2017 NBA Summer League: Winners and Losers from Las Vegas
The 2017 NBA Summer League offers everyone the first glimpse into the early development of young and unknown players. Rookies, second-year players, G-League standouts, free agent hopefuls, and rising coaches are all trying to make a name for themselves in Las Vegas.
This year was no different as prominent NBA executives, players, former players, scouts, agents, and media players showed up in Vegas. As always, fans got a great look at the NBA’s future stars and hidden gems.
Nonetheless, the games are not always about the winners or losers. Who stood out at the 2017 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas?
This one is obvious. One of the greatest franchises ever would never celebrate an NBA Summer League title, but this team has been losing over the past few seasons.
Beyond winning the Las Vegas Summer league, it appears the Lakers struck gold in this NBA Draft. No. 2 overall pick Lonzo Ball struggled shooting and playing defense. However, he showcased his signature passing and leadership abilities. Ball led the Vegas Summer League with 9.3 assists per game.
Moreover, forward Kyle Kuzma averaged 21.9 points on 51.4 percent shooting with 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He played in seven of the Lakers’ games and showed people that they shouldn’t have let him slide all the way to the end of the first round. His versatile skill set and willingness to do whatever necessary can help Los Angeles continue to win.
Keeping it in the Pacific division, the Suns were among the favorites to win the tournament. Unfortunately, last year’s draft picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss both shot worse than 40 percent. Neither player looked like they belonged there. It wasn’t all bad as Josh Jackson averaged 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. He was inconsistent but you expect that from a rookie.
Golden State just got richer in the Las Vegas Summer league. Jordan Bell looks like the next second round gem for the Warriors. The Oregon product averaged five points, nine rebounds, two steals, and 2.6 blocks in 21 minutes per game. He was all over the court and quickly became a fan favorite.
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) July 18, 2017
That was on top of second-year man Patrick McCaw having another great performance in his return to the Thomas and Mack. The UNLV product was a rotational player for the NBA champs and he showed it by dominating other young players in the Summer League. McCaw averaged 20 points, one steal, and 3.2 rebounds per game in Las Vegas.
Most accounts attribute the Bulls as one of the biggest losers in Las Vegas. Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, and Lauri Markkanen did not shoot better than 35 percent. Dunn, Valentine, and Payne are experienced enough compared to their Summer League counterparts and they should’ve played better. Dunn only shot 3-of-12 in his only appearance. Payne had more turnovers than assists. Markkanen was the No. 7 overall pick and a key in the Jimmy Butler trade but he went 29.3 percent from the field.
— NBA (@NBA) July 16, 2017
Portland finished as the runner up but the Blazers left Vegas as winners. Caleb Swanigan looked like a steal averaging a double-double in Las Vegas. The 14.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game were great but he was a presence inside and outside. He banged inside but was not afraid to shoot or facilitate.
Swanigan often looked like one of the best players on the court, despite falling into the twenties of the 2017 NBA Draft. Swanigan’s impressive summer alone makes the Blazers a winner but they also have some journeymen that they got a great look at in Las Vegas.
The Kings got some not-so-great looks from their returning NBA veterans. Buddy Hield shot 36 percent from the field and had more turnovers than assists, despite being a key part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Skal Labissierre and Georgios Papagiannis did not dominate the competition as many would have hoped.
Overall, the team went 2-4 despite having nine players who will probably play on the regular season roster. Harry Giles did not play either. De’Aaron Fox and Justin Jackson had flashes of their potential but it remains to be seen if they can keep that up. Some of their young guys better figure it out if they want to limit the losing in 2017-18.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell averaged 28 points and six steals per game over his two games in Vegas. Mitchell’s highest scoring night was a 37-point outing in Las Vegas. The 13th overall pick in the 2017 class should help the Jazz fill some of the scoring void left by Gordon Hayward.
Another player who slipped in the NBA Draft, Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr., also took Las Vegas by storm. The ninth overall pick averaged 17 points and 4.2 assists per game for the Mavericks. His explosive play and athleticism gave Mavericks fans something to look forward to once the Dirk Nowitzki era finally closes.
Hawks front court player John Collins had the highest field goal percentage of any player with more than 50 shots in Vegas. He had his fair share of dunks and he was a top five rebounder with a 9.2 per game average. Collins gave Atlanta fans something to be excited for as they move on from Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap too.
The Celtics left Las Vegas with a ton of highlights from their last two No. 3 overall picks. Jayson Tatum was smooth with 17.7 points and eight rebounds per game averages in Las Vegas. Jaylen Brown registered 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and he had some good dunks too where he displayed the athleticism that enamored the Celtics when they drafted him.
Otherwise, this class’ notable losers include those players who lost game time due to injuries. Markelle Fultz and Zach Collins were both highly-anticipated players who were limited to only a few games. Tyler Lyndon disappointed for the Nuggets too. Lyndon averaged 2.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in five games, which was one of the worst weekends for a 2017 first round pick. Collins went 6-of-23 from the field and he was a liability on defense.
Ultimately, the NBA Summer League doesn’t necessarily translate to success or failure in the regular season. However, everyone who is important in basketball goes to Vegas for the Summer League. Fans get an intimate look into the NBA culture. Thus, it is a great early look at these young players’ projections into the NBA. Stay tuned to see if these winners or losers can keep or reverse their fortunes when real basketball begins in October.
All stats are from NBA.com unless otherwise noted.