Vegas, baby! The NBA 2K24 Summer League is upon us, and a fully packed Friday slate delivered plenty of action, including the head-to-head matchups of No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama and No. 2 Brandon Miller, as well No. 3 Scoot Henderson and No. 4 Amen Thompson.
But it was a 2022 top-3 selection who stole the show, as Jabari Smith Jr. beat the buzzer to best the Blazers. Here’s a rundown of the early outbursts:
Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets
The Rockets’ second-year forward took much of his debut season to get acclimated alongside ball-dominant guards, eventually gaining enough momentum to lock in an All-Rookie Second Team nod. Smith Jr. was on it from the tip Friday, with middling shooting numbers (8-18 FGs, 3-8 3PM) offset by a strong showing at the line, where he finished 14-for-17 and bolstered his total to 33 points.
The last of his buckets was the most improbable as the Rockets just. kept. hanging. on. Fouls kept them alive long enough to toss one final inbounds, and Smith let rip from 28 feet as time expired, a joyous release for the Rockets that was surely just as crushing an opener for Portland.
Sharife Cooper, Cleveland Cavaliers
After a 13-game run with the Hawks as a 2021 second-round pick, Cooper spent last season with the G League Cleveland Charge, averaging 21.3 points and 6.4 assists. Friday, he attacked the Brooklyn defense and either finished strong (8-11 FGs) or got to the line (9-11 FTs) while also contributing two blocks and a steal. And he dropped seven straight points for Cleveland in the final three minutes to help maintain the lead.
Julian Champagnie, San Antonio Spurs
While a certain Spurs teammate was the 7-foot-3 center of attention, guard Julian Champagnie continued to display the growth that recently earned him a multi-year deal to stick with the Spurs. The final line was robust – 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a block in 30 minutes – and efficient (7-15 FGs, 4-10 3PM). And then, ah … there was also this:
— NBA (@NBA) July 8, 2023
Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets
On the other side of the Spurs-Hornets matchup, No. 2 pick Miller looked notably more aggressive than he did earlier in the week in the California Classic. In Vegas, Miller racked up a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), along with three steals and a block, while committing only a pair of turnovers. Already a promising turnaround from a passive opener, amid signs that he can contribute in multiple ways.
MarJon Beauchamp, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks drafted Beauchamp No. 24 overall in 2022, and he earned limited minutes on the Eastern Conference’s top seed, averaging 13.5 minutes across 52 games. But he looked like he’d put in the work to expand that role, dropping a game-high-tying 23 points (9-18 FGs) to go with eight rebounds, two assists and a steal.