Orlando and Vegas Summer League All-Stars
The NBA’s Summer Leagues — both the Orlando and Las Vegas versions — are a lot of work for everybody involved, even though die-hard fans are really the only ones that make the games appointment television.
Still, there’s plenty to learn from what goes on at both Summer Leagues, and the following is a list of the best players from the last few weeks’ worth of play.
One note—only players who contributed in most of their team’s games are on this list. Players like Wes Matthews and Kawhi Leonard made appearances, but more as tune-ups rather than for experience. They’re not on this list because they just didn’t play in enough games, but there are still plenty of excellent young players on this list who did.
All Summer League First Team
G – Josh Selby, Memphis Grizzlies (Vegas) – One of the Co-MVPs of the Vegas Summer League, Selby led the league with 27.5 points and shot almost 60 percent from the field. He also averaged 2.5 steals, but the numbers don’t even begin to tell the tale of how dominant Selby was all week. Only a handful of guys looked transcendent in a league full of rookies, D-Leaguers and also-rans, and Selby was easily the best of them.
G – Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Vegas) – Lillard, the other Co-MVP in Vegas, is exactly the kind of point guard that the current NBA rules favor, and the sixth overall pick in this past June’s draft showed that he’s going to fit in just fine in this league. He averaged 26.5 points, 5.3 assists, and 4 rebounds in Vegas, but more importantly he made the game look easy, which is exactly what a high lottery pick is supposed to do.
F – Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic (Orlando) – Orlando’s first-round pick put up a heck of a fight in his new hometown, and a player who many believed was more of a stretch four proved he can score from all over the floor. With Dwight Howard likely gone, frontcourt depth is going to be important for the Magic, and Nicholson—who many teams were in love with leading up to the draft—should help soften the blow of what will be a rough transition.
F – Malcolm Thomas, Chicago Bulls (Vegas) – Thomas is the only guy on either team that’s really surprising, but this former San Diego State teammate of Kawhi Leonard proved to be one of the most impressive players in Vegas this year. He led the league in rebounds per game with 12.4 (almost three full boards per game higher than the player in second place), while also scoring 11.4 points. He dropped a double-double in all four Bulls contests and is almost guaranteed a camp invite from some team, if not Chicago.
C – Miles Plumlee, Indiana Pacers (Orlando) – Pacers fans didn’t like the pick, despite the fact that Plumlee is a Hoosier born and raised, but he looked like one of the most polished players in the entire Orlando Summer League. He rebounded the ball well, as expected, but he also showed a more versatile offensive game than expected, as well. He won’t be asked to do much for the Pacers this year, but he showed why Indy used a first-round pick to draft him in his first pseudo-NBA action.
All Summer League Second Team
G – Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers (Orlando) – Plumlee’s Pacers teammate Stephenson is more likely to see an uptick in floor time this year, and his impressive offensive array in Orlando showed he’s matured a lot as a player and a person. He attacked the basket, defended well and scored the heck out of the ball all week. He certainly looked better than rookie shooting guard Orlando Johnson, who was just as bad as Stephenson was good.
G – Alec Burks, Utah Jazz (Orlando) – If there was ever any doubt that Burks was ready to be given the opportunity to start at shooting guard, he dispelled them at the Orlando Summer League this year. Burks was easily one of the most prolific players of the week, and he displayed the benefits of running an offense through him. A 31-point outpouring was the highlight of his experience in Orlando, but it certainly wasn’t his only high-scoring game while he was down there.
F – Tobias Harris, Milwaukee Bucks (Vegas) – While he wasn’t particularly flashy about it, Harris showed off one of the better all-around games in Vegas, averaging 20.8 points (on 53 percent shooting), 6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. There was definitely a sense that he was one of the more experienced players there, and the game pretty clearly came easier to him than most everybody else, as the numbers show.
F – Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns (Vegas) – Like a lot of the other players on this list, Morris’ full year of real NBA experience gave him a leg-up against inferior competition. For the week, Morris posted 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds, and he’ll be expected to take that momentum into the regular season, as the Suns undergo a youth movement of which Morris is obviously a part.
C – Bernard James, Dallas Mavericks (Vegas) – Other than the fact that James is one of the most interesting stories of the summer (how many 27-year-old rookies are there, really?), he’s also one heck of a player. His numbers—10.2 points, 9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.6 blocks—show a good balance between offensive and defensive talents, and Mark Cuban himself said in Vegas he was ecstatic to have the young man (if we can still call him that) on his team.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (Vegas) – With Ronnie Brewer gone, Butler will be expected to step right into that backup small forward role and perform, and his 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in Vegas were a positive omen that he’ll be able to do exactly that.
Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets (Vegas) – For teams considering making a blockbuster trade involving Lamb, his 20 points and 4.4 rebounds in Vegas certainly were a great advertisement. What do you think, Orlando? Does that sweeten the Dwight deal at all?
Adam Morrison, L.A. Clippers, Brooklyn Nets (Orlando, Vegas) – Morrison put in major work during both Summer Leagues, and by the end of his Las Vegas excursion he looked pretty exhausted. Despite that, he proved he can still score the ball well, but we’ll have to wait and see if that translates into a training camp invite. He certainly worked hard enough for one the last few weeks.
It’s been a very educational couple of weeks, even with the top two picks out for the Olympics (Anthony Davis) and injury (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist). Attention now turns to Team USA, and then it’ll be a short hop and a skip to the preseason. At that point, we’ll see how all these summer standouts translate their success to the regular season.