NBA Summer League Players to Watch
It seems that the NBA never stops these days. Once the Finals are over you have the Draft, then you have the madness of NBA Free Agency, and when that winds down you get the excitement of the NBA Summer League. The July games have been a great showcase of the young talent looking to make a name for themselves in the league.
It’s where we saw Donovan Mitchell and Lonzo Ball make a big splash in their few appearances last year and with this year’s draft class as stacked as ever, there should be even more names making a mark. There’ll be a heap of the top picks debuting their talents on court and also a few lesser known types outside of the top ten doing the same. Here are five players to watch in this year’s Summer League.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Some pundits regarded SGA as the this year’s best point guard in the 2018 draft class. The Clippers traded future second rounders with the Hornets for the services of the former Kentucky guard. He may not have the offensive flair of Trae Young but he more than makes up for it with this elite length and defensive capabilities.
President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank had been targeting the 19-year old for some time, with coach Doc Rivers admiring the floor general “because of his length and his size, and his toughness” in an introductory press conference.
Gilgeous-Alexander will need to improve his 3-point shooting to become a more legitimate threat on both sides of the floor. However, with the Clippers shipping out Austin Rivers it should allow for SGA to flourish as the franchise’s premier guard going forward. He’s also a solid free-throw shooter as well, which bodes well as he looks to improve his perimeter shooting.
Miles Bridges – F, Charlotte Hornets
On top of the two second-round picks the Hornets acquired in a trade with the Clippers, Charlotte was also able to secure Michigan State forward Miles Bridges. Bridges has all the tools to become a great piece for the Hornets going forward. Look for the 20-year old to make an impact with his smooth shooting stroke form and high-level athleticism. He’s also a solid rebounder with the ability to play at either the three or four position. While his passing may not be a strong suit, if surrounded by the right pieces he should compliment his teammates well.
Bridges doesn’t necessarily have as high a ceiling as some of the other prospects, but his diverse skill-set will help him down the road. If the Hornets end up retaining Kemba Walker, the team could have another foundational piece to build around as they look to reinvigorate their franchise.
Lonnie Walker IV – SG, San Antonio Spurs
Walker’s personality has stolen the show in recent weeks but don’t let that discount from his on-court exploits. His explosiveness around the rim combined with a sweet shooting stroke will combine wellwith the defensive strengths of fellow guard Dejounte Murray in the backcourt. He may not have huge potential on the defensive side of the floor though playing alongside Murray should make up for that. Expect plenty of offensive highlights from Walker in this year’s Summer League.
If Leonard were to leave San Antonio the talents of the former Miami guard could help fill the massive void left by one of the league’s best two-way players. The shooting guard told The Ringer of his game:
“It’s free-flowing. I’m not obligated. I’m not structured into doing one thing.”
Playing in coach Popovich’s system could provide a rude awakening to Walker or, alternatively, it may bring out the huge untapped potential so many rave about.
Robert Williams – F, Boston Celtics
Williams fits the perfect mold of the modern NBA center, minus the 3-point shooting. With the success of players like Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan, look for Brad Stevens to develop Williams into his own rim-running center. He also possesses an underrated passing game that should thrive under the tutelage of one of the game’s best-passing big men in Al Horford.
Unlike Jordan, the former Texas A&M big has the ability to not only block shots at a high rate but also switch defensively onto guards thanks to his elite lateral quickness. If Brad Stevens and the coaching staff can somehow turn Williams into even an average shooting threat then the sky’s the limit for the 20-year old.
The Celtics have such an embarrassment of riches in terms of young talent and it seems as if they’ve continued that with their drafting of Williams. It’ll be fascinating to watch how he’s utilised in this Boston system and initially in the Summer League.
Harry Giles – PF, Sacramento Kings
Giles will be one to watch not only in the Summer League but the regular season too. He was one of the top prospects in last year’s draft before various knee injuries kept him from appearing on the court at all last season.
A strong Summer League will be integral for Giles to get back on track with the Kings. If he can stay healthy then Sacramento may have a frontcourt that is the envy of teams across the league. There’s plenty of hype around the former Duke big and a strong Summer League should only help his stock heading into training camp and the regular season.
He’s also still only 20-years old with a ton of upside on both sides of the floor thanks to his unreal physical tools. If the Kings can somehow get Giles healthy and on the court then they should have plenty to be thankful for. A strong showing in the Summer League will be the first step.