After an exciting Summer League filled with outstanding ball movement, and jaw-dropping dunks, we got a quick preview of what each rookie can do. After analyzing each player with the amount of games and minutes they played, we listed the top 10 rookies ranked based on their offensive and defensive performances.
10. Luke Kennard (Detroit Pistons)
The Pistons were one of the six teams that were not part of the Las Vegas Summer League, as we did not get to see the No. 12 pick, Kennard play against many of the other rookies in his draft class. While only being part of the Orlando Summer League, he was still impressive in the five games he played.
On the offensive side, averaging 17.2 points, and 2.4 assists, Kennard was able to show off his shooting skills, going 46.5 percent from the field, and 47.8 percent beyond the arc. His shooting form particularly got attention from fans watching for his quick release. As a 6’6” shooting guard, he displayed elite guard skills with his ability to handle the ball, and make plays for his teammates with his passes.
Even though he proved that he can guard NBA wings in this Summer League, his role for his rookie year would not be bigger than coming off the bench as a role player, while playing behind Avery Bradley in the rotation, and for a team that is looking to advance to the playoffs in a weakened East. But Kennard will still definitely see valuable playing time as a rookie to knock down shots, move the ball around, and to sell himself to the league.
9. John Collins (Atlanta Hawks)
Being picked 19th in this year’s draft, Collins is proving to be a great pickup for the Atlanta Hawks. Only playing 23 minutes per game, he averaged 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, while shooting 59.3 percent from the field.
Collins mostly grabbed everyone’s attention this year with his eye-opening dunks, showing he can attack the basket with power, explosiveness, and fierceness, and just dunk on anyone who is in the paint. His athleticism and coordination around the basket made him look like a real threat to the defense. Although he looks confident shooting jumpers near the foul line, his shot shows inconsistency, and should definitely look to improve it throughout his years with Atlanta to possibly become a stretch 4.
As the Hawks lost Paul Milsap in free agency, they will probably be looking to rebuild, so Collins would definitely be seeing plenty of playing time as a rookie and gaining NBA experience.
8. Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
After scoring an outstanding 30 points in the Summer League Finals and wining the Finals MVP, Kuzma can possibly be one of the biggest steals in the 2017 NBA Draft. Selected 27th overall by the Brooklyn Nets, he was sent to the Lakers with Brook Lopez. In 32 minutes, he averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 7 Summer League games.
On the offensive side, Kuzma has been shooting an amazing 51.4 percent from the field, and 48.0 percent beyond the arc, making 24 threes in total, and averaging 3.4 makes per game. From receieving Lonzo Ball’s touchdown passes, we can see that he can finish in transition with a defender on him. Standing at 6’10”, he is skilled enough to also attack the basket, and post up in the paint. We have also seen his guard-like abilities to handle the ball, and finding the open teammate when driving into the paint.
His 6.4 rebounds per game average were surprising low, but his offense was as better as any other big man in the past 17 days. He has definitely earned himself valuable minutes in the regular season, and has proved to everyone in the Summer League that he can play any position on the court. After all, Kuzma may be the stretch 4 that the Lakers have been searching for since their rebuilding process.
7. Josh Jackson (Phoenix Suns)
After a terrible first two games shooting for a combined 34 percent from the field, Josh Jackson found his rhythm for the final three games while shooting 48.8 percent from the field. In the five games he played, he averaged 17.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 42.5 field goal percentage in total.
Using his athleticism to his advantage, he produced points for himself by attacking the basket during fast breaks and in transition. Jackson was very impressive without the ball, setting off ball screens to separate himself from defenders to shoot midrange jumpers, though he is a very inconsistent shooter. While only making 3 of the 16 3-pointers he attempted, he struggles to create shots for himself that are not at the basket, and shooting the ball outside of the paint.
However, his versatility and energy on the defensive end will earn him minutes on a rebuilding Suns team. Playing alongside plenty of young teammates, it will be interesting to see how Jackson will fit with Booker and Bledsoe while giving the Suns an offensive weapon to put pressure on oppoentns to guard the paint.
6. Caleb Swanigan (Portland Trailblazers)
Like Kuzma, Caleb Swanigan was a late first round pick, and has showed very bright potential playing in the Summer League. In eight games, he averaged 16.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
As a center, Swanigan can create his offense inside the paint, or from the 3-point line. When inside the paint, he can post-up, and finish around the rim, or pass out of the post to the open man, which can cause problems to other teams when Lillard or McCollum are the open man. Although he is undersized for a center, listing at 6’9”, he shows no problems scoring, or guarding bigger defenders. Although he did not display a great shooting performance, going 27 percent beyond the arc in Las Vegas, he can still be a threat from there as he can space out the floor, causing big men to step out of the paint and guard him.
He will most likely see minutes as a rookie mostly because of his presence to grab rebounds, and his well-balanced skill set. However, he can possibly play at the power forward slot, as the Blazers believe that Swanigan and Jusuf Nurkić can play together on the court simultaneously.
5. Markelle Fultz (Philadelphia 76ers)
The 76ers are never surprised to hear about their players being injured, as Fultz experienced a summer league-ankle injury in his third game. However, in the games he played, he averaged 16.0 points, and 2.3 assists, while shooting 40.9 percent from the field, and 37.5 percent beyond the arc.
In the three games he played, Fultz has given us a preview of his amazing handles and footwork, while having the ability to create his own shots shooting fade-aways, pull-ups, and step-backs. We also saw that he can finish in the paint by scoring at the rim, or putting up floaters. His shooting range is quite impressive after making six threes in the two games he played in the Utah Summer League. However, the quality of the shots he takes are not very high, which results in why his field goal percentage is pretty low, but it is hard to fully analyze him after watching him play for only a combined 64 1/2 minutes in the Summer League.
Hopefully, if Fultz is healthy for the regular season, it will be interesting to see the young 76ers team make a playoff run next year led by their two rookies, Ben Simmons, and Fultz.
4. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Mitchell has broken out to be one of the top players of this year’s draft class, averaging 20.4 points, 2.6 assists, and 4.4 steals, and even scoring the most points in one game in the entire Summer League this year with 37 points, and also grabbing 8 steals.
On offense, he exhibited a high-level of ability to create shots, both as a shooter, and driving to the basket, while having a strong ball-handle. After shooting 39 percent behind the 3-point line in the Utah Summer League, he shot an inconsistent 27 percent at Las Vegas. However, he had three different games where he made 3 triples, leaving no questions that he can shoot the ball. His athleticism and competitiveness definitely appears on the defensive end, as he can apply pressure to the opponent to force turnovers, and get the steal.
Even though the Jazz lost their beloved star, Gordon Hayward, they will have something to cheer for in Donovan Mitchell. It will be without doubt that he will be playing plenty of minutes as a rookie, and might turn out to be a candidate for the Rookie of the Year award.
3. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
After an amazing display from the Summer League, Tatum seems to be the most prepared rookie to play against real NBA stars and players, averaging 18.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and a 44.6 field goal percentage.
While being very consistent in the six games he played, scoring in double digits each game, Tatum mostly stood out with the way he was able to create his own offense. He showed no difficulty in knocking down off- balanced, fadeaway, and turnaround jumpers. He also makes sure his presence is felt in the paint, making tough finishes around the rim through contact, showcasing his coordination and athleticism. As a wing player, Tatum is very dominant on the glass, allowing him to run the fast break, and help his team score easy points in transition.
Unfortunately, with the limited minutes available behind Gordon Hayward in the rotation, it will be hard to see Tatum’s full set of skills next season while playing for a team that is competing to win a championship.
2. Dennis Smith Jr (Dallas Mavericks)
The New York Knicks will definitely be regretting passing on Dennis Smith Jr in a few years. Selected 9th overall by the Mavericks, Smith has shown us nothing but star potential in Las Vegas. Putting defenders in posters, knocking down tough fade-aways, and speeding through the court, Dennis Smith Jr looked really comfortable on the court, averaging 17.3 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 steals, while shooting 45.7 from the field.
Once Smith has got his confidence on the offensive end, there is no way in stopping him. His athleticism and explosiveness helps him throw down unbelievable finishes, both around, and at the rim. He also has a decent mid-range game, scoring off-the-dribble, and has shown that he will make each jumper he shoots when in rhythm. Smith has average ball handling skills, but he seems to rely too often on his teammates, instead of creating the offense as a playmaking guard.
With the Mavs in rebuilding mode, there will be plenty of playing for Dennis Smith Jr, and can easily be a Rookie of the Year nominee.
1. Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers)
After a terrible Summer League debut, Lonzo Ball turned it around to win the MVP. He became the first player to record a triple double in Vegas, averaging 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds.
Putting up the highest assist per game average in Summer League history, Ball took over Las Vegas with his passing vision and playmaking skills. From a missed or made shot by the opponent, he likes to create a fast-tempo offense, throwing deep, touchdown passes from nearly 70 feet away to his teammates for quality looks at the rim. His unselfishness was amazing to watch, as he did not hold the ball for too long, always looking to create the offense for his teammates to get rid of the ball. However, his shooting percentages were quite low, shooting 38.2 percent from the field, and 23.8 percent behind the arc, but the quality of the shots he took improved throughout the Summer League after shooting 2-for-15 in his first game.
He is truly a team player, and it will be interesting to watch the Lakers next season with the way he ran their offense in the Summer League, if he continues the way he plays.