2023 NBA 2K24 Summer League

Enjoy Basketball: Summer League wrap-up

What did Enjoy Basketball most Enjoy about this year’s Las Vegas Summer League? 

Top Plays of NBA Summer League

Check out the top plays from NBA Summer League

Meet Enjoy Basketball, a brand co-founded by basketball creator Kenny Beecham. Their mission is to uplift the game by providing entertaining NBA coverage, without all the hot takes. The Enjoy Basketball newsletter drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, keeping you in the loop with NBA news, and providing you with player interviews, trivia, memes, and more.

Did you miss us? Sorry it’s been a while, we got hypnotized by The Sphere and missed our flight back home from Las Vegas. No regrets though, as we Enjoyed seeing the Cleveland Cavaliers capture the NBA 2K24 Summer League championship, and Houston Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore head back to H-Town with Summer League MVP honors.

But now that we’re back home after a whirlwind trip to the desert, we’re delighted to discuss some of our favorite sights and sounds from NBA Summer League with you. 

Taking a step forward?

Jabari Smith Jr. leads a talented group of 2nd-year players who made their mark in Vegas.

Summer League is fun, of course, because we get to see rookies in their first NBA action — and because you seemingly can’t walk 20 steps without brushing shoulders with an NBA superstar or two. 

These few weeks of nonstop basketball action are also great (well, because it’s a few weeks of nonstop basketball) but also because we get a chance to see the refinements that some familiar faces made to their games in the few months since we last saw them. Here are a few non-rookies who look, at first glance, like they’re ready to contribute on a bigger scale when October rolls around. 

Jabari Smith, Jr, Houston Rockets

“Ah man, this isn’t a good sign. I hope Jabari Smith Jr can eventually figure out how to properly utilize his incredible skill set.” – A fan who only watched the first half of Houston’s first Summer League game.

“Jabari Smith Jr is the greatest basketball player who has ever lived.” – A fan who only watched the next five quarters of Rockets at Summer League.

We watched all of those quarters (because we Enjoy Basketball) and are growing increasingly confident that Smith’s promising last month-ish of the 2022-23 campaign was anything but a fluke. In that stretch, Smith — the third overall pick in the 2022 Draft — started to show off a lot of what made him the third overall pick in the draft in the first place.

So coming into this SL, many fans hoped to see Smith look like a guy who didn’t actually need to be there … And he did! Smith was shut down after two games because, frankly, there was nothing else he needed to show.

He averaged 35.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per in his two game summer stint, while shooting 27 free throws. A sizable improvement in his FTA could unlock a whole new world for Smith next season, so him living at the line in Las Vegas is a great sign.

Jaden Springer, Philadelphia 76ers

If your Sixers fan friend is acting extra vindicated recently, it’s probably because they knew all along that Springer is immensely talented.

Springer is entering his third NBA season, yet he’s still younger than a big chunk of this year’s Draft class. The former Tennessee star — who won’t turn 21 until Sept. 25 — at times looked the part of a wily veteran in Vegas. Though a lot of his game is still a work in progress (as is the case for essentially every 20-year-old NBA player ever), Springer’s defensive instincts and flashes of offensive creation are certainly worthy of some excitement from Philadelphians.

Springer posted 22.3 ppg and 4.0 steals + blocks in his three SL games. New Sixers coach Nick Nurse may have a tough time keeping Springer out of the Sixers’ regular rotation next season.

Peyton Watson, Denver Nuggets

We didn’t hear too much from Watson last season. Probably because Denver was focused on winning a championship and Watson was (and still is) just 20 years old. Yeah, that adds up.

And while Denver may not ask for much from Watson this season either as he continues his development (and Denver hopes to compete for another title), the improvements shown by the former 5-star recruit in Las Vegas point towards him being a contributor nonetheless — which is an even scarier proposition. Watson averaged 19 ppg on over 50% shooting in Vegas.

Our onsite expert described Watson’s arms as “long.” And that’s why he’s the best in the business. Watson isn’t just long-limbed for the sake of it, either. The 6-foot-8 Watson was disrupting passes and blocking shots that he had no business blocking, showing off why the hype about his two-way ceiling is still so high as Watson enters 2023-24.

Paul George knows a few things about elite two-way play, and he said that Watson is “gonna be a stud” on his podcast last month. Pretty good co-sign.

Welcome to the show

Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson highlight the impressive rookie play in Las Vegas.

Patience will always and forever be a virtue when evaluating NBA rookies. Some of the greatest players in our game today struggled mightily for a majority of their respective rookie seasons. Hence, we should never expect such young athletes to be fully developed so early in their careers. Rather, we look for flashes of greatness. And these rookies showed plenty of flashes over the past few weeks.

Leonard Miller, Minnesota Timberwolves

At one point while watching Leonard Miller play in SL, we thought there must be another player (or two) with the last name Miller on the court at the same time. Because how can a single player be in so many places at once? Miller’s activity was pretty stunning, and he wasn’t just out there doing cardio either, like we did at our hotel gym in Vegas. Which we definitely went to. Trust us.

Nope, Miller was producing on the stat sheet as well, finishing his five-game SL averaging 15 ppg, 8 rpg and shooting 37% from deep. 

What’s more though is that raw stats don’t quite show the type of shots Miller was making: fadeaway jumpers from the baseline, spot-up 3-pointers and some isolation finishes. All of which 6-foot-10 rookies can’t usually pull off (or don’t even dare try.) Miller showed flashes at SL that would be promising for a top-five pick — so to see them from the 33rd pick in the Draft? That’ll turn some heads. Ours, specifically.

Ausar Thompson, Detroit Pistons

Oftentimes, young players in the NBA have obvious talent, but their feel for the game and tendencies on the court take a little while to develop. Thompson is probably not going to be one of those players. His understanding for where to be on the floor and how to incorporate himself into the flow of a game are already extremely impressive. Pair those smarts with a 6-foot-7 frame, and you realize why Thompson was a top-five pick in this Draft (if you didn’t know already.)

Keyonte George, Utah Jazz

We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves here, so we won’t say exactly who George reminded us of when we had the privilege of watching him explode at Summer League. But we’ll tell you this: George’s game reminds us a whole lot of some very good NBA players.

An ankle sprain cut his summer session short, but we (and presumably the decision-makers in Utah) saw more than enough to be giddy about with the former Baylor star. 

George’s game is far more nuanced than just being a shot-maker, but to put it simply, that guy can make shots, and his SL statline makes that pretty apparent (21.7 ppg, 6.3 apg and 44.4% from deep.)

Delivering with everything to play for

Cleveland’s Emoni Bates played a large role in leading it to a Summer League championship.

While fans are understandably excited to watch many of the big name future stars of the league hoop at Summer League, there’s also a whole group of players hoping to show out and earn themselves an NBA roster spot. Who made a name for themselves (or re-introduced themselves) throughout 2023’s summer session?

Michael Devoe, Portland Trail Blazers

The Rip City Remix — Portland’s new G-League team — will start play in 2023-24. Michael Devoe, at the very least, has earned himself some minutes in the Chiles Center this fall by recording nearly 19 ppg. 

Devoe, at 6-foot-5, has solid size, high-level shooting ability (39.3% in his four seasons at Georgia Tech) and played with loads of confidence in Vegas. He looked extremely comfortable running Portland’s offense (which is always impressive during SL). Being able to lead some cohesion on a team where everyone wants to put on for himself is the sign of a leader. 

With Portland’s top pick, Scoot Henderson, suffering an injury in the first game of the summer, Devoe saw his chance to shine and pounced on it. Devoe … now we know!

Javon Freeman-Liberty, Chicago Bulls

Aside from having the best name in the entire tournament, Freeman-Liberty balled out for a team that might need some help at guard. With Lonzo Ball unfortunately expected to miss the entire 2023-24 season, and Ayo Dosunmu’s future in Chicago still unclear, there may be a few minutes up for grabs in the Bulls’ backcourt.

Freeman-Liberty is trying to grab some of those. He showed off an impressive craftiness, toughness and improved shooting ability (46.2% from deep on over five attempts per game.) At 6-foot-4, he is a great rebounder for his size (5.7 rpg in the NBA G League last season), too.  

Emoni Bates, Cleveland Cavaliers

A majority of hoop fans were familiar with Bates long before he averaged 17.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg and shot 40% from 3-point range for the NBA 2K24 Summer League-champion Cavs. 

But after facing more career roadblocks at 19 years old than most players face in a career — including going from top high school recruit to late second-round draft pick — Bates has continuously had to re-prove his value as a player. Stringing together multiple solid performances in Vegas is a great way to keep doing just that.