We have witnessed four days of NBA Summer League basketball in Las Vegas. After watching the first 2-3 games of all the rookies in the Summer League, we were able to evaluate them on an NBA court against other basketball professionals. Here are my top 5 rookies that you should keep an eye on throughout the remainder of Vegas:
5. Donovan Mitchell
After being picked No. 13 in this year’s draft by the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell put up amazing stats in the three games he played in the Utah Summer League. He averaged 15.3 ppg, 3.3 apg, and 3.3 spg, while playing strong competition against the Celtics, Spurs, and 76ers, and having the opportunity to go head-to-head with top draft picks such as Markelle Fultz, and Jayson Tatum. During the closing minutes of the game against the Celtics, he proves his defensive skills to everyone after stealing the ball from No. 3 pick Tatum, and breaking his ankles in the following play. He plays with intensity and boldness, and can guard any player from the 1-3. the fact that was he was chosen thirteenth does not affect the way he plays. He gives Jazz fans something to cheer for after losing their beloved player, Gordon Hayward.
4. De’Aaron Fox
If you watched any college game of Fox, you know how fast he is. Possibly being the fastest player in this summer league, his speed gives defenders problems guarding him. He is able to easily get into the paint, which causes defenders to collapse on him and leave their man open for an assist for Fox. In the three games in Vegas, De’Aaron Fox averaged 17.5 ppg, 4 rpg, and 4 apg. He is playing alongside second year guard Buddy Hield, which can be seen as a strong duo for the future, with Fox’s ability to drive to the basket, and Hield’s 3-point shooting. Fox shows potential on the defensive end with his hustle and energy. Due to his quick movement, he gives opponents problems on the offensive end because he can easily deflect passes, and has good foot speed to stay in front of his opponent.
3. Josh Jackson
Being picked forth in the draft by the Phoenix Suns, Jackson has to opportunity to play with a very young talented team. In the Summer League, he plays with second year players, Marquese Chriss, and Dragan Bender, and Dunk Contest nominee Derrick Jones Jr. The future of this team looks very bright, including guards Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and Tyler Ulis. He is currently averaging 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, and 2 apg. Like Fox, and Mitchell, he is very fierce and aggressive. On the offensive side, he has a very well balanced game. Since he is not the primary ball handler, he does not have much of the opportunity to prove it, but he has the ability to know where everyone is on the court. He plays with hustle going after offensive rebounds, loose ball, etc. Most importantly, he has the ability to take over a game by creating shots for himself or his teammates. On defense, he can disrupt the passing lane, and block opponent’s shots to turn them into fast break points on the other end. Although he’s not the type of defender that will stop the opponent from the scoring, his 6’8” length is pretty impressive for a wing player to block shots.
2. Dennis Smith Jr
Probably one of the biggest sleepers in this year’s NBA Draft, Smith was chosen with the 9th pick by the Dallas Mavericks. He is currently averaging 19.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and 5 apg. Throughout the games in Vegas, no one has yet to find a way to stop this 6’3” point guard from scoring the ball. After scoring 25 points on the Suns a few days ago, and giving No.4 pick Josh Jackson a hard to guard him, he proved his real worth to everyone. He is mostly dominant during pick and roll when given the switch. He easily passes them to get into the paint, and shows no problem finishing at the rim, or passing out to the open teammate. He also can occasionally make the 3-pointers he shoots, currently shooting 36.4% from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, Smith is very key for steals and deflecting the opponent’s passes. Since he is very speedy, running the fast break for the team can lead to easy baskets. It would be interesting to see what else he can do in the rest of Vegas.
1. Jayson Tatum
(here is the link to my article about Jayson Tatum’s game against the Lakers)
Jayson Tatum has proved to us all why the Celtics traded the No. 1 pick for him in the Utah and Las Vegas Summer League. During Utah, he averaged 18.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, and 2 apg. He has no problems scoring, and creating offense for himself and teammates. He can easily make fade away and turnaround jumpers while being guarded. He can also score in the post on a smaller defender, on an isolation against a bigger defender, or by getting himself open when cutting and curling to the basket. Tatum is also dominant on the glass, which helps create transition points for his team when he leads the fast break. Although his defense is not very strong, he can pick off passes, and block opponent’s shots as a 6’8” wing. There is a lot of potential in him, and it will be fun to watch him in the remainder of the Summer League.