaron Holiday showed a great feel for the game as a ball-handler and put up some good numbers across the board. Portland Trail Blazers young guard Anfernee Simons wowed spectators with a couple of big scoring output games and looks to have a serious shot to create a contributing role off the bench for the Blazers next year. Mitchell Robinson looked right on track for his development with the Knicks and should be in line for a big year. 

G-LEAGUE VETERANS SHOWED THEIR WORTH

  • A number of players that spent considerable time in the G-League last year showed great potential to have a serious shot of sticking around on an NBA roster this Summer. Brandon Goodwin of the Denver Nuggets, who spent time with the Memphis Hustle last year, showed a great amount of toughness as a ball-handler and showed his explosive scoring ability. Goodwin averaged 18.5 PPG for the Nuggets in Summer League. Jordan McLaughlin didn't light it up with his stats but showed plenty of flashes and ability to run a team effectively during his Summer League play. McLaughlin is only in his second season after an impressive year in the G-League with the Long Island Nets, and it wouldn't surprise me to see McLaughlin make an NBA roster as a 3rd string point guard. McLaughlin has a fantastic feel for the game and went on to average 9.9 PTS, 5.0 AST, and 1.4 STL in 7 games for the Timberwolves Summer League team. One of the most interesting developments was Utah Jazz big man Tony Bradley who has spent some serious time in the G-League working on his craft. Bradley, who is still only 21 years old, will be in his 3rd season with the Jazz and was one of the most impressive players this Summer. The big man went on to average 19.7 PTS and 11.3 REB while shooting 56% from the field. Bradley could find himself carving out a role this year as a back up big for Rudy Gobert as he continues his development. 

2ND ROUNDERS SHOWED TEAMS THEY MESSED UP

  • A number of 2nd rounders had great performances in Summer League and showed that their respected teams might have found great value in the 2nd round. Carsen Edwards was one of the most impressive players overall in Summer League, and it was shocking to every NBA fan that he fell to the second round. Edwards went on to average 19.4 PTS on 48% shooting in 5 games. Another second rounder that opened some eyes was Chicago Bulls rookie big man Daniel Gafford. The former Arkansas Razorback was impressive with his play, showing off elite athleticism and shot-blocking instincts. I'm still a bit surprised at why Gafford fell so far in the draft, but he's landed in a good spot to develop his talent in Chicago. Gafford averaged 13.8 PTS, 7.8 REB, and 2.8 BLK in Las Vegas. San Antonio Spurs Quinndary Weatherspoon was an underrated steal in the second round. The former Mississippi State product showed plenty of flashes in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas and will be an interesting piece for the Spurs to develop. New York Knicks second-rounder Ignas Brazdeikis showed that he has serious potential to be a great get for the Knicks organization in the second round. In 5 games of Summer League play, "Iggy" went on to average 15.4 PTS and 5.2 REB while shooting 51% from the field. 

TACKO FALL IS NOT SMALL AT ALL

  • Tacko Fall is listed as 7'7" 311 pounds on paper. Let me tell you from seeing him in person, he somehow seems way bigger than that. It's laughable. It's also insane that he's 311 pounds and runs the floor so well. Every Summer League features a "hero" or someone in which the entire Las Vegas crowd singles out as the celebrity of Summer League. Tacko Fall was this year's hero. 

Tacko Fall and Carsen Edwards

LONNIE WALKER IV WINS THE "TOO GOOD FOR SUMMER LEAGUE" AWARD

  • There's simply nothing as enjoyable as a basketball fan when you see a second-year player's hard work in the offseason pay off. That was on full display with the Spurs second-year guard Lonnie Walker IV. If you don't remember, Walker IV was the 18th overall selection by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2018 NBA Draft but struggled in his rookie year as he was recovering from a late-season injury while attending the University of Miami. Walker spent the majority of his rookie season in and out of the G-League and fans were eager to see his play in Summer League. He didn't disappoint. Walker only played two games in Las Vegas, where he went on to average 30.0 PPG but showcased plenty of improvement in the Salt Lake City Summer League. In all, Walker IV would go on to average 24.8 PTS, 5.8 REB, and a 55.1 FG % in Summer League action. Lonnie showed a much-improved feel for the game as well as his ability to score off the dribble. Highlights from his play in Las Vegas are below. 

 

TYLER HERRO SHINES

  • If it wasn't for the improved play of Lonnie Walker IV, Miami Heat draft pick Tyler Herro would be the one to single out for his impressive play. Herro was fantastic for the Heat in both the California Classic and Las Vegas Summer League play. Herro showcased his NBA range but most impressively, the Heat rookie demonstrated a versatile offensive game and looks to be in line to contribute immediately for this Miami Heat team. In 4 games in Las Vegas, Herro went on to average 19.8 PTS, 4.5 REB, 4.3 AST, 1.5 STL, and shot 42% from the field. 

 

SO MANY POSTERS 

  • The number of vicious posters at Summer League was RIDICULOUS. The most underrated part of Summer League is how many players are looking to make the "talk of the day" plays. Besides the Jaxson Hayes poster (above), here's a couple of memorable ones below. 

DAQUAN JEFFRIES 

 

NASSIR LITTLE

 

MILES BRIDGES DID A EURO INTO A WINDMILL AND WE ARE STILL CONFUSED

  • It's been more than a week since Summer League ended and I still can't wrap my head around this sequence. 

THEY HAD A MARIACHI BAND IN THE CONCOURSE

  • We're not kidding. It was glorious. Imagine waiting for a drink and you have a MARIACHI BAND playing next to you. 

BRANDON CLARKE WINS MVP

  • It still shocks us that the former Gonzaga product fell to 21st overall in the draft but the Memphis Grizzlies looked more than thrilled to see Brandon Clarke showcase his abilities in Summer League. Clarke was fantastic with his play and looked exactly what most of us thought he would be. Clarke won MVP of the Tournament and went on to average 14.7 PTS, 9.8 REB, and 1.8 BLK while shooting 55% from the field. Next up? Seeing if he can do it against the veterans of the NBA. 

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP

  • The Grizzlies won the Summer League championship with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-92. MVP Brandon Clarke finished the game with 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 24 minutes. 

GO TO SUMMER LEAGUE NEXT YEAR

  • Seriously if you haven't been, save up some coin and book your trip. It's a basketball heaven. We will have an in-depth piece about the beauty that is Las Vegas Summer League, so be on the look for that. 
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