Ten outstanding players from the NBA Summer League

The NBA Summer League continues through this weekend, but at this point, most of the players who will be on NBA rosters next season — not to mention much of the media (myself included) — have pulled out of Las Vegas.

Who stood out? Who should we keep an eye on when the season starts? Here are 10 players to watch, from the obvious big names to a few under the radar.

(This is not a complete list and only includes players I saw in person, no Keegan Murray of the Kings, who dominated the California Classic. These are just guys who impressed me.)


1). Jabari Smith Jr. (Houston Rockets)

Jabari Smith Jr. was the best player in Las Vegas. Hands down.

He played eight quarters in Summer League, and we’re going to throw out the first two — after that he was a dominant force, scoring 71 points in two games. His shot was efficient, he defended well, was strong on the glass and found open teammates. Perhaps most impressive was his improved handle and ability to create shots.

“I think it’s just confidence, you know,” Smith said of his improved handle. “I feel like I spent a lot of time on it, just trying to take shots and be able to be decisive with your moves. Not just necessarily having a range of moves, but just being able to handle the ball, take bumps and have a few move go-to moves.”

“I’ve liked his competitiveness. I’ve liked his maturity,” Rockets Summer League coach Ben Sulivan said. “I’ve liked the dynamic skill set that he’s brought on offense — he’s posted up, he’s handled pick-and-rolls, he’s set screens, he’s picking and popping. We’ve kind of moved them around in different areas off the floor and he’s shown an ability to handle all of that.”

Smith also had the best shot in the Summer League.

2) Max Christie (Los Angeles Lakers)

The Lakers are deep with solid role players around their stars this season, but Darvin Ham will need to get Christie some minutes. The Michigan State sophomore got limited run as a rookie, but looks ready for more, averaging 19 points per game. game where he hit half of his threes and grabbed 6.3 rebounds a game in Vegas. He was the best player on the Lakers in the Summer League and has earned quite a few runs.

Christie played three games and was then shut down due to a “minor hip injury.” He didn’t need to play more in the Summer League anyway, he didn’t learn anything from this level of play.


3) Scoot Henderson (Portland Trail Blazers)

This was an obvious inclusion, even though he played a little more than half of the basketball in Summer League before Portland pulled him with a shoulder injury (sources told NBC Sports that his sitting out is more preventative than an actual injury).

Henderson didn’t just look “should Charlotte have taken him #2” good, he was “Could he be better than… nah… probably not” good. Yes, the otherworldly athleticism and NBA build are there, but mostly Henderson just knew how to run a team — he wasn’t rushed, he used his handles and creativity to create space, and then he made the right decision about to shoot it or find open man. He just makes all the right reads.

He finished with 15 points (not bad for pretty much half the basketball), and while the jumper needs to become more steady, Henderson was as good as it gets for a rookie in Las Vegas.

4) Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio Spurs)

Of course he had to be on the list.

The ups and downs we saw from Wembanyama’s offense in Las Vegas may be a preview of what we’ll see during the season in San Antonio. Similarly, the impressive defensive output we saw in both Vegas games will follow him into the NBA season.

What impressed me most about Wembanyama personally was his maturity and poise. He managed strange Britney Spears incident as a 10-year vet and wasn’t thrown out by a rough first outing. He can handle the roller coaster that is the NBA.

5) Keynote George (Utah Jazz)

Going into the NBA Draft, the question was “Can he score consistently at the NBA level?” George’s 59 points in his first two games in Vegas suggests he can. Doing it in the Summer League, where the style of play suits him, is different than doing it in the NBA season, but George impressed. He is worth watching.

6) Anthony Black (Orlando Magic)

Teams loved Black coming into the draft because of his size for a lead guard – 6’6″ – and his defense, both of which were on display in Las Vegas. But what impressed me more was his game management skills and decision making in what can be a chaotic Summer League environment.

“Really calm and poised,” Orlando Summer League coach Dylan Murphy said of Black. “I think he doesn’t get rattled easily, really easy to play with, guys love to play with him. Just a great way about him. I think that will serve him well in this league for a long time. “

Black needs to develop a consistent shot to maximize those skills at the NBA level, but he showed enough in Las Vegas to impress with the potential of what he could become.

7) Jarace Walker (Indiana Pacers)

To say Walker has an NBA-ready body is selling him short – he has an NFL-ready body at 6’8″ and 240. He’s not just strong, but mobile, made disruptive defensive plays and ran to the rim in transition. But what stood out was how he could do some playmaking — he brought the ball up a few times for the Pacers.

“The guy is very versatile,” Pacers coach Jannero Pargo said. “He can handle the ball and play offensively. So we kind of put the ball in his hands sometimes and he makes great plays.”

Like most of the rookies in Summer League (and on this list), he needs to develop a more consistent shot. But it’s easy to imagine Walker getting slightly behind Obi Toppin (one of the quiet big pickups of the offseason) for Rick Carlisle.

8) Cam Whitmore (Houston Rockets)

Whatever red flags — medical or concerns about his drive — caused him to fall out of the draft, it was hard to believe a team didn’t take a flier on him sooner. He fits in well with the talented second-year players in Houston — Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason — and looks like a player.

“He’s got a real, really unique game, he plays really hard,” Smith said of his teammate. “He’s young, he’s just really explosive. So I just tried to tell him to keep it simple and let the game come to him.”


9) Orlando Robinson (Miami Heat)

Robinson played 31 games for the Heat last season, but on a roster with Bam Adebayo at center backed up by Cody Zeller (and then Kevin Love came in and took minutes at the five), the Fresno State rookie was an afterthought.

He shouldn’t be anymore – his game in Las Vegas demanded attention. In two games in Sin City, he averaged 25.5 points on 59.4% shooting with 10 rebounds on the night – and he was 4-of-7 from 3 in those games. Averaging in the two games played at the California Classic, Robinson is averaging 17.8 points per game. game on 51% shooting and is still well over 50% from beyond the arc.

There aren’t a lot of frontcourt minutes to go around in Miami, with Adebayo, Love and now Thomas Bryant in the mix, but if Robinson is playing like this — and hitting 3s like this — Erik Spoelstra is going to have to get him on the court.

10) Dominick Barlow (San Antonio Spurs)

Everyone came to Spurs games to see Wembanyama, but many people also left impressed with Barlow.

Barlow was on a two-way deal with the Spurs last season after going undrafted out of the Overtime Elite, but he looks like someone the Spurs don’t need to lock down with a roster spot contract (at minimum or close, but still) until another teams grab him. Barlow had 17 points and six rebounds against the Trail Blazers, comes with an NBA body and could be another success story for the Spurs’ development program.

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