Watch Trae Young drop 31 at Drew League, lose to Montrezl Harrell who has 46

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The Drew League in Los Angeles is one of the premiere — for my money the best — summer pro-am basketball league in America. There is some serious talent getting run on that court.

But drop in NBA talent and it’s another level.

That’s what happened Saturday in Los Angeles. Atlanta’s Trae Young showed up, went head-to-head with the reigning Drew League MVP Frank “Nitty” Session (who has embarrassed guys like Denzel Valentine in Drew games), and dropped 31.

But Young’s team lost because Clippers’ stud  Montrezl Harrell dropped 46.

You can see the highlights above thanks to BallisLife.

 

NBA Power Rankings after wildest summer in league history

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That. Was. Insane.

The NBA has never seen an offseason like this last one where so many elite players moved teams and shifted the balance of power around the league. While all the dust has not settled (Chris Paul, for example) we can now take a step back and put out our annual power rankings. The basic ranking criteria here is “chance to win an NBA title” which means a couple top teams from the East are ranked ahead of better teams in the West, just because their odds of getting through to the Finals are higher. Let’s go at it:

Clippers small icon 1. Clippers (Last Season 48-34). No team had a better summer than Steve Ballmer’s crew: They had stalked Kawhi Leonard for a year, and not only did he come he recruited Paul George to come with him. The Clippers should be lock-down defensively (Patrick Beverley will get more time at the point), has offensive versatility, and still brings Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell off the bench. In a deep West that makes them the team to beat.

Bucks small icon 2. Bucks (60-22). They re-signed Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, their two biggest off-season priorities, but they could not keep Malcolm Brogdon, and that will sting. Wesley Matthews will have a lot asked of him to fill that role. Most importantly, they still have an improving Giannis Antetokounmpo. Having both Brook and Robin Lopez will make the Bucks entertaining off the court.

Sixers small icon 3. 76ers (51-31). They lost Jimmy Butler, the guy who was their end-of-game playmaker in the postseason, but adding the underrated Josh Richardson and glue guy Al Horford will help a lot to ease that blow. This should be an elite defensive team that will be right in the middle of it all in the East, but with one big question: Is Ben Simmons ready to be the team’s crunch time, halfcourt ball handler and shot creator?

Jazz small icon 4. Jazz (50-32). Utah had as good an offseason as anyone (except maybe the Clippers). They upgraded at point guard with Mike Conley, who gives them a second shot creator next to Donovan Mitchell. Then they poached Bogdan Bogdanovic out of Indiana, adding more shooting and a guy who can do a little shot creation himself to the mix. This is still one of the league’s best defenses built around Rudy Gobert, but now the Jazz can score a lot, too.

Lakers small icon 5. Lakers (37-45). In Anthony Davis, at his peak at age 26, LeBron James has the single-best teammate he has ever had, one that almost perfectly complements his game. In an NBA filled with powerful duos, the Lakers have the best one. The question becomes: is the rest of the roster good enough to win? The Lakers have talented but flawed players in Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Kuzma, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and the rest. The Lakers may not be a great regular season team (four seed?) but watch out come the playoffs.

Rockets small icon 6. Rockets (53-29). Whatever you think of the fit, Russell Westbrook is a talent upgrade over Chris Paul at this point in their respective (and Hall of Fame) careers. James Harden is still there, as are Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon (despite trade rumors). This was (for my money) the second best team in the West playoffs each of the last two years, they got a little bit better (if Harden and Westbrook can share the ball), and they remain a real threat to win the West.

Nuggets small icon 7. Nuggets (54-28). Denver poked around the free agent market, but in the end got the band back together, including bringing back Paul Millsap. The Nuggets were one of the youngest teams in the NBA last season and are counting on internal improvement from Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and company — plus the addition of Michael Porter Jr. to the rotation (not seeing Porter Jr. in Summer League due to an injury was a disappointment) — to take them to the next level. Denver remains an outstanding team, the question is will they have grown and learned enough to take the next step in the playoffs come spring?

Warriors small icon 8. Warriors (57-24). Write off Golden State at your own peril. They are not the juggernaut team of the past three years, Kevin Durant will rehab in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson is not expected back from his ACL tear until after the All-Star break (if he comes back next season at all). However, they still have Stephen Curry, they have Draymond Green in a contract year, and D’Angelo Russell is an All-Star added to the roster. The Warriors will take a step back in wins (less than 50 probably) but will be a dangerous playoff team.

Blazers small icon 9. Trail Blazers (53-29). There were no bold moves (don’t be shocked if they try to make another play for Kevin Love, but his price is high), but they landed Hassan Whiteside to play the five until Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury, and they made a nice wing signing with Kent Bazemore (plus bringing back Rodney Hood). Portland got marginally better this summer, but will that be enough to take the next step in a West filled with teams making big, bold moves?

Celtics small icon 10. Celtics (49-33). Kyrie Irving headed to Brooklyn, but replacing him with Kemba Walker means Boston didn’t lose a lot on the court (casual fans don’t get just how Walker carried the Hornets) and they get a better leader for their culture. Expect big step from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Losing Al Horford will sting more, they didn’t really replace him. Boston will be fun, they will score a lot of points but not stop much of anyone.

Pacers small icon 11. Pacers (48-34). Indiana paid big to steal Malcolm Brogdon out of Milwaukee, giving them another shot creator and someone on Victor Oladipo’s timeline. The Pacers made nice pickups at a good price in Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren, but this team is going to miss Bogdanovic a lot (he’s in Utah now). The Pacers need to keep their heads above water until Oladipo returns from injury (Christmas or a little after).

Raptors small icon 12. Raptors (58-24). They did everything right but could not compete with the lure of home for Leonard (and they won a title with that gamble), but now they are without their alpha. This is still a talented team with Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and others. When the trade deadline nears will the Raptors move some of those older players, all in the last year of their contracts, to jumpstart the rebuilding process?

Nets small icon 13. Nets (42-40). Brooklyn was one of the biggest winners in free agency landing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. However, with Durant out likely most or all of next season (and not fully his old self yet if he does return), the Nets are not yet a threat to win the East. Irving, however, is an upgrade over D’Angelo Russell on the court. Irving struggled to lead a young, talented team in Boston, can he do better in Brooklyn with a team that made the playoffs with a gritty, team-focused style a year ago?

Spurs small icon 14. Spurs (48-34). No big moves this summer, although they picked up DeMarre Carroll on a nice contract. The biggest improvement will be getting Dejonte Murray back at point guard, an All-Defensive team level point guard (with rumors that his shot has come a long way). Paired with Derrick White that’s a strong defensive backcourt. Don’t forget, they still have DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster. The Spurs are going to be tough to play against every night and make the playoffs.

Mavericks small icon 15. Mavericks (33-49). Now we get to see what the Luka Doncic/Kristaps Porzingis pairing looks like — can this be one of the elite super duos in the West? Dallas is betting yes, but the rest of us need to see it work on the court before buying in. I like the Seth Curry and Delon Wright signings, Boban Marjanovic is always fun, and re-signing Maxi Kleber was smart. This team should be in the mix for a playoff spot in the West, but there is no margin for error.

16. Timberwolves (36-46). They struck out landing D’Angelo Russell or any other star on Karl-Anthony Towns’ timeline, but this team should be improved next season by not having Jimmy Butler torpedo them to start the season (then switching coaches midway through the campaign). Getting Robert Covington back from injury will help a lot, too, this was a much better defensive team with him out there. I expect more from this team than many others, but Andrew Wiggins remains the anchor on how high they can climb.

Kings small icon 17. Kings (39-43). Everyone’s favorite League Pass team from last season is not sneaking up on anyone this time around. They have a good new coach in Luke Walton and made a nice signing with Cory Joseph, and I like the Dewayne Dedmon signing more than most, but for Sacramento it’s going to be about internal improvement if they are going to end the longest playoff draught in the NBA (13 years and counting).

Pelicans small icon 18. Pelicans (33-49). This may be too low a ranking for a team with a lot of potential. New Orleans will be a League Pass favorite this season — Alvin Gentry will have them playing fast and that should benefit Zion Williamson (put it bubble wrap early at Summer League) and Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram can just get buckets, and Jrue Holiday is a good leader. This team could live up to that potential and be a playoff threat in the West. Either way, they will be must watch.

Heat small icon 19. Heat (39-43). They landed Jimmy Butler in an impressive sign-and-trade and then maxed him out, but he is surrounded by role players — Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic — who have to step up big if this team is going to make a splash in the East. Tyler Herro showed promise at Summer League. The most interesting thing to watch with Miami is them chasing another star to go with Butler (is Chris Paul, with that contract, a good fit?).

Magic small icon 20. Magic (42-40). This may be too low a ranking, but it’s hard to get excited about this team. Orlando re-signed Nikola Vucevic, but didn’t address their other big need at point guard. The Magic remain a decent team stuck in the middle of the East. They do have Markelle Fultz on the roster, that was a good role of the dice, but team officials said they’re not sure he’ll be ready to start the season. Not a good sign.

Pistons small icon 21. Pistons (41-41). This is a nice team led by Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but it’s hard to see their perimeter players taking them forward much. Reggie Jackson is who he is at this point, although I like the pickup of Derrick Rose behind him as a backup. Maybe Luke Kennard can take another step forward. This is a nice team, one that will battle for a playoff spot in the East, but little more.

Bulls small icon 22. Bulls (22-60, LW 27). Another team that may be too low in these rankings because they have a lot of interesting young players in Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., and maybe their star in Lauri Markkanen. I like the Tomas Satoransky signing, he played well a couple seasons ago in Washington when John Wall was out. There is good talent on the roster, but who is the alpha who brings it all together?

Hawks small icon 23. Hawks (29-53). Atlanta is building a nice young team around Trae Young and John Collins, and we’ll see what De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish can add to that (the Hawks need a player on the wing and hope one of those two becomes that guy). I expect to see improvement, and for the Hawks to remain entertaining, but they may be a year or two and a player or two away from being the kind of threat they hope to become in the East.

Suns small icon 24. Suns (19-63). The Suns starting five is not bad: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, Dario Saric, Deandre Ayton. They also have Mikal Bridges on the wing, but things get thin fast for the Suns. I expect Rubio stabilizes their offense and makes them an improved team from a year ago, but there is a lot of roster building still be be done in the Valley of the Sun.

Wizards small icon 25. Wizards (32-50). It feels like the Wizards will be Bradley Beal against the world every night. This is a thin roster and John Wall is out for the season. We’ll see what guys like Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner can develop into for them, but it’s not moving the needle much now. The biggest storyline around the Wizards will be all the teams calling about a Bradley Beal trade, right now those calls are being shot down. Oh, and they may want to hire a formal GM for the season. Just saying’.

Knicks small icon 26. Knicks (17-65). It was a kick to the… er… punch to the guy summer for Knicks fans, who had high hopes going in of stars coming to be the franchises’ savior. The reality, the Knicks need to work to build up a base of talent, and an organizational culture, those stars want to be a part of. R.J. Barrett struggled in Summer League (15.4 points per game but on 34 percent shooting) but second-year guy Kevin Knox concerned me more when I watched him, 16.8 points per game but on just 40 percent shooting in games he should have dominated.

Grizzlies small icon 27. Grizzlies (33-49). The rebuilding is underway and the combination of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. give them a good base. Brandon Clarke has shown some promise in Summer League, 14.6 points per game but shooting 57 percent. The team will trade (or waive) Andre Iguodala at some point, but no team is giving up a first-round pick for a 35-year-old role player making $17.2 million. Clippers and Rockets are considered the frontrunners.

Thunder small icon 28. Thunder (49-33). It’s hard not to feel for Thunder fans, one year ago they had watched Paul George decide to stay and thought they had him and Russell Westbrook for years, now it’s all gone. Sam Presti pivoted as well as anyone could and stockpiled picks that will help the coming rebuild, and this is one of the league’s great scouting teams, but it will take time. Chris Paul will get traded, and they likely will listen to offers for Steven Adams, but with two-years, $53 million on his contract the market will be thin.

Cavaliers small icon 29. Cavaliers (19-63). It was a disappointment not to see Darius Garland or Kevin Porter Jr. in Summer League, but both will get plenty of run come the season as the Cavaliers continue their rebuild. Right now the Cavaliers are keeping the price for a Kevin Love trade so high nobody is interested (top young players and multiple picks), but other teams are waiting for that to change as we get into the new season. Teams are calling about him.

Hornets small icon 30. Hornets (39-43). Without Kemba Walker the Hornets are starting a major rebuilding project, but they can’t even take on other team’s bad contracts for picks/young players until they get Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and the rest off their own books. I like the idea of giving Terry Rozier the ball and a chance at the point guard spot. Beyond that, watch a lot of college ball, Hornets fans, your team needs to start nailing the draft (not exactly a franchise strength over the years).

Summer League load management? Zion among many top picks sitting in Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS — This was the most anticipated Summer League ever. 

For the first time in its history, the first two days of the NBA’s July convention were completely sold out days in advance — more than 17,500 fans filling an arena in the middle of the desert, in the hottest part of the year, to watch a rookie play basketball. More than 1,000 media credentials were issued. The Zion hype was palpable. In an NBA that has become more about off-season chess moves than the games themselves, here were fans buying scalped tickets into a sold-out arena to watch a young star burst onto the scene.

Or not.

Zion Williamson has spent most of his Summer League in street clothes, and he is not alone: Only one of the top six players in the last draft has played regularly in Las Vegas (R.J. Barrett of The Knicks), and other stars never touched the court. A quick rundown:

• No. 1 pick Williamson played nine minutes in one half of one game before New Orleans broke out the bubble wrap, citing knee-to-knee contact and an “abundance of caution.”

• No. 2 pick Ja Morant had arthroscopic surgery to get his knee cleaned up at the start of June and was not rushed back for any games in Vegas.

• No. 4 pick D’Andre Hunter played in his first game Sunday night after missing the start of Summer League for Atlanta.

• No. 5 pick Darius Garland has not played and is unlikely to suit up for Cleveland (nor has the Cavs’ high profile No. 30 pick, Kevin Porter Jr.).

• No. 6. Jarrett Culver officially signed with Minnesota on Monday but is not expected to play for the team in Las Vegas.

• No. 10 pick Cam Reddish is not suiting up for Atlanta in Summer League.

• Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. — a guy thought to be a steal in the 2018 draft who sat out last season to get healthy — was going to make his debut at Summer League but sprained a knee just a day before games started and is out.

Las Vegas has been robbed of some of its star power, but most of that was about Zion.

Summer League felt deflated after Williamson was put in street clothes.

“It was a crazy experience, the gym was sold out, I didn’t expect that many people to be here,” Williamson said of his one game, adding that his being sidelined for Summer League “was more precautionary.”

The impact of him being out could be seen immediately.

By the time word started to circulate through the arena he would not play in the second half of that July 5 game, fans had begun to file out of the building. There were a lot of empty seats in the Thomas & Mack arena by the time an earthquake shut the night down. Beyond that, a couple of Las Vegas residents I spoke with talked about people they knew who were planning to come for Summer League games turning around and deciding to stay home instead.

The concern among Summer League observers is this is the start of a trend of sitting stars.

Call it “Summer League load management” — or risk management may be more accurate — but what happened with those top players could become more of a norm.

With the larger rookie-scale contracts in the new CBA, meaning teams making substantial investments in these players, will teams start to reduce or eliminate the amount of time their prized young players are on the court in Las Vegas? If that happens, it would begin to erode what has become a happening — and for some fans a pilgrimage — in the middle of the offseason. With Summer League — much like the NBA itself — fans come to see stars.

This year, teams had reasons not to suit up their rookies. Ask coaches or team officials about the guys being out and you got some variation of the Pelicans’ “abundance of caution” statement.

“The guys are a little beat up. We don’t want them to get hurt, then we could never develop them,” Cavaliers Summer League coach Antonio Lang said of Garland and Porter not playing.

From the teams’ perspective, this is logical — what are they risking these players for? Summer League do not matter. In fact, plenty of teams quietly will tell you there are too many games — go to the Summer League Tournament Finals to play for the title and team will have played in eight games. Often after four or five games teams are shutting down their best players. Or, as some of the veteran players get offers from teams overseas, they shut themselves down to avoid injury risk (as Jimmer Fredette did this year).

There is no financial incentive for teams to play the best guys. Teams do not make a lot of money in Summer League (teams basically want to break even, which happens if they make the tournament) and many executives don’t want to be in Las Vegas longer than they have to be.

That said, there is value for teams in seeing their top players in different settings. For example, the Wizards have No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura on the court playing in Las Vegas for developmental reasons.

“Just to have him see different situations, to be exposed to the NBA game,” said Robert Pack, Wizards’ Summer League coach. “He’s going to see different coverages, schemes that he may not have seen in college, and you want him to get a taste of that before he gets into vet camp and into the regular season. Playing here he’ll get a lot more touches than he’ll probably get in the regular season.”

Coaches have long seen Summer League as a chance to get a baseline on players — what are they good at, and what needs to be worked on the rest of the summer. It’s a starting point to build from. Cavaliers coach John Beilein said to NBC Sports, during the Salt Lake City Summer League, that with Garland and Porter out it gave him a chance to put the ball in No. 26 pick Dylan Windler‘s hands and see what the Belmont star could do as a playmaker.

“That’s why you put [Hachimura] in different situations, you’re seeing where he can go strong right, go strong left, is he good in the midrange, is he ready for the NBA three,” Pack said. “Those are things you get to see, you get film on, you can teach him and study film with him on things. These minutes are so valuable to us as a staff to continue to develop him.”

Is it valuable enough to keep star players on the court at Summer League?

Or, as it has during the NBA regular season, will the “load management” trend of keeping players out for health and risk-management reasons start to impact Summer League? If it does, will the NBA league office start to get involved in an effort to keep an event where games are broadcast on ESPN and NBA TV going strong?

The NBA loves the buzz, the sold-out games for Summer League. It loves the way the event has grown. Which is why this summer’s reduced-star version has been a bit deflating for everyone.

Report: Warriors trading for Hawks’ Omari Spellman, signing (Thunder’s) Alec Burks

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When he agreed to terms with the Thunder, Alec Burks thought he was joining a winner. Instead, Oklahoma City has traded Paul George and Jerami Grant primarily for draft picks and is looking into trading Russell Westbrook.

So, Burks and the Thunder will go their separate ways.

Burks will now join another team, the Warriors, looking to trim payroll. That’s why Golden State is also trading Damian Jones to the Hawks for Omari Spellman.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:

Golden State could use another shooting guard with Klay Thompson sidelined most of the season. But Burks hasn’t had a good season in half a decade. The Warriors shouldn’t expect much.

Ditto with Spellman, the No. 30 pick in last year’s draft. He has potential as a stretch five, but he must improve his conditioning.

Spellman’s salary ($1,897,800) is lower than Jones’ ($2,305,057). That’s important to hard-capped Golden State.

Atlanta will eagerly take the extra pick. Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who previously worked in the Warriors’ front office, might even have an attachment to Jones. Entering the final year of his rookie-scale contract, Jones just hasn’t shown ability to stay healthy long enough to produce, though.

Report: Hawks reach deal with Jabari Parker for two years, $13 million

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Atlanta has John Collins starting at the four and soaking up the majority of minutes there. At the three they have talented young rookies lined up — De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish — but coach Lloyd Pierce would like a little depth and a guy he can count on just getting them some buckets.

Jabari Parker has agreed to a deal with the Atlanta Hawks to try to fill those roles. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

This is a good spot for Parker. He’s going to get minutes on an up-and-coming team, and if he exceeds expectations he can hit the market again next summer in what will be a weaker free agent class.

Parker can put the ball in the hole, he averaged 14.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a game last season splitting time between Chicago and Washington. He’s a very efficient scorer around the rim, but his three-point shot fell off last season (31.3 percent). The former No. 2 pick will never live up to that hype, the two ACL surgeries took their toll. Also, he is a serious defensive liability.

But the Hawks got a scorer off the bench who can fill a role for them, and did so at a fair price. This is a nice signing for both sides.