LAS VEGAS — Just six games remain on the NBA 2K23 Summer League schedule, but we’re still keeping tabs on all the players putting together standout performances. Here are a few from Saturday’s action at Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion:
Jules Bernard and Charlie Moore, Detroit Pistons
We didn’t get to see top pick Paolo Banchero, fifth pick Jaden Ivey or No. 13 selection Jalen Duren on the floor, but Bernard and Moore put on a show as a nice consolation prize, coming together for 43 points on a scorching combined 14-for-20 from the field and 6-for-8 from 3-point range in Detroit’s 102-86 thumping of the Orlando Magic.
Coming off the bench, Bernard scored 22 points in nearly 20 minutes and didn’t miss a shot from deep (3-for-3) or the free throw line (9-for-9), while pulling down nine boards with three assists. Bernard matched the sizzling temps in Las Vegas with a hot third quarter in which he racked up 14 of his game-high 22 points; highlighting the onslaught with a four-point play with 3:31 left in the frame. A 5-foot-11 guard from Miami, Moore played nearly 28 minutes, shooting 64.3% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc in addition to dishing a game-high eight assists. Moore waited until the fourth quarter to unleash his carnage, pouring in 16 of his 21 points while flashing all the electric traits of an up-and-coming playmaker.
RJ Nembhard Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers
Just a week ago, Nembhard opened Summer League with a 20-point showing in a 99-90 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The 23-year-old only continued to pour it on Saturday, dropping a team-high 16 points on an efficient 8-for-14 shooting with five rebounds, six dimes, and two steals with only one turnover in Cleveland’s 94-90 triumph over the Atlanta Hawks.
Undrafted in 2021, Nembhard played on Miami’s Summer League squad last year before joining Cleveland in September on a deal that was converted a month later into a two-way contract. The former Texas Christian University standout is currently on a two-way contract with the Cavaliers after playing in 14 games with the team last season. He averaged 24.5 points as a key cog for the organization’s G-League affiliate.
Chris Clemons, Atlanta Hawks
Remember Clemons? We’ll get to it later. But the 5-foot-9 guard scored 16 points on 7-for-11 from the floor and 2-for-4 from 3-point range with three assists in just 20 minutes of action in Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers.
Clemons, 24, is a dynamic scorer with NBA experience, having played 33 games as an undrafted rookie in 2019-20 with the Houston Rockets, averaging 4.9 points and connecting on 34.6% from range. Clemons suffered a torn Achilles during the 2020-21 preseason, and within six months the guard was already reeling off dunks. Clemons spent last season with the Maine Celtics of the NBA G League and earned G League Player of the Month last March after averaging 29.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in leading his team to a 7-4 record.
Everybody loves redemption stories, and it appears Clemons is well on the way to penning one.
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
No. 20 overall pick Malaki Branham stole some of Lofton’s shine in leading San Antonio to its first win of Summer League, but there was no denying the dominance displayed by the Memphis two-way big man in his team’s 90-87 loss.
Undrafted out of Louisiana Tech, Lofton wrecked the Spurs inside by throwing around every ounce of his 275-pound frame. But he also showcased a shooter’s touch in drilling 2-for-3 from deep and 10-for-16 from the field in ringing up 27 points to go with 12 rebounds and three assists. With 1:37 remaining, Lofton drained a step-back 3 that gave Memphis an 87-86 lead. But Branham returned fire on the ensuing possession with a step-back 3 of his own that gave the Spurs the lead for good.
JT Thor, Charlotte Hornets
The second-year big owns a cool name, but he flexed hot game Saturday despite his Charlotte Hornets falling 89-86 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thor impacted the game in just about every facet you could conceive in scoring a game-high 28 points in nearly 22 minutes with five thefts.
The 19-year-old knocked down 3-for-6 from long distance and 9-for-14 from the floor, and attacked Minnesota in a variety of ways during a lively third quarter that only transitioned into a 16-point final frame. Thor played in 33 contests last season for the Hornets and averaged 2.0 points and 1.3 rebounds. Perhaps he’s poised for a larger role in 2022-23 on what should be one of the league’s most exciting young squads.
Malaki Branham, San Antonio Spurs
Torched Memphis for four of his five 3-pointers on the night over the final 5:30 in leading San Antonio’s 90-87 victory. The 20th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft scored 23 points to go with two boards, two assists and a block. Spurs summer league coach Mitch Johnson was pleased after the game with the decisiveness Branham played with and hopes the former Ohio State standout continues to compete more aggressively in the future.
At this stage, it’s clear that Branham can get buckets. But to thrive and earn meaningful minutes in San Antonio under coach Gregg Popovich, the rookie will have to step up his game on the defensive end.
Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets
Showed once again why he’s a mainstay on our Summer League MVP Ladder by putting together a 25-point night, closing out a week in which the guard produced three performances with at least 25 points. Thomas and David Duke Jr. combined for 49 points as Brooklyn bested the Boston Celtics 102-95 to finish at 3-2.
Thomas, 20, poured in 20 points in the second half alone, and finished the game with six assists and two steals in 32 minutes. The 27th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft is a bona fide scorer, but you’re starting to see Thomas’ development as a playmaker that is capable of making a living at the foul line.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.