July 19, 2022, 7:58 pm
Greetings for the third time in just a few weeks, hoops junkies/nerds/freaks — whatever those of us tuning in intently to these Summer League matchups want to call ourselves. The 2K23 Las Vegas Summer League lasted 10 days and gave fans of every franchise a small sneak peek into how some of their younger players (exclude Bruno Caboclo and Justin Jackson) may produce in 2022-23.
If you missed this short introduction from the last two articles: “In this series of Summer League articles, I’ll be highlighting the highs and lows of each day’s games played. From California, Utah and Las Vegas in Nevada — 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 coming this fall.”
My last Summer League success story comes directly from these recent games in Las Vegas. Mfiondu Kabengele played in five games while putting up 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 triples on 58.7% from the field in 24.5 minutes. While Kabengele was never quite the eye-popping “best” player in either gym during the 10 days of games out in Vegas, he played quite well if you really paid attention to his overall body of work. Also, with the Celtics moving on from Daniel Theis, the Celtics can use a reserve big man with solid shooting from all over the court and tangible defensive instincts. Kabengele happened to shoot 40.0% from downtown on 3.0 attempts each game, and his springy defense was a highlight for him coming out of college as a first-round pick in 2019. With the Clippers, the former Florida State Seminole was relegated to a lowly reserve role behind Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green and Patrick Patterson to start off.
While the Celtics have plenty of frontcourt players, Al Horford has already been deemed as one to not play as much as he did last season and Robert Williams III has not necessarily been an iron man in terms of his games played. There is value to be had with Kabengele, and he will continue proving himself on a two-way deal after standing out amidst the crowded action in Vegas.
Thursday, July 7th
High Roller: Jaden Ivey, Pistons
Ivey came out as the clear star in this one, leading the charge for the Pistons with the extreme confidence that he had at Purdue. He ended with 20 points (6-of-14 FG, 2-of-5 3PT), six rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes as the Pistons won by three in this “Midnight Madness” day one nightcap. Ivey was the main ball handler for a majority of this game, a huge sign as to how he will be featured alongside Cade Cunningham during the regular season. Both players have great length and Ivey’s feel for the game in this one had me personally buying into the idea that he can grow into being a lead guard when Cunningham rests. It was unfortunate that Ivey went down early in his second contest after this performance, but this opening display was a wonderful start to the festivities in Vegas. Success in pick-and-roll scenarios with Jalen Duren and the dishes out to an improved shooter in Isaiah Stewart were some visions that Pistons fans have been wanting out of a starting shooting guard for a few years now.
Low Roller: Killian Hayes, Pistons
While Ivey looked like he could fit right in with his new Pistons team, Hayes looked quite uncomfortable despite being a third-year player on this Summer League circuit. Unfortunately, Hayes ended up getting hurt again while only making an impact with seven points, four assists and three rebounds in 22 minutes of play against the Blazers. As a 2020 Draft pick, there is no doubt that fans everywhere were hoping that Hayes could put it together and finally show some progression in his game. Instead, there is simply too much in doubt for any fantasy manager to justify rostering Hayes outside of deep dynasty formats. The highest-drafted French prospect (until next season) truly has a lot of upside and has provided glimpses of being a well-rounded facilitator with an improved stroke from the corner. However, for now we must all wait to see what comes of his third campaign alongside Cunningham and Ivey.
Friday, July 8th
High Roller: Marko Simonovic, Bulls
Simonovic was incredible in this game, putting up 27 points (10-of-19 FG, 7-of-8 FT) with 13 boards and three swats. Coming into Summer League, Simonovic was looking a lot more sturdy as he definitely put on some weight recently. Moreover, his game looked a bit more refined and he had some real moves in the post for the Bulls. Considering how great Nikola Vucevic is, the Bulls have lacked a promising backup over the past couple seasons. Perhaps Simonovic can be that presence, since this dominant game only was the start of a trend for him throughout Las Vegas. In the end he put up 24.5 points, 8.8 boards, and 2.0 dimes in five games on his way to All-Summer League Second Team honors. The 3-point shooting is not quite there, but surely Simonovic can be in the minds of deeper fantasy managers, especially if he can carve out some minutes when the Bulls bigs go down.
Low Roller: Mark Williams, Hornets
Coming out in his first game off of the bench behind Kai Jones, Williams struggled to make an impact with only five points (2-of-8 FG, 1-of-2 FT) and eight rebounds. The two blocks were nice, but it was not promising with how he looked on the floor. There were some assumptions that Williams could be a clear winner out of the draft, starting right away for the Hornets. However, there are still Nick Richards and Kai Jones who may have a say in who receives the most minutes alongside LaMelo Ball to start the season. Since fantasy GMs cannot predict the future, it will be tricky evaluating the big man situation without any more information from the coach. If the Hornets run a center-by-committee type of solution, there will be no reason to draft Williams beyond having a deeper blocks specialist. If he can earn the starting spot and play a majority of minutes, there is some real potential for him to get things going in the field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks departments right away.
Saturday, July 9th
High Roller: Paolo Banchero, Magic
This ended up being Banchero’s last Summer League action, but his second game was an absolute thriller that went to double overtime against Keegan Murray and the Kings. I was lucky enough to catch this game live as Banchero put up 23 points (6-of-15 FG, 11-of-15 FT) with six boards, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 35 minutes. While the eight turnovers were not pretty, everything else was mesmerizing to watch. Banchero has the ability and willingness to take over games, with a clear presence that is of superstar capacity. With this aura surrounding his well-rounded game, the biggest fantasy takeaway to be had here is that he is a far better passer than advertised. Coaches continuously say he is a willing passer, but there is real playmaking ability here.
If you consider how huge the Magic can be with their lineups and combine that with the fact that they have some guards who can really light it up or get to the basket, then one can imagine the type of floor-raiser Banchero will be for them. Managers who take the plunge on him should expect plenty of ups and downs with efficiency and ball control, but Banchero will be filling up the box score on all levels.
Low Roller: Johnny Davis, Wizards
Davis had a tough debut in Summer League, shooting 1-of-11 from the field against the Pistons who were playing without Ivey after the first five minutes. Summer League never really turned around for Davis, as he looked like the slowest out of the gates in terms of lottery picks. It is obviously too early to deem anything on the young combo guard, but the hope is that his shooting stroke can improve alongside his playmaking. Watching this game, I noticed that he was forcing some strange shots (including some post-up fadeaways) while getting stuck in some traps by the defense. Washington has continued to show their support of Davis, even endorsing his play as being exactly what they are telling him to do. I hope he can bounce back to prove everybody wrong, because the light on this young man is only going to get brighter. In fantasy circles, it is looking like there is no reason to immediately draft him just yet.
Sunday, July 10th
High Roller: Cam Thomas, Nets
Thomas started this Summer League out strong, leading the quietly talented Nets squad to begin his second professional season. Truthfully, this 26-point, 7-assist performance was only an initial sign of things to come in Vegas. Thomas eventually played five games and led the field in scoring (more than two games played) at 27.4 points per game and even dished out 4.2 assists each ballgame. Thomas scoffed at an interviewer who was surprised about his playmaking chops, and at this point the feel for the game is obviously above where many pegged him to be at. As for fantasy purposes, Thomas has an interesting pathway to huge success. If the Nets were to deal away both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, then one would assume that Thomas could become one of the main guns for the team. Until then, managers should keep a close eye on him in dynasty formats, while redraft managers can view him as a solid scoring streamer when he has an avenue to bigger minutes consistently.
Low Roller: Christian Braun, Nuggets
This specific game was a rough one for Braun, as he shot 4-of-18 for 10 points while contributing five assists and three steals. One thing that stuck out was that Peyton Watson, drafted at the end of the first round, had far more of a well-rounded impact than the higher-selected Braun. One game is one game, but the poor 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting did not ease the mind of doubters with Braun. The former Kansas Jayhawk plays extremely hard, while finding his way into the lane with surprising strength at times. What will help out his case to get more minutes with the Nuggets is his shooting ability. Considering the team acquired Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, after drafting a rangy defender in Watson, it is clear that the team wants to surround its centerpieces with a certain type of role player moving forward. If Braun begins to put it together this season, he will likely be a steals streamer with some upside if his shot starts falling.
Monday, July 11th
High Roller: Tari Eason, Rockets
It was hard to not give this day’s highlight to Trey Murphy after he dropped 30 on the Hawks in a blowout that would turn out to be his last Summer League appearance. However, Eason put up a line that would have any 9-cat manager foaming at the mouth for more. He put up 22 points (9-of-16 FG, 2-of-3 3PT) with 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 29 minutes. Eason truly gets it done all over the court as a junkyard dog type of player who does not need sets run for him to get involved. With five offensive boards, this type of effort will serve him well as he has to compete for minutes alongside Jabari Smith Jr., Jae’Sean Tate and KJ Martin in a clogged frontcourt. Considering his potential steals and blocks rates, he may be an early grab off the waiver wire — similar to how Matisse Thybulle or Herb Jones were in their respective rookie seasons. If the Rockets have any roster changes or injuries in the frontcourt, Eason might be your first immediate streaming option in redraft formats next season. A fastbreak with Eason, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. might be a sight to behold in the near future.
Low Roller: Sharife Cooper, Hawks
Cooper ended this game with no points (0-of-8 FG), four assists and three boards in 21 minutes as the Hawks got demolished by the Pelicans. He eventually ended Summer League with averages of 4.4 points on 18.9% field-goal shooting and 18.2% from downtown. This was extremely disappointing from Cooper, as just last season he dazzled in Summer League while even knocking down one of the more exciting game-winners. Heading into the season, many hoop fanatics were dying to see more of him in the regular season, despite Delon Wright cutting directly into his path to minutes. Moving forward, there are not many opportunities that opened up for Cooper this offseason, as the team has arguably two of the best fantasy point guards playing together in the same backcourt. Thus, managers can only hope for the best for Cooper while he tries to piece back together his scoring ability.
Tuesday, July 12th
High Roller: Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors
Santi Aldama nearly stole this High Roller slot from Kuminga, but the young Warrior was incredible in his 29-point game that included one block and one steal. There will be chances for Kuminga to get some more minutes this season, with Otto Porter Jr. and Juan Toscano-Anderson leaving for new teams. Even at the power forward spot, Nemanja Bjelica is no longer on the roster, so Kuminga’s ability as a combo forward will surely come in handy for the Warriors. As a 9-cat asset, there is not a field in which Kuminga cannot help out in, as his free-throw shooting and 3-point stroke will need some smoothing out over time. Kuminga is athletic, has a pretty stroke and gives it his absolute all on the defensive end. The Warriors may have a secret weapon when they deploy him against other wings next season. Your fantasy team may have one too if you sneak him onto your roster when the time is right, though there will surely be more eyes on him even in deeper formats.
Low Roller: Max Christie, Lakers
A lowlight from my California Summer League article, Christie failed to turn things around in Vegas as this game saw him put up eight points (3-of-12 FG, 2-of-6 3PT) with only two rebounds and one assist. There was no doubt that Christie was raw coming into the Lakers organization, but the two-way players on the Summer League roster really outplayed him every night. One thing that really should be addressed with Christie is his shot selection. He is a fan of long runners over tall defenders with plenty of the shot clock left. If he is to fulfill his role as a nice reserve scorer for the Lakers, he will need to let the game come to him a bit more when he is in the G League playing for the South Bay Lakers. If the scoring can connect for him, he has an awesome frame and solid athleticism to be a shooting guard in the NBA down the line.
Wednesday, July 13th
High Roller: Sandro Mamukelashvili, Bucks
I want to shout out Keegan Murray and Ochai Agbaji, as both guys balled out on this Wednesday slate of games. However, “Mamu” was consistently putting up quite dominant games that included this performance against the Wolves. He scored 18 points (6-of-13 FG, 2-of-6 3PT), adding 15 boards, four assists and two blocks in 32 minutes of play. Mamu is already 23 and he did play four seasons at Seton Hall, but his time on the summer circuit really helped his case to remain on this roster as a reserve big man. The Bucks are huge in the frontcourt with Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis and Giannis Antetokounmpo; however, if any of them go down for a long period of time, there is Mamu in the shadows as a quietly capable big man who can get it done all over the floor. His athleticism will not bring you out of your seat, but his control over his play and smart reads on both sides absolutely will. He absolutely deserved his All-Summer League First Team nod, and he is becoming known for more than just his unique name.
Low Roller: Isaiah Todd, Wizards
At this point, Todd has not been able to really put it together in Vegas Summer League as he put up six points (2-of-7 FG, 1-of-6 3PT) with no other stats in 23 minutes. Todd took the G League Ignite route, the same as many other top high school prospects looking to prove his game against real pros. For the 6’10” big man, though, it has not paid off at all as his shooting is inconsistent and he does not necessarily impact the game beyond sheer athleticism. His bounce cannot be denied, and there was a game this Summer League that really illustrated the kind of shooter he can be for a team. However, these solid outings are more of the exception than the norm, and Todd will likely be spending more time with the Capital City Go-Go before competing for minutes at the highest level with the main squad.
Thursday, July 14th
High Roller: Quentin Grimes, Knicks
As one of the leading scorers throughout Summer League, Grimes surprised people with how effectively he broke down defenses each game. Eventually earning the Knicks a spot in the championship game, his efforts were highlighted alongside Miles McBride. Grimes was a gritty defender coming out of Houston, shooting the ball well in the NCAA tournament for the Cougars. This summer, Grimes has clearly taken strides in his shot creation (or at least, is getting the opportunity to flex it at a much, much higher level). He essentially led this somewhat-ignored Knicks squad to a championship appearance in these summer games, teaming up with McBride as a potent one-two punch each contest. The Knicks are in the news quite a bit with uncertainty regarding their roster moves heading into next season. If Grimes is dealt to the Jazz for Donovan Mitchell, he may thrive in a rebuilding situation as a two-way bucket-getter.
Low Roller: Jake LaRavia, Grizzlies
In 27 minutes of play, LaRavia only managed to grab two boards and swat one shot away while scoring zero points (0-of-2 FG) against the Celtics. The minus-18 in the box +/- was not pretty in this one, as Ziaire Williams and Kenny Lofton Jr. were the main forces in this contest. LaRavia was taken a bit higher than expected by the Grizzlies, serving as a solid defender during his college days. While the flashes of defense were there during Summer League in different moments, he will need to round out some of the rough edges to his game offensively. There may be some unlocked opportunities considering Kyle Anderson’s departure and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s injury, but Williams may be the main beneficiary as someone who started playoff games last season. For now, there is no reason to draft LaRavia or reach for him as the Grizzlies did this past June.
Friday, July 15th
High Roller: Jordan Schakel, Wizards
Admittedly, there is some bias here as I am a proud San Diego State grad and will represent the few players from there anytime they have some success. For Schakel, the main appeal of his game is his great shooting ability. This contest saw him put up 21 points (7-of-12 FG, 1-of-5 3PT) with seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 24 minutes against the Pacers. If Schakel can continue improving with his peripheral contributions, there may be a chance for him to really make an impact when he plays games with the top squad. For now, though, you can count on him being a solid shooter as an undersized small forward for the Wizards. The team signed Bradley Beal to a massive extension, but this roster still has some holes and question marks heading into the regular season. Keep Schakel in the back of your mind in terms of your mental pool of players during the NBA “silly season” late 2022-23.
Low Roller: Mac McClung, Warriors
Despite all of the hype that surrounds McClung, he has struggled to be consistent with his showings when it comes against better talent. His rookie season saw him win G League Rookie of the Year, but he has not had the chance to really show what he can do as an undersized mega-athlete just yet. McClung had 26 minutes to play but only put up five points (2-of-9 FG, 0-of-2 3PT) with four assists and two steals. It is clear what McClung is great at: using strength and athleticism to get to the rack or create for teammates. However, his size works against him on defense and his shooting is not where it needs to be at 6’2” with 185 pounds to him. McClung put on a show in one of the Summer League games, but he will likely be spending more time in the G League before getting his chance to create some posters in the NBA. There is no doubt that everyone wants to see him in a dunk contest, though.
Saturday, July 16th
High Roller: Cole Swider, Lakers
Swider ended up shooting the ball 50.0% from 3-point range and knocked down 3.8 triples per contest. The self-proclaimed “best shooter in this draft” really backed up his own game, showing why the Lakers took a two-year plunge on his two-way deal. While Scotty Pippen Jr. had some nice flashes, it was Swider who had the most positive impact for the Lakers’ summer circuit lineups. The Lakers are a team in dire need of more shooting, and Swider seems to fit the bill nicely. If he can have success at the G League level, there is clearly a mold for him to make some money as a professional hooper (must we remind you of Duncan Robinson’s contract). Hopefully, for Swider’s sake, he keeps lighting it up from downtown and improving his footwork on the perimeter as a defender. If he strings it all together, he is someone you absolutely need to remember if you are interested in building a 9-cat team focused on triples.
Low Roller: Buddy Boeheim, Pistons
To keep on with the trend of eyeing low-key shooters on this day, I’ll pivot to how Boeheim performed in the Pistons’ final act out in Vegas. The sharpshooter out of Syracuse is also signed to a two-way deal like Swider, but he only shot 31.8% from deep and made just 1.4 triples per contest. The Pistons will give him the green light with the Motor City Cruise, but success depends pretty much solely on whether or not Boeheim can find his stroke at the professional level. Not much more needs to be said here. Do not draft him in deeper dynasty formats just yet, but just know exactly what he can offer if he begins to figure out how to get it done at this next level.
Sunday, July 17th
High Roller: Trendon Watford, Blazers
I had to give this final High Roller slot to someone in the championship game, with Trendon Watford taking home the MVP honors. Last season, during the silly portion of the NBA regular season, Watford emerged as a quality streamer for the Blazers. He has a lot of bounce and does some real work in the fastbreak when the ball gets pushed his way. In this game, he knocked down three triples and scored 19 points with seven boards, three steals and one block in 27 minutes. Considering how much is in the air with the Blazers, Watford seemingly has a chance to make a fantasy impact this season in a reserve role as much as anyone on the bench. While Jerami Grant is the likely main power forward on this team, do not sleep on Watford if he ever has a launchpad to more minutes and inevitable low-key fantasy value.
Low Roller: Luka Garza, Blazers
On the flip side, there was less fortune for the former Naismith College Player of the Year Luka Garza. He was matched up against the bouncy Jericho Sims of the Knicks, and Garza was essentially played off of the court as he only scored six points and grabbed three boards in 13 minutes. When switched onto guards, his feet are heavier than desired and his rotations are clunky on scrambles as many shooters for the Knicks were getting open on secondary or tertiary passes. Garza’s scoring ability garnered him much success in the college game, but it is a bit unfortunate seeing how little it is translating to the league. Do not draft him in fantasy leagues, but his hard work and professionalism may work his way into being relevant with the right situation one day.