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Lakers’ Josh Hart wins Summer League MVP

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The Lakers wanted to test Josh Hart this summer: What would happen if they gave him a more substantial role? He was solid as a backup point guard last season (a good showing for a rookie), averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent from three, but with Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo in the fold point guard minutes will be hard to come by next season.

What happened if they put the ball in Hart’s hands and made him the leader of a team on and off the court?

Hart responded by winning the NBA Las Vega Summer League MVP, averaging 24.2 points a game and leading the Lakers to the championship game. He dropped 37 on the Cavaliers and Collin Sexton in the semi-finals.

The award was announced Tuesday, in advance of the title contest between Hart and his Lakers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.

Hart is the second Laker in a row to win the award, last year Lonzo Ball won it in leading the Lakers to a Summer League crown.

It’s an honor, but don’t assume Summer League MVP means NBA success. Sure, Damian Lillard won the award, but he was co-MVP with Josh Shelby. Glen Rice III won the award. The MVP list includes Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones and other good but not All-Star players.

Hart also made the All-NBA Summer League first team. (Both the MVP award and All-NBA Summer League teams were voted on by a select media pannel.)

Here are the Las Vegas All Summer League teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago)
Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers)
Kevin Knox (New York)
Collin Sexton (Cleveland)
Christian Wood (Milwaukee)

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)
Wade Baldwin IV (Portland)
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis)
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Los Angeles Lakers)
Trae Young (Atlanta)

Jabari Parker agrees to deal with Bulls after Bucks rescind qualifying offer

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Jabari Parker got his wish — he is going to be a Chicago Bull next season.

Saturday morning the Bucks rescinded their qualifying offer, making the former No. 2 pick and Chicago native an unrestricted free agent.

Parker quickly reached a two-year, $40 million deal with the Bulls that eats up their cap space for the summer, something broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That is an overpay for Parker. Even so, the box lost a former No. 2 pick for no compensation. They did not want to trade him and now lost him for nothing.

A couple of seasons ago he was a 20-point a game scorer, but since then Parker has had a second ACL surgery, plus he was never much of a defender. This is a tight free agent market, they could have paid less and used some of that money for a free agent rotation player (although the market is slim).

The Bulls now have more than $38 million invested next season in players coming off major injuries, the other being Zach LaVine (the Bulls matched the offer sheet the Kings had for him).

The Bulls want to play Parker at the three (he spent 40 percent of his time at the three last season in Milwaukee), pared up front with Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez, and Wendell Carter Jr. The starting backcourt is Kris Dunn and LaVine. How well this group can fit in a selfless, move-the-ball Fred Hoiberg offense remains to be seen. Parker can play a small forward slot on offense, he’s good on the catch-and-shoot (better than a point per possession), can get out and score in transition, and is a better pick-and-roll ball handler than people realize. his minutes should be better than those of Paul Zipser or Denzel Valentine.

But Parker is going to get torched defensively by opposing threes.

If everything comes together for the Bulls next season, they should be interesting, but they have made a lot of big bets on players with question marks. It’s going to be an up-and-down season in the windy city.

Reports: Bulls working toward Jabari Parker offer sheet

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How much money is Jabari Parker worth a season?

The former No. 2 pick is coming off two ACL surgeries, which has given teams — including the Milwaukee Bucks, who have his rights — pause. Can he return to the form of a versatile a 20-point-a-game scorer? Will that make up for his defensive deficiencies?

The Chicago Bulls may be betting the answer is yes to both of those questions, something reported by Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago.

That has been backed up by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Restricted free-agent forward Jabari Parker and the Chicago Bulls are progressing on an offer sheet deal, league sources told ESPN on Friday.

A deal could be finalized as soon as Sunday, league sources said.

One of two things is going on here.

1) The Bulls are putting this out there to create leverage on Oklahoma City to give up more sweeteners in a Carmelo Anthony trade. After a couple of recent moves, the Bulls have the cap space to do an Anthony for Cristiano Felicio deal (with most of Anthony’s salary going into the Bulls’ cap space), then waive Anthony (allowing him to become a Rocket). The question is what sweeteners are going to the Bulls in such a deal, and this could be Chicago management putting a little public pressure on OKC to up the offer.

2) The more likely reality seems to be they really do like the idea of the Chicago native Paker as the three, with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. rounding out the frontcourt (all paired with a Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine backcourt). Parker has played more than a third of his minutes the past couple of seasons as a three, he’s good on the catch-and-shoot (better than a point per possession), can get out and score in transition, and is a better pick-and-roll ball handler than people realize. It’s not a bad fit, especially compared to the Paul Zipser/Denzel Valentine options.

I’m not sure how well all of those guys fit together in a Fred Hoiberg selfless/move-the-ball offense, but it’s not a gamble — at the right price. And for the right number of years.

Which brings us back to the original question at the top of this article:  How much money is Jabari Parker worth a season? More than $15 million? How much and how many years will the Bulls be willing to put out there to see if this works (and they have to go big enough that the Bucks will not match, go too low and he stays in Milwaukee).

We’ll find out over the weekend, it looks like.

Top 10 standout players from NBA Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — For NBA teams, Summer League is less about whether a young player is good or not, and far more about benchmarking where they are and seeing what areas that player needs to work on going forward. It’s a first step.

But some of those first steps are more impressive than others.

After watching a dozen days of Summer League games — in person in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas — here are 10 players who stood out to me. This list is not all-inclusive by any means — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Grayson Allen, and Trae Young would get an honorable mention here — nor is it just a list of the best players I have seen. Instead, this is a list of players that turned my head, or those of scouts/team executives that I spoke with, because of their success and what they have shown in Summer League. It’s a list of guys who caught my eye.

Here is my Top 10 for 2018:

1) Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies). From the minute he stepped on the court in Salt Lake, he looked like the future of the NBA five — he can drain threes, runs the court, is strong and physical inside, and can get up and block shots. In Utah he averaged 15.7 points per game and five boards a night. Interestingly, through much the summer games the Grizzlies tried to pair him with a true center, seemingly getting him used to playing the four next to Marc Gasol come next season. Jackson looked a little tired and struggled some in Las Vegas — especially the night he battled Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba on his fifth game in seven days — but he worked hard and still made plays. The Grizzlies may have something special with him.

2) John Collins (Atlanta Hawks). Everyone already knew he was  good — he made NBA All-Rookie second team and averaged 10.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game shooting 57.6 percent last season. However, after watching in Las Vegas and Salt Lake, he has shown the potential to be a future star, his game is improving. He’s averaging 24 points and 8 boards a game in Vegas, playing good defense in the paint, but more importantly he has shown improved three-point stroke and handles. He’s done for the summer, but in limited games he showed he should be on this list.

3) Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns). Yes, the No. 1 pick should be good, but he has looked like a man among boys going up against some of the other rookie big men in Las Vegas. Ayton pushed Bamba around all game long, for example. He’s averaging 16 points a game on 67 percent shooting, plus 11 boards a contest, and he’s got versatility to his game. There’s work to do on defense and passing, but he has the potential to be special.

4) Kevin Knox (New York Knicks). He’s looked like a rookie at points, he’s blown everyone’s doors off at others. Tuesday’s game against the Lakers was the perfect example: He started 0-of-6 from the floor and finished the night with seven turnovers. He’s got work to do. However, he finished that Laker game with 22 points and was 5-of-7 from three, he’s got the athleticism to get by guys with a first step and he can finish. And he’s just 18. The Knicks may have another crucial rebuilding block with Knox.

5) Jonathan Isaac (Orlando Magic). He was a roll of the dice at No. 6 in the 2017 draft, a guy with a lot of potential but a project, then he missed most of his rookie season with injuries. Nobody seemed exactly sure what Orlando had. In Vegas he has turned heads with his play —14.3 points and 7 boards a game, he’s physically a lot stronger and his shooting stroke is smooth. He has banged inside and held his own with Memphis’ Jackson, and has just been a better athlete than everyone he’s gone up against. Pair him along the front with Bamba and Aaron Gordon, and that is an interesting team in Orlando. And when was the last time we said that?

6) Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers). He might be the MVP of Summer League so far, averaging 23.3 points per game and just running the team like a pro. Which he is — he showed he could do this with the Lakers last season, but asked to take on more of a scoring role in Vegas he has stepped up. Bottom line, there’s a reason every time a team talks to the Lakers about a trade they want Hart thrown in the mix. He’s got a lot of fans around the league, and that has only grown this summer.

7) Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago Bulls). I will own it: I was not high on Carter Jr. coming into the draft, but he has impressed in Las Vegas. As expected, he has a versatile and polished offensive game with a nearly unstoppable turnaround from the post, ability to score with either hand, range on his jumper, plus he is a surprisingly good passer. The book on him coming into the draft was defensive questions, but he has been better on that front than expected — he works hard and is athletic enough to be disruptive. We will see how he fares against NBA-level competition on that end, but the work ethic and tools are there.

8) Harry Giles (Sacramento Kings). He was a low-risk gamble pick by the Kings at No. 20 in 2017, a guy who was maybe the top player in his class as a high school sophomore until the injuries hit (ACL, MCL and a meniscus tear in his left knee, plus another surgery on his right knee). The Kings took him and red-shirted him last season, but in Vegas he has been impressive and solid (12 points and 7 rebounds a game in Sin City). He looks like he could be a rotation NBA big man (at least, the Kings think he can be more than that), someone Sacramento can count on besides Marvin Bagley III. Giles has been a pleasant surprise.

9) Jordan Bell (Golden State Warriors). He’s only on this list for one reason. Yes, he’s looked good in limited Summer League run — the guy was playing serious minutes in the NBA Finals a month ago, of course he looks good going against a bunch of non-NBA players. What got him there was this one moment against the Jazz.

(To be clear, Bell and Donovan Mitchell are tight, and Mitchell thought this was funny.)

10) De'Anthony Melton (Houston Rockets). He could end up being a second-round steal for the Rockets. Melton didn’t play last season at USC (he was the guy at the heart of the FBI probe) so he slid down to 46th overall. In Vegas he has looked like a quality rotation guard, averaging 16.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 2.7 steals a game. Guard minutes are tight to come by on the Rockets this season, but he’s going to make the opening night roster and will get his shot.