Steve Alexander

Offseason Beat

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Summer League Winners, Losers

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Summer League came and went pretty quickly, but there were definitely some winners and losers. Training camp and the preseason is up next, and our Rotoworld NBA Draft Guide is far from being complete, but we’re shooting for an early September release date – specifically Wednesday, Sep. 6. Until then, we’ll be cranking away on the guide and updating the news as it happens. I know that Depth Charts are a bit of an issue right now, but they should continually improve as camps draw near. So Mike Gallagher went super deep right here, but let’s take a look at the Top 5 winners and losers from Summer League, with some honorable mentions dropped in for good measure. Lastly, thanks to my man Jonas Nader for his take on the winners and losers. When I asked him if he was able to watch much Summer League action, his answer was “I watched almost every single game.” So I think we’re in good hands here.

 

Summer League Winners

 

Lonzo Ball – Lakers PG – Drafted No. 2 out of UCLA

 

About the only thing Ball hasn’t done lately was getting himself taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. His dad and family are likely to become the NBA’s version of the Kardashian’s, which is a little scary, but so far Lonzo has lived up to the hype. His NBA career started with a dud, but he backed it up with a triple-double, despite hitting just 2-of-16 shots through his first two Summer League game. And his triple-double was the first in Vegas SL since at least 2010 (he actually had two triple-doubles in his six games played). His best game was a 36-11-8 show against the Sixers and he was named the MVP of Vegas Summer League, despite sitting out the championship game on Monday due to a calf injury. He averaged 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 2.5 steals and a block in his six games. He didn’t shoot it particularly well from the perimeter or downtown, but we’re only six games into his career. His unorthodox shot is weird, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to shoot 44 percent from the field and he should also be serviceable from downtown in the future. Whether you’re talking about the shoes he wore (Big Ballers, Kobe’s, Hardens, Curry’s and Jordan’s), his father, a potential reality television show, or his basketball skills, Ball’s career is off to a flying start and Lakers fans are giddy with excitement, hope and promise. He’ll be worth a mid-round fantasy pick, but with the hype machine in full swing, a couple missed games already under his belt, and a questionable shot, it may be best to let your league’s Lakers fan, or someone else, reach for him a couple rounds early. It’s bound to happen. But make no mistake. He looks like the real deal and is clearly a great passer with tremendous court vision. Just remember that NBA veterans are going to try to make it a point to embarrass Ball once the games start counting.

 

Dennis Smith Jr. – Mavericks PG – Drafted No. 9 out of N.C. State

 

Smith Jr. is the Rotoworld rookie darling thus far and pretty much lived up to the hype in his six Summer League games, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in his six games, landing on the first team, just like Ball. Smith should have a clear path to start at point guard for the Mavericks and all signs are pointing to him being a favorite for Rookie of the Year. He was a dunking highlight machine in Vegas and looks like the cornerstone of the Mavericks’ franchise, despite being the No. 9 pick. He should be a mid-round fantasy pick, just like Ball, but DSJ appears to have less downside and the potential for unlimited success. If you’re going to reach for a rookie this year, DSJ is the one to do it with.

 

Donovan Mitchell – Jazz SG (by Nuggets) – Drafted No. 13 out of Louisville

 

A week ago Tuesday, Mitchell blew up for 37 points, three 3-pointers, three boards, one assist and eight steals in 34 minutes. He averaged 15.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals over his three SL games in Utah and the Jazz really like him. However, we have to remember that this was just Summer League play and that what happens in the SL doesn’t always translate when the games count. He played well enough to likely secure a spot in the rotation this season, but he’s nothing more than a last-round flier at this point, and that’s probably only in deeper fantasy leagues. But on that one Tuesday night a week ago, he simply looked unstoppable.

 

Jayson Tatum – Celtics F – Drafted No. 3 out of Duke

 

Tatum played in three games for the Celtics in Utah and averaged 18.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.3 steals and shot 47 percent from the floor. He’s probably the most gifted scoring forward in his draft class and can create his own shot. He dealt with a sore knee, which limited him from playing in every game, but the Celtics saw plenty in his three games on the court. He’s got plenty of competition for minutes this season for a very good Boston team, so don’t expect him to blow up. But he put on a show in the SL and he should at least crack the Boston rotation this season. I’m not planning on drafting him, although I might take a late shot on him in my 30-team league.

 

Josh Jackson – Suns SF – Drafted No. 4 out of Kansas

 

Jackson was named to the Vegas Summer League first team after averaging 17.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks on 43 percent shooting for the Suns. He played in five games and looked good in most of them, although his shot wasn’t always falling. He’ll come off the bench to start the season in Phoenix, but it’s possible he could crack the starting rotation at some point. He’s a sleeper Rookie of the Year pick, but unlike DSJ and Ball, Jackson is worth nothing more than a late-round flier at this point. But he sure looked good in Vegas.

 

Honorable mention winners:

 

Caleb Swanigan – Blazers PF – Drafted No. 26 out of Purdue

 

He was named to the Vegas Summer League first team, averaging 16.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals on 44 percent shooting. He should crack the Blazers rotation and is a bruiser on the boards. He also has a great story, overcoming a tough childhood, some homelessness and weight issues, but he looks like the real deal.

 

John Collins – Hawks PF – Drafted No. 19 out of Wake Forest

 

Collins was named to the Vegas Summer League first team after averaging 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks on 59 percent shooting in his five games. The Hawks are in full rebuilding mode and are thin at power forward, meaning that Collins actually has a chance to start a bunch of games for Atlanta. His only competition is Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala, so I do like him as a late fantasy sleeper simply because he’s going to have to play for the Hawks. 

 

Kyle Kuzma – Lakers PF – Drafted No. 27 out of Utah

 

Kuzma scored 30 points in the Vegas championship game against the Blazers, filling the hole left by Ball’s injury, and was named the game’s MVP. He also hit six triples in the championship game. He played in all seven games for the Lakers, saw 32 minutes a night and averaged 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the floor. He looked great and is just another reason the Lakers are looking at the world through rose colored glasses right now. He’ll play behind Julius Randle, and probably Larry Nance, but the key is that he should get meaningful minutes for the Lakers right out of the gate. And if Randle suffers an injury, Kuzma might make some noise in the Rookie of the Year race.

 

Bam Adebayo – Heat PF – Drafted No. 14 out of Kentucky

 

Adebayo played in four games in Orlando and averaged 17.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 2.3 blocks in 31 minutes for the Heat. He can play both PF and C, which should work in his favor for the Heat. He’ll be in the rotation and might be worth a look late in 12-team drafts, but I’d like to see how things shake out in training camp before making plans to draft him this year.

 

Cheick Diallo – Pelicans PF – Drafted No. 33 out of Kansas in 2016

 

Diallo averaged 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in five games, shooting lights out at 56 percent from the floor. He’s going to play behind Anthony Davis, which is not a great place to be, but as soon as Davis tweaks an ankle in Week 3, Diallo might be a guy you find yourself racing to the waiver wire for.

 

Summer League Losers

 

Denzel Valentine – Bulls SG – Drafted No. 14 overall out of Michigan State in 2016

 

Valentine is one of three Bulls to make the ‘Losers’ list, which is probably not a great sign for Chicago. He shot just 35 percent from the field in his five SL games, averaging 13 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 6.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals, but we were looking for more given that he’s already got a year under his belt. He did have a nice 21-point game on Friday, but was 1-of-12 from the floor in a game prior to that one. He’ll be in the Bulls rotation and should see at least 20 minutes a night, but he’s nothing more than a deep-league flier, and for the most part, underwhelmed at Summer League.

 

Ivica Zubac – Lakers C – Drafted No. 32 out of Croatia in 2016

 

Brook Lopez is a Laker now, which is going to make it tough for Zubac to make a big splash for the up-and-coming Lakers. He averaged just 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in eight SL games, but also hit 72 percent of his free throws. If Zubac were to be featured by the Lakers, his outlook would be decent, but the arrival of Bro-Lo might make him a forgotten man.

 

Kris Dunn – Bulls PG – Drafted No. 5 out of Providence in 2016

 

Dunn might still be the favorite to start at point guard for the Bulls, but he’ll have to battle Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne for the job and this looks like a distasteful three-headed mini monster at point guard for Chicago. He played in only one SL game due to a family situation that caused him to return home, and he hit just 3-of-12 shots for 11 points and three assists. This was his opportunity to make a statement to be the Bulls starting point guard on opening night, and while he still may have a slight edge, I don’t think the Bulls point guards are going to be worth messing with in fantasy this year.

 

Cameron Payne – Bulls PG – Drafted No. 14 out of Murray State in 2015

 

Payne played in just two SL games before also leaving due to a family situation. When he and Dunn were on the court together, Payne looked lost, to put it bluntly. Dunn wasn’t much better and at this point, my guess is Jerian Grant has the inside track on starting at PG over Dunn and Payne. We’ll see. Again, I want no part of the Bulls point guard mess this season.

 

Skal Labissiere – Kings C – Drafted No. 28 out of Kentucky in 2016

 

Labissiere played in six SL games, but averaged just 10 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks for the Kings. He did have a 17-point, eight-rebound game on July 12, easily his best performance of the summer, but was never all that impressive. There’s still a chance he could start at power forward if the Kings choose to bring ancient Zach Randolph off the bench, and if it happens, he’ll still be worth a late-round flier. But as far as turning heads in Summer League goes, Skal just didn’t do it. 



Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for Rotoworld.com and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2017-18 NBA season marks (at least) his 16th year of covering fantasy hoops for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.
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