For the first time ever, I was very tuned in to Summer League this year. I had a blast watching the incoming rookies, returning sophomores, and undrafted free agents hoop. So today, just like last summer, I’m going to talk about players who stood out to me. Let’s get into it!
Trail Blazin’ Trio
The 2022 Summer League Champs were the Portland Trail Blazers. They finished with a record of 4-1 led by Trendon Watford, the 2021 undrafted man from LSU who won Finals MVP unanimously. The versatile big man is going to be a key rotational piece for Portland this season. Other standout members of the championship squad were athletic freak Keon Johnson (the team’s leading scorer) and defensive-minded 57th overall pick Jabari Walker.
New York Sophomores
Even though they fell short in the title game, the Knicks looked like the best team in Vegas. Quentin Grimes had a shot at overall MVP because of how well he scored the ball. He was a spot-up threat in his rookie campaign, but the Houston product was very comfortable creating for himself as the top option. He’s in for a big sophomore season. Miles McBride should be the backup point guard for the Knicks going forward with his ability to clamp up, shoot the three, and make plays for others. Jericho Sims looked like a man amongst boys in the paint, hammering home lobs and dominating the glass. Even Feron Hunt, who appeared in two games for New York last season, did some nice things as a two-way stretch four. The team as a whole was fantastic defensively, which is important for a group of young guys playing for Coach Thibodeau.
As much as Thibs loves his veterans, it’s time to embrace the youth movement in NYC.
Wisconsin Herd Alumni
Milwaukee’s two-way contract players Sandro Mamukelashvili and Lindell Wigginton balled out on their way to leading the Bucks to a fourth-place finish. Mamu knocked down triples, finished at the bucket, and drained fadeaways while playing like one of the best players in Summer League. Lindell looked like a legitimate backup point guard. He ran the offense comfortably, creating for himself and others off the bounce. I’m excited to see the role they play off the bench for the 2021 champs this season. Rayjon Tucker, the Herd’s all-time leading scorer, shot the ball well and clamped up. Also, shoutout MarJon Beauchamp. The defense was as advertised for the first-round pick and he looked confident from behind the arc which will be key for him getting minutes from the get-go.
The Grizzlies were the most exciting young team in the association last season, and now they’re adding arguably the best rookie class from top to bottom. Both first-round picks performed well for Memphis’s summer squad. Jake LaRavia’s question mark was if his three-point efficiency could be maintained on a higher volume, and he proved it can. David Roddy was a relentless slasher. Kennedy Chandler displayed sensational quickness and intensity, earning him the most money he could have gotten as a second-round pick.
While the draftees were great, it was undrafted pickup Kenneth Lofton Jr. who stole the show for the Grizz. He used his massive frame to bully defenders in the paint and also showed some skill on the perimeter. Will it translate to the big league? We’ll see, but it was a ton of fun watching him go to work in Vegas.
Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren, and Co.
2021 All-Rookie player Josh Giddey was way too good for Summer League. He dissected disoriented defenses with his all-world passing, serving buckets to his teammates on a silver platter. He was also more aggressive getting to the hoop than he was in his rookie campaign which will help him create even easier looks for others. Chet Holmgren did Chet Holmgren things. He dominated as a rim protector, shot over 40% from three, and finished off the drive. JDub Williams was highly efficient as an off-ball scorer and defended well. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl brought juice as a defender and rebounder.
The Thunder are going to be a fun watch this season.
Cam Thomas and David Duke Jr.
Cam Thomas is a bucket to the highest degree. He’s a borderline elite mid-range scorer already in his young career. This is the second time he’s played head-and-shoulders above the competition in Summer League, and he’s going to be a very important piece for Brooklyn going forward (Kevin Durant or not). David Duke Jr. was an energetic defender and fearless finisher who should earn some burn off the bench this season.
For the second summer in a row, the MVP award went to a King. Keegan Murray silenced those who clowned Sacramento for selecting him over Jaden Ivey. He was an excellent three-level scorer who got it done on and off the ball. What an impressive showing it was for him.
He only appeared in two contests, which prevented him from winning MVP, but Paolo was the best player in Vegas. The top option prowess was as expected. That’s exactly what you want to see from the first overall pick.
The Spurs selected three players in the first round, and it was the third that looked the best in Summer League (although Jeremy Sochan didn’t play). Blake Wesley’s scoring flashes were awesome. He’s lightning quick getting to the hoop. He creates space on the perimeter. The three-ball was better than I thought it would be. He struggled a lot with efficiency, but he has the arsenal needed to be a go-to scorer once the shot starts falling more often.
Tari Eason was everywhere on the court in his first games as an NBA player. He’s incredibly active on defense and offense, and he’s always looking to poster someone. He’s going to be a great glue guy for the up-and-coming Rockets.
Other impressive players include the Laker two-ways (Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr.), young Warriors (Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman), Mfiondu Kabengele, Jaden Ivey, Trey Murphy, RJ Nembhard, Ochai Agbaji, Bennedict Mathurin, Isaiah Joe, Josh Christopher, and Josh Primo.
Who impressed you the most in Summer League? Did you like what you saw from your favorite team’s players? Let me know! Thanks for reading, and see you next time!