Most impressive rookie so far in Las Vegas Summer League? Emmanuel Mudiay.

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LAS VEGAS — Point guards at Summer League have the power of the ball in their hands. Combine that with them trying to impress someone to give them a job (ideally with an NBA team, for most it will be overseas) and you get one thing: Shots. Good shots, bad shots, but lots of shots. Guards are trying to impress scouts/GMs with their scoring. They want an eye-catching stat line.

Emmanuel Mudiay has stood out against that backdrop.

“The first thing you see is he is a true point guard…” Denver Nuggets Summer League coach Micah Nori said. “Guys are going to love to play with him, they are going to continue to run for him because he is a pass-first point guard….

“And I see him being able to lead. With his ability to pass and his unselfishness, guys are going to want to follow him.”

The Nuggets have followed Mudiay to a 2-0 start at Summer League, and he’s been the most impressive rookie so far in getting there.

The 19-year-old from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who slid down the draft board to No. 7 has looked like an impressive NBA talent so far under the bright lights of Las Vegas.

“We’ve put the ball in his hands and given him a lot of freedom, and there’s good reason for that,” Nori said.

Mudiay has a flair to his game — he pushes the pace, and he’s fond of behind-the-back and jump passes (a little too fond of the latter). He’s got a great change of pace dribble and has shown some real explosion to the rim. More importantly, he recognizes the defense and attacks its weaknesses. Through two games, he has averaged 15 points and eight assists a game. He’s shooting just 40 percent overall (and 11 percent from three) but knows when to attack and get buckets.

“I haven’t been happy with the way I’ve been shooting, and I’ve been putting in the work and I’m going to keep shooting, but at the same time I am comfortable,” Mudiay said of his play so far at Summer League. “I like getting my teammates involved.”

What has most impressed with Mudiay is the maturity of his game. He has a controlled aggression.

He’s looks like a guy who played against men in China, not college boys. There is no panic under pressure; the game is not moving too fast for him. At one point late in the first half Sunday the Kings threw a hard double-team at him, and he calmly controlled his dribble, pulled the defenders out on the floor, and then hit the open man for a clean look at the rim.

“I feel like playing overseas professionally, that really helped me,” Mudiay said of the patience in his game. “Coming from high school to pro ball, in high school I was rushing everything. Straight out to China I was rushing everything. But I’ve got to let the game come to me.”

“When things are chaotic he remains calm, he’s very comfortable with his abilities, and he’s able to make pretty much any pass at any time, which is big time,” Nori said. “And I think the one thing about Emmanuel that allows him to do that is his skill level with his ball handling. And the other thing is he’s a big kid, a big strong kid. Some guys, when they get pressure, turn their back to the floor, the one thing he’s able to do is be facing forward, facing that rim, and that’s why he can make any pass at any time. He finds guys that are open and hits them on time and on target.”

Mudiay already knows how to use his NBA-ready physique to create space — he drives into defenders, puts them back on their heals, then pulls up looking for the pass or shot. He hits first, he doesn’t wait for the defense to hit him. Is that something else he learned in China?

“I got that from my brothers,” Mudiay said with a laugh. “Just playing with them all the time they used to try to bully me, and I’d try to bully them back. I was so little that just stuck with me. So when I play older, more physical guys, taller guys, even stronger guys, I try to hit them first so they know the next play I’m coming in.”

Nobody should read too much into two NBA Summer League games — two Vegas games matter about as much as presidential race polling right now, we’re nowhere near when it gets real. The list of NBA Summer League MVPs is littered with “who’s that?” This is not the NBA. How all of this translates to games in November or even February is a question still to be answered. And how he will ultimately compare to D’Angelo Russell (who has shown strong moments but is more shoot first) or Kristaps Porzingis will not be answered for years.

But quality NBA players tend to stand out in the chaos of Summer League — and Mudiay stands out.

He’s not your typical Summer League point guard. And that could be excellent news for the Denver Nuggets.

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal”, since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.

Spurs’ Josh Primo out for preseason with left knee MCL sprain

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Josh Primo is going to get his chance this season. The Spurs are rebuilding — even Gregg Popovich says not to bet on them to win the title — and Primo, entering his second season (and still 19), is one of the most promising young players on their roster, someone with the chance to be part of whatever will be built in San Antonio the future. He just needs more experience.

Unfortunately, he’s going to start this season half a step behind after missing most of training camp due to a sprained left MCL, the team announced Thursday. He is expected to return in time for the season opener, according to the team.

Promo, the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, got into 50 games for the Spurs last season and averaged 5.8 points a game but wasn’t very efficient with his shot yet. He also spent a lot of time in the G-League (but then had to miss this past Summer League due to COVID).

With Dejounte Murray now in Atlanta, there is not only a starting spot open but also opportunities to run the offense — Primo is going to get a chance to show what he can do with that. It’s just not going to be for a little while due to his knee sprain.

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.