Another season of Summer League has come and gone and with that we get looks at rookies, vets, g-league players, foreign players, and a couple foreign teams who are all searching for a spot on an NBA roster. The league consisted of two stints (Utah & Sacramento) and one big stint in Las Vegas. Everyone including us are looking for the next breakout star to see before it happens and summer league is a good place to get an idea of what the future of the NBA looks like today.
When conducting this list it was tough to figure out who was the most impressive player from each team due to the conditions each team places on its players. For instance the Magic held Mo Bamba out after one game and the Pelicans did the same after a Zion knee “injury?”. So for the criteria we are sticking with the most impressive players whether they played only a couple games or all the games. However some of these guys may have played for multiple teams over the summer.
Some teams had multiple candidates so for each team we have a standout and an honorable mention. (some were even to close to call!)
Toronto Raptors: Terence Davis
How long did it take Terence Davis to prove he belonged on an NBA roster? How about how long for him to earn a contract from a team he didn’t even play for? One game. Davis played efficiently and passionately enough to earn a guaranteed contract after one summer league game where he played with the Nuggets. To me that deserves someone a spot on this list especially since Davis stated that he turned down offers to get drafted by other teams. He shares an agent with Fred VanVleet and Kenrich Williams who both took the undrafted route. Davis’s decision was a risky one but one that played out for a team who just won a championship and then lost its superstar.
In three games with the Raptors, Davis logged just over 18 points per contest on 50% shooting from the field. It didn’t take long for Davis to earn praise for his defense either as he consistently hustled and and contested opposing fastbreaks. In his Nuggets game, Davis showed good catch & shoot ability that stemmed from solid relocations. He also looked solid in the pick and roll but needs to work on his passing ability going forward.
Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher
Philadelphia 76ers: Marial Shayok
Confidence! Confidence! Confidence!
Marial Shayok played 15-20 minutes per game at Virginia before ultimately betting on himself and transferring to Iowa State for his final year of eligibility. At Iowa State, Shayok showed major improvements doubling his scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers. This led to him being selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the 76ers.
In Vegas Shayok showed the same confidence we saw at Iowa State. He was never afraid to pull the trigger on a shot and it payed off as he shot an impressive 40% from three on a little under five attempts per game. The more impressive part of Shayoks game came from the mid-range where Shayok suprised some of us with an ability to create separation off the dribble and step-backs. He used all of his 6’11” wingspan to shoot over defenders. The bad for Shayok came as he looked late to pass and when attacking would make passes as he was almost at the rim.
Shayok showed that he deserved to be drafted in Summer League but he still has a way to go especially with the 76ers roster being what it is. This means we’ll see Shayok in the G-League to start but if the 76ers ever need a scoring punch Shayok could come up and not hesitate to shoot.
Honorable Mention: Zhaire Smith
Boston Celtics: Carsen Edwards
One of the heroes of this past NCAA tournament, Edwards had all eyes on him as he was the main point guard that featured other draftees such as Grant Williams and Tremont Waters (No Romeo Langford). Edwards spectacular tournament run consisted of him making tough shot after tough shot something we would wonder was just a good run or could he get those shots off on NBA level defenders.
Edwards silenced the critics in Vegas as he continued to just ball out. He averaged 19.4 points per game and continued to hit shot after shot and hit an incredible 46% of his threes some of which were deep by NBA standards. Many knew Edwards could score but there were concerns about his defensive ability standing at 6’1″. (Having SEC DPOY Tremont Waters on the roster with him probably wasn’t going to help either) Edwards showed solid defensive instincts and impressed on that side of the ball. He was impressive on-ball and showed the ability to take contact from driving guards and quick hands to come up with steals.
Edwards landed in a good situation in Boston where Brad Stevens will find a way to utilize him as a scorer off the bench. His ability to make plays and hold his own on defense are keys to his future success. It was no wonder after his SL play got Edwards a contract with a guaranteed 4.5 million dollars.
Honorable Mention: Grant Williams
Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen
Allen didn’t deserve to be playing in summer league but he did and he absolutely crushed the competition. This man was playing meaningful minutes in the playoffs only a short while ago. He owned everyone he played against leading him to first team all summer league honors. Playing in summer league for Allen was about having the opportunity to teach the younger players as he said others did for him. That is a noble but smart thing to do for him as he wants to help his team grow.
Allen averaged a double double in points (16.4) and rebounds (10.6) while also blocking 2.2 shots per game. Allen played the drop on pick and roll situations on defense very well and was very smart about when to step up leading to a couple blocks. On offense Allen did most of his damage as a roll man where his soft hands and good footwork were on full display. He was also a menace on the offensive boards leading to plenty of second chance points by bullying others in the paint.
Honorable Mention: Rodions Kurucs
New York Knicks: Iggy Brazdeikis
Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier were both clear standouts for the Knicks, but the reason why he isn’t the main one is because they really didn’t need to be playing in Summer League. Mitchell missed all of just 5 shots across the 5 games he played in this summer.
Iggy Brazdeikis is the player we chose for the standout for the Knicks though. He averaged over 15 points per game during SL while shooting above 50% from the field and from deep. Included was one particular game against the Suns where he went off for 30 points. His shot was on point from deep, he was making many successful straight line drives to the basket, and finishing well with either hand.
RJ Barrett is the name we’ve often been hearing about, but Iggy is a rookie that can make some serious noise at MSG.
Honorable Mention: Mitchell Robinson
Milwaukee Bucks: Elijah Bryant
There was a lot of optimism going into the Bucks for Summer League. Fans wanted a lot of questions to be answered. Was Sterling Brown going to show out and prove that he was ready to take over for Malcom Brogdon? Has DJ Wilson gained weight and going to be able to build off his defensive ability? Are we going to see last year’s first round pick Donte DiVincenzo? What kind of improvement would the Bucks see from two-way player Bonzie Colson?
With all the questions about those prospects it was actually another who stole the show for Milwaukee. Meet Elijah Bryant, a 2018 undrafted guard who played in Israel last year. Bryant showed promise in Vegas with his solid handles and attacking play. He used an array of dribble moves to create separation on step-back jumpers, and to get past defenders on his way to the rim. Bryant favored the in-n-out dribble move but also used crossovers and hesitation dribbles.
A guard who looks to get downhill has to be able to handle contact when slashing by defenders and in summer league we saw Bryant do just that. Another plus to his game is how he knows to use his body as a shield to keep defenders away from altering the shot. He primarily did this when going across the lane (i.e. attacking from the right but finishing with the left hand on the left side keeping the defender on his right hip).
However attacking isn’t the only thing Bryant showed in Vegas. He shot the ball at a 52% clip but also showed to be able to do it from distance knocking down threes at a 50% clip. He liked to pull-up coming off the screen. He showed some solid vision on an over the top pass on a slip from Landale who also looked solid in Vegas. In short Bryant looked really good and deserves a chance to compete in training camp.
Honorable Mention: Bonzie Colson
Indiana Pacers: Brian Bowen II
While he didn’t get drafted, Brian Bowen is one of the best shooters from this draft class. He has had a wild ride since he had the issues with his recruitment at Louisville and wasn’t able to play in college. Instead he has gotten some time in the G League and overseas in Australia the last 2 years.
During Summer League for the Pacers, Bowen shot 50% from the field and deep and did not miss a shot from the free throw line. It would’ve been nicer to see him get more than 7 shots a game, but the fact that he shot a good percentage on low volume suggests that he could become a very solid role player for the Pacers in the future.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Holiday
Detroit Pistons: Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown was arguably the best point guard in all of Summer League this year. He was dishing out the rock like one of the best distributors in the league. He led the Pistons in assists (8.2) and rebounds (8.0) per game.
The one downside to Brown’s SL performance was his scoring. He didn’t shoot it too well from deep, but was so positive in every other facet of the game that it didn’t matter as much.
Honorable Mention: Jarrod Uthoff
Chicago Bulls: Daniel Gafford
Daniel Gafford and Coby White had a great connection early on with the Bulls in their first few games. Coby didn’t do as well later on in Summer League, but Gafford continued to impress.
He’s exceptional around the rim. He shot 68.3% from the field with most of those shots coming right around the rim.
Defensively he also makes a positive impact. Gafford averaged nearly 3 blocks per game in the 5 games he played for Chicago. Once Daniel Gafford begins to expand his game and becomes more of a threat from 15 feet, he just may become a feared big for the Bulls.
Honorable Mention: Adam Mokoka
Cleveland Cavaliers: Dylan Windler
The Cavs exited summer league without us seeing top five pick Darius Garland or first round pick Kevin Porter Jr. However, for three games we did get to see former Belmont star Dylan Windler. Windler is a 6’7″ forward who is very strong for his size and shows impressive touch from deep. The thing about Windler that shocked me was his ability to pass efficiently during summer league. He looked in control out there with the ball in his hands and he needs to be as we don’t know what his role will look like in Beilien’s offense.
Windler showed the ability to shoot at Belmont and it will be a big part about of his game in the NBA. Windler showed that ability both off the dribble and coming off-ball. His quick release allows for him to get off shots very quickly and his big frame allows for him to create contact separation and to finish. The knock on Windler’s summer league performance is he looked gassed come the second half and will need to work on his conditioning going forward.
Honorable Mention: Dean Wade
Orlando Magic: DaQuan Jeffries
The Magic Summer League team was plaqued with a lack of a true point guard and the loss of Mo Bamba after one game. Looking for a summer league spark the Magic found one in Tulsa product DaQuan Jeffries. A pre-draft riser due to his athleticism many had Jeffries as a possible second round pick but ultimately he went undrafted.
DaQuan showed every bit of that athleticism in Summer League as his pesky defense and ability to get out and run was on display. All of it can be highlighted by him picking off a pass and going coast to coast to finish for a monster jam on Chandler Hutchinson. The athleticism was never in question but he had to make shots to prove he would be effective at the next stage. Jeffries silenced the critics by shooting an impeccable 54% percent from deep on over four 3PA per game.
Honorable Mention: Amile Jefferson
Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges
There’s not much to say here regarding Miles Bridges because we expected this jump. Bridges clearly stood out for the Hornets in the 4 games he played. He was making a positive impact on both ends of the court.
The one part of Bridges’s game that we are still waiting to be developed is his 3 point shot. It’s not there yet, but if he produces in the NBA this year like he did in Summer League, he’s going to be a fantastic role player for the foreseeable future.
Honorable Mention: Cody Martin
Miami Heat: Kendrick Nunn
Tyler Herro made waves early on in Summer League but another Miami player was the one who made the Heat go. Kendrick Nunn was undrafted in 2018 out of Oakland who spent this past year playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G-League. I tuned in to see DaQuan Jeffries (who is also on this list) and Nunn instantly stole my attention.
Simply put, Nunn is a hooper. Off-ball he is a tenacious defender whose instincts take over as he notched a couple noteworthy steals. One came off a dribble hand-off that Nunn got in between of and the other where he jumped in front of a Naz Reid pass to the wing both of which turned into easy points.
Nunn isn’t just defense though as he was at times the main option to score on the Heat Summer League team. This man thrives out of the pick-n-roll where he can use his quick moves and strength to finish at the rim but he also has a deadly mid-range leaner that he used a couple times. What impressed me the most about Nunn is how big of a clutch player he is. In a game against the Magic, he hit an and-one leaner that tied the game up, a big three to keep the game close, and muscled in a layup to extend the lead in the closing minute. In a game against the Wolves Nunn had a game tying layup in the finals seconds off of a pick pocket to keep them alive in the game.
Nunn isn’t without his flaws but he showed that he deserved his contact for training camp.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Herro
Atlanta Hawks: Charlie Brown
At St. Joe’s Charlie Brown was a promising young prospect who hadn’t fully developed his game yet. The one thing we saw from him was shooting potential. That is also something we saw from him during his short stint so far with the Hawks.
Brown is going to be a microwave scorer in the league. When he gets hot, he doesn’t often miss. The problem is that he isn’t too efficient which stood out with his 26.7% shooting from deep. There was clear potential as a slasher and as an above average defender who can cut off passing lanes because of his length.
The Atlanta Hawks signed him to a two-way deal so we’ll see how he progresses throughout this season.
Honorable Mention: Tahjere McCall
Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura
Hachimura got a lot of unnecessary pressure by being drafted ahead in the Top 10 and by going to the Washington Wizards who didn’t have a GM at the time of the draft. As a prospect Hachimura is kind of a tweener in between the forward positions with the quickness of a wing and body of a power forward. He needed to prove he could play both positions effectively and not get caught in-between.
In Vegas, Hachimura proved he could do just that by beating players in the post, off the drive, and with the mid-range shot. His strength and intelligence allowed him to work in the post with quick moves. He did a lot of work from the mid-range as well both with a shot and with a drive. Hachimura’s shot is a little flat but he can knock it down. He also used a pump fake to get bigger defenders to bite and beat them with his quickness to the hoop. He did this a couple times to Bruno Fernando. Rui also showed a little promise by attempting and making a couple three point shots that could be key to his eventual development. There was also a little flash as a role man in the offense as well.
On the defensive end Hachimura showed promise as a switch defender. He showed the ability to guard the 3-5 due to his mix of length, strength, and athleticism. That ability will be exercised at the next level. Another impressive part of his defensive arsenal was his ability to block shots. Due to his quickness he was able to recover for a few chase down blocks.
Washington made a bold move selecting him at #9, but if he works a little on his shot form and can get the ability to stretch out to the three point line then there’s a chance he can become a nice player in this league.
Honorable Mention: Justin Robinson
Denver Nuggets: Jarred Vanderbilt
It’s unfortunate that Jarred Vanderbilt is currently on the Nuggets for no other reason than the fact that Denver has a plethora of forwards. Vanderbilt is ready for a role with an NBA team and his performances in Summer League were indicative of that.
He was fantastic on the boards and showed off his nice touch around the rim. We are still waiting for Vanderbilt to develop an outside shot as well as an ability to protect the rim. His shot at the line is very poor right not as well too, but his defensive versatility and his rebounding acumen will make him a solid bench big in the NBA in the near future.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Goodwin
Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons
Simons only played 3 games in Summer League because the Trail Blazers were already satisfied with his exceptional performances. He was arguably the best scorer out of everyone in SL (maybe outside of Lonnie Walker). He could be a very good backup point guard to Damian Lillard for the future in Portland.
Honorable Mention: Gary Trent Jr.
Utah Jazz: Tony Bradley
Something sparked inside of Tony Bradley this off-season but he looks like a whole new man. Going into his third summer league Bradley took some serious initiative and apparently lived in the team training facility because he was more then ready for summer league.
Bradley was a rebounding monster and grabbed everything that came off the rim. He needed to work on his body and well “board man gets paid”. Bradley averaged 15.5 boards in Salt Lake and 11.3 in Vegas but that wasn’t the only part of his game that has improved. The former UNC big man showed a new passing ability that led had some impressive outcomes such as a quick pass to a slashing Justin Wright-Foreman.
Bradley still hasn’t done much to improve his range but he played really well around the rim on both sides of the ball. It may have taken a minute but this Tony Bradley is exciting and hopefully a rotation player for Utah.
Honorable Mention: Jarrell Brantley
Oklahoma City Thunder: Darius Bazley
It was a very bad Summer League for many of the Thunder’s young potential prospects. Deonte Burton, Hamidou Diallo, and Devon Hall really struggled to shoot the ball. Dort did as well, but what he was good at was moving off ball and playing defense.
Bazley was the one chosen even though he wasn’t even that impressive. What he did show us was some promise on the defensive end, in transition, and on the boards. Darius Bazley will need some time to fill out and become comfortable with the NBA level talent, but in time he could become a very good player for OKC.
Honorable Mention: Kevin Hervey
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kelan Martin
Kelan Martin has always been a professional bucket-getter. It was tough to decide between him and Reid. The one thing about Naz Reid is that he needs to get in better shape before earning significant minutes in the rotation.
Martin averaged the most points for Minnesota while leading them to the championship game where they ultimately lost to Memphis. Kelan will have to make more of an emphasis on improving on the defensive end before being able to become a solid role player, but the one thing we can say is his offense is already there.
Honorable Mention: Naz Reid
Golden State Warriors: Jacob Evans
Jacob Evans received point guard duties early on during Summer League for the Warriors. The defensive ability was showcased throughout Summer League and he showed promise in the point guard role.
We don’t think that he’ll have many ball handling duties in Golden State, but the Warriors wanted to give him a chance to control the game. He did a fine job at that as he averaged close to 5 rebounds and assists per game.
Jacob Evans proved that he could earn some meaningful minutes in the depleted back-court of the Warriors as they wait on Klay Thompson to return.
Honorable Mention: Eric Paschall
Los Angeles Clippers: Terance Mann
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joining the squad, the Clippers already have all of the depth they need. But, there’s nothing wrong with too much depth. Mann might just end up being apart of that group.
He averaged almost 12 (!!!) rebounds a game with the Clippers. Terance Mann hustles more than anyone else on the court and impacts the game in multiple facets. Mann could very well be a meaningful role player for the Clippers if one or more players go down with injuries.
Co-Honorable Mentions: Mfiondu Kabengele/Amir Coffey
Sacramento Kings: Wenyen Gabriel
How do you make an NBA roster as an UDFA? You play with ENERGY and EFFICIENCY! That is exactly what second year player Wenyen Gabriel brought to the table in Sacramento and Vegas. Watching the games my eyes just kind of gravitated towards watching him. Gabriel is a smart kid and said himself that he just wants to help the team improve and he wants to be apart of that and in Summer League he made a legit case for why he can do that.
After the 2018 NBA Draft, Gabriel saw himself as the only UK player who declared not to hear his name called but he eventually landed on a two-way contract with the Kings. This time around he showed that he deserves a shot at the NBA roster. Gabriel showed a tenacity rebounding the ball on offense that led to multiple second chance opportunities for the Kings. He showed an impressive ability to shoot the deep ball and as the games went on he looked far more comfortable firing from that range. He has quick post moves that he knows how to take advantage of when he’s established position.
Gabriel can help that Kings team but the best way he can do it is with his energy. He is at his best running the floor and playing as a roll man. Don’t be surprised if you see a couple flash plays from Gabriel here and there.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Guy
Los Angeles Lakers: Devontae Cacok
Our guy Randy King wrote about Cacok’s Summer League performance here:
Honorable Mention: Jordan Howard
Phoenix Suns: Ray Spalding
The former Louisville played in just 3 Summer League games, but was great defensively in all of them. He averaged 2 blocks per game in just under 17 minutes of action.
In the one game that Spalding went up against Summer League MVP, Brandon Clarke, he caused many problems for him. Because of his defensive impact, expect Spalding to make it into the NBA sooner rather than later.
Honorable Mention: James Palmer Jr.
Houston Rockets: Chris Clemons
Chris Clemons is one of the best scorers in NCAA History and showed that for the Houston Rockets averaging above 20 points per game across the 5 that he played.
Clemons might be small, but he plays harder than almost anyone. His vertical gives him the ability to score over smaller defenders. His three point shot was absolutely on target during SL and had no problem shooting from well beyond the NBA three pint line. If he keeps up his tenaciousness on the defensive end, he’ll find himself a nice home in the NBA in no time at all.
Honorable Mention: Chris Chiozza
San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV
This man was on something else in Vegas. The second year guard looked far more comfortable then the player we saw for the Hurricanes not long ago. Lonnie did some volume scoring and showed versatility in the process. That versatility will be a good sign going forward as he looks to take the next step in his career.
Lonnie showed a couple of ball fakes that tricked defenders to biting and opened up an ability to attack off the dribble. This looked really good when it came off of off-ball action and he did it within the offense. He looked very good at turning the corner off of dribble hand offs that led to him either attacking the rim on a big or if they dropped he was smart enough to pull up for a dribble pull-up. In isolation Lonnie loved to try and shake his defender in just inside the 3pt line and pull-up off a dribble with his right hand.
The bad from Lonnie came when he looked to score and only score. Lonnie was the primary play maker for the Spurs SL team but only averaged 1.0 assist per game… The big question comes on how the Spurs are going to use Walker in the upcoming year. Are they going to let him be a play maker like they did in summer league or are they going to use him off-ball as a scorer off the catch? When all said and done Lonnie showed the ability to score and averaged 30 points a game in Vegas and guys who can score like that normally find a role in the league.
Honorable Mention: Drew Eubanks
Memphis Grizzlies: Yuta Watanabe
One of the toss-ups belonged to the Summer League champs. Brandon Clarke played really well and ended up winning league MVP but another Grizzly impressed me with his improvements on the court. The former undrafted player out of George Washington and the second Japanese born player in the NBA and Yuta Watanabe only played in a handful of summer league games but the potential this kid has is intriguing. At the end of last year his handle still had some issues, he was a tweener between forward spots, and didn’t handle getting banged up too well.
Summer League turned those doubts around as Watanabe looked like he was a bit thicker in Sacramento. Watanabe showed that he was above the competition in Summer League by showing his versatility and attacking that. He is not overly quick but his impressive body control allowed him to hang in the air to finish layups, and also allowed for him to avoid charges. He has an impressive mid-range pull up and can hit down the occasional outside shot. I think he will succeed with his ability to stretch defenses opening up others. In a couple instances Watanabe had the ball on the perimeter and looked to attack but noticed the defenders establishing help side defense and quickly rifled a pass over to the corner for an open jumper.
The best ability for Watanabe is availability and he has a lot of it due to his versatility. The forward can handle out of the pick and roll, can screen out of the pick and roll, catch and shoot, and even attack the basket. He needs to work on his defensive consistency and strength to have a high impact on the game but with his offensive tools he could be a valuable rotational piece for the new look Grizzlies.
Special Honorable Mention: Brandon Clarke
New Orleans Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker
If Summer League is any indicator then the Pelicans are going to be a really good team sooner rather then later. There could be a number of guys to pick here. Jaxson Hayes also looked really really good, Frank Jackson had some impressive moves, Kenrich Williams had some solid performances, and Zylan Cheatham showed his freakish hustle. If I could give the award to David Griffin I would but I can’t so it goes to Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
A combo guard out of Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker was known to have a combination of skills but lacking an elite one. He excelled at shooting the deep ball, his impressive length, and ability to play off-ball. In the summer league however he showed advanced level passing ability from deceptive no look passes to beautiful alley oops. Even on Jaxson Hayes’ signature dunk NAW executed a beautiful wrap around pass using all of his wingspan getting around the defender.
Alexander-Walker showed a canny ability to finish around the rim during Summer League and his ability to not be phased by contact is a good step going forward. On the defensive end, his hustle was never a question as he was always running around playing hard on ball and looking for opportunities to poke the ball away from unsuspecting players. He had a wonderful weak side steal as the ball entered the post he came down and stripped with the player never even seeing him. Shooting was also solid for Alexander-Walker as he showed solid fade-aways from mid-range to open catch and shoot threes.
The area I would like to see Alexander-Walker work on is his ability to create separation when attacking. He had his shots falling but it looked like with a longer defender some of them could be altered especially on his post moves. Nonetheless cheers to Alexander-Walker on an eye-opening performance.
Special Honorable Mention: Jaxson Hayes
Dallas Mavericks: Cameron Payne
Cameron Payne has been in the league for quite some time now, but really hasn’t been able to make a meaningful impact for any organization on the court just yet. During Summer League for the Mavs, Payne had shooting splits of 51/46/85.
Payne averaged 20/5/4 as well as almost 3 steals per game. Because of his performance, he parlayed a two year deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Honorable Mention: Josh Reaves