Five unexpected impressive players from Las Vegas Summer League

12 Comments

Heading into the Las Vegas Summer League, it was expected Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and some other big names would impress.

But part of the fun of Summer League is lesser known guys who unexpectedly jump up and grab your attention — and the attention of teams. Myself and Sean Highkin of ProBasketballTalk were in Vegas, and here are five guys that unexpectedly turned our heads.

1) Jonathon Simmons (Spurs). He won the MVP of the championship game scoring 23 points that night, but he had been playing well all Summer League averaging 17 points a game on 51.9 percent shooting. He beats guys off the dribble and knows how to finish inside — he did that well at the D-League level last season also. He just signed a guaranteed contract for this coming season with the Spurs, he may not get a lot of playing time (Kawhi Leonard will get the bulk of the minutes at the three, Simmons Summer League teammate Kyle Anderson may get some run there) but he will get a chance to prove he can keep scoring efficiently at the next level.

2) ScottieWilbekin (Sixers). The former Florida Gator, who spent last season playing in Australia, turned heads with his hustle, averaging 14.4 points per game and playing good defense. He did the same thing at the Orlando Summer League (playing for the Magic), and between the two Summer League’s he shot 42 percent from three. He just signed a four-year contract with the Sixers,  with the first two years guaranteed. The Sixers are crowded at the point guard spot, but he will get his chance.

3) Maurice Ndour (Knicks). He fit well in the vague attempt at the triangle offense New York ran at Summer League. He averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, and he shot 51.2 percent. He’s got good footwork, hustles on defense and uses his length to be disruptive, he can score in around the basket, and he plays with constant energy. In a game against the Sixers he had six straight points late in a close game, the team turned to him to get buckets. He impressed Knicks management, but coach Derek Fisher said the team might not have a roster spot to give him.

“I don’t know if there’s any more he can do,” Fisher said of Ndour making the Knicks roster. “I think he’s doing everything that’s at least in his control to be a guy that — whether it’s our team, hopefully so, but there are 29 other teams — he’s giving teams a look that he can play at this level and be pretty good at it.”

4) Jordan Mickey (Boston). He looked like a potential great second-round pick (33) by the Celtics. Mickey averaged 13.8 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting, plus pulled down 9.6 rebounds a game. Defensively he was a strong rim protector, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Mickey just signed a four-year deal (the first two years guaranteed) with the Celtics, which is a fantastic deal for Boston, Mickey could develop into a reliable rotation player for them up front.

5) Alan Williams (Rockets). Loved by the stats guys but undrafted out of UC Santa Barbara (I saw him play in person multiple times in college and would not have predicted this), he looked fantastic in Las Vegas. Williams averaged 20.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 11.5 rebounds a game. He’s a free agent and while Houston may not pick him up it would be shocking to think nobody is going to give him an invite to training camp and a chance to make a roster.

Collin Sexton says he’s going to wear fan-designed shoes this season

Getty
Leave a comment

Cleveland Cavaliers second-year point guard Collin Sexton is already a fan-favorite in northeastern Ohio. This year, it appears that Sexton is trying to deepen that connection.

In a message posted to Twitter on Sunday, Sexton reached out to his followers to design a new set of shoes for him this year. The Cavaliers sophomore said that he will take the top five designs that fans submit and then wear them throughout the course of the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.

Via Twitter:

This is a pretty cool idea, and a great way to have a direct link between fans and players. Social media is in an era of extreme personal branding, and even if this is a thinly-veiled Nike marketing thing, it at least has a twinge of genuineness to it.

The only thing left now is to see what designs people submit, and whether Sexton’s taste is any good.

James Harden plays in Rico Hines games at UCLA and destroys people

Dennis Jerome Acosta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
1 Comment

Elite NBA defenders, with a team and a game plan behind them, can’t slow down James Harden.

So imagine what happens when he shows up for an open run.

One spot a lot of NBA players head in the summer to get some games in is Rico Hines’ games at UCLA. Harden showed up and, well, you know what comes next. Via Ball is Life.

The man is so smooth, so under control, and just able to get buckets however he wants. It’s just fun to watch. Unless you’re an opposing coach.

Could Kevin Durant return from torn Achilles, play for Nets this season? Maybe…

Getty Images
1 Comment

Every case is different, but many players return from a torn Achilles in about nine to 10 months. Kobe Bryant pushed and did it in eight. Other players will take a full year.

If Kevin Durant returned in nine months it would be March, enough time to get in game shape and be ready for the Nets’ playoff run.

There’s a growing sense from teams we could see just that scenario, and Spencer Dinwiddie talked about it with Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season.

“I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar.

“The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.”

Durant is an intense competitor who wants to get back on the court. He pushed to get back from a calf injury and play in the NBA Finals only to suffer the Achilles tear. He’s smart enough to be sure he’s all the way back before he steps on the court, if that means he sits out a full season so be it. However, he absolutely could return this season.

If he’s back, the Nets go from interesting team to potential threat to the Bucks and Sixers at the top of the conference. Durant was the best player in the world the past couple of years and he could return to that status quickly, and lift Brooklyn up with him.

Will Toronto give Pascal Siakam max extension?

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

In his third year in the league last season, Pascal Siakam made a leap. He averaged 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, shot 36.9 percent from three, became a shot creator, played quality wing defense, and he was a key part of the Raptors earning the right to have a parade and hoist a championship banner. He earned that Most Improved Player trophy.

Siakam is Toronto’s future after a summer where Kawhi Leonard left.

Siakam also is eligible for an extension right now.

Should the Raptors give him the max of five years, $170 million? A number of executives around the league told Frank Urbina of Hoopshype that Siakam may be worth that number.

A Western Conference coach agreed: “With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up. I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

Is “highly serviceable” worth the max? The two players who got that money this summer were Ben Simmons in Philly and Jamal Murray in Denver. Most of the GMs spoken to for the article would try to extend him for less than the full max.

“I think they’re going to try to extend him,” one current Eastern Conference GM said. “I haven’t talked to Toronto, but he’s obviously a huge piece for them, helped them win a championship, he’s getting better, he’s young, he’s athletic and he can shoot. They’re going to try to extend him. Do I think he’s a max player? No. Do I think he’s a good player? Certainly. It’ll come down to what he thinks he’s worth, and I’m sure his agents have called around to see what kind of offers he could get if he enters restricted free agency.”

Another Western Conference executive agreed that he’s not worth the max, telling HoopsHype: “Out of Pascal Siakam, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Buddy Hield, [the main candidates remaining for a rookie-scale extension], I don’t think any of them will get the max or deserve the max. If I was running each team, I would force them to play it out. In some situations, keeping their cap holds is so much more beneficial. You should only extend if you get a below-market-value deal or if it’s a no-brainer extension.”

If the Raptors come in at less than the max with an offer, Siakam may just want to play out this season and head into restricted free agency next summer. If he has another strong season, when he hits the market in a down year for free agents he may find a team willing to make a max or near max offer and Toronto will have to match or let him walk. Essentially, Siakam would bet on himself.

We’ll see if Toronto and Siakam’s people can find a number that works for both sides, the deadline is Oct. 21. The sides are talking, but its more likely this rolls into next summer.