Roundtable: Which NBA Summer League player impressed you the most?

Roundtable: Which NBA Summer League player impressed you the most?

The 2021 NBA Summer League has concluded, with the Sacramento Kings winning the Summer League championship over the Boston Celtics. While the Kings and New Orleans Pelicans are the only teams who left Las Vegas with an undefeated record, plenty of players made the most of their opportunity during the tournament.

There were rookies who made a strong first impression at the NBA level, second-year players who were determined to showcase more of their game and prove they're ready for a bigger role, and veterans who hoped to earn a roster spot or training-camp invite. We asked our staff the following question:

Which player impressed you the most during Summer League?

Nekias Duncan: Not enough nice things can be said about the three-game stretch that Jalen Green put together. He popped as a shot creator, and showed real life as a passer in pick-and-roll situations. The on-ball defense looked much better than it did during his G-League stretch, though we’ll see how that translates.

Alex Kennedy: Tre Jones of the San Antonio Spurs really stood out to me. The sophomore point guard only appeared in 37 contests as a rookie and played just 7.3 minutes per game, but he dominated the competition in Las Vegas. In four games, the 21-year-old averaged 22.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals on 50.7/36.4/90.5 shooting splits. Against the Charlotte Hornets, he hit an impressive game-winning shot and finished with 34 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds. Jones looked too good for Summer-League action, which has to make the rebuilding Spurs happy. Like Jones, Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers), Desmond Bane (Memphis Grizzlies) and Patrick Williams (Chicago Bulls) also deserve credit for shining and showcasing their continued development.

Jackson Frank: My sample is more narrow than usual because I didn’t catch my full allotment of games, but I dug what I saw from Aaron Nesmith. He flashed some off-the-dribble verve as a pull-up shooter and driver, and even executed some passing reads I wasn’t aware were in his bag. The Celtics need wing shooting and if he’s a legit rotation guy with some ability to attack closeouts, that’d help buoy them a good bit.

Spencer Davies: Though there were a number of young players who looked ready for the big stage, it’s hard not to salivate over what Jonathan Kuminga can become. With the right development and a perfect situation among champions in Golden State, it’s looking like he’ll be a force to be reckoned with down the line. The jump shot is inconsistent and he comes off as a little overaggressive and reckless right now — particularly when running the floor — but the dribble moves he put on in isolation situations were eye-popping, as were his speed and strength when he finished at the rim. The 18-year-old forward has plenty of upside to be excited about. It just may take a little time before he puts it all together, and that’s okay.

Chris Sheridan: The Nets have a very confident rookie in Cam Thomas, who killed it at Summer League and led all players with 27.0 points per game. In fact, this scoring average is second-best in Summer-League history behind only Donovan Mitchell (28.0). Thomas has a confidence and a hunger that the Nets recognized, which is why they selected him at No. 27. Whether he can crack that loaded guard rotation in Brooklyn remains to be seen, but he could be making noise in the BK for the next decade long after Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant have hung up their sneakers.

Evan Sidery: Jalen Green was so impressive to me throughout Summer League. We knew how gifted of a three-level scorer he was, but Green made it look so easy. For a rebuilding Rockets squad, there’s no reason Green can’t average 20-25 points per game during his rookie campaign. Green’s potential is immense; eventually, he could potentially become a multi-time scoring champion.
Ethan Fuller: I've always thought the "older-equals-more-NBA-ready" philosophy is a myth. But Chris Duarte might be proving me wrong. The 24-year-old first-round rookie shined for Indiana, who used him in so many creative ways. Duarte made plays on and off the ball, got to his shots in rhythm and played heads-up team defense. He could absolutely be a day-one positive in the Pacers' rotation.
Jesse Blancarte: Jalen Green only played a few Summer-League games before being sidelined with a hamstring injury, but he displayed his dynamic offensive talent and showed why he was chosen second overall in this year’s draft. Step-back jumpers, catch-and-shoot three-pointers, drives to the basket, finishes in traffic, operating out of the pick-and-roll... Green did a little bit of everything and proved he has the talent to become a superstar player in the NBA.
Drew Maresca: Dare I say… LiAngelo Ball? Listen, a lot of guys looked great like Davion Mitchell, Payton Pritchard and Immanuel Quickley. But Ball looked surprisingly serviceable in Summer League, scoring 9.6 points per game while connecting on 34.5% of his three-point attempts, and that includes a poor final outing against the Chicago Bulls (6 points, 0-for-5 on three-point attempts). If Ball makes the Hornets' roster, and I think he will, he’ll be in a comfortable spot alongside younger brother LaMelo Ball. Sure, his long-term impact is limited, but Ball was arguably the feel-good story of the Summer League.
Jonathan Concool: Jalen Green looked every bit as advertised in his short time playing for the Houston Rockets' Summer League team. Not only did Green average 20.3 points in just 24.1 minutes, he looked extremely comfortable on the court and that might’ve been what impressed me the most. Green’s decision to play with the G League Ignite last season certainly seemed to give him an advantage, as he showed no jitters or nerves playing in front of NBA personnel. (After his first Summer-League game, he said that it was similar to the G League.) Green outdueled No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham in a showdown between the top-two selections, scoring a game-high 25 points and leading the Rockets to the 111-91 victory over Cunningham (20 points) and the Detroit Pistons. Green’s Summer League was cut short due to hamstring soreness, but the Rockets emphasized they were just being overly cautious in their decision to keep him out of the lineup. Things are looking up in H-Town, as this team may be able to turn things around with their young core of Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green and Christian Wood leading the way.
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