2017 Summer League

Summer Standouts: Day 11 final in Las Vegas

Lang Whitaker

LAS VEGASA look at the top performers in the Day 11 final in Las Vegas:

Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers

After winning the 2017 NBA Summer League Championship Game over the Portland Trail Blazers, 110-98, Lakers fans should be hoping what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. And in particular when it comes to Summer League showing of forward Kyle Kuzma. The 6’9” rookie forward out of Utah, acquired in a trade from Brooklyn, was selected 27th overall, but played his way onto the MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team, displaying an ability all week to run to the rim or knock down 3-point shots. While Summer League MVP Lonzo Ball missed the championship game with a calf injury, Kuzma picked up the slack immediately, scoring 19 first-half points. He continued that production in the second half, draining a halfcourt shot to the end the end the third quarter and generating cheers of “Kuuuz” from the loud crowd of Lakers fans in attendance. Kuzma finished with 30 points (including 6-10 on threes) as well as 10 rebounds, and was named the championship Game MVP.

Caleb Swanigan, Portland Trail Blazers

Whenever a shot goes up, Portland big man Caleb Swanigan immediately begins looking around for a body to bang against, in search of yet another rebound. After being named to the MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League First Team earlier in the day, Swanigan came out in the Championship Game and displayed deft touch, particularly in the midrange area. Playing mostly in a point-forward role and dealing from the free throw line area, Swanigan racked up 11 points, 8 boards and 5 assists in the first half. In an NBA trending increasingly toward the perimeter, Swanigan is a delightful throwback to the players who used to do damage in the paint. Swanigan finished with a team-best 25 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in Portland’s loss.

Vander Blue, Los Angeles Lakers

Put simply, Vander Blue gets buckets. As a three-time G-League All-Star and the reigning G League MVP, Blue clearly understands how to put points on the board. Now he just has to figure out how to translate that skill to the next level –despite his extensive G league experience, he’s played in just 5 actual NBA games since leaving Marquette in 2013. Blue’s ability to the get to the basket is impressive, as is his understanding of floor spacing and skill at playing under control. With Ball missing the title game, Blue helped out more with ball-handling duties and helped the Lakers hang onto their lead down the stretch, finishing with 20 points and 6 assists.

Alex Caruso, Los Angeles Lakers

Stepping into Ball’s rotating sneaker lineup (as well as L.A.’s starting lineup) was guard Alex Caruso, whose performance throughout Summer League has already earned him a two-way contract from the Lakers for next season. While Caruso doesn’t have Ball’s innate ability to fling full-court passes to streaking teammates, he did manage to recreate Ball’s ability to fill the stat sheet, finishing the title game with 11 points, 9 assists and 7 boards.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here or follow him on Twitter.

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