LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: Brandon Miller #24 of the Charlotte Hornets drives against Julian Champagnie #30 of the San Antonio Spurs in the second half of a 2023 NBA Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Vecenie’蝉 summer-league takeaways: The good, bad and unclear from NBA’蝉 rookie class

Sam Vecenie
Jul. 21, 2023

I was in Las Vegas for seven days scouting and evaluating all of the teams that were there and came away with a number of strong takeaways from this year’蝉 NBA summer league.

In my opinion, the event matters immensely for the players who look like outliers in some respect. Did someone stand out and play exceptionally well? Did someone look exceedingly poor? Did a player showcase something new that we haven’t seen previously? Is there a new development — either physically or skill-wise — that we need to pay serious attention to because it fundamentally shifts how a player could succeed in the NBA? Those, above all, are the things I’m watching for when I sit in the stands and take it all in.


I decided to focus on the 2023 NBA Draft class during my time there. Let’蝉 break down the most important things I saw in detail.

We need to relax about Victor Wembanyama

I’ve never seen a summer-league scene quite like the one that surrounded Wembanyama’蝉 prime-time debut. Whatever the reason, fans are clearly in overdrive to see Wembanyama in person and understand what all the fuss is about.

To say they left the first game deflated would be an understatement. In what was probably the ugliest game I saw during my entire week in Las Vegas, the Spurs beat the Hornets, but Wembanyama shot 2-of-13 from the field. I never have seen him look quite as tentative as he looked in that game. Afterward, he made reference to the short warm-up time, needing to be a bit more engaged with what his point guard is calling in terms of the play, staying connected on defense and his level of conditioning as things to improve upon. All of that makes sense.

But the Spurs won the game, and Wembanyama’蝉 ability to control the game defensively was an immense standout skill from the opening tip. His length completely changes the geometry of the court. The Hornets shot just 29 percent from the field and averaged just 0.67 points per 100 possessions. That point-per-possession mark was the worst from a team in any single game of summer league. We can blame the Hornets’ ineptitude for some of that — more on that in a moment — but it was mostly the Wembanyama effect. He blocked five shots, and the Hornets only made 43.3 percent of their attempts within six feet of the rim. He was dominant on the interior, and his ability to switch out on the perimeter was valuable.

The people came for offense, though. And we had to wait until Game 2 to see that from Wembanyama. The French phenom was dominant against a Scoot Henderson-less Blazers team. He had 27 points and 12 rebounds on just 14 shots, living at the foul line and creating at will against whoever Portland put against him. He started slowly again, but, about halfway through the first quarter, he got a wide-open midrange jumper to fall. It seemed like seeing the ball go through the basket made him remember what that felt like. He poured in 25 points in 21 minutes, including 10 points in the fourth quarter. All told, he ended up with 36 points, 20 rebounds and eight blocks in 54 minutes of play, numbers that are pretty good given the flashes he showcased, though it wasn’t the kind of coronation people wanted. He handled the ball well and hit some 3s. He grabbed rebounds and went on the break to create early offense. He rebounded well and shut the game down on defense.


If there is one specific thing I’ll point to that I’m worried about early on with Wembanyama, it’蝉 that I think he’蝉 going to have to adjust to how quickly NBA guards can dig down onto his handle. Guards are faster in the league. They have better hands. Their timing is better. They’re more aggressive. Wembanyama’蝉 handle right now on his attempted drives is a bit too high and loose, and his center of gravity is so elongated that it’蝉 a bit harder for him to put his opponents in jail to protect the ball. The good news is that he’蝉 extremely flexible, and, as he gets stronger, I would expect he’ll be able to fix this.

I would bet Wembanyama ends up averaging around three turnovers per game in his first year given that I’m expecting fairly heavy usage. I also thought Wembanyama looked a bit tired at times in Vegas, with his jumper featuring more of a protracted forward momentum leap than what I remembered. The jumper, in general, might take some time from the 3-point line, and I don’t think I’m expecting him to make 36 percent from 3 next season or anything. But I see no reason to reconsider Wembanyama’蝉 elite status as a prospect long term. He’ll average something like 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as a rookie. Whether or not he wins Rookie of the Year, he’蝉 still the guy I’d bet on most to have the best career in this class. Having said that, I do think we saw some potential competition for first-year honors from…

Scoot Henderson looked as advertised

I had Henderson as the No. 2 prospect in the class entering the draft. He hurt his shoulder in the Blazers’ first game in Vegas against the Rockets, but we saw everything that was expected of him at this level in those first 21 minutes.

From the first possession down the court, where Henderson took a terrible Ibou Badji ball screen on the left side of the court, dribbled around it to get into the middle of the court with his right, stuck the ball between his legs with a quick crossover into a sharp hesitation inside-out move to freeze one of the best defenders in summer league in Tari Eason before drilling a 19-foot pull-up, there was no player I saw more in control of the flow of the game than Henderson. He got wherever he wanted against essentially the only team in Las Vegas that presented the length and athleticism of a real, live NBA team. Eason is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a motor that never quits. Jabari Smith Jr. is 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and real mobility. Amen Thompson, the player tasked with guarding Henderson the majority of the time, is 6-foot-7 in shoes with a 7-foot wingspan and might be a top-five athlete in the NBA. The Rockets also had the G League Defensive Player of the Year in Jay Huff, as well as uber-athlete Cam Whitmore, who led the event in steals per game. It did not matter.

Again, Henderson played only 21 minutes but was responsible for creating more points either off his own buckets or passes than any other player in the game outside of the Rockets’ Smith, who played 31 minutes. Henderson lived in the paint. Any advantage he got, he took it. Any time he saw the ability to carve out space to collapse the defense, he did so perfectly, maintaining that advantage with powerful hostage dribbles that kept Houston helpless. Henderson is not just an elite athlete with a monster first step. He also has an advanced understanding of how to change his own speeds. He understands how quickly or slowly he needs to bring the ball up the court so that his teammates can join him, or so that he can simply get to the rim himself. His processing ability is ridiculous. He’蝉 constantly counting defenders, seeing where the play is going to open up.


This is just a simple transition play, but watch how he is completely in command of how it develops.

He gets the quick outlet off the free throw from Badji and is actually behind Huff and Eason when he grabs it. But, instead of just speeding up the court, he goes at about 80 percent. He’蝉 constantly aware of where Eason and Huff are, maintaining them at his level the whole way. This lets Murray get to the corner and lets his trailers potentially get involved in the play too. Then, once Henderson hits the 3-point line, he pounces. He bursts through the hole between Smith at the rim and Huff on his left hip, cutting off the angle so that Eason and Huff are no longer equal with him and he actually gets a step on Smith, forcing the help from the corner by Whitmore off Murray. Once Whitmore crashes in, it leaves Murray wide open, so all Henderson does here is … gather and throw an off-hand lefty one-handed corner kickout directly into Murray’蝉 shooting pocket. Henderson not only has the ability to process, but he can execute the tough stuff with either hand because of how enormous his hands are for a guard. Again, this is simple for an NBA guard. But Henderson is 19 years old, and we shouldn’t take for granted that he’蝉 capable already of making these plays look easy.

Or how about the play below for simple? Henderson gets denied the ball by a genuinely NBA-caliber positive defender in Nate Hinton, a powerful 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing, so the Blazers inbound to Rayan Rupert, and Henderson takes that denial and turns it on Hinton’蝉 head by getting a jumpstart on the break. He catches the pass from Rupert on the move and knows exactly how to position his body to stop Hinton from being able to recover. He puts him directly in jail on his hip and maintains a lower center of gravity with his powerful 200-pound frame while continuing to push forward with real momentum. Then, he uses those enormous hands to gather and tuck the ball underneath his armpit like a running back and explodes up toward the basket for the inside-hand finish (a move he had here because he recognized that undersized guard Trevor Hudgins was the help defender and 6-foot-2 guard Myles Powell was underneath the rim).

Some of this is stuff that other guards can’t really do physically. A lot of lead guards don’t have the strength to keep wings on their hip or the explosiveness to continue covering ground quickly while maintaining the advantage. Or they might not have the hand size to be able to gather the ball and tuck it with one hand and get all the way to the rim. It’蝉 the blending of the physical traits with the processing ability that makes Henderson special. And he plays the game the right way. He’ll hit early head-man passes. If you crash down off the wing, he’ll make the easy one-pass-away kickout. He’蝉 used to playing off the ball more than most young guards because he played next to Dyson Daniels and Jaden Hardy in the G League during his first season with the Ignite.

But if Henderson needs to turn on the jets to make something happen, he’ll do that, too. It’蝉 clear that in the second half, the Rockets’ coaching staff told the defenders to shade Henderson toward the sideline when he was on one side of the floor and do whatever they had to in order to keep him out of the middle. Look at how Thompson is playing Henderson below: not in front of him, but rather all the way on his hip. Henderson sees it and decides to attack. He gets the step on Thompson then, using a huge length extension Euro step, cuts off the angle on Thompson and also avoids the help of an Eason stunt dig. Then, he sees the Smith weakside help and leaps to open up the angle to hit a … is that a wrap-around, off-hand, left-handed bounce pass? Come on.

This is how future All-Star NBA guards are supposed to look. I felt this way before the draft, after the draft and at every single moment during the season, so this isn’t an overreaction, but I do feel like the Hornets will end up regretting passing on Henderson. As I wrote previously, most of the teams I talked to had Henderson at No. 2. I don’t quite understand the narrative that built up otherwise. Speaking of the Hornets…

Brandon Miller looked as expected

My take on Miller after scouting him extensively was that he is likely going to be best as a secondary scoring threat in the vein of a Khris Middleton, even if Miller isn’t quite sure what a photo of Middleton looks like. While he’蝉 excellent at stringing out defenders and creating advantageous mismatch situations, he struggles to create separation going toward the rim and isn’t a great finisher. His handle is functional but still a touch loose. It took Middleton some time to improve those skills to round out his three-level scoring game, and it’ll take Miller that time, too.


In five summer-league games across both Sacramento and Las Vegas, Miller averaged 15.2 points while shooting 38 percent from the field and 31 percent from 3. Overall, a lack of strength just permeates his game at this stage. He struggles to hold his ground defensively, which forces him to try to load up and or get handsy, which is why he ended up fouling nearly six times per game. A lot of his missed 3s seemingly fell short and front-rimmed. Plus, he took just 12 shots at the rim in 153 minutes played, not ideal for a top-five pick. To compare him to last year’蝉 inefficient top-five big wing in the summer, the Rockets’ Smith took 16 attempts at the rim in just under 150 minutes in his rookie summer-league campaign. This year, Smith took 13 in just two games of action, an important note given that Smith is still about five months younger than Miller.

Why does this matter? Well, the hope was that, with wider driving lanes and more space to operate within, Miller would find an easier time getting to the basket. It seems like that’蝉 not going to happen from the jump. There are a couple of reasons for that, even beyond the simple idea of getting stronger. First, Miller needs some real work on improving the sequencing of his steps on drives. He doesn’t really have any margin for error there right now because he doesn’t have a ton of explosiveness due to that lack of lower-body strength. But something else is much more in his control: Miller never cuts to the rim. In five games, he literally did not have one cut to the basket that led to a shot or turnover, per Synergy. I wish I could say this was a new development, but it’蝉 not. In 38 games at Alabama, Miller only had nine cuts to the rim in such settings. He doesn’t create easy opportunities by putting himself in dangerous situations for the defense. I don’t know if it’蝉 a feel-for-the-game issue, but he’蝉 not good enough at finding easy baskets and has to get better at this part of his game.

But I’m not panicking about Miller for a couple of reasons. First, it’蝉 not uncommon to see bigger, skinny wing creators who develop into awesome players struggle in their first summer league. Brandon Ingram averaged 12 points and shot 41 percent from the field in his first summer league. In 2010, Paul George averaged 15 points but shot 33 percent overall and 11 percent from 3. Andrew Wiggins averaged 15 points and shot 40 percent from the field. Jaylen Brown averaged 16 points and shot 32 percent. The list goes on and on from players in this archetype. All of these players took a bit of a longer developmental road to become legitimate top-50 players as they developed physically. Don’t be surprised if Miller takes a similar pathway.

Beyond that, I’m not overreacting because it’蝉 hard to overemphasize how poorly constructed this Hornets’ summer-league roster was. Nick Smith Jr. is a teenage shooting guard who was asked to play a lot of point guard. It did not go well outside of a flurry in the second half of a game against Portland where he ended up with 33 points. In the other three games he played in Vegas, Smith averaged nine points and three assists while shooting just 27 percent from the field. Amari Bailey averaged eight points, shot 40 percent from the field and posted a 1-to-3 assist-to-turnover ratio. The team’蝉 2021 first-round picks, James Bouknight and Kai Jones, have yet to look like NBA players at any step in their careers. The team tried to help them out by bringing in veteran guards in 25-year-old Justin Robinson and 26-year-old Kobi Simmons. But anyone who knows Simmons’ game knows passing isn’t exactly his first inclination — even though he’蝉 improved in this regard over the last couple of years. And, for as much as I like Robinson, he was clearly still getting back to game speed after tearing his meniscus early last season in Australia. He shot just 19 percent from the field and wasn’t really able to get to the spots he wanted to out of ball screens.

There were a lot of mouths to feed on this roster without anyone to set the table. It was inexcusable for the Hornets to go into summer league with Miller — let alone all of these 22-years-old-and-younger scoring guards like Smith, Bryce McGowens, Bailey and Bouknight whom they were trying to evaluate — and not bring in a fully healthy pass-first guard to get them organized. That, more than anything, is why the Hornets took seven games to crack the one-point-per-possession barrier in summer league. I also don’t think it’蝉 an accident that this was the game in which Miller, Smith, Bouknight, Jones and McGowens didn’t play. Robinson was able to dictate the pace of play more without them, and, even if he couldn’t get everywhere he wanted, he still dished out eight assists versus only one turnover, and the team had 34 assists on its 39 made field goals.

The front office did not build a roster that was likely going to make Miller look good at summer league. In that vein, I’d implore everyone to be patient as they evaluate him.

Cam Whitmore wins MVP, silences questions

The Rockets were the most impressive team I saw at summer league, even though they ended up falling short in the title game to Cleveland after choosing to sit Smith and Eason after two games. They were the most athletic team by leaps and bounds, with Eason combining with the team’蝉 two rookies to form a ridiculous trio of explosiveness that was difficult to manage for teams at this level.


But let’蝉 focus on rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. Whitmore ended up winning MVP of the event after playing in all of the team’蝉 games and averaging 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.5 steals. He wouldn’t necessarily have been my pick (that would have been Cavs’ sharpshooter Sam Merrill), but Whitmore displayed all of the things, both positively and negatively, that made him such an exciting yet polarizing prospect.

On the plus side, the athleticism was readily apparent, and his blend of power and explosion was real. The footwork and decisiveness on his drives isn’t necessarily quite at the level it needs to be yet — he’蝉 a teenager and plays a very deliberate brand of basketball — but he’蝉 just such a freight train when he decides to get downhill that it’蝉 hard to stop him even if you get a body in front of him. He just can go through bigger, older players like they aren’t there. He attempted about seven shots per game at the rim and made them at a 63 percent clip.

In terms of the positive growth Whitmore showed, the most important flashes came in his pull-ups from midrange. One of the most concerning parts of Whitmore’蝉 profile pre-draft was a concerning lack of in-between game, making just three attempts off the bounce in that area all season at Villanova. In the six games he played during summer league, Whitmore made five such shots, looking comfortable playing at pace and getting to a stepback or side-step attempt. Whitmore also dished out 12 assists in six games after finding just 19 in 26 games during his time at Villanova. These were positive steps that went to bolster the case made by many (including myself) that teams overthought some of Whitmore’蝉 weaknesses, given how young he is.

It wouldn’t stun me to see Whitmore get some playing time this year for the Rockets — his athleticism might just force the issue — but this still is going to be a process in terms of getting him to the level where he’蝉 a positive player out there. Largely, it’蝉 because of how slowly he tends to make decisions. No player at summer league was a bigger proponent of the stop-and-survey strategy than Whitmore. Once or twice per game, he’d make a quick reversal. But for the most part, he’蝉 catching the ball and holding it, and he’蝉 rarely ready to fire from 3 directly off the catch despite the fact that he was effective as a catch-and-shoot player both at Villanova and this summer. Instead, he’蝉 going to jab step every time then fire. He needs to speed up this whole process. These windows close remarkably fast in the NBA, especially in high-leverage moments. The end result is more contested shots than are necessary.

The clip below is a prime example. Whitmore comes off a mini-flare action and has a window to shoot directly off the catch, but his prep isn’t quite there. Instead, he decides to jab step, which allows his defender to reset. The first option here is to be ready to fire immediately. But, after the jab step, Whitmore’蝉 point guard Trevor Hudgins comes off the screen and is wide open for 3. Hudgins made 46.5 percent from 3 on almost 1,000 attempts in college and 38 percent on 11 3-point attempts per game last season with Houston’蝉 G League team. This needs to be a reversal back for Hudgins following the jab step after the initial decision not to shoot. Instead, it turns into a contested jumper.

This is all fixable. But it will probably take some rewiring in the G League for half of a year unless Whitmore can really lock it in over the next few months. He’蝉 not going to become an elite passer all of a sudden. Having said that, just speeding up the process and knowing what he needs to do before he catches the ball will help him immensely. It’蝉 also hard to overemphasize how impressive it is for someone as young as Whitmore (having just turned 19) to be this productive in his first taste of professional action. As referenced above regarding Miller, Whitmore’蝉 numbers compare quite favorably to other elite NBA wings in their first taste of summer league action. I had Whitmore in that tier of player pre-draft and strongly believe teams overthought all of the concerns of his intel and medical reports. As I wrote post-draft, I’d still have him as a top-five prospect in this class even after 19 teams passed on him on draft night, and his performance in summer league was a good showcase for why.

Thompsons showcase ability to fill gaps

Coming from Overtime Elite, Amen and Ausar Thompson were the two players I was most excited to see in Vegas. I wanted to see how their scoring ability and athleticism would translate to an NBA court with real NBA spacing.

I had Amen in a different tier from Ausar pre-draft, and I would stick with that evaluation after summer league, as I still have some real questions about how Ausar scores in the NBA as a wing. I still don’t totally buy his jumper, as it looked like a bit of a robotic line drive even after some mechanical tweaks that he’蝉 clearly still in the process of working through. His release point was a bit all over the map.

The jumper is going to be a multi-year process for both Thompsons. Ausar is ahead of Amen, but that doesn’t mean he’蝉 going to be a player NBA teams have any inclination toward closing out on early in his career. And that’蝉 particularly an issue for Ausar, because his movements just aren’t quite as dynamic on the ball as Amen’蝉 are. He doesn’t quite possess the same level of flexibility, bend or fluidity in his movements that allow Amen to be twitchy and explosive, getting defenders into awkward positions on drives. But, even despite that, I also thought Ausar’蝉 explosiveness looked to be elite. Overall, they translated in a big way.

Amen’蝉 performance was terrific for 31 minutes before an ankle injury held him out after the first game. We’ll start with him. Every single piece of his anticipated elite athleticism translated immediately to an NBA court. His ability to cover ground exceptionally quickly with his first step and long strides was on full display, including a pair of sick inside-hand, left-hand finishes from the right side of the court in semi-transition that, frankly, very few players could even consider. He also threw a few impressive passes, including a beautiful touch head-man pass to Eason and a nasty look-away fastball whip to Smith cutting to the rim.

The most important thing I saw from Thompson, though, was this midrange floater.

My biggest question about Amen entering the draft was how he would score away from the rim. In today’蝉 NBA, even the most athletic lead guards need to be able to have a combo breaker against defenses that force respect away from the rim. They can struggle to shoot 3s, but they need to have something in the midrange. Russell Westbrook had his little jump stop bank shot. Ja Morant has his floater. De’Aaron Fox has his pull-up from the foul line area and left elbow. Thompson doesn’t quite have anything like this in his arsenal yet. But that floater would seem to at least be the start of something in that respect. If he can iron that out in the next few years, he’ll be an exceptionally difficult problem for defenses to solve because it’ll allow him to change speeds with more suddenness within the in-between area.

I think it’蝉 going to be tough to keep Amen off the floor in Houston because of his explosiveness, passing, willingness to defend and ability to drive transition play. The same can be said for Ausar, for different reasons. Even if he struggles to score early, he just impacts the game in so many different ways. Ausar’蝉 processing ability as an off-ball wing is superb on both ends of the court. He keeps the ball moving on offense with quick reversals. He makes quick hit-ahead passes. But, even if he’蝉 going to attack and drive with the ball, he’蝉 going to try to go forward and collapse defenders before passing as opposed to standing stationary on the perimeter. He’蝉 not dancing with it. He’蝉 moving forward. He crashes the offensive glass and moves without the ball well, too.

More importantly, Ausar flies around on defense. Thompson is going to be a menace early in his career because he’蝉 both an elite athlete at 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan who can switch one through four and an elite off-ball defender for such a young player. He made Gradey Dick’蝉 life pretty miserable in a game against Toronto with how hard he fought around off-ball screening actions to contest.

Thompson also made a few awesome weakside rotations as the low man at the basket, using his leaping ability and length to contest at the rim and make life tougher for opposing players. His awareness and anticipation defensively is going to be huge for a Detroit team that needs to take a real step in that regard. The Pistons finished 28th in defensive rating last season. Most rookies don’t help their teams defensively, but Ausar is going to be the rare exception.

The other reason the Thompsons are going to be ready to play earlier than you’d think despite the lack of shooting is their attitude and preparation. They are basketball junkies and are invested in this. They don’t just want to be good. They want to devote their lives to the game and do what it takes to be successful. They’re going to do all of the film work and all of the necessary study off the court to put themselves in the best position to succeed. Doing that is not going to be an adjustment for them. They passed their first test at summer league.

Keyonte George looks like a new player

Any time you hear pre-draft workouts are useless from people in the media, point to Keyonte George as an example of why they’re not without value.

A lot of times, you don’t learn anything new. But sometimes, you do. And, in George’蝉 case, scouts learned he was in drastically better condition than he was at Baylor. He had lost a significant amount of weight and looked much leaner and more athletic. Scouts came away saying he looked bouncier and shiftier than what he was in college. The overall performance at that pro day was hit or miss, as scouts told me he didn’t necessarily shoot all that well. But the improvement in his frame was noticeable, and they felt like that was the most important takeaway.

Fast forward to summer league after George went 16th overall to Utah, and it’蝉 clear the work George did paid off. He struggled to separate at the level necessary for a score-first combo guard at Baylor. It resulted in a lot of tough contested shots as well as difficulties when the opposition blitzed him and put two on the ball. He struggled to escape dribble and maintain his handle in a threatening manner. The end result was a lower shooting percentage than his actual talent as a shooter showcases, as well as struggles to drive and collapse the defense to create passing angles.

At summer league, George played with much more suddenness off the bounce. Utah’蝉 offensive scheme was also terrific. The Jazz played well-spaced, five-out offense a lot of the time with Micah Potter at the five, giving George wider driving angles than what he saw on the condensed collegiate court. The Bears had one of the more well-spaced offenses in the country, but their centers were not offensive threats, and teams often felt like they could sag off the corner to slow down drivers. The longer distances that help defenders have to cover in the NBA mixed with George’蝉 improved quickness made him much more capable of getting into the paint and away from his man.

George’蝉 scoring got the accolades — in the five full games he played between Las Vegas and Utah, he averaged 21 points — but I thought his passing was the critical improvement area. With more ability to separate came an extra split second to make decisions and reads. George was a negative assist-to-turnover ratio player at Baylor, but he actually dished out six assists per game versus only two turnovers during his five-game run this summer. He looked like he was playing at a faster speed while also appearing much less rushed. That’蝉 an incredibly important combination. Having gone back through all 32 assists George dished out for the Jazz, few were particularly complex where he was looking toward the third level of the defense or manipulating the opposing team. He just did a great job of keeping his live dribble active and making the right play that was available.

The below clip is just a same side kickout to a wide open 3-point shooter, but I don’t know that George would have be able to do this four months ago. He probably would have picked up his dribble as the first instance of wing help came following the handoff from Vernon Carey and gotten stranded in the midrange, forcing an escape pass or a tough shot. Instead, he confidently just backed it out, rejected a secondary ball screen from Carey with a wicked crossover to get by his man, forced the help from the corner again and made the kickout to Joey Hauser. Again, it looks like a small play, but it’蝉 a real example of George processing something on the fly and being able to execute it with his improved ability. He recognized how heavily the Grizzlies were helping off the same side wings corners to cut off drives and made it his goal to pressure that player on the drive after his wing cut through the play.

Pre-draft, I ranked George 26th for many of the reasons listed above regarding his time at Baylor and thought the Jazz selecting him was one of my least favorite picks of the first round, given some of the talent still on the board. But I think it’蝉 fair to say I’m going to be proven wrong by having him that low. Given the information at hand, I’d have him a dozen or so spots higher if I were remaking my board today. There’蝉 a real case to push him even higher than that if you value combo scoring guards a bit more than I do on the positional spectrum.

This isn’t a case of being over-reactionary based on five summer-league games. Rather, the information on George has just changed. He’蝉 a demonstrably different player today than he was four months ago because of how hard he worked to improve his frame. The Jazz deserve credit for recognizing how important that was before everyone else.

10 additional notes on 10 other rookies

  1. The Magic had one of my least favorite drafts from a philosophical perspective, given their roster. In my opinion, they should be doing everything they can to build around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner as big creators. The team’蝉 future should lie in putting the ball in their hands as often as possible and surrounding them with floor-spacing given how good both are as drivers and passers. But selecting Anthony Black at No. 6 doesn’t really accentuate that as a strategy, as Black is a non-shooter right now. I love Black as a player because of his elite feel for the game, and he showcased why in a standout second-half performance in the Magic’蝉 first game against Detroit that one NBA scout told me was his favorite of the first three days of summer league. But, in total, the flaws of drafting him to play next to Banchero and Wagner were on display. He didn’t look comfortable shooting, only attempting six 3s in 85 minutes. Plus, he had only a one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio and wasn’t as dynamic on the ball as you’d hope for as a non-shooter. I love Black’蝉 defense and passing, but I remain unconvinced that building around him as the point guard next to Banchero and Wagner is the right call.
  2. On the other side, I respect that the Pacers used summer league as a safe space for Jarace Walker to chuck up as many 3s as humanly possible. Whereas Black only took six in 85 minutes, Walker attempted seven per game. Sure, he only made five of the 28 he took, but I love that he was confident enough to use summer league as a testing ground to attempt catch-and-shoot 3s, something that will be vital to his long-term upside. Walker also showed a ton of flashes as a help defender and some awesome playmaking upside as a short-roll passer next to Andrew Nembhard in the first two games. His numbers didn’t pop off the page or anything from a productive standpoint, but Walker looked like a guy who knows how to play and could make an impact as a bench player in his rookie season due to his activity level and feel for the game.
  3. As expected, it was a mixed bag for Bilal Coulibaly and the Wizards. One of the youngest players in the draft, the 18-year-old Coulibaly is exceedingly raw on offense. His jumper is clearly going to be a work in progress, as his release point was all over the place from NBA range even off the catch. Early on, he looked a bit overawed by the pressure opposing defenders would put on his dribble. But the important thing for someone like him is to show growth. By the fourth game, Coulibaly adjusted and looked a lot more comfortable attacking the gaps that were presented to him. He scored 19 points against the Thunder and really put defenders in difficult positions on drives due to how long his strides are. This is going to be a real process with him on offense over the next couple of years. But his defensive acumen translated due to his length, as his immense 7-foot-2 wingspan caught a number of shooters by surprise on closeouts and got a couple as a help-side shot blocker. Expectations for him this season should be minimal, but the flashes here were likely everything the Wizards front office wanted to see.
  4. The Pelicans picked Jordan Hawkins at No. 14 hoping to add an elite-level floor spacer next to Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. My guess is that he’ll ultimately prove to be that, but his five games in Las Vegas were largely ineffective, as he made just 25 percent of his 7.2 3-point attempts per game. More than anything, what I took away from Hawkins was that he has to shoot it at an elite level to provide the commensurate value of a lottery pick. Even playing as largely an off-ball scorer, Hawkins turned it over 17 times in five games and struggled physically to match up on defense. The good news is that there is every reason to bet on him being a great shooter. The pathway, however, is quite narrow. Even if he’蝉 more of a 37 percent 3-point shooter off high-level movement as opposed to a 41 percent guy, that probably makes him more of a backup than a starter.
  5. Brandin Podziemski really struggled to score in Las Vegas, and that should be a bit of a concern, as he struggled to separate from his man in any discernible way. But I also want to give him real credit: I’m not sure I saw a smarter, more translatable passer during my time in Las Vegas. He made quick decisions with high-level vision, understanding how to read the second and third levels of the defense. He’蝉 good at playing off two feet and on-balance, allowing him to maintain a live dribble and throw crisp passes within the flow of the offense. Podziemski will struggle to stick if he can’t separate and doesn’t hit 40 percent of his 3s. But his passing and ability to move the ball will fit perfectly within Golden State’蝉 offense.
  6. I thought Denver’蝉 Hunter Tyson was one of the most impressive rookies in attendance. Tyson hit 50 percent of his 3-point attempts, which always helps over a five-game sample. But, more than that, he constantly moved and made life absolutely miserable for defenders. His timing on cuts toward the rim was excellent, and he showcased why scouts loved his upside as a movement shooter. More than Julian Strawther or Jalen Pickett, I thought Tyson stood out as the rookie most likely to help Denver this season because of his potential fit within the team’蝉 offense. Coach Michael Malone is known to be hard on younger players, but Tyson’蝉 feel for the game and willingness to play without the ball should fit perfectly with how the Nuggets want to play unselfishly around Nikola Joki?. Strawther showed a real willingness to fire from range, and Pickett showed sharp decision-making as a lead ballhandler. I’m a little more skeptical on them than Tyson, but all three are older players and could provide the Nuggets real depth in case of injury.
  7. It made zero sense that Leonard Miller fell to the second round, and he flashed in a big way as a teenager throughout summer league. He’蝉 an aggressive rebounder, and his athletic tools within his 6-foot-10 frame really stand out even on an NBA court. He picked up right where he left off at the end of the G League season, where he was one of the most productive players in the competition over the last two months. He hit 37 percent from 3, showing solid touch from the perimeter. There are some things he’ll need to work through, such as his decision-making on drives and his continued defensive awareness. But this looks like a perfect fit for Miller’蝉 skill set, as coach Chris Finch will empower the 6-foot-10 playmaker to grab and go off the glass and try to start the break with aggression.
  8. Nets first-rounder Noah Clowney struggled mightily in his first taste of professional action, but the team’蝉 51st overall pick, Jalen Wilson, looked outstanding. He continued to rebound extremely well and made excellent decisions on his way to averaging 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds over the course of the event. Wilson ended up earning second team All-Summer League honors. A big reason for his success was that he knocked down 46 percent of his five 3-point attempts per game. Don’t expect that from day one in the NBA. But I think Wilson has a shot to catch and shoot at a reasonable clip eventually. I had a bit of a higher grade on Wilson than most, and I buy his ability to be comfortable handling the ball, making decisions and holding up defensively against a few different player types despite his lack of length. The Nets will likely keep their roster flexibility over the next couple of months in case something comes available on the trade market, but I wouldn’t be stunned if the team feels like it wants to convert Wilson to a standard contract before the start of the season.
  9. I did not expect much from Emoni Bates in his first summer league action, but the Cavaliers’ wing was outstanding in consistently knocking down shots off the catch. He hit 40 percent of his 7.5 attempts from distance per game and averaged 17.2 points. More than just the raw shooting, though, what impressed me most was Bates’ overall willingness to play within the team concept. He took a couple of rough shots per game that didn’t necessarily come within the flow, but it was a drastic improvement from his time at Eastern Michigan and Memphis, where it felt like almost all of his shots came while he was freelancing. Excising a bunch of the purely negative plays from his repertoire was the first step toward Bates becoming an NBA player, and he did that in a big way as the Cavaliers went on to win the title in Vegas. There’蝉 a long way to go still until he becomes a rotation player, as he still needs to improve as a passer and desperately needs to take strides on defense that will allow him to stick on the court. Those things are going to lead to Bates spending most of his first season in Canton as opposed to Cleveland. But Bates is still just 19 years old, and the natural next level for him should be the G League. All told, this was a very positive step as Bates looks to get his career back on track after the hype train derailed over the last two seasons.
  10. Finally, a couple of quick notes on two impressive undrafted free agents. Lakers center Colin Castleton was my highest-ranked undrafted player, and he was also the most impressive undrafted player at summer league. The former Florida big man averaged 13.7 points, nine rebounds and 4.3 assists while blocking over one shot per game. He was a huge part of initiating offense for the Lakers at the elbow and top of the key, showcasing real comfort as a driver and passer. Plus, he’蝉 a mobile defender. It wouldn’t stun me if we look up in January and he’蝉 earned backup center minutes behind Anthony Davis for the Lakers. … Even more than Bates, I really liked what I saw on the Cavs from Craig Porter Jr. out of Wichita State. It’蝉 reductive, but Porter is one of those guys who really understands how to play within a team construct. He moves the ball and hits the right guys at the right times. He’蝉 unselfish as a passer and playmaker. As a scorer, he picks and chooses his spots at the right time. Defensively, he’蝉 a playmaker who always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time. I thought he was much more impressive than Sharife Cooper. If Ricky Rubio gets hurt or has any struggles, Porter gives the team really nice depth in the backcourt as a potentially complementary asset to both Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland due to his willingness to make all of the little winning plays.

(Top photo of Brandon Miller and Julian Champagnie: Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

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Sam Vecenie

Sam Vecenie covers the NBA Draft, college basketball and the NBA for The Athletic. His podcast, the Game Theory Podcast, is regularly ranked among the top podcasts on iTunes. Previously, he worked for CBS Sports, SB Nation, Sporting News, and Vice. Follow Sam on Twitter @Sam_Vecenie