2022 Summer League

NBA 2K23 Summer League Standouts: Tari Eason, Rockets' young roster shine

Houston's Tari Eason and Jabari Smith combine for 41 points, while Matt Ryan delivers the game-winning 3 for Boston.

No. 17 pick Tari Eason leads the way for Houston with 22 points and 11 boards in Monday’s 97-84 victory.

LAS VEGAS — Five days down, six to go at the NBA 2K23 Summer League. Here are Monday’s Summer League Standouts:

Matt Ryan, Boston Celtics

Ryan hits a long 3 to win it for Boston just before time expires.

As watchable as Matt Ryan was during the game against Milwaukee at the Cox Pavilion, he was twice as compelling afterward when his afternoon heroics were put in their proper and poignant perspective. Ryan, who went undrafted in 2020 out of Chattanooga (and Vanderbilt and Notre Dame), scored 23 points and nailed 6 of his 11 3-point attempts. That included the last one in the final seconds, a frantic, high-arcing bank shot for the game-winner.

But during his postgame interview, Ryan couldn’t completely hold back the emotions that flooded him as he took one more step toward earning a roster spot with Boston.

“It’s been a crazy 11 months,” Ryan said, choking up a bit. “I was home for a year and half. I don’t know if you had heard my story, but [I was] driving Door Dash a year ago. To be here, to be part of the Boston Celtics roster, it’s special.”

The Eastern Conference champion Celtics could use more perimeter shooting – who couldn’t? – and Ryan’s smooth stroke and work ethic could make him a viable option.

In the past year, he has gone from a Summer League spot with Cleveland to a preseason stint with Denver, then a move to the G League in Grand Rapids, Mich. He caught on with Boston in February as a two-way player and logged time with the Maine Celtics in the G League, with a five-minute taste of the NBA in an April game.

Sandro Mamukelashvili, Milwaukee Bucks  

Sandro Mamukelashvili (28 points) Highlights vs. Boston Celtics, 07/11/2022

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 big man from New York, made 41 appearances for Milwaukee in 2021-22, and that seasoning showed against the Celtics. He scored 28 points with nine rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocks as he demonstrated his mobility along with ball skills up and down the floor. Then, in the game’s most rousing moment (until Ryan’s game-winner), Mamukelashvili threw down a ferocious slam over Boston’s Mfiondu Kabengele with 24 seconds left. How monstrous was it? Bucks veteran big man Bobby Portis, seated courtside, sprang up from his chair flexing and shouting.

Mamukelashvili also got locked in to a little personal duel with Boston wing Juhann Begarin, who pestered the Milwaukee big in the open court. At one point, when “Mamu” came over to help defensively, the 6-foot-5 Begarin dunked all over his taller foe. No thought of making the so-called “business decision” to avoid a posterizing moment? Nope. “I’ve seen Giannis [Antetokounmpo] get dunked on,” Mamukelashvili said. “The Bucks don’t make ‘business decisions.’”

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

Trey Murphy III (30 points) Highlights vs. Atlanta Hawks, 07/11/2022

Looking very much like a guy who knew where he was and what he was doing – this is his second trip to Summer League, after all – the Pelicans’ 6-foot-9 forward dominated early and late in his team’s blowout win against Atlanta. Murphy scored 17 of his game-high 30 points in the first half, then added 10 more in the fourth quarter as the Pels stepped on the gas with 34-16 domination in the period. The No. 17 pick in the 2021 Draft, Murphy III got as his reward a little post-buzzer ribbing from veteran teammate Brandon Ingram.

Tari Eason, Houston Rockets

Houston had a handful of players loading up the stats sheet as it beat San Antonio. There was No. 3 pick Jabari Smith with 19 points, nine boards and two steals. Second-year shooting guard Josh Christopher, with 18 points, four steals and two blocks. And Dashien Nix, chipping in 18 points, four boards and six assists. But the top contributor was Eason, a 6-foot-8 forward whom some already are predicting will be the steal of the 2022 Draft. The No. 17 pick from LSU went for 22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks, notching his third consecutive double-double of Summer League play.

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

Chet Holmgren (16 points) highlights vs. Orlando Magic.

It had been billed – and sold at the box office – as a clash of the 2022 Draft’s No. 1 and No. 2 picks. But it didn’t play out that way, because Orlando shut down top pick Paolo Banchero before the night even began. The Magic saw enough from the Duke power forward in his first two games here, in which he averaged 20 points, five rebounds and six assists. Besides the needless risk of injury, Banchero’s freed-up minutes could mean opportunity for others in Orlando’s July squad.

That left it to Holmgren, who came through with 16 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots as Oklahoma City beat Orlando. The final margin was three points, but the rookie’s 7-foot-1 length and weak-side help defense showed up in the fact that OKC was plus-15 with Holmgren on the floor.

Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers  

Walker was the next-to-last pick in last month’s Draft, but he looked far more promising against New York late Monday than a typical bottom-of-the-barrel selection. The son of former NBA lottery pick Samaki Walker (No. 9 in 1996) – and a dead ringer, including their shared 6-foot-9 height – the rookie scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Knicks’ Quentin Grimes led all scorers with 24 points and former NBA forward Richard Jefferson grabbed the spotlight with his stint as a referee in the second quarter, but Walker and his squad got the victory.

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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