2021 Summer League

15 players to watch at 2021 NBA Summer League

The top picks in the 2021 draft, emerging second-year players and a handful of grizzled veterans are set to hit the floor in Las Vegas.

Cam Cobey, for NBA.com

Get ready for the action in Las Vegas this week with a look at some key players to follow during the games.


Summer League: Rosters | Schedule | Complete coverage


Players listed in alphabetical order.

Cole Anthony, Magic

• First Game | Aug. 8: Magic vs. Warriors (8 ET, NBA TV)

Anthony averaged 12.9 points and 4.1 assists during his rookie campaign, both top five amongst rookies last season. His best moment was a buzzer-beater to beat the Grizzlies and cap off a 26-point performance. Starting this week in Las Vegas, he’ll get his first action alongside rookie Jalen Suggs, whom the Magic selected at No. 5 overall. Anthony will get the chance to show his skills at full strength after missing significant time due to a fractured rib last season.


Scottie Barnes, Raptors

• First Game | Aug. 8: Raptors vs. Knicks (4:30 ET, ESPN)

The Florida State product, who was the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, has an impressive frame at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds with a nearly 7-foot-3 wingspan. Keep an eye on the defensive end where Barnes is able to defend multiple positions with all-out effort. “I just want to be great. I’m just a great person, great teammate, great player. I want to be known for someone that just does it all,” Barnes said. His charisma and personality has already started to shine (plus Drake and Toronto have already welcomed him in with open arms). His versatility as a big who has the potential to play all positions will be exciting to watch in Las Vegas.


James Bouknight, Hornets

• First Game | Aug. 8: Hornets vs. Kings (6 ET, NBA TV)

Bouknight surprisingly fell outside the top 10 into the lap of the Hornets at No. 11 in the 2021 draft. The guard played two seasons for UConn, improving his points, assists, blocks and rebounds per game from his first to second season. He’s a great ballhandler and finisher, and he can get to the rim with ease. He’ll join a dynamic young team in Charlotte anchored by LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier. “We’re going to be box office for sure,” Bouknight said of him and Ball. There will be a lot of excitement in Charlotte this season, and Bouknight will get the chance to show a reason why during Summer League play.


Cade Cunningham, Pistons

• First Game | Aug. 8: Thunder vs. Pistons (8:30 ET, ESPN2)

The No. 1 overall pick was the player of the year in his freshman campaign at Oklahoma State. He’s looking to bring his talent in isolation play and elite scoring ability to the Pistons in 2021-22. The Pistons have made the playoffs just twice in the last 12 seasons, and they are in need for a face of their franchise — Cunningham is just that. Not only is Cunningham a clutch scorer and talented defender, he’s a leader and knows how to win, which is a strong makeup for the cornerstone of a franchise. They’re already calling him ‘Motor Cade’ in the Motor City, and he’ll get the chance to live up to that name in Las Vegas alongside Detroit’s strong rookie group from last season (Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Isaiah Stewart).


Ayo Dosunmu, Bulls

• First Game | Aug. 9: Pelicans vs. Bulls (3 ET, ESPN2)

From Chicago to Champaign and back to Chicago. Dosunmu is staying in his home state of Illinois, where he grew up, starred at Illinois and is now playing professionally. The 2020-21 first-team All-American averaged 20.1 points for the Illini and carried them to a Big Ten Conference championship and No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Dosunmu went a little later than expected (No. 38 overall) and he’ll join a Bulls squad that continues to add talent this offseason. Summer League should be the perfect opportunity for Dosunmu to shine.


Chris Duarte, Pacers

• First Game | Aug. 8: Wizards vs. Pacers (8 ET, NBA TV)

The former Oregon star is a great shooter, winning the Jerry West Award last season as the nation’s best shooting guard. Contenders such as the Lakers and Warriors reportedly wanted to land Duarte, but he ended up with the Pacers at pick No. 13. He’s going to be a 24-year-old rookie, so he has more experience than other rookies. After being coached by Dana Altman at Oregon, he’ll certainly know how to adapt to the NBA and newly hired veteran coach Rick Carlisle. He’ll likely be a 3-and-D contributor who could join the Pacers’ rotation right away. His 3-point shot will be the thing to watch during the action in Las Vegas.


Josh Giddey, Thunder

• First Game | Aug. 8: Thunder vs. Pistons (8:30 ET, ESPN2)

The 18-year-old from Australia got drafted higher than projected to the Thunder at No. 6 overall. Giddey climbed up Draft boards in recent weeks, partly due to his performance for the Australian national team during the Olympics. Giddey played for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League last season, averaging 10.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and a league-best 7.6 assists, taking home NBL Rookie of the Year honors. He’s a triple-double threat, netting three in 28 games. “He makes other people better,” GM Sam Presti said. Giddey has great playmaking skills and a veteran feel for the game that the Thunder value. “It’s a great young team and I can’t wait to get down there,” Giddey said after he was drafted. He’s going to be an exciting player to watch in Vegas.


Jalen Green, Rockets

• First Game | Aug. 8: Rockets vs. Cavaliers (6:30 ET, ESPN2)

Opting to skip college and play for the G League Ignite instead, Jalen Green got the chance to play against NBA quality opponents. Doing so readied him for NBA-level competition. Green averaged 17.9 points in 15 NBA G League games and showcased his elite athleticism. The upside is tremendous for the ultra-confident No. 2 overall pick. He’ll team up with young guard Kevin Porter Jr. in Houston this season, making for an exciting backcourt. This week in Las Vegas will give Green the chance to show the NBA world what to expect this season.


Jalen Johnson, Hawks

• First Game | Aug. 8: Celtics vs. Hawks (4 ET, NBA TV)

Johnson was selected No. 20 in the Draft after playing 13 games at Duke as a freshman, averaging 11.2 points. In his debut, he had 19 points and 19 rebounds, showcasing his potential. He’s another player with tremendous upside, and the Hawks pounced on the opportunity to draft the forward, who they didn’t think would drop that far. There are a lot of questions surrounding Johnson after he left the Duke squad early and left IMG Academy his senior year. The stage in Las Vegas this week will provide him a good opportunity to show the Hawks why it was a good decision to select him.


Corey Kispert, Wizards

• First Game | Aug. 8: Wizards vs. Pacers (8 ET, NBA TV)

Kispert was the second former Gonzaga player drafted in the first round, going to the Wizards at No. 15. He played four years at Gonzaga and was 126-11 in that span. The 6-foot-7 forward dominated his senior year, averaging 18.6 points and shooting 44% on 3-pointers (which was sixth in the NCAA) while also being named West Coast Conference player of the year. Kispert is a fantastic shooter, knows how to win and has a strong work ethic, all of which are a recipe that can help a player contribute immediately in the NBA. The Wizards certainly need it as they enter a new era with Bradley Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie.


Jonathan Kuminga, Warriors

• First Game | Aug. 9: Magic vs. Warriors (8 ET, NBA TV)

Another G League Ignite product, the 6-foot-8 forward was selected No. 7 overall by Golden State. He’s 18 and incredibly talented with crazy athleticism and strength. It may take him a few seasons to develop, which made it an interesting selection for the Warriors who are in a win-now mindset. Kuminga averaged 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds for the Ignite and, like Green, that time in the G League was important to Kuminga’s growth. However, it also exposed some of his weaknesses and rawness. He has tremendous upside, and he will certainly show off his raw talent in Las Vegas to impress Golden State.


Evan Mobley, Cavaliers

• First Game | Aug. 8: Rockets vs. Cavaliers (6:30 ET ET, ESPN2)

There’s no disputing that Mobley was the best-regarded big man in the 2021 NBA Draft. As a freshman at USC, the 7-footer was the Pac-12’s player of the year, defensive player of the year and rookie of the year after averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks. Mobley was picked by Cleveland, which could use his interior presence. The team is young, which bodes well for Mobley, who will pair well with young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, specifically in the pick-and-roll game. Mobley should be able to dominate in Vegas with his athleticism, defense and passing.


Jalen Suggs, Magic

• First Game | Aug. 9: Magic vs. Warriors (8 ET, NBA TV)

The man behind one of the best shots in NCAA tournament history, Jalen Suggs is arguably the best all-around player and most NBA ready prospect in this class. Suggs has a unique feel for the game, something he showcased all year in Spokane with the Gonzaga Bulldogs as West Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. Suggs is an incredible passer, which will be a great asset for the Magic, who were 28th in assists per game last season. “The sky’s the limit,” Suggs said after he was drafted. Another young team in rebuild, Suggs will battle to win the starting point guard role. Look out for some flashy passes from Suggs in Summer League action.


Jason Preston, Clippers

• First Game | Aug. 9: Clippers vs. Bucks (9 ET, ESPNU)

Preston’s story is undoubtedly intriguing: he averaged two points a game in high school, only started in one game and was planning on becoming an NBA writer. Now, he’s an NBA rookie. Preston hails from a mid-major (Ohio) and dominated as a sophomore and junior, averaging 16.4 points, 7.4 assists and 6.8 rebounds during that span. He almost single-handedly beat Illinois in 2020-21 and led the Bobcats to an NCAA Tournament upset of a powerhouse Virginia squad in 2021. He parlayed that into being the No. 33 pick in the Draft and could be a find for L.A. There’s so much to like about his story, and he will need to hit the ground running in Summer League as he looks to battle for a spot with the Clippers. Preston has overcome adversity before, and he won’t back down to the challenge.


Immanuel Quickley, Knicks

• First Game | Aug. 8: Raptors vs. Knicks (4:30 ET, ESPN2)

As a rookie, Quickley averaged 11.4 points and was an All-Rookie Second Team selection for the East’s No. 4 team. The No. 25 pick in 2020, he exceeded expectations and became a valuable rotation player for the Knicks. He was also selected to the USA basketball Select Team that got to compete this summer against the Olympic team, which should be beneficial for his game. This week in Las Vegas will give him an early chance to show how his game has developed since his rookie campaign.


Other players to watch:

Alex Antetokounmpo (Kings), LiAngelo Ball (Hornets), Michael Beasley (Trail Blazers), Kenneth Faried (Trail Blazers), Brandon Knight (Nets), Davion Mitchell (Kings), Isaiah Todd (Wizards), Obi Toppin (Knicks), Patrick Williams (Bulls), Omer Yurtseven (Heat).

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