Ah, the NBA Summer League. It’s the perfect setting to overreact to the performances of the rookies your team just drafted. The hype reached new heights this time around, and some of it even felt justified.
Several former Pac-12 stars were big reasons why the NBA Summer League seemingly captivated more people than ever before. Here were the top rookie performers over the past few weeks.
1. Lonzo Ball
Ball was lit up on social media after his disappointing debut, but the No. 2 overall pick ran away with the spotlight and 2017 Las Vegas Summer League MVP award afterwards.
He led all players by averaging 9.3 assists, and that doesn’t even do his magical passing touch justice. He was consistently finding his teammates from beyond half court, and delivered pinpoint passes leading to easy baskets.
The former UCLA star also averaged 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He recorded the first two triple-doubles in Las Vegas Summer League history. People paid more attention to his rotating sneakers than 95 percent of the other players.
The future is bright in Los Angeles, and while Ball is the main factor why, the Lakers had one other piece burst onto the scene.
2. Kyle Kuzma
The Lakers’ other July MVP — Kuzma received championship game MVP honors — was arguably the biggest surprise throughout the summer league.
Despite Ball’s absence in the championship due to a calf injury, Kuzma displayed a similar high level of skill that he flashed at Utah. His 30-point, 10-rebound performance helped lift the Lakers over the Blazers in the title game.
Kuzma quickly developed a rapport with Ball, and was on the finishing end of several highlight plays between the two. The No. 27 pick scored 21.9 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the floor (and a very impressive 48 percent from downtown). He also averaged 6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest.
3. Jordan Bell
Bell may not have put the ball in the hoop as much as the other rookies, but the former Oregon star demonstrated why he could be a huge second-round steal for the Warriors.
Bell’s defensive presence was on full display, and Warriors fans were salivating at his potential after he accumulated a 5-by-five game (at least five each of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks).
Under the proper tutelage from defensive stalwart and fellow former second-round pick Draymond Green, Bell could be a key contributor early on in the Bay Area.
4. T.J. Leaf
UCLA’s other first-round pick looked promising as well. Leaf averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor with the Pacers in Orlando.
5. Dillon Brooks
The Pac-12’s most recent Player of the Year may have slipped to the second round, but the Grizzlies have to be excited by the early returns. Brooks showed off more than his knack for scoring, averaging 12.2 points (on 47 percent shooting), 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
6. Derrick White
White was the last of six Pac-12 selections in the 2017 NBA Draft, but started off on the right foot in his first few games with the Spurs. He averaged 11.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists. He shot only 29 percent, however, on his three-point attempts, a far drop from his 39.6 percent success rate beyond the arc last season at Colorado.
7. Lauri Markkanen
The key piece the Bulls got back in the Jimmy Butler trade, Markkanen held his own on the boards and showed more blocking ability than he did at Arizona.
The seven-footer’s shooting stroke, though, was a pretty big disappointment. In his three summer outings, Markkanen shot 29 percent from the floor and an even-worse 24 percent from long distance, while averaging a league-high 8.3 three-point attempts per game. He still averaged 14 and 9, but the Bulls must have been hoping for more efficient outings from the No. 7 pick.
8. Jonah Bolden
After a rocky stint at UCLA, Bolden’s play in his one year overseas was a better indicator of his tantalizing talent. The athletic 6-foot-10 big man averaged 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. While he only shot 31 percent from three, he showed the capability than he can hit shots from NBA range. There’s not much Bolden can’t do on the floor, and he was an interesting gamble by the 76ers in the second round.
9. Dylan Ennis
The 25-year-old rookie (yes, you read that correctly) had a few big games in summer league with a couple different teams. He set the Vegas Summer League record with eight threes made in Golden State’s finale, finishing with 35 points in all. In Orlando, he nailed four three-pointers in two separate games with the Thunder.
10. Jabari Bird
The Celtics took the Cal sharpshooter with the No. 56 pick in the draft, and Bird showed why in his eight games played between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He shot 44 percent from long distance, and averaged 7.8 points per game, including 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting against the Warriors in the Sin City.
Incomplete: Markelle Fultz
The scariest moment of summer league was watching the No. 1 pick limping off the court against the Warriors. The entire city of Philadelphia breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the former Washington guard sprained his ankle and would participate in basketball activities again in a few weeks.
Fultz averaged 16 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in his limited time on the court. It would have been nice to see him go up against some of the league’s top young stars. Now, we’ll just have to wait until preseason.