Since the Las Vegas Summer League has officially ended, we’ve entered the dark period of the NBA offseason. As Eddard Stark would say, “Winter is coming,” and it’s snowing in the NBA world. We live in a world where the Sacramento Kings just won a Championship, albeit the Summer League version.
However, Summer League isn’t purely about wins and losses. It’s more about a bunch of young, unheralded players fighting for a roster spot against draft picks who franchises are pinning the future on. Some rookies from the heralded 2014 draft class balled out while some stowaways from the 2013 class proved they belong in this league. There was also Yuki Togashi, who belongs in his own category. The competition isn’t the stiffest, but Summer League provides us with our last glimpse of NBA action until the FIBA World Cup rolls around next month. With that being said, let’s reflect on some of the most finely tuned ballers and performances in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Gary Harris Is Already On A Mission
Matchup: Nuggets vs. Rockets
The 2014 NBA draft was so deep that even tanked teams weren’t salty about mid-lotto slots, so it’s not a surprise that Gary Harris slid to the 19th pick. But given his play in Vegas, the shooting guard out of Michigan State already looks like he’s on a mission to prove the scouts wrong. Harris averaged 18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and two steals a game during a very solid five game stretch in Vegas. He was one of the few players to dominate defensively during the fast break-oriented Summer League, and his defense alone will get him some playing time once the real season starts.2 of 14
You Can't Stop The Greek Freak
Matchup: Bucks vs. Spurs
Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the NBA last year as a relative unknown, an 18 year-old, skinny kid from Greece. But, as Summer League showed, one year has changed everything for the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo grew nearly two inches over last season and came into Vegas as a 6’11″ slashing, dunking, ball-handling force. Giannis dropped 17 points per game and nearly six rebounds in four games with the Bucks. He also established himself as possibly the NBA’s tallest point guard, one capable of finishing some insanely athletic dunks. It’s going to be a fun year in Milwaukee.
Nobody Can Beat The Wiz
Matchup: Wizards vs. Spurs
Who said Summer League games didn’t have drama? The Wizards eliminated the Spurs from the Summer League Playoffs in a triple overtime nail-biter. After Summer League MVP Glen Rice, Jr. hit a corner three at the end of the second overtime, the Wizards held on for the win. It was a standout Summer League for Washington, as Glen Ric,e Jr. and Otto Porter both made all-tourney teams. Rice Jr. led Summer League in scoring with 25 points per game, and was named MVP, joining teammate John Wall, who won the MVP award in 2010.4 of 14
Isaiah Canaan Saves The Rockets Offseason
Matchup: Kings vs. Rockets
Between losing out on Chris Bosh and losing Chandler Parsons to Dallas, It was a rough offseason for the Rockets. One of the lone bright spots was the play of Isaiah Canaan, the Rockets second round pick from 2013. Daryl Morey has always been great at finding players late in the draft, and it looks like he got a steal with the sharpshooting Canaan. The Murray State product thrived from behind the arc in Vegas, and shot 37 percent from three during his year-long stint with the trigger happy Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He’s built like a running back and is fearless at attacking the hoop. With Jeremy Lin gone, expect to see more Canaan in H-town.5 of 14
Otto Porter was the Most Improved Player at Summer League
Matchup: Wizards vs. Heat
It’s hard to believe Otto Porter was the third pick in the 2013 draft. He averaged a dismal 2.1 points per game in under ten minutes during the 2013 season, and was planted on the bench during Washington’s run in the playoffs. But he looked like a different man during Summer League. He averaged 19.6 points per game while displaying some beautiful offensive moves, including this nifty step-back jumper. With Trevor Ariza in Houston, and Martell Webster recovering from back surgery, Washington will need Porter to step up through the early part of the season, and if Summer League is any indication it could be a big year for him.6 of 14
P.J. Hairston Looks Polished
Matchup: Hornets vs. Hawks
Seeing how he can’t avoid fights at his local YMCA it’s a minor miracle nothing happened to P.J. Hairston during his time in Las Vegas. Hairston had 27 points and seven rebounds in the Hornets’ semifinal loss, and established himself as a guy who could make an impact at the end of the bench for Charlotte this year. He played 30 minutes per game at Summer League, and showed off his jumper by shooting practically every time he touched the ball in Vegas. He took 24 shots against Houston and 20 against Sacramento. Hornets practice should be interesting with Lance Stephenson and Hairston going head-to-head.7 of 14
Ray McCallum Sits on his Throne
Matchup: Sacramento Kings vs. Houston Rockets (Las Vegas Summer League Championship)
It’s fitting that Ray McCallum plays for the Kings, because he was on his throne during the Vegas Summer League Championship game. Ray Ray dropped 29 points on 15 shots and grabbed nine boards en route to the chip for Sacramento. The Kings only lost one game in Vegas with McCallum running the show as he dropped 12.0 points on 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. The 6’3″ guard showed why he deserves to be playing serious minutes for the Kings next season as Isaiah Thomas’ replacement at the point.8 of 14
It's Getting Russdiculous in Vegas
Matchup: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings
The Pelicans believed in former Louisville point man Russ Smith so much that they signed the second-round pick to a guaranteed contract. The guard’s performance in Vegas proved he was worth the money and that former All-Star Jrue Holiday needs to watch his back in NOLA. Smith was on fire in Vegas, averaging 16.0 points, 6.4 assists (first in Vegas) and 5.0 rebounds. The NBA is becoming enamored with tall players at the point position, but at 6-foot 165 lbs, Smith showed that physical attributes aren’t everything.9 of 14
The Knicks Show Vital Signs
Matchup: New York Knicks vs Sacramento Kings
Tim Hardaway, Jr. was one of the only bright spots in the muddled 2013-2014 New York Knicks season. He earned All-Rookie first team honors and continued to develop in the Las Vegas Summer League. Hardaway’s 22.8 points per game were second to only Glen Rice, Jr. (25.0 ppg) in Vegas. His constant scoring didn’t go unnoticed as Hardaway was named to the All-NBA Summer League second team, while also being selected to practice against Team USA in Vegas later this month. His performance was a good look for New York as the franchise climbs out of their struggles.10 of 14
The Beast From NC State
Matchup: Phoenix Suns vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Coming into the 2014 NBA Draft, T.J. Warren was heralded as one of the draft’s most natural scorers out of N.C. State. He did nothing to diminish that reputation when he hit the floor for the Phoenix Suns in the Las Vegas Summer League. The 6’8″ scoring machine hit 54 percent of his shots while scoring 17.8 points per game, including 26 points against Minnesota. Warren scored 20 points or more in three of five games proving how fluidly his game will translate to the next level. The Phoenix Suns might have nabbed the steal of the draft at No. 14.11 of 14
Tony Snell Chopped the Braids Off and Balled Out
Matchup: Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Tony Snell FINALLY cut his braids and started to ball in Las Vegas. In Chicago’s opening game in Las Vegas against the Clippers, Snell dropped 27 on 10-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-7 from deep. The second year guard continued to scorch Summer League, averaging 20.0 points in five games on 47 percent from the field and a clean 50 percent from three. His Summer League rebirth should get him off the bench in Chicago and play non-garbage time NBA minutes. More importantly, it will get him on the good side of Joakim Noah.12 of 14
From Lehigh to Vegas, McCollum Shows Out
Matchup: Portland Trail Blazers vs Atlanta Hawks
C.J. McCollum was only able to appear in 38 games in his rookie season because of a broken left foot he suffered at Lehigh University. Portland still selected McCollum No. 10 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft even though he played in 12 games his senior season because of the injury. The Blazers knew McCollum can fill up a scoring sheet faster than a Russell Westbrook fast break, which was confirmed in Vegas. McCollum scored 28 points against Atlanta, hitting 10-of-16 from the field and knocking down 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Overall, the former Lehigh star averaged 20.2 points (48% FG, 35% from three) and should see some serious minutes next to All-Star Damian Lillard next season for Rip City.13 of 14
TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!
Matchup: Yuki Togashi vs. NBA Roster
Who cares that he is 5’7″ and spent time in the Basketball Japan League? This man captivated the nation during his stint in Summer League, nearly caused a riot at the Thomas & Mack Center, had thousands of people chanting “toga, toga” like they were straight out of Animal House, and drew a standing ovation for taking a charge. If there is a place for Evan Turner in the NBA, there is a place for Yuki Togashi.
Especially because he can actually ball. Togashi dropped 11 points in 12 minutes of action against Charlotte, and averaged 15.3 points and 7.6 assists per game while playing for the Akita Northern Happinets. Nobody knows what a Happinet is, but WHO CARES TOGA IS A LEGEND IN JAPAN.
NBA fans across the globe had fever dreams imagining the Togashi-Nowitzki pick and roll. Mark Cuban nearly offered him the mid-level exception after that floater you see above. He left a lasting legacy in Vegas, while leaving a legion of basketball fans desperate for more. We all need more Yuki Togashi, two weeks in Las Vegas weren’t nearly enough.14 of 14