2022 California Classic Recap: California Dreamin’ or Screamin’

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  • Greetings, hoop junkies! If you are anything like us here at SportsEthos, a day game on the Tuesday after an Independence Day celebration is enough to keep us absolutely amped up for the next hoops season. In terms of fantasy previews, there are not many opportunities for other sports to provide a direct vision into what production may be one day for any given player. Sure, the MLB has Spring Training to offer. However, baseball prospects are commonly multiple years away and those rosters also include everyday players who do not allow for uninhibited gametime. The NBA Summer League experience is an awesome melting pot of top prospects trying to flash their immediate potential, sophomores illustrating how far their games have grown in just one season and gritty workhorses trying to earn a training camp invite over the names called on stage. Best of all, you might just find your final fantasy pick sleeper or free agent to watch silently as your peers may not have scouted well enough.

    For example, Josh Hart won the 2018 Summer League MVP after being selected as the No. 30 pick in the 2017 Draft. This is important because prior to this, to casual fans who did not follow the NCAA champion at Villanova, his name faded a bit into the background as a part of the Lakers. The next summer, Hart was dealt to New Orleans as a part of the famous Anthony Davis trade. As a part of the Pelicans, Hart was clearly in line for some real opportunity at top-100 production and he lived up to his hype when he got his playing time. In his first Pels season he put up 10.1 points, 6.5 boards and 1.0 steals as an incredible 6’5” rebounder. Nowadays, he has transformed into one of the best low-key all-around wings at 27-years-old and  is set to make his money as a solid starter for the Blazers. However, if you paid attention in the summer of 2018, you were primed to scoop him up the past few years with real evidence as to why he could succeed in the NBA.

    In this series of Summer League articles, I’ll be highlighting the highs and lows of each day. From California to Utah and lastly Las Vegas — there is plenty to watch out for. Any fantasy manager in a standard 9-cat format or extremely deep dynasty league can learn quite a bit from the summer hoops circuit ahead of refining their draft boards this fall. Most people from California have ridden on Disney’s Incredicoaster (formerly known as California Screamin’); moreover, the 1965 song California Dreamin’ has been played in popular culture for decades now. Who was dreamin’ of being the next fantasy stud and who had their fanbase screamin’ for help out in the bay area during the California Classic?

     

    Saturday, July 2nd

    Dreamin’

    Keegan Murray
    F, Sacramento Kings

    Kings fans were so hyped after watching this debut that they were decking the halls of Chase Center yelling that the team will finally get back to being a 40-win team. All jokes aside, Murray absolutely stole the show on his way to dropping 26 points (10-of-14 FG, 4-of-5 3PT) with eight boards. This offensive outburst had diehard Kings fans jumping for joy at the idea of him teaming up with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. There was production at all three levels of scoring, and this versatile top-5 pick is already on his way to being adored by the Kings. Murray has great length and put up insane defensive numbers at Iowa, so he will undoubtedly be more of an added defensive contributor in future contests. For fantasy purposes, there is plenty of reason to believe that Murray will be getting big minutes for the team as they traded away Justin Holiday and Maurice Harkless (who were getting starts at the end of last season). One Summer League game is far from enough evidence, but surely Murray must remain on deeper-thinking managers’ minds moving forward.

     

    Screamin’

    Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    Beyond the overall day one California Classic disappointment of needing to wait even longer for the return of prized big man James Wiseman for the Warriors, it was the former Warrior Mulder who put up a stinker in his first NBA Summer League action as a member of the Heat. The 28-year-old guard and fourth-year pro played 23 minutes en route to seven points (3-of-10 FG, 1-of-5 3PT), one rebound and one assist. Mulder played 60 games for the 2020-21 Warriors but only appeared in 17 games last season for the Magic and Heat. The former JUCO star and Kentucky Wildcat had previously shown some nice upside as a bench scorer for the Warriors during the team’s short restructuring phase. For now, it seems as if Mulder’s days in the NBA may be limited even as a two-way player. There will likely be better low-key options to target at the end of NBA rosters this season than looking Mulder’s way.

     

    Sunday, July 3rd

    Dreamin’

    Cole Swider
    G, Los Angeles Lakers

    Given that the 2021-22 Lakers struggled mightily with shooting, Swider already turning heads as a shooting presence is something to keep in mind if injuries continue to plague the Lakers roster. In Sunday’s contest against the Warriors, the sharpshooter out of Syracuse knocked down five triples while scoring 16 points with three rebounds. One player who utilized Summer League (and then the subsequent G League season) to illustrate his extreme shooting ability was Duncan Robinson. Now, Robinson is on a $90 million contract despite slowing down this past season. In terms of likely fantasy production, Swider may not see the floor very much and may not be a factor in his rookie season. However, there is clearly a sweet stroke with Swider, so do not forget that if he continues to shoot the lights out as a young two-way NBA player who has two years on his deal as of right now.

     

    Screamin’

    Moses Moody
    SG, Golden State Warriors

    This one was a 23-point rout, and Moody was a -24 in the box +/- in the game after logging 24 minutes. A second-year pro, the former Arkansas Razorback showed some real flashes of scoring talent at the G League and NBA level during his rookie season. He is seemingly set up for a larger reserve role next season after the team let go of Damion Lee, Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano-Anderson. While these names are not the flashiest or more talented, the signing of Donte DiVincenzo was the only real positional threat for Moody. This contest was not kind to the sophomore, as he shot 3-of-11 and turned the ball over five times. Moody will have better days down the line, especially if he gets extended run as an injury replacement during the regular season. It is unfortunate that he could not show out on his home floor for the California Classic. Keep an eye on him only if the Warriors really give him a chance to shine one day.

     

    Tuesday, July 5th

    Dreamin’

    Keegan Murray
    F, Sacramento Kings

    For the second time in three games, Murray was the best player on the floor. He played 31 minutes and put up 24 points (9-of-16 FG, 2-of-4 3PT), seven rebounds, three steals and one block during the victory over the Lakers. The 2022 No. 4 pick flexed his all-around play once again and clearly should be the California Classic MVP during this round-robin style of play. He moves like a graceful gazelle and clearly has an amazing feel for the game while he can attack smaller defenders off the dribble or run off screens for a catch-and-shoot opportunity all the same. At this point, fans league wide are drooling at the opportunity to see another week or so of Murray action in Vegas. If his amazing start in the summer circuit continues there, he may lock himself into being a top-120 fantasy draft pick for managers willing to take a leap on his skillset. In a vacuum, he is looking like he is heading towards an All-Rookie team at minimum.

     

    Screamin’

    Max Christie
    G, Los Angeles Lakers

    Despite playing in a team-high 23 minutes, Christie failed to make a big impact in his third straight game. He scored five points (1-of-6 FG, 3-of-5 FT) with eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. While the production on defense and the eight rebounds can provide some promise, it is still disappointing that the Lakers’ score-first guard has not been able to get it going so far. The one way that Christie was going to be fantasy relevant this season was if he could be a nice bench scorer to leapfrog some of the older role players on the roster. Until proven otherwise, it is looking like the South Bay Lakers will be developing the young guard to start the year. The Lakers will be in Vegas soon and there may be more opportunity for Christie to show his stuff, and Lakers fans should hold off on any real initial judgments on the second round pick until then. 

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