Sure it’s just summer league, but it was an exciting couple of weeks out in Las Vegas.
Wins and losses never really matter (although we got a thrilling championship game), but this is the chance to break down the games of all the best young talents in the game.
Here are 16 players that impressed in Summer League ’16.
16. Tyus Jones – Minnesota Timberwolves
Jones won the MVP in Vegas, playing 34.4 minutes per game over a league-high eight games. He averaged 20.4 points, 3.8 boards and 6.8 assists en route to carrying the Wolves to the championship game.
15. Tyler Ullis — Phoenix Suns
Ullis is very similar to Jones in the sense that they’re both supremely talented, yet very undersized. Summer League is the perfect place for these guys to shine. Ullis could turn out to be a second-round steal for the Suns after averaging 14.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and an impressive 2.4 steals.
14. Trey Lyles — Utah Jazz
Lyles was a lottery pick last season but still decided to come and participate in two games in Vegas. In that time he led the league in scoring at 29.0 PPG on 47.2% shooting. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything about how Lyles will play on the big stage next season, but this is exactly the type of performance you’d hope for.
13. Devin Booker — Phoenix Suns
Booker also decided to play in a pair of games despite his fantastic rookie season — maybe to team up with Ullis after their time at Kentucky together. Booker continued to shoot the lights out (26.0 PPG on 47.4% shooting) and also showed how well-rounded he can be as a playmaker (5.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists). This kid has the makings of a star.
12. Jordan McRae — Cleveland Cavaliers
McRae is a former late second-round pick of the Spurs that’s fallen into favor with the Cavs. This summer he showed he belongs in the NBA — finishing only behind Lyles and Booker in PPG. McRae made the league’s first-team with averages of 24.3 points, 5.0 boards and 2.0 helpers.
11. Kris Dunn — Minnesota Timberwolves
Dunn suffered a concussion in his second game, but he may have been the best player in the league before going down. The super-athletic, lightning fast PG averaged 24.0 points on 54.3% from the field, while also contributing 7 boards, 3 dimes, 2 steals and a block. It’s easy to see why many were shocked Dunn slipped past No. 3 all the way to No. 5 overall.
10. D’Angelo Russell — Los Angeles Lakers
Russell seems to be developing his game nicely, he racked up 21.8 points (47.7% FG), 6.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 steals. Russell also made some clutch plays, including a game-winner during a showdown with Philly.
9. Terry Rozier — Boston Celtics
The Celtics have so many grind-it-out guards and only so many minutes to go around. But with Evan Turner gone, Rozier will have a chance to get into the rotation, and his play has shown he could be a capable replacement — 21.0 points on a scorching 62.1% shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.3 thefts.
8. Jamal Murray — Denver Nuggets
Murray slipped a bit in the draft to No. 7 overall, which was a surprise given his best NBA-ready skill — scoring. Murray averaged 19.6 points, but you really have to just use the eye test with him. The kid can really score. Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay are going to form a dangerous backcourt.
7. Bobby Portis — Chicago Bulls
Portis was one of the biggest steals in the 2015 draft. With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah out of town, Portis is going to have a much larger role this season. He proved he’s ready for it this summer — 17.3 points (49.0% shooting) along with 9.4 boards. Portis has a chance to be a really solid inside-out big on both ends.
6. Brandon Ingram — LA Lakers
Ingram was ALL about the eye test. His 12.2 PPG in five games played was pedestrian for a No. 2 pick that’s getting Kevin Durant comparisons. So I’ll let you just watch the tape and see why everyone believes Ingram has a great shot to be one of the best wing scorers in the NBA at some point in his career.
5. Norman Powell — Toronto Raptors
Powell actually started some playoff games for the North last season, so he was in Vegas just to polish his game. Powell carried the Raptors as expected, with 19.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. A sixth-man role could be perfect for him this upcoming season.
4. Thon Maker — Milwaukee Bucks
How old is he and can he really play? Those were the two questions about Maker entering the draft. Now we know the answer to one — he can indeed play. Maker only shot 37.7% from the field, so he needs plenty of work as expected. But I don’t think anyone saw Maker averaging 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds this summer. His potential is real.
3. Jaylen Brown — Boston Celtics
Brown was even worse from the field than Maker (32.8%) … not the best sign from the No. 3 pick. But he still had a fantastic summer for the Celtics for other reasons. Brown averaged 16.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 steals while showing elite athleticism all over the floor. Most importantly, he attempted 10.2 free throws per game, which allowed him to score despite his lack of shooting. If Brown can develop a jumper, he could be the real deal.
2. Denzel Valentine — Chicago Bulls
Valentine has plenty of room for improvement, but he’s worth mentioning. His 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.6 steals were in the neighborhood of what we expected, but he didn’t shoot well (35.2% FG). If you saw the championship game, you know he made ‘em when they counted, though.
1. Ben Simmons — Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons did a little bit of everything for Philly this summer. His numbers appear average — 12.3 points (40.9% shooting), 7.8 boards, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and nearly a block per game. They eye test suggests Simmons could be a very special player though. The way he passes the ball, I think the 76ers would be silly not to hand him the starting PG role, even at 6’10” … he’s that much of a magician with the ball.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.