After 11 days, 75 games, 30 teams and 439 players competing in two gyms, the NBA 2K23 Summer League in Las Vegas wrapped up Sunday. In and around the flurry of activity, we got looks — some just glimpses, some longer — at members of the rookie class of 2022 (drafted or not) who will offer the league a youthful boost going forward.
Here’s how those facing the loftiest expectations, the lottery picks, fared in Vegas, with a few honorable mentions for those newbies outside that select 14:
1. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
The guy Summer League fans wanted to see most didn’t disappoint — until he stopped playing. The 6-foot-10 and 249-pound Banchero, whose size matches his skill set, averaged 20 points, five rebounds and six assists. He still has work to do defensively, though he had a game-saving block in a double-OT game vs. Sacramento. That’s when Orlando shut him down, coach Jamahl Mosley saying the organization felt it had seen enough and wanted to open minutes for others on the summer roster. Golden State vet Draymond Green said on his podcast: “[Banchero] was out there playing them Summer League games like he was playing in the NBA Finals. With that type of intensity. That is a winner right before your eyes.”
2. Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Is he tough enough? Is he strong enough? Is he skilled enough? The 7-foot-1 rookie from Gonzaga isn’t ready to be OKC’s beast of burden but he probably surprised as many skeptics as he did Summer League opponents eager to posterize him. Holmgren dipped his toe in at the Salt Lake City jamboree and brought that experience with him to Vegas, where he was at his best as a weakside helper and rim protector. On a per-36 minute basis through his three starts, he averaged 16 points, 10.3 rebounds and three blocks per game while hitting better than 40% of his 3-pointers. Post-defense in the halfcourt, especially against brawnier foes, is a challenge. But he looked comfortable rolling to the rim or facing up from outside.
3. Jabari Smith, Houston Rockets
Smith had been tabbed by many mock drafts as the likely No. 1 pick, which would have had him taking his talents to central Florida. Instead, he’s a new centerpiece of the youthful Rockets corps. The skills and needs of that crew might cast the Auburn big in an Evan Mobley role — defense first, offense a bonus. He averaged 14.4 ppg in summer play on 13.8 shots, his 37.7% accuracy due to his erratic shot selection. Some of that was his doing, some of that was typical summer league meatball offense.
4. Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
A wild card when Sacramento somewhat surprisingly picked him fourth overall, Murray looked like a veteran from the start, playing with poise and that ever-popular high basketball IQ. He averaged 23.3 ppg, the most at Summer League by a Top 10-drafted rookie since Damian Lillard in 2012 (26.5). He was a smooth and confident shooter from outside — 40% from the arc, 50% overall — and makes solid decisions. Murray scored 20 when his team faced Banchero, 29 when the Kings played Holmgren’s Thunder. He exudes maturity on the court, a companion piece alongside Tyrese Haliburton — if only the 2021 All-Rookie guard hadn’t been dealt to Indiana last season.
5. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons
Ivey, the guy many thought Sacramento ought to have picked at No. 4, had a truncated Vegas experience, spraining an ankle just five minutes into his second appearance. He made the most of his time, however, with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in his debut and 11 more points in that cameo two days later. Pistons coach Dwane Casey raved post-draft about Ivey’s speed, while summer teammates were impressed with his fit and demeanor. Then there was last season’s No. 1 pick, Cade Cunningham, talking in an NBA TV interview about thrills to come. “He’s so talented, brings so much to the team,” Cunningham said. “Just the way he plays the game, trying to play the right way, trying to play for his teammates, spread the ball. … Being able to take the court with him is exciting and it’s coming soon. I’m excited, man.”
6. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
Yet another lottery pick whose summer run was shortened by injury, Mathurin logged three games. The 6-foot-6 native of Montreal averaged 19.3 ppg and 1.3 spg, while shooting 48.8% overall (38.5% on 3-pointers). Made some headlines, too, before Summer League began by saying he’ll wait on genuflecting to LeBron James’ greatness until the Lakers superstar shows him in person. Maybe not the wisest thing to say, but the Pacers love his spirit.
7. Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
One game, less than six minutes, 1-of-3 shooting and two points. That was it for Sharpe, the Blazers shooting guard who suffered a small labral tear in his left shoulder. He’ll be evaluated later in the next week or two. This cameo was fitting for the Canadian shooting guard, since he did not appear in a game for Kentucky in his brief time with the Wildcats either.
8. Dyson Daniels, New Orleans Pelicans
Another lottery pick, another injury, another abbreviated summer showing. Daniels, a multi-talented guard for the Pelicans, went down with a right ankle sprain in his first game and that was that. He shot 0-of-5 before stepping on a Portland defender’s foot and thus will bring into a training camp a resume barely updated from his G League Ignite experience (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 44.9% shooting for the 6-foot-8 backcourt player).
9. Jeremy Sochan, San Antonio Spurs
How frustrating was this? Sochan never made it to Summer League at all after entering the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols before he even joined the Spurs for their pre-Vegas workouts. It was more injury precaution, though, rather than actual illness, since the 6-foot-9 forward from Baylor wasn’t able to get in game shape for the competition. The much-traveled Souchan was the Big 12’s top sixth man for Baylor, averaging 9.2 ppg and 6.4 rpg in 30 games.
10. Johnny Davis, Washington Wizards
Wizards fans might be feeling a little uneasy, given Davis’ production and awkward performances in Las Vegas. The guard from Wisconsin averaged 8.3 ppg on 27.6% shooting, committing 2.7 turnovers to 1.7 assists per game. His early tendency to shuttle the ball along rather than attack or shoot was attributed to some back pain, though the 20-year-old didn’t make excuses. The AP All-American still got his first-round contract, a four-year deal with $9.9 million guaranteed over the first two seasons.
11. Ousmane Dieng, Oklahoma City Thunder
Dieng at least had an opportunity to bounce back from a poor performance before he got hurt. The 19-year-old French big man had shot 4-of-12 but perked up against the Kings with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Then came the medical report — chip wrist fracture — that ended his Summer League. Dieng’s ability to attack, beyond his 1-of-7 3-point performance, has Thunder fans eager, allowing for sufficient developmental time.
12. Jalen Williams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Three years at Santa Clara gave Williams a leg up on some of the less-experienced members of his draft class. Not to be confused with new teammate Jaylin Williams, OKC’s second-round pick at No. 34, Jalen With No Y scored 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting against Houston, while matched up for a stretch with Smith, the No. 3 pick in the 2022 Draft. There’s a flexibility to his game that enables him to blend into different lineups. The Thunder’s top pick, Holmgren, wasn’t surprised given his familiarity at Gonzaga from their shared conference days out West. “He’s a hell of a player,” Holmgren said. “I knew what he was going to do when he came out here.”
13. Jalen Duren, Detroit Pistons
Casey compares him to young Shawn Kemp, the thunderous “Reign Man” who came to the NBA as a teenager with the Seattle Supersonics in 1989. Duren is even younger — he won’t turn 19 until Nov. 18 — with miles of developmental goodness to go. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he has great swiftness and strength, mostly in need of aggressiveness defensively and on the glass and an improved shooting touch. Former Pistons coach Larry Brown, one of Penny Hardaway’s assistants at Memphis, likens Duren to Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo.
14. Ochai Agbaji, Cleveland Cavaliers
If some Cavs fans weren’t wowed by Agbaji’s overall numbers in Vegas — shooting 37.3% certainly wasn’t impressive — he was somewhat a victim of his own success. He did enough to make himself a focal point of summertime defenses, taking away some of what he did well. That’s the sort of thing rookies face in the regular season as word gets out, so the 6-foot-5 guard from Kansas will be prepared. Cleveland covets his shooting, but Agbaji brings detail work and intangibles to help the Cavs take another step.
Non-lottery rookie notables:
JD Davison, Boston Celtics
The No. 53 pick from Alabama led the Las Vegas Summer League in assists (8.2 per game).
Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
Averaged 17.2 ppg and topped all rebounders with 10.4.
Charlie Moore, Detroit Pistons
Undrafted after six years on college campuses, the 5-foot-11 guard shined.
Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers
Drafted No. 57, Walker posted per-36 stats better than Jabari Smith up top.
Blake Wesley, San Antonio Spurs
Embracing Dejounte Murray’s trade as job opportunity.