The 2018 NBA Summer League begins this week with a slate of games in Utah and Sacramento before blossoming into the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas next week. It is a huge deal for many players, including those who are no longer rookies.
Rookies usually dominate the storylines headed into these exhibitions. However, the showcases is just as critical for veterans looking to prove they deserve another shot at an NBA roster. They are also important as second and third year players can show offseason development that might help them get expanded roles.
Utah and Sacramento run from July 2-5. This year’s Las Vegas summer league features all 30 teams in 82 games from July 6-17.
Players with most to prove
Many veterans are trying to live up to their draft bills and avoid the bust term. Some of these player are on the clock. They’re playing Summer League exhibitions because they need the added repetition and development.
Others are trying to move up the rotation and get some more run. Their teams will look to see how they handle lesser NBA competition as well as extended roles. You can’t do that without proving yourself in Summer League action first.
Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball probably would’ve been at the top of this list except neither are playing this year.
Either way, these veterans are looking showcase their traits in front of NBA coaches, scouts, fans and media. Here are some veteran players with the most to prove in Utah, Sacramento and Vegas.
Harry Giles, Sacramento Kings
The 2017 No. 20 pick Giles has yet to make his rookie debut. He’s recovering from three ACL surgeries since 2013. Giles was once the top player in his high school recruiting class but his health led the forward to have a redshirtseason.
Now, the NBA Summer League could be Giles’ NBA debut and he just needs to prove he can play basketball still. You can analyze his game all you want but him even making it onto the court would be amazing. Not to mention, he could bring even more scoring, length and athleticism to the Kings.
Frank Ntilikina, New York Knicks
Ntilikina averaged 6 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds in his rookie season. That is hardly the production you would expect from a No. 8 pick. However, the Knicks used Ntilikina for only about 20 minutes per game. He made only 9 starts and even spent some time playing off the ball.
In the Summer League, Ntilikina can showcase his ability as a playmaker, ball handler and point guard. The 19-year-old has the size and explosiveness of a modern guard that can dominate Summer League play. Knicks fans and brass will want to see something from the rookie considering they took Ntilikina over last year’s rookie guard sensations Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell.
Malik Beasley, Denver Nuggets
Beasley averaged over 19 points in last year’s summer league. That still didn’t help him play more than 10 minutes in 60 games for the Nuggets. Part of that is Denver’s deep rotation at the guard spot. That won’t change considering Will Barton re-upped for four-years and $54 million.
Beasley can’t control all of that. He can use the NBA Summer League as a chance to showcase his scoring and athletic skill set. Beasley should once again be the key offensive player for the Nuggets. He will need to prove himself as a scorer against lesser competition again.
Hopefully, this time he can carry that momentum into the regular season. At the very least, another great Summer can catch the eye of another team and elevate his trade value for the Nuggets.
Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
Monk was the 11th player taken in the 2017 NBA Draft. The shooting guard only played about 13 minutes per game and he averaged 6.7 points while shooting .385 percent from the field. Monk also handled some of the back up point guard minutes towards the end of the season. Now, he should see more minutes and shots in Summer League action.
Not to mention, the Hornets are always shopping Kemba Walker to other teams. If Monk can prove he is a more efficient scorer that might make it easier to move Walker. At the very least, he could earn him self more point guard minutes if he improves as a facilitator and playmaker in Summer League play.
Either way, it is important for Monk to showcase some of the reasons why he was drafted very high last offseason.
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Miami is constantly shopping Hasaan Whiteside in the trade rumors. Whiteside’s attitude and contract are the reason he is rumors despite his ability to fill the stat sheet. It also doesn’t help that the Heat invested a lottery pick in the Adebayo last year. Before they dump Whiteside for cap or prospects, they will need to know Adebayo is going to develop into a starter.
Adebayo’s athleticism and size makes him a great prospect for the Miami Heat. He played well in summer league action last year and he should do so again after averaging 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 19.8 minutes for the Heat in the regular season.
The raw prospect has enough skills to be a part of Miami’s future so hopefully he can prove that over the next few weeks.
Zack Collins, Portland Trail Blazers
Collins was a top-ten pick last year. He averaged less than 4 rebounds and 5 points in 66 games last year. The former Gonzaga star only played about 15 minutes per game. Also, don’t forget Jusuf Nurkic is a restricted free agent which could open some minutes for Collins.
Either way, Collins should get plenty of Summer League action. In Las Vegas, expect Collins to continue making an impact on the defensive side. His shooting needs to get more consistent if he is going to become Portland’s third best player.
The Blazers need him to flash star player abilities because there are not many other ways this team can get better next year.
Sterling Brown, Milwaukee Bucks
Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a hardcore NBA fan to know Sterling Brown. The younger brother of former NBA player Shannon Brown, Sterling is a second round pick from 2017 who played in 54 games for Milwaukee last year.
Still, he became infamous after a body camera revealed him being arrested, taunted and teased by Milwaukee police. To no fault of his own, eyes will forever be on Brown.
Regardless, Brown should showcase the length, quickness, defense and improved shooting that earned him rotation minutes last season. Hopefully, the NBA summer league is the start of Brown getting back to focusing and being known for his basketball play.
Other veterans worth mentioning
Cheick Diallo played some good minutes for the Pelicans due to injury. The third year player could build on a few double-digit scoring efforts from the regular season by dominating Summer League with his shooting.
Moreover, Willy Hernangomez has averaged 6.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in two NBA seasons split between the Hornets and Knicks. Hernangomez is a third year player with the size and athletic ability of a solid big in the NBA. He will be a step ahead of the competition since he has two more years experience than most of the bigs participating.
Speaking of experience, C.J. Wilcox is an NBA journey man who didn’t play in the league last year but spent some time in the G-League. The 2014 No. 28 pick has shot only 33 percent from three point range in 66 career games, despite his bill as a greater shooter. Wilcox needs to showcase his shooting and defense if he wants to stick in the NBA.
Otherwise, Malachi Richardson is another guard who needs to showcase something if he wants to stick in the league. He is entering his third year and it is technically the third team he has been on since the Hornets drafted him with the 22nd pick in the 2016 draft. They traded him to the Kings on draft night. Now, he is trying to crack the Raptors rotation. The shooting guard appeared in only one game after the Kings traded him before the trade deadline.
Marquis Teague is another notable veteran playing for the Raptors. Teague was the No. 29 pick in the 2012 draft but he has only appeared in 3 NBA games since the 2013-14 season. The 25-year-old guard appeared in 74 minutes for the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Perhaps he can build on that momentum and make an impact on the Raptors roster.
Added, Deyonta Davis is a 21-year-old seven-footer who has averages 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds after two seasons since he was the No. 31 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Memphis will hope he can take the next step by dominating Summer League competition with his length and athleticism.
You might also recognize John Jenkins. Jenkins is fresh off a season in Spain and K.J. McDaniels is fresh off a season in the G-league. Both are on Portland’s summer league roster. McDaniels brings three years NBA experience and Jenkins has four years.
Archie Goodwin is 18 points away from becoming the Summer League’s all-time leading scorer. He is in his fourth year and he is on Portland’s roster too.
Byron Mullens is 29-years-old and still playing in this thing too. He is on the Magic’s roster at the moment.
RJ Hunter, Quincy Miller and Markel Brown are all players with three years experience on the Houston Rockets Summer League team. Houston has one of the more experienced rosters so far.