2017 Summer League

Kia Rookie Ladder: Boston Celtics' Jayson Tatum off to impressive start

Tatum rewarded Danny Ainge's confidence with 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in three games in Salt Lake City

LAS VEGAS – The Kia Rookie Ladder after the conclusion of summer league in Orlando and Salt Lake City and the first night in Las Vegas:

1. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Not merely the best rookie in Salt Lake City, Tatum was one of the best players at any experience level, averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 46.8 percent in three games. That put him fourth in scoring and second on the boards. The Celtics were off Friday, but Tatum, the third pick in the draft, will be right back in the spotlight Saturday against the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, the second selection, even if they won’t be matched up.

2. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Adebayo shot only 35.2 percent in four Orlando appearances, a problem in general and also the reason he couldn’t make a serious claim for No. 1 the first time The Ladder went 10 deep in summer league, an early setback in his career. But he was fifth in scoring there (17.5), third in rebounding (8.3) and tied for second in blocks (2.30).

3. Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons

The 17.2 points and 46.5-percent shooting in Orlando made sure Kennard would not be overlooked at the same time the Pistons traded for Avery Bradley and pulled their qualifying offer for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Instantly showing why he was considered one of the best deep threats in the draft, Kennard also made 47.8 percent (11 of 23) of his attempts behind the arc. The Pistons are not in Las Vegas.

4. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers

The No. 1 pick had a good first step, scoring 17 points on six-of-16 shooting in the opener and 23 points while making nine of 16 attempts the next game before sitting out the 76ers finale in Salt Lake City. The average of 20 points per was second there, behind only Bryn Forbes of the Spurs. Philadelphia plays its first Las Vegas game Saturday, against the Warriors, before a matchup with San Antonio and another first-round guard, Derrick White.

5. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

What would have been a nice start for a lottery pick under ordinary circumstances became much more in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s jolting exit from Salt Lake City. Mitchell thrived in suddenly becoming part of the new future, delivering energy at the very moment fans needed a boost by averaging 15.3 points while playing both backcourt spots and showing toughness. He may be in the Jazz rotation from the starts – and might have been even if Hayward stayed.

6. Dakari Johnson, Oklahoma City Thunder

Johnson was assertive in the way a player with two seasons in the G League should be, averaging 18 points (the second-most in Orlando) and shooting 56.9 percent. He just wasn’t as overpowering inside as an experienced 21-year-old 7-footer should be. The 2015 second-rounder collected just 5.5 rebounds in 27.5 minutes over four games.

7. T.J. Leaf, Indiana Pacers

The 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 27 minutes while shooting 48.5 percent was a solid showing in Orlando, even while making just two of 10 behind the arc. Based on his one-and-done at UCLA, the 3-point range should come. Then Leaf will have a chance to contribute in several different areas.

8. Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic

A strained left hip cost him the last two games, but Isaac showed enough the first three outings to finish tied for fourth in rebounding (8.0) and tied for fifth in blocks (1.67) while adding 10.3 points. Now on to a summer of serious work in the weight room.

9. Dwayne Bacon, Charlotte Hornets

The quest to go from the second round to the regular-season rotation for a team that wants a stronger bench began with 15.4 points over five games close to home in Orlando, despite shooting 41.8 percent. That was capitalizing on the injury absence of Malik Monk, the lottery pick who would have gotten a lot of Bacon’s shots, and everyone’s minutes in the backcourt.

10. Abdel Nader, Boston Celtics

The experience of 2016-17 as one of the top prospects in the D-League while playing for the Celtics affiliate in Portland, Maine, was obvious in Salt Lake City. Nader averaged 14.7 points, shot 48.6 percent and defended multiple positions. Anything helps in the attempt to fight through the Boston depth chart to avoid another full season in the minors.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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