The NBA Summer League is not the greatest indicator of future success (or lack thereof), but that doesn’t mean fans can’t react to disappointing performances by young players. Here are the five biggest disappointments so far from the 2019 Summer League.
5. Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland is 1-7 in Summer League play as they play their final match tonight against the Sacramento Kings. The biggest reason for the team’s struggles is that fifth overall pick Darius Garland and fellow first-rounder Kevin Porter Jr. have not suited up for the Cavaliers. Garland is being held out as a precautionary measure as he continues to recover from the torn meniscus that limited his time at Vanderbilt to just five games, and Porter Jr. is still dealing with a hip flexor issue that began during pre-draft workouts.
The players themselves aren’t disappointing, but the situation itself is. Both Garland and Porter Jr. will be crucial in turning Cleveland’s fortunes around, but fans will have to wait until the regular season to see them play. The Cavs’ Summer League hasn’t been all bad news however, as the absence of Garland and Porter Jr. has allowed 26th overall pick Dylan Windler to show off his limitless three-point range, and forward Dean Wade earned himself a two-way contract.
4. Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers
Little was almost universally regarded as a major steal when Portland selected him with the 25th overall pick on draft night. That hasn’t changed, but it’s clear Little will need some time to adjust to the pro game, as he did not play well in Summer League. He officially played in four games, but was injured after only four minutes on Thursday. In his three full games, he averaged 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22 minutes, while shooting 33% from the field and 14% from beyond the arc. Little has plenty of potential, but he shouldn’t be counted upon to make a big impact right away, and his Summer League performance showed why.
3. Deandre Hunter and Cam Reddish, Atlanta Hawks
Much like Garland and Porter Jr., Hunter’s presence on this list isn’t really his fault. Because the NBA doesn’t permit draft trades to be official until the new league year, Hunter wasn’t technically a member of the Hawks until he signed his rookie contract on July 7th. That same day, he made his Summer League debut, which is also his only appearance to date. He scored six points on two-of-eight shooting and turned the ball over four times, so not a great first impression for the fourth overall pick.
Reddish finds himself in a similar spot as Cleveland’s backcourt duo. He is recovering from core muscle surgery, so he has been unable to play, and likely won’t make a Summer League appearance at all. Reddish probably needed the playing time more than Hunter since he wasn’t regarded as being quite as NBA-ready as Hunter. It would have been nice to see if Reddish has improved his off-ball play that he struggled with in college, or if he will need the ball in his hands in order to be effective.
2. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
The rookie phenom didn’t have a great debut game, save for a soul-crushing steal on the Knicks’ Kevin Knox, but he did suffer a knee injury, which will keep him out of the remainder of the Summer League. Due to Williamson’s unique frame and athleticism, injury concerns are unavoidable, so getting hurt in your first game is not an ideal way to start. But it doesn’t seem like the injury is serious, which is good. Still, being unable to see Zion dominate the Summer League is certainly disappointing for Pelicans fans with tickets.
1. R.J. Barrett, New York Knicks
Barrett has played in four Summer League games and has been…less than stellar. 2.8 assists, 8.8 rebounds, and one block per game is fine, but Barrett has made 19 of his 64 shot attempts, is 5-for-25 from three-point range, and has 12 turnovers. Things are getting better for the third overall pick, as he has just two turnovers in his last two games, notching double-doubles each night. It’s just Summer League, so there isn’t too much cause for concern, but Barrett has not been performing as expected. Perhaps his past two games will be more of the norm moving forward; for the sake of Knicks fans, that had better be the case.