So far, this summer’s NBA Summer League has been one of surprises, with a number of young players impressing the scouts and general managers in attendance. The most notable performances have come from Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, who respectively showed why they are both top draft picks in years to come.
Even though summer league is typically seen as an opportunity for players to refine and perfect their skills prior to the start of the regular season, most of the players have not made the kind of impact expected of them. Some have failed to make an impact while others have been disappointing.
We’ve been tracking the news flowing out of the NBA’s annual summer league for a while now, and while some of the surprises have been real and some of the disappointments have been real , there has been one constant throughout the first week of basketball action—the league’s increased level of parity.. Read more about nba summer league 2021 schedule and let us know what you think.
After one week of summer league basketball, which rookies and veterans have shocked you the most? Who have been the greatest letdowns thus far?
Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs have had outstanding summer league debuts, but are they deserving of the title of MVP of Vegas? Payton Pritchard and Immanuel Quickley have excelled as “veterans” thus far, but are they ready to break out and have a memorable regular season? Do the Houston Rockets have the greatest group of rookies in the 2021 class, with non-lottery selections like Alperen Sengun and Josh Christopher showing genuine promise?
After the first week of play in Las Vegas, our experts address the key questions and select their 2021 MGM Resorts NBA Summer League MVP.
1. What has surprised you the most thus far?
Tim Bontemps: While Jalen Johnson fell to No. 20 in the NBA draft last month, he was once one of the country’s most highly regarded prospects. And based on the first few days in Vegas, the Atlanta Hawks seem to have gotten a good deal. Through his first three games, Johnson had averaged 17.0 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks while shooting over 56 percent from the floor and displaying some remarkable open-court abilities. He’s also landed in a fantastic position, where he’ll play under Nate McMillan, who will force him to earn minutes, and on a squad that will let him to develop slowly.
Lopez, Andrew: When LiAngelo Ball was revealed as a member of the Charlotte Hornets’ summer league team, some may have laughed at the notion that he was stealing a chance from someone else. In three games, he has shown that he is taking use of his opportunities. Ball has averaged 11.3 points per game while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range as he attempts to establish himself as a candidate for a training camp invitation rather than one based only on his surname.
Kevin Pelton (Kevin): The fact that Kenneth Faried is playing for the Portland Trail Blazers after two full seasons away from the league is the greatest surprise. He last appeared in an NBA game in April 2019 and is now averaging 8.3 rebounds per game in summer league.
Mike Schmitz (Mike): The New York Knicks have something in No. 36 selection Miles McBride, who is averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on 63.6 percent from 2 and 61.5 percent from 3 through three summer league games, which will come as no surprise to anyone who saw him at West Virginia. With his tenacious on-ball defense, McBride may quickly become a Tom Thibodeau favorite and win a place in the rotation. McBride, who has a 6-foot-9 wingspan, can check any backcourt position and has developed into a dependable floor spacer who can make an impact without the ball. Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier, and Kemba Walker are all versatile players that should complement one other.
Royce Young: Alperen Sengun was rumored to be a lottery-level talent on selection night, and he’s certainly looked the part thus far. He’s demonstrated a high degree of offensive ability, excellent rebounding, and even a penchant for shot-blocking on the weak side. Sengun may have fallen to the Rockets at No. 16 because of worries about his fit in the contemporary NBA as a more conventional big man, but he has a refined game and may be a good rotation player for Houston this season after the Rockets moved up in a trade with Oklahoma City to acquire him.
2. What has been your greatest letdown thus far?
Lopez: There will be no Elam ending. Two double-overtime games (Miami-Memphis and Utah-Dallas) and one sudden-death game (Brooklyn-Washington) were decided in a sudden-death scenario on Wednesday. Miami won when Max Strus hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of double overtime, whereas Utah won after Trent Forrest was fouled on the opening possession. In summer league, Forrest missed the first free throw, which added a little suspense, before hitting the second one and waved farewell to the Mavericks’ bench! With a one-legged, shot-clock-beating runner for 3, Cameron Thomas gave Brooklyn the win. Let’s make these games more exciting by using the Elam Ending and getting game-winning shots every time.
Just days after the NBA draft, the free-agent signing process for 2021 has started.
• Pelton: Analyzing every offseason move • Lowe: How the Heat keep doing this • Latest free agency and trade news and buzz NBA analysts discuss the biggest shocks and what’s next for the league Every trade has its own set of grades and details.
Bontemps: It has nothing to do with him as a player, but it was unfortunate that Thunder guard Josh Giddey only played a few minutes before being forced to leave due to an ankle injury. During the pre-draft process, Giddey was one of the most intriguing prospects, with a number of clubs in the mid-to-late lottery interested in him — only to end up going No. 6 to Oklahoma City. Next season, it’ll be exciting to see Giddey play with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was just extended. It’s simply a shame we weren’t able to watch him play here.
Pelton: Cole Anthony has had a difficult pair of games, shooting 5-of-25 from the field and dishing out only six assists while playing with No. 5 selection Jalen Suggs in the Orlando Magic backcourt. After starting 34 games and averaging 27.1 minutes as a rookie, Anthony’s playing time may be limited with the acquisition of Suggs and the return of Markelle Fultz.
Schmitz: It was exasperating to see Cade Cunningham wait in the corner as Killian Hayes or Saben Lee repeatedly began and finished possessions. Cunningham’s use as a part-time ball handler deprives him of one of his greatest talents (passing) while making him seem uninteresting. The scenario reminds me of when the Dallas Mavericks did all they could to make the Luka Doncic-Dennis Smith Jr. combination work before handing the ball over to Doncic. With the ball-dominant Hayes obviously not being the type of player the Pistons hoped for when they unexpectedly picked him seventh overall, Detroit would be smart to move Hayes to a bench playmaker position, with Cunningham serving as the starting unit’s primary initiator.
Josh Giddey is a young man. We haven’t got the chance to see what he can accomplish, not because of anything he’s done. He just played five minutes in his summer league debut, but threw down a beautiful two-handed dunk off a smooth crossover move before tweaking his ankle and missing the rest of the season. I’m simply sad we didn’t get to see more of it.
3. So far, who has been the summer league MVP?
Jalen Suggs is a young man. Suggs is seen to be a cultural changer, a player who, with his polished professionalism and hard-charging competitive drive, can elevate a franchise. That has been the situation in Orlando so far. He seems to be the kind of player that wants to be able to do everything, from rebounding and guarding to scoring, passing, and leading. Suggs’ makeup has a Russell Westbrook feel to it, and the Magic must be ecstatic that he dropped to them at No. 5.
Lopez: The Rockets’ No. 2 selection in the 2021 NBA draft is already putting up huge numbers in summer league, and he’s proving it. In his first three games, Jalen Green averaged 24 points on.514/.526/.929 splits, and the Rockets went 2-1. Green’s scoring prowess has been on full show, which is why, regardless of how Houston’s season unfolds, he’ll be a contender for Rookie of the Year.
Pelton: Nothing in summer league is more important than a capable point guard, and Payton Pritchard has provided the Celtics with precisely that during their 3-0 start, with 26 assists and just four turnovers. Pritchard has also provided 17 rebounds in two games while shooting 15-of-26 (57.7%) from 3-point range.
Max Schmitz: Because of the guts it required to pull up from 30 feet on the opening possession of a sudden-death overtime game, Strus beats over other standouts. Strus has now scored 72 points in 95 summer league minutes, shooting 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) from distance (including the California Classic). Strus, at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, seems to be an obvious rotational player who can destabilize defenses with his on-the-move shooting. With his performance so far this season, Strus has earned an increase in minutes.
Suggs: Despite leaving his third game with a hand injury, Suggs gave the Magic and its supporters all they could hope for. Suggs, who dominated as a freshman for Gonzaga last season, has the potential to finally energize a Magic squad in urgent need of a genuine tentpole player to build around. He has an easy-to-fall-for tough, aggressive approach on both sides of the floor, and he can do it everything on the court, as he demonstrated by averaging 20 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 steals in his first two games.
4. In summer league, who has been the best’veteran’?
Tyrese Maxey has definitely grabbed my attention thus far, despite the fact that he’s far from a “experienced.” Maxey has been pursuing pull-up 3s from beyond the arc after shooting just 30.1 percent from three as a rookie and often passing up open chances in favor of downhill assaults. When you consider Maxey’s already outstanding rim assaults and defensive activity, I anticipate him to make a big leap this next season if his improved shooting is a harbinger of things to come.
From Monday through Friday, presenter Pablo Torre gives you an inside peek at ESPN’s most compelling stories, as recounted by the best reporters and insiders on the globe. Listen
Patrick Williams is a young man. Last season, Williams was an underappreciated rookie for the Bulls, quietly playing good, efficient basketball in a more restricted role. However, after averaging 21.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in his first three games in Vegas, he seems to be a leading contender for a breakthrough season.
Payton Pritchard has been outstanding for the Boston Celtics, who have also been outstanding, which should come as no surprise considering that half of their roster is made up of players on NBA contracts. Pritchard, on the other hand, has looked like someone who is too talented to be playing in summer league, a solid first step toward carving himself a larger position than the one he quickly filled as a rookie last year with the Celtics in the aftermath of Kemba Walker’s departure.
Due to the lack of a summer league last season, a large number of second-year NBA players are making their Vegas debuts. Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies, who appeared in 68 games last season and averaged 9.2 points while shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range, is making the most of his opportunity. Bane scored 32 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting in his debut game. In Game 2, he nailed 3-of-5 from the three-point line.
Pelton: Immanuel Quickley, in addition to Pritchard. Quickley hasn’t shot the ball particularly well (7-of-29 on 3-pointers), but he’s showed more command of the game than he did as a surprising rookie for the New York Knicks. Quickley has 23 assists to seven mistakes in three games and is 19-of-19 from the free throw line. Quickley is much too talented for this contest.
5. What was the most important thing you learned in the first week?
Young: The five guys that everyone said would be excellent seem to be very good. One of the NBA’s seven deadly sins is drawing big conclusions from summer league, but there is an ancient saying that can tell you who can’t play with a few looks in Vegas. So far, the top five selections haven’t raised any warning flags. This draft was thought to be unusual in that it had five players capable of becoming a No. 1 overall pick, and so far, that seems to be the case.
Summer league’s devaluation as a part of the NBA schedule has died a fast death, according to Bontemps. With Usman Garuba’s addition, all 30 of this year’s first-round selections are in the lineup, putting to rest worries that emerged in 2019 when several of the league’s best talents did not participate.
Lopez: Trey Murphy III, a rookie, will play a significant role for the Pelicans this season. Murphy, who was drafted 17th overall, scored 26 points and nine rebounds in his first game, displaying his ability to shoot from beyond the arc and his desire to battle near the basket. In addition, he had a beautiful poster to show for his work. Murphy, on the other hand, ticks both criteria for a club that sought to add shooting and defense this summer. One of the major reasons he wanted to move to Virginia before last season was to improve on his defense, he told reporters. The mission has been completed.
Schmitz: The depth of the 2021 class has lived up to the expectations, even though Cade Cunningham hasn’t yet had a real hallmark game. Jalen Green is putting up points from all over the court. Evan Mobley is a guard who can make pull-up 3s and pass like a guard. Jalen Suggs is making excellent decisions. Jonathan Kuminga and Scottie Barnes have each shown flashes of brilliance. Davion Mitchell seems to be a potential DPOY contender. From deep range, Chris Duarte is pouring 3s. Alperen Sengun, Jalen Johnson, and Sharife Cooper are non-lottery selections who are excelling. This draft will go down in history as one of the best ever.
Pelton: The future of the league is in excellent hands. Nobody knows how this year’s rookie class will develop, but as Mike Schmitz pointed out earlier this week, there seems to be an abnormally high amount of guys that put up a good defensive effort and appear to be excellent teammates. That is encouraging for their future growth.
Is it true or false that the Rockets have the top rookies in this class?
Bontemps: It’s a fact. Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun have been outstanding so far, while Josh Christopher has had his moments and Usman Garuba has returned. With four first-round choices, including two of the top 16 picks in the draft, Houston should have the most talent here. This week, though, there has been an incredible amount of talent on show across the board, with several members of this year’s rookie class — as well as the second-year players in attendance — having their moments.
Do you want to guess where your favorite NBA players will end up? With ESPN’s Trade Machine, you can make your own trades.
Lopez: This is a work of fiction. Green, Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Christopher stand out as Houston’s depth, but I like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody’s high-end potential in Golden State. The Warriors could have taken either player at No. 7 and ended up with both. They’re also heading into a win-now scenario with the Warriors, who have the ideal setup around each of them, with veterans pushing them to maximize their abilities.
Pelton: It’s true. After finalizing a buyout with Spanish giant Real Madrid, Houston’s rookie class grew even stronger on Thursday when No. 23 selection Garuba made his debut. No other team can match their depth.
Schmitz: It’s true. Green is scorching defenders with the scoring skills of a long-time All-Star, Sengun seems to be the draft’s steal, and Christopher is more than justifying his first-round pick. With Jalen Johnson looking like a top-10 selection and Cooper demonstrating his tremendous natural talent, I believe Atlanta has been one of the major beneficiaries.
Young is a fictional character. So far, the Magic’s Suggs and Franz Wagner are the finest duo. Wagner showed some flexibility with his shooting and ballhandling, and even stood strong defensively against No. 3 overall selection Evan Mobley. Suggs has had a great start, as anticipated.
Summer league is always a time for some unexpected surprises and some disappointing performances, so we’ve been checking in on the teams to see who’s doing well and who’s not.. Read more about raptors and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- nba summer league
- nba summer league 2018 las vegas
- nba summer league standings
- nba summer league scores
- 2018 las vegas summer league schedule