Avoid Rushing to Judgement
The most frequent pitfall after the Vegas Summer League is the tendency to overreact, either positively or negatively. While the NBA’s Summer League certainly offers a great platform for undrafted or G League players to exhibit their skills, any standout performances shouldn’t be overly emphasized. Similarly, some rookies may exhibit their shortcomings in their initial NBA appearances, which may cause some alarm. However, it’s crucial to avoid making broad assertions based on a few matches from the past 11 days that, in the grand scheme of things, may not be particularly significant.
Wembanyama May Face Rookie of the Year Competition
Based on the betting odds, French prodigy Victor Wembanyama appeared set to secure the Rookie of the Year title even before his selection by the San Antonio Spurs as the No. 1 pick in the recent draft, especially after demonstrating immense potential in Vegas. However, the emergence of another versatile giant, Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder, has somewhat rebalanced the market. Holmgren, who was the second pick in the 2022 draft but had to sit out his entire rookie season due to a foot injury, has reignited excitement over his talents. The 7ft 1in center from Gonzaga shares several unorthodox skills with Wembanyama, and his average of 20.5 points on 56% shooting in Vegas has made him a strong contender for the ROY title.
Scoot Henderson Is a Force to Be Reckoned With
The Hornets’ decision to select Brandon Miller ahead of Scoot Henderson during the draft was met with considerable backlash. While some argued that Miller’s unique blend of size and skill justified the second overall pick, many were surprised that the Hornets didn’t choose Henderson, who seemed to be a potential game-changer. Following Henderson’s dazzling performance in the Summer League, the criticism is unlikely to subside – the 6ft 2in point guard proved himself as a star-in-waiting during his electrifying 21-minute appearance at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The LA Lakers’ Scouting Department Continues to Excel
The Lakers’ scouting team, led by Jesse Buss, has an exceptional track record of identifying promising players who have been overlooked in the draft, such as Austin Reaves and Alex Caruso. The recent Summer League has added more talents to this list. Max Christie, last year’s second-round pick, seized his chances impressively, while undrafted two-way wing player D’Moi Hodge also exceeded expectations. As the Lakers look to rebuild their roster after parting ways with Russell Westbrook and somehow breaking into the NBA’s final four, their ability to identify and develop talent will be crucial, especially as LeBron James approaches the end of his career. So far, they appear to be on the right track.
Many teams will rue overlooking Cam Whitmore
Every year in June, we witness the uncomfortable spectacle of a projected early pick dropping down in the draft order. The reasons for their fall from grace can be myriad: health issues, an odd interview, undisclosed personal problems, or a mix of all these. This year, the unfortunate decline was experienced by Villanova forward Cam Whitmore. He was anticipated to be among the top six or seven picks but fell to the Houston Rockets at No 20. Whitmore displayed remarkable talent in Vegas, earning the Summer League MVP title and demonstrating his NBA-readiness. The reason behind the 6ft 7in small forward’s unexpected draft night plummet remains an enigma. However, considering his clear potential and the newfound determination in his robust demeanor, it’s highly likely that several teams will regret not choosing him.
The G League is not to be ignored
This has been an ongoing lesson for the past few years. The NBA’s developmental secondary league has always been a treasure trove for scouts seeking raw talent waiting to be honed. This has become even more significant with the introduction of the G League’s Ignite team, offering young prodigies a professional alternative to the conventional collegiate route. However, the Ignite team isn’t the only source of impactful players. This is demonstrated by the emergence of players like Portland’s Michael Devoe, who previously played for the Los Angeles Clippers’ G League team in Ontario, California. The 6ft 4in shooting guard’s impressive performance at the Summer League indicates his potential promotion to the NBA before the season concludes.
Certain players require a year to adjust
In line with the principle of not jumping to conclusions (refer to point one), it’s advisable to withhold most judgments on second-year NBA players in Vegas until the start of the regular season. However, the Summer League may suggest that we might be dismissing first-year players prematurely. An example is Jabari Smith Jr, who was selected by Houston with the No 3 overall pick in the 2022 draft. The 6ft 11in power forward from Auburn didn’t have a standout rookie year. However, given the Rockets’ disappointing performance last year, it’s uncertain how he could have stood out. Smith Jr’s exceptional performance in two games in Vegas, including consecutive 30-point games and a spectacular buzzer-beater against Portland, hints at the game-changer he has the potential to be.
The Utah Jazz discovered a rare find
Historically, a surprising number of first-round picks falling outside the lottery range have turned out to be undervalued. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard were both chosen at No 15 overall, while Jimmy Butler was not selected until the 30th and final pick of the first round. If the Summer League this year has demonstrated anything, it’s the hidden gem in the form of Baylor shooting guard Keyonte George, who was picked by Utah with the 16th pick. The 6ft 4in teenager had a spectacular run in Vegas, consistently delivering impressive stats, until a minor ankle injury ended his Summer League stint.
Doris Burke Deserves More Recognition
ESPN has recently been in the news for a spate of high-profile layoffs, including the dismissal of Jeff Van Gundy, one of its leading NBA broadcasters. These layoffs, and the vague justifications provided, have generally been viewed negatively. However, there’s a silver lining if these changes finally lead to the much-deserved promotion of Doris Burke as the network’s primary color commentator for NBA broadcasts. Burke’s expertise and dynamic exchange with Mark Jones elevated the otherwise mundane Summer League games with their lively and thoughtful commentary.
Nikola Jokić was awarded the NBA finals MVP trophy after his crucial role in clinching the Denver Nuggets’ first championship ever.
Las Vegas Eagerly Awaits an NBA Team
Las Vegas is already home to the WNBA’s Aces, a professional basketball team that has secured a championship. The local community has embraced the team, flocking to Mandalay Bay in large numbers. Add to this the consistently high level of enthusiasm for the Summer League, and it’s apparent that Las Vegas is ready and deserving of an NBA team.
Given the recent developments, it seems only a matter of time before this becomes a reality. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement of an in-season tournament to be held in Las Vegas is just one of the many signs pointing towards an imminent expansion team in the city. LeBron James has expressed interest in owning a prospective Las Vegas franchise, and the demand from the fans in this rapidly growing sports hub is evidently reciprocal.