With a loaded 2017 draft class, NBA Summer Leagues received record levels of television ratings and attendance. Below are some notes on 2017 Lottery picks, other standout players from the 2017 class and a few key veterans.
2017 Lottery Picks
Markelle Fultz: After two solid games in Utah, Fultz turned an ankle in his first game in Las Vegas and had his summer ended prematurely. But he did enough in his three games to justify the considerable excitement for him as a prospect. In Utah he created space with relative ease to get his shot off. He also showed good ability to get into the lane. He has a herky-jerky game that Kevin Durant termed as having a “hesi pull-up jimbo”, which basically describes it perfectly. Fultz isn’t a tremendous athlete, but he is strong and quick enough to create the separation he needs to get his shot off. He should be a plus scorer almost immediately in the NBA.
His defense will need work, as he relies too much on recovery blocks. While that is a good skill to have, keeping an opponent in front of you is even more important. His playmaking for others needs work as well, as Fultz is much more scorer than playmaker. With other quality passers in Philadelphia, they can afford to let this part of his game grow over time. The injury he suffered in Las Vegas was determined to be a sprained ankle, but he should have no issues being ready for training camp.
Lonzo Ball: Never has a player in the history of Las Vegas Summer League generated the amount of excitement as Big Baller Brand’s own. The game Ball’s Lakers played against the Celtics sold out (the first ever sellout in Las Vegas history) and had the fans on their feet as if it was a regular season game. Ball struggled with his shot throughout the week, especially from deep. Ball was just 10-of-42, or 23.8 percent, on three-pointers. He also missed several shots at the rim and in the midrange game as well. Due to his exaggerated windup, he struggles to get his shot off when coming off a right-hand dribble. Off the left, he’s able to get it into a good shooting pocket far easier. He was able to get in the paint on a regular basis, but all too often passed up layups to kick the ball outside. Sometimes he’s unselfish almost to a fault, but he’ll figure that out over time.
His defense is also relatively poor, but that can be said for most of the players at the top of this draft class. He doesn’t have the athleticism to stay in front of the quicker guards. Because of this, recently acquired Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be the better choice to defend quicker guards, while Ball can check the lesser athletes.
But to focus on the negatives will cause you to overlook the positives, of which there are plenty. Ball’s passing is on another level. His hit-ahead passes in particular are a thing of beauty. The best passers can pass their teammates open, and Ball displayed this immediately. He’s sensational at finding open teammates in both transition and in the halfcourt. As he plays with even better talent, he’ll pile up assists. He averaged over nine assists per game and that number would have been around 12 or more with better players. His rebounding is also solid, because he uses his good size and smarts to find positions on the floor to go up and get the ball. This is a skill the Lakers will use, as he can become a fastbreak starter without needing an outlet pass.
And for those wondering: while his father LaVar was a constant and loud presence in Las Vegas, Lonzo wasn’t impacted at all. He’s a humble, hardworking kid who is able to separate himself from the marketing of his father.
Jayson Tatum: Tatum scored in double figures in all six games he played between Utah and Las Vegas, and hit for over 20 in three of them. Included in that was a game-winner in Utah. Tatum showed off his versatile midrange game, where he can shoot over either shoulder or off the bounce. He relied a bit too much on long twos, which are being phased out of the NBA game, but repeatedly knocked down tough shots. He was also able to create looks going to the basket as well. Midway through his first game, he became the player the Celtics looked for when the going got tough.
At the expense of sounding like a broken record, his defense needs work. He was got flat-footed all too often and needs to get in a better stance. But his rebounding was terrific, as he averaged 8.8 rebounds per game. He’s deceptively strong and can hold off bigger players, while also out-jumping most others. Tatum should be an immediate contributor to the Celtics rotation as one of the first forwards off the bench.
Josh Jackson: Jackson had an up and down week in Las Vegas. He struggled early on, as he learned he couldn’t get by on his athleticism alone. His shot remains a question mark, as he hit just 42.5 percent over the course of the week and just 3-of-16 from behind the arc. Despite that, once the game slowed down for him later in the week, Jackson was able to make plays. He’s very good in transition and when he can get downhill and attack the rim, he’s almost unstoppable. He’ll need time to figure out how to create in the halfcourt game and the Suns questionable spacing beyond Devin Booker won’t help him there. He did prove to be a good rebounder, with a high of 15 in one game and no less than six in any other game.
De’Aaron Fox: Before an ankle injury slowed him late in the week, Fox demonstrated the skills that caused him to be a highly-rated prospect. With a questionable long-range shot, Fox simply avoids taking them. Despite opponents backing off, he’s still athletic enough to break them down and get to the rim with regularity. He’ll need to work on his right hand, as his game still slants heavily towards his left, but he’s quick enough that it rarely mattered in Las Vegas. His quick feet and lightning-fast hands are going to help him defensively, as he’s able to stay in front of almost any other guard and regularly came up with deflections or steals. He needs work as a playmaker, as he drives to score more than dish at this point. Being mentored by George Hill will do him a world of good throughout his rookie year.
Jonathan Isaac: Isaac played just two full games in Orlando and part of the third before being knocked out with a hip injury. The injury is minor and the Magic held him out with an abundance of caution. After a poor first outing, where the game seemed too fast and physical for him, Isaac bounced back with a strong second game. He’s competitive defensively and on the boards, especially on the offensive glass. He’s rail thin, but has the sort of frame that should be able to add good weight. He likes to go to a pull-up jumper in the midrange more than he should. He’ll need to expand those shots into strong drives to the basket to up his offensive output. One thing to watch with Isaac is that he has very small hands for a player his size. This regularly led to him being stripped of the ball.
Lauri Markkanen: Markkanen played in three games in Las Vegas and left with some of the same questions as he showed up with. 25 of his 41 shots came from behind the three-point line and he hit just six of those attempts. He averaged nine rebounds per game and blocked four shots in one game. At times he was solid as a paint defender, at others he was being blown by in pick and roll actions on the perimeter. Markkanen, provided he shoots better, can have an immediate impact but needs lots of work on both ends.
Frank Ntilikina: After suffering a minor knee bruise as he finished his season in Europe, Ntilikina did not play in Orlando Summer League. He’s expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp.
Dennis Smith Jr.: Smith left Las Vegas as arguably the most talked about rookie not named Lonzo Ball. Smith topped 20 points three times and averaged over 17 points per game over six games played. He hit 45.7 percent of his shots overall and 34.6 percent from behind the arc. Playing off the ball a good amount next to Yogi Ferrell, Smith still managed to put up 4.2 assists per game. Most impressive was his competitiveness. He took on all comers with glee, especially when matched up against another high draft pick. This competitive streak caused one scout to exclaim “He’s an #$%-kicking mother-*&%$#@!” Smith gambled a bit much on defense and needs to add some strength, but he’s good enough on the other end that he should be an early favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Zach Collins: Collins, who Portland traded up in the draft to select, really struggled. He was unable to put the ball on the floor to get by guys or muscle through defenders on offense. He also struggled at times with making decisions quick enough. The game seemed to be moving a bit fast for the 19-year-old. He did show up defensively, using his length and quick leaping ability to block four shots in one game. He’s going to need lots of practice reps, but the Trail Blazers deep frontcourt should afford him the time he needs.
Malik Monk: Monk did not play in Orlando Summer League after suffering an ankle injury in pre-draft workouts. He’s expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp.
Luke Kennard: Kennard showed off his versatility as an offensive player in a strong week in Orlando. He scored between 14 and 24 points in each of his five games and was a great ball-mover all week. He consistently made the right play in the passing game. He was competitive defensively, but his lack of top-end foot speed will hurt him against the best athletes. He should be solid as a team defender, as he’s not afraid to step in and take charges or get in the mix inside or in passing/driving lanes. His performance throughout the week showed why the Pistons may not have felt the need to extend Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a big offer.
Donovan Mitchell: If Ball and Smith showed up the most in Summer League, Mitchell wasn’t far behind. He averaged 20.4 points per game between Utah and Las Vegas, including a 37-point finale. In that game he hit 14-of-16 from the free throw line and came up with eight steals. Mitchell shoots what scouts call an “easy ball”, which means it comes off his hands light and soft. That soft touch helps him get shooter’s rolls, when the shot doesn’t swish right through. He gets great elevation on his jumper, which is helpful given he’s just 6’3’’. He was also a better player off the dribble than many expected and also made plays for his teammates several times throughout the week. His defense will be fine, when he stops gambling for steals. But with Rudy Gobert behind him to erase mistakes, Utah might take that tradeoff. With Gordon Hayward moving to Boston, Mitchell has a chance to help ease the transition and should be a contributor from day one.
Bam Adebayo: Adebayo was one of the busiest rookies, as he played seven games between Orlando and Las Vegas. He averaged 16.7 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. He shot just 38.1 percent, but the Heat asked him to focus on taking jumpers throughout both leagues. Adebayo also showed an impressive ability to rip and run, where he would get rebounds and bring the ball up himself. This was something he rarely showed at Kentucky. He’ll be an immediate contributor in Miami’s frontcourt rotation behind Hassan Whiteside and newly-signed Kelly Olynyk.
John Collins: Collins showed off his impressive low post game, but also stepped out and hit several jumpers. He has the form to gradually extend his range, which will help him grow into a more complete offensive player. Collins also grabbed over nine rebounds per game, as he took care of his area with regularity. He may be the best inside scorer of this draft class and should play regularly for the Hawks.
Kyle Kuzma: Kuzma averaged 20.5 points per game over six games played, including 31 against the Celtics. Simply by running the floor in transition and cutting in the halfcourt, Kuzma showed he’s a nice running mate for Lonzo Ball. He also hit 18-of-40, or 45 percent, from behind the arc. In addition, he was solid on the boards. At the expense of overreacting to Summer League, Kuzma looks like an early pick for steal of the draft.
Semi Ojeleye: Ojeleye showed off his versatility throughout the week. He’s been compared to Draymond Green at times and showed that vs the Lakers, when he guarded everyone from Lonzo Ball to Ivica Zubac. He also hit 37.5 percent of his three-pointers. What he lacks is Green’s passing ability and ability to make plays off the dribble. But Boston prizes versatility and Ojeleye showed that throughout the two weeks in Utah and Las Vegas.
Dwayne Bacon: With Malik Monk sidelined, Bacon got plenty of opportunity to shine for the Hornets. He improved throughout the week in Orlando, culminating in a 29 point, eight rebound game to close the week. He has a great midrange jumper, but will need to work on getting to the rim and extending his range throughout his rookie year.
Brandon Ingram: Ingram played just one game in Las Vegas before having his summer cut short due to cramping in his legs. There were some who believed the cramps were just a convenient excuse to say “We saw all we needed to see”, as Ingram dominated. He showed the ability to score at all levels and an improved handle and strength. He’s still extremely thin, but he’s much stronger than he looks and was able to score through contact inside. He had good chemistry with Ball and the Lakers young duo looks like something to build around going forward.
Bryn Forbes: Forbes dominated on offense throughout the week plus in Las Vegas. He hit 25 three-pointers over eight games and shot over 39 percent from behind the arc. He had three 30 plus point games including back-to-back games of 35 points. When he wasn’t hitting jumpers, he was getting to the free throw line, where he knocked down 53 of his 59 attempts. With the Spurs backcourt in a bit of a transition, Forbes made a case for a longer look in the preseason.
Wayne Selden: Selden did what you want a second year player to do, as he dominated at times on offense. He averaged 22.7 points per game and got his shots off with relative ease. He was also competitive defensively. He may be the Grizzlies best shooting guard in a relatively weak crop.
Eric Moreland: Moreland stood out defensively for the Pistons in Orlando. He averaged 8.4 rebounds per game, while also blocking 2.8 shots per game. He ran the floor well on offense and regularly finished strong at the rim, shooting 70 percent over the week. His play earned him a three-year deal with Detroit that is guaranteed for $500,000 in the first year.
Marcus Georges-Hunt: Hunt may have been the best all-around player in Orlando. He was efficient on offense and defended everyone he was asked to at a high level. He averaged 14 points per game and also did a solid job as a playmaker and on the glass. He knocked down 42.9 percent of his three-pointers which will be key for him to get NBA rotation minutes.