NBA Summer League action came to a close on Monday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Houston Rockets, 99-78, to become the 2023 NBA Summer League champions with a perfect 6-0 record. Former Bucks two-way guard and 2021 NBA champion Sam Merrill was among the team’s top performers (27 points) in Monday’s championship game.
Despite being named a First Team All-Summer League player, Merrill has yet to find success at the NBA level, playing in just 11 NBA games over the past two seasons in Memphis and Cleveland. For some players, finding the same level of success in NBA regular season action that they experienced in summer league can be elusive, so let’s take a closer look at what the Bucks’ six players can take from the court in Las Vegas to training camp when the team begins to prepare for regular season action this fall.
Beauchamp played in the Bucks’ first four summer league games and came out strong out of the gate, averaging 21.6 points and 7 rebounds per game and making 51.6 percent of his shots in the team’s first two games. In the team’s third game, he went scoreless on an 0-for-5 shooting performance before closing out his Summer League play with a 10-point, three-assist performance in the Bucks’ fourth game.
All indications from new head coach Adrian Griffin are that Beauchamp will get an opportunity to crack the Bucks rotation at the start of the year. If the second-year wing wants to do that, he’ll have to lean on what he showed during the first two games in Las Vegas. To start, Beauchamp made it a real priority to attack the basket.
With the Bucks’ best players on the floor, Beauchamp likely won’t get the chance to operate a ton with the ball in his hands like he did in Las Vegas, but there’s no reason for him to stop attacking aggressive ends or working to the edge of dribble transfers. Being aggressive off the bounce and getting to the free throw line more often can help Beauchamp be more consistent in spot minutes and earn easy points at the free throw line.
Last year, Beauchamp’s free throw rate (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) was .152. In Vegas, that number rose to .372. In general, there are more fouls in summer league, but it’s a much higher rate, and it was indicative of the 22-year-old wing’s more aggressive rim attack. Beauchamp spent his rookie season with the Bucks getting stronger and mastering a tighter handle. If he can use that work to get to the rim and free throw line more consistently, he could become a more consistent contributor.
Green played in just two Bucks summer league games as he worked through right ankle soreness that forced him to miss the team’s first two games and a back spasm that kept him out of the Bucks’ fourth game. Yet he still did what he usually did in his rookie season, making 3-of-7 from behind the 3-point line (42.9 percent) in limited minutes on the floor.
Being able to get open and hit 3-pointers out of motion in unusual positions will likely always be the thing that gives Green a chance to find a spot in an NBA rotation:
But if Green wants to stay in the rotation this season, it will likely be about what he can do defensively. Under Griffin, the pressure on the ball will become more important, and it will be a real test for Green.
The 23-year-old Northern Iowa product has bulked up and added strength to his frame in his first year with the Bucks, but surviving defensively in the NBA will also require him to move his feet and stay in front of opposing ball handlers. Griffin may end up being more forgiving of on-ball mistakes by defenders than Budenholzer, who insisted on keeping one of the NBA’s lowest error rates defensively.
That might allow Green to try to use his hands and strength to hold drivers in front of him defensively, but Green’s limited action in Las Vegas didn’t give a true glimpse of what he can do defensively.
At Connecticut, Jackson was the ultimate connection. Last season, en route to UConn’s fifth men’s basketball national championship, he led the team in assists. He understood exactly where his teammates wanted the ball and his teammates understood how to move him around to get open shots. Creating those kinds of opportunities for his teammates in summer league was a little more difficult for Jackson, as he compiled a 2:3 assist-to-turnover ratio with 12 assists and 18 turnovers in five games.
Jackson still made some great passes, like the timely skip pass to Beauchamp above, but it will be interesting to see how the Bucks use their rookie forward on offense in the regular season.
The 6-foot-6 wing has undeniably great floor vision, but he plays at a different pace and rhythm than most other players and plays in a peculiar way. In college, Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley used that vision and based his offense around Jackson’s signature style of different actions to free up teammates when they moved off of Jackson. For the Bucks, Jackson will likely come off the bench and play a much smaller role.
Will Griffin find it worthwhile to build offensive actions out of Jackson to help the Bucks’ bench units offensively? Or will he just expect the rookie to find a way to impact the game as an off-the-ball cutter while staggered starters create offense for the bench units? For a full-time freshman in college, the decision is easy. It gets a little more complicated when that player comes off the bench in the NBA.
During summer league play, Livingston showed its strength. When the Bucks’ 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward drove to the basket, he was often able to create space and move wing defenders out of the way to open himself up for shots.
As he told Athletics Last week, the biggest question for him offensively will be whether he can consistently knock down shots from the outside. In Vegas, Livingston was just 3-of-11 from deep (27.3 percent) and teams started to drop him at the end of the two weeks. If he can’t knock down shots consistently, teams will just defend him with bigger forwards who will be able to drop off him because they don’t fear his jumper and use their size to control him off the dribble.
Livingston, 19, is still quite young, so he has the opportunity to continue to improve over the length of his rookie contract, but the Bucks will need to continue to invest time in him to get the most out of the pick No. 58. the draft.
Moore didn’t play much for the Bucks in the summer league. Despite appearing in all five games, Moore only played 11.6 minutes per game. match and took only nine shots. However, this was one of those pictures:
That bucket nicely sums up the greater hope with Moore. The spin move showed his agility as an athlete, and the left-hander’s fluid finish showcased his 6-foot-10 wingspan and ability as a scorer. At San Jose State, Moore scored 17.4 points per game and led the Aztecs to a 20-win season for the first time in more than 40 years as the team’s leading on-ball player. With the ball in his hands, Moore could get a bucket in college.
However, to stay in the NBA, Moore will need to improve all aspects of the game so he can first become a role player. While he’ll likely get plenty of opportunities to shine with the ball in his hands with the Pack as a two-way player, Moore will need to get stronger, prove he can be a solid defender and improve as an off-ball player. get real opportunities at the NBA level.
Wigginton played just 37 minutes across two games for the Bucks in summer league, but performed largely as expected, putting up 13.0 points per game. game, knocking down five of his seven 3-point attempts. The 25-year-old guard will enter his third season with the Bucks’ organization when training camp starts in late September, and the Bucks pretty much know what they’re getting with him, but from now on, more will be asked of Wigginton than ever before.
As Bucks general manager Jon Horst talked about during his one-on-one with Athletics, the Bucks are currently “at peace” entering the season without a true backup point guard on the 15-man roster and fine with letting Wigginton fill some minutes at the backup point guard spot if needed. With that in mind, Wigginton will need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball.
In his limited time in summer league, Wigginton committed seven turnovers while dishing out just three assists. With players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on the roster, the Bucks can do without a true point guard on the floor, and they don’t necessarily need Wigginton to be a floor general dishing out assists.
But if the team is going to go with more of a scoring guard like Wigginton as the backup point guard, he’s going to have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and avoiding fouls.
(Photo of Andre Jackson Jr. MarJon Beauchamp and Chris Livingston: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)