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NBA Fantasy Summer League Takeaways

Brandon Clarke

Brandon Clarke

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

While the NBA’s July transactions were about as wild as ever, it was a slightly underwhelming Las Vegas Summer League. Zion Williamson played just nine minutes while Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, Cameron Johnson, P.J. Washington and Romeo Langford were not able to suit up as lottery picks. We also didn’t get to see Michael Porter Jr. again with a knee injury after a back issue had kept him out since being drafted in 2018.

Negatives aside, we still learned a lot over the last two weeks from action in Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Here are some noteworthy takeaways for fantasy owners and hardcore NBA fans.

Atlanta Hawks - We didn’t get a great look at the Hawks with Cam Reddish out and De’Andre Hunter hurting his knee to limit his minutes to just 21 total this month. Although, we did hear Travis Schlenk say that both Hunter and Reddish are going to play a lot. One thing on Hunter that stood out was that he is a big dude. The Hawks are very likely going to trust him as a four man, which should push John Collins to the five more. Schlenk also said that Collins and Trae Young are going to play around 35 minutes. I’m in on both players in the second round of nine-cat leagues.

Bruno Fernando finished second in blocks per game in Vegas at 3.3 (Mitchell Robinson, obviously). With Alex Len’s inability to stay on the floor, Fernando could get some minutes at some point this year. Schlenk also said he liked his rim protection.

Boston Celtics - Carsen Edwards can get buckets. He played five games and the only players to play five-plus games with more points were Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Clemons. Edwards averaged 19.4 points per game on 48 FG% as one of the more efficient high-volume guards in Vegas. Edwards is coming off a 24.3 points-per-game season as a junior at Purdue, so going off was basically expected. Perhaps he can get some backup guard minutes, but Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker have been fairly durable in their careers. Tremont Waters had some good moments with 4.8 dimes per game, but Edwards is ahead of him.

Robert Williams was a little bit of a letdown, averaging just 1.8 blocks, 9.0 points and 9.8 boards over his four games played. The good news is he didn’t appear to wake up too late, but we’ll still call him the Time Lord. He still a late-round flier because of his upside in blocks, bu there probably isn’t enough incentive to reach up a few rounds to get him at this point. Grant Williams also looked NBA ready with 13.0 points and 6.0 boards over his five games. Of course, Tacko Fall took the event by storm as a fan favorite, averaging 7.2 points, 4.0 boards and 1.4 blocks in just 12.6 minutes per game. He probably is taking Guerschon Yabusele’s spot.

Brooklyn Nets - Obviously, Jarrett Allen had no business being in Vegas, averaging 16.4 points, 10.6 boards. 1.6 assists, 2.2 blocks and 0.8 steals. He said he went there to tutor the young guys, and perhaps it was to help win over the coaching staff that he can start over DeAndre Jordan. Allen is still a viable play and he should slide in drafts, too. Rodions Kurucs didn’t exactly “wow” with 9.3 points per game, but he might remain in the starting lineup. Dzanan Musa showed he has a little more upside than Kurucs while Theo Pinson could see minutes when Kyrie Irving sits during the year. Nicolas Claxton has legit NBA skills at his size and he’ll be interesting if the Nets sit Allen or DAJ. Plus, he can play the four against bigger lineups.[[ad:athena]]

Charlotte Hornets - The Hornets clearly want to let Miles Bridges grow, and he looks like a near lock to start at the four. He’ll be an obvious target whose ADP (average draft position) should rise as we approach the draft weeks. Dwayne Bacon had some productive moments, but overall he disappointed with only 15.0 points per game on 39 FG%. Plus, he only had 0.3 steals, which is my primary concern for his sleeper appeal. He’s never really shown he can perform in that department. Devonte Graham didn’t play great either, but he should be a near lock for the PG2 role and he did play next to Kemba Walker last year. He’ll likely play next to Terry Rozier, too. P.J. Washington didn’t play, but he should be in the rotation as a rook.

Chicago Bulls - It was a rough go for Coby White, averaging 15.0 points, 5.6 boards, 4.8 dimes, 1.4 steals and no blocks on 34 FG%. He made just 3-of-30 from deep to pull him down, but he did show he can get into the lane in half-court sets (highlight reel from Bulls here) Coach Jim Boylen said that Kris Dunn is going to be his starter to begin the year, but White should still offer some upside in the later rounds.

Perhaps one of the most impressive second-round bigs is Daniel Gafford. He averaged 13.5 points, 7.8 boards and 2.8 blocks in his 125 total minutes (five games). Gafford may not take long to pass Luke Kornet if he hasn’t already. Given Wendell Carter Jr.’s core muscle surgery, perhaps we get a little Gafford to kick off the season. Chandler Hutchison didn’t play well with only a 29 FG%, and it’ll be even tougher for him to get minutes at the four with Thaddeus Young around.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Dylan Windler had one of the prettiest jumpers and he has a shot at minutes out of the gate. However, the Cavs would likely need to move Kevin Love and/or Tristan Thompson to open up enough playing time. Love’s injury history should put Windler on the radar at some point. We didn’t get a look at Darius Garland, but it does appear he is going to start next to Collin Sexton. Garland makes sense as a late-round flier on what should be a brutal Cavs team.

Dallas Mavericks - Cameron Payne is back! JK. He did average 20 points per game, so maybe the Bulls will trade for him again. Besides that, Isaiah Roby looked decent while Antonious Cleveland scored 16 per game. Kostas Antetokounmpo played a lot of five and maybe he’s still improving, but not much here.


Denver Nuggets - No Michael Porter Jr. was a major buzzkill, but Vlatko Cancar showed some promise while Jarred Vanderbilt continued to show he can rebound the ball at an elite level.

Detroit Pistons - Bruce Brown was the second person to drop a Vegas triple-double (Lonzo Ball) and he may have showed the Pistons he could be a capable point guard. The Pistons may try to unload Reggie Jackson while Derrick Rose may struggle to stay healthy. Khyri Thomas had some strong scoring games while the Pistons let Svi Mykhailiuk run the offense. Brown could have some fantasy potential after being near the bottom in usage rate among minutes qualifiers. Sekou Doumbouya only played 13 minutes, but he looks like he has an NBA body and runs the floor well.

Golden State Warriors - The Dubs will need either Jordan Poole, Jacob Evans and/or Alonzo McKinnie to really step up this year. Poole showed he has some potential to play on and off the ball and he caught Stephen Curry’s eye. Steph said he likes the “F you mentality” Poole could put into the rotation, so maybe Poole makes a splash when Steph sits. Evans did a lot of ball-handling in Vegas with 4.8 dimes per game and he may have the inside track for minutes. Eric Paschall could also fight for forward minutes at camp.

Houston Rockets - Chris Clemons was one of the best scorers in Vegas with 20.8 points per game, and the 5’9” guard even had an alley-oop jam last week. He can get buckets at this level, so maybe he can carry the momentum into training camp. Shamorie Ponds wasn’t very effective and Gary Clark was surprisingly quiet with 13.3 points per game. Isaiah Hartenstein had another productive run with an average of 16 points, 8.7 boards and 1.4 blocks, and his Vegas run was cut short as he was taken off the court on a wheelchair.

Indiana Pacers - Aaron Holiday had a bright green light in Vegas with 22.3 points per game on just 30 FG%. The Pacers may be interested in running Malcolm Brogdon with Holiday at times and Victor Oladipo could be out for a bit. Plus, Brogdon has struggled to stay healthy in his young career. Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner may have been able to help themselves, but could’ve done better.

LA Clippers - Jerome Robinson struggled in Vegas for the second year in a row with just 12.0 points on 35 FG%. Maybe he’ll see additional time when the Clippers rest Kawhi Leonard. Terance Mann was a little underwhelming, as well.

Los Angeles Lakers - The Lakers didn’t have Talen Horton-Tucker out there, so there wasn’t much NBA talent on their roster.

Memphis Grizzlies - Brandon Clarke’s upside was apparent in Vegas with a line of 14.6 points, 8.6 boards, 1.6 dimes and 1.6 blocks in his five games (prior to the final) to earn Vegas MVP honors. Clarke had the second-best PER since 2009 last year and he’ll offer output in points, boards, steals and blocks. He might not be an “all leagues” guy yet, but that would possibly change if Jonas Valanciunas and/or Jaren Jackson Jr. needed to miss time. Plus, he also got some starts at center and his ability to add a vertical element to offense and defense could help him get minutes at the five in short order. Bruno Caboclo also did a little bit of everything in Vegas with 11.2 points, 7.2 boards, 1.0 dimes, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks. He could be a name to watch in camp after a strong showing to finish last season. Yuta Watanabe also showed some improvements while Grayson Allen is going to see some heavy competition for minutes with De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones in the mix for minutes at guard.

Miami Heat - While Kendrick Nunn was outstanding in his four games at 21.0 points per outing, Tyler Herro was one of the most impressive players in July, averaging 19.8 points, 4.5 boards, 4.3 dimes, 1.5 steals and no blocks on 42 FG%. The Heat put the ball in his hands a whole lot and he showed as much confidence as anyone. Herro ran PNR, shot threes in transition and blew by people off the dribble for almost two weeks straight. It’s possible coach Erik Spoelstra uses Herro much like he used Tyler Johnson as a combo guard. The Heat may not be done in the trade market, but Goran Dragic is 34 years old and is in a contract year. Perhaps Herro can find early minutes and add late-season upside on a Heat roster that isn’t as deep as usual. Props to Duncan Robinson for playing well enough to earn his roster bonus today, but he won’t offer the fantasy upside that Herro possesses.

Milwaukee Bucks - Nothing really to take away here in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.

Minnesota Wolves - The Wolves have a pretty deep Vegas roster and it led to them making it to the finals (stats in this paragraph do not include Monday). I was expecting Keita Bates-Diop to go off, but he only came away with averages of 10.5 points, 5.0 boards and 1.3 dimes. The Wolves will use him at three positions, but it’ll be tough for him to get big minutes while the Wolves are healthy. Josh Okogie’s lack of offense is going to be tough to overcome and he made just 30% from the field. Jarrett Culver didn’t play because the Wolves didn’t want him out there and they wanted to integrate him into their system. Coach Ryan Saunders said the Wolves will have him produce off the bounce and the are very thin in the backcourt. Culver is going to get a chance, especially with Robert Covington expected to play more four. Naz Reid was productive despite a minutes limit. Side note: KAT is a top-three pick.

New Orleans Pelicans - Only seeing Zion Williamson for nine minutes was a tough blow, but he’s fine. It was a little discouraging that he didn’t look to be in the best shape, so the Pelicans are likely working on that in the next two months before they may lead the NBA in pace. Frank Jackson was also a star in his 32 minutes with 30 points before the Earthquake cut his lone game short.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker was extremely impressive, averaging 24.3 points, 4.8 boards, 6.0 dimes, 2.8 steals and 0.8 blocks on 41 FG%. NAW was handling the rock a whole bunch and showed he can play three positions on the perimeter. There are some injury-prone Pels in the backcourt, so maybe we get some NAW action at some point this season. He looks like a player. Kenrich Williams was also somewhat quiet in his five games, too. NAW got a first-team nod and Jaxson Hayes was a second-team guy for filling up the highlight reels. We all know Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor have struggled to stay on the floor at times, so we may get some Action Jaxson.

New York Knicks - They didn’t mess around with most of their guys, playing Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett and Ignas Bradeikis in all five of their games. Mitch-Rob earned First Team honors, leading the event with 3.4 blocks per game with 13.8 points, 10.6 boards and 0.6 steals on 85 FG%. He’s shaping up to be the league leader in blocks per game in the NBA and looks to warrant a second-round selection in standard leagues. Barrett really filled up the stat sheet down the stretch, finishing with averages of 15.4 points, 8.6 boards, 4.2 dimes and 0.8 steals on just 34 FG%. He did have a handful of ugly shots, but the Knicks whiffing in free agency should allow Barrett to post some strong stat lines. His prospective fantasy owners may want to punt FG%. Brazdeikis showed he can play the three and the four.

Oklahoma City Thunder - It would’ve been nice to see Hamidou Diallo crush it, but he was only able to score 14.8 points per game. He’ll still be someone to watch with OKC possibly throwing a fire sale. Deonte Burton is as bouncy as ever and maybe he’ll find minutes, as well. Lugentz Dort may have a shot to make an NBA roster as an undrafted swingman. Darius Bazley could make an impact if the Thunder are able to unload Danilo Gallinari, or they may just shut him down.

Orlando Magic - The Magic were always going to shut down Mo Bamba and he looked great in one game with 15 points. He’ll lock down the backup minutes behind Nikola Vucevic despite Khem Birch getting re-signed. DeQuan Jeffries was fun to watch as one of the best dunkers in Vegas.

Philadelphia 76ers - Norvel Pelle is a serious shot blocker and reminds me a little bit of the Time Lord. Joel Embiid is going to sit a lot of games out this season and Pelle is on a two-way deal. We might be using him as a streamer. Zhaire Smith didn’t show up on the stat sheet, but he did look more polished this week. Matisse Thybulle’s defensive stats were no fluke with 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. He’s a project on offense, but he could be a defensive streamer late in the season as the 76ers gear up for the playoffs. Marial Shayok also looks to be a little ahead of the curve on development. Shake Mitlon had a rough time with just a 17 FG%.

Phoenix Suns - Despite rumors of Cameron Johnson having a hip issue, the Suns held out the 23-year-old Tar Heel. Yikes. Ty Jerome also didn’t play, so yeah, Suns. Jalen Lecque showed his athleticism this week, but he’s still a little raw to make a run at minutes out of the gate. Elie Okobo’s offensive game took a small step forward and maybe he can beat out Jerome for minutes. Ray Spalding might see minutes at some point this season.

Portland Trail Blazers - The Blazers likely are hopeful Anfernee Simons can pick up extra minutes this season, and he proved he could be ready for it with averages of 22.0 points, 4.3 boards, 1.7 dimes and 1.0 steals. He did it all as a scorer as one of the best guards at the event, earning a First-Team Vegas nod. Still, it might be tough to draft him with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum being two of the most durable guards in the NBA. Gary Trent Jr. scored 20.6 points per game and perhaps he’ll see minutes if Kent Bazemore or Rodney Hood need to miss games. Nassir Little may not be ready for a rookie role yet, but he does offer NBA size and can rise off the floor.

Sacramento Kings - Not really anything to take away here.

San Antonio Spurs - Lonnie Walker IV looked a little like DeMar DeRozan with a drive-heavy arsenal en route to 30 points per game over two Vegas games. He also scored 19.5 points per game in two Utah outings. The Spurs may opt to give him some minutes this season after injuries cut his rookie season short last year. He’s still not someone most fantasy owners can draft with the Spurs having good perimeter depth. Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic also showed some positives as two of the youngest guys in Vegas.

Toronto Raptors - A few months ago, the Raptors were talking about wanting to play Chris Boucher at the four, and he was solid in that role with 23.0 points, 9.8 boards, 1.3 dimes and 1.3 blocks. He had the ball in his hands a lot more than expected, and maybe he can find some minutes as a backup four with OG Anunoby possibly playing more three this year. Plus, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka aren’t spring chickens anymore.

Utah Jazz - Tony Bradley likely locked up the backup five role behind Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis.

Washington Wizards - Rui Hachimura had some great games in Vegas, finishing with 19.3 points, 7.0 boards, 0.7 dimes, 1.7 blocks and 0.3 treys on 50 FG%. He and Jaxson Hayes were the only top-10 2019 picks to make an All-Vegas team and he was better in face-up games than expected. He may not be a top-five talent, but the opportunity in front of him makes him a late-round flier. Troy Brown and Moritz Wagner didn’t exactly show out, but should see minutes to start the 2019-20 season.