NBA

NBA Summer League Roundup: Top-5 Picks

Jul 19, 2022, 11:39 AM | Updated: 1:52 pm
(Getty Images)...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Summer League has come and gone.

As we enter the slow, quiet months of the NBA offseason, we are left with some time to look back and reflect on the recent run of action from the league’s top rookies.

The Sacramento Kings might not have been crowned the champions of Las Vegas Summer League, but they won big in arguably a more important way as Keegan Murray, the fourth-overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft, took the basketball world by storm.

Several questions surrounded the 21-year-old forward upon his selection, but Murray checked every box over seven appearances in San Francisco and Las Vegas. With his efficient three-point shot, above-average rebounding, and notably calm demeanor on display in each contest, the rookie was named the Most Valuable Player of Summer League.

Murray’s impressive summer has injected some buzz into the Sacramento Kings fanbase, as supporters of the team largely feel confident that general manager Monte McNair has found something legitimate in this year’s fourth pick–a floor-spacing forward that can play alongside franchise cornerstones De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

While Murray etched his name into the NBA Summer League history books, the rookie’s fellow top-five 2022 draftees were also on display in Las Vegas. Here’s how the rest of the top five picks fared during play in the desert:

1st pick: Paolo Banchero | Orlando Magic

Kings fans were gifted with a treat of a Las Vegas Summer League opener on Saturday, July 9th as number-one pick Paolo Banchero went head-to-head with Keegan Murray in a double-overtime, sudden-death thriller.

Banchero was playing in his second–and final–game of the summer, and the Duke product looked very impressive during his 34 minutes of playing time (23 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals, and two blocks). The 19-year-old sealed a Magic win by blocking Kings center Neemias Queta at the rim, leading to a game-ending basket at the other end to send the Thomas & Mack Center into a frenzy.

Orlando shut down its prized pick following the game against Sacramento because, well, Banchero had nothing left to prove.

Over two appearances, Banchero averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point land. The Magic felt that the 6’10 forward was ready for the big stage following his second game, and they’re right.

Expect Banchero and Murray to battle in the post for years to come.

2nd pick: Chet Holmgren | Oklahoma City Thunder

Speaking of battling in the post, Murray also had an opportunity to matchup against second-overall pick Chet Holmgren.

It what would arguably be the Kings rookie’s strongest showing of the summer, Murray clearly outplayed the Gonzaga product during Oklahoma City’s narrow victory over Sacramento back on July 13th.

While Murray might have gotten the best of Holmgren during their first NBA meeting, the young big still had a strong Summer League showing.

Over three games, the seven-footer averaged 12.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists 2.3 steals, and 2.0 blocks while shooting 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Holmgren’s ability to act as a disruptor on the defensive end was notable during Summer League play as the reigning West Coast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year did what he does best during his time on the floor: defend.

3rd pick: Jabari Smith Jr. | Houston Rockets

After struggling during the start of Summer League, Smith turned things around during his final appearances in Las Vegas.

During his five appearances, Smith averaged 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 blocks over 29.7 minutes per contest. Although his shooting numbers didn’t jump off of the page (37 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range), the Auburn alumnus showed that he possesses the ability to be a double-double threat on a nightly basis thanks to his athleticism.

Smith’s defense also was a high-point during Summer League as it’s becoming clear that most of these top-five picks can hold their own on the defensive end.

4th pick: Keegan Murray | Sacramento Kings

What more can you say about Keegan Murray?

Murray entered the California Classic with plenty of expectations on his shoulders. He led the showcase in points per game (19.7) and paced Sacramento’s 3-0 start to the summer. Just over two weeks later, the former Iowa Hawkeye was crowned MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Sacramento’s fourth-overall selection had one of the greatest Summer League performances in NBA history, ranking 21st on the all-time points per game list–the highest point per game average by a top-10 pick since 2012. Murray was the only player this summer to average at least 20.0 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.

Over four appearances in Las Vegas, the fourth-overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and  1.3 steals per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the three-point arc, and 80 percent from the charity stripe. Along with his MVP honors, Murray was also named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team.

Murray looked every bit like a top-pick during both Summer League, seemingly effortlessly posting 20-plus points per game. The future appears bright for Sacramento’s new draft pick as Murray will next suit up this fall alongside star guard De’Aaron Fox, All-Star center Domantas Sabonis and fellow Summer League MVP award winner, Davion Mitchell.

5th pick: Jaden Ivey | Detroit Pistons

Ivey was putting on a show during his second showing of Summer League, having scored 11 points during the first five minutes of play against the Washington Wizards. Unfortunately, the young guard took a bad step and injured his ankle, missing the remainder of the game and eventually being shut down for the remainder of the summer.

Ivey’s Summer League debut was a successful one, as the 20-year-old tallied up 20 points, six rebounds, and six assists while shooting six-of-14 from the field and two-of-five from three-point land. The former Purdue guard was off to a great start in game two before his injury, as it was clear that Ivey was in a strong position to compete for Summer League accolades of his own.

Although the fifth-overall pick didn’t get to play much in Las Vegas, the 20-year-old put his incredible off-the-dribble skills and elite quickness on display during his two appearances.

It’s easy to see why a large portion of Kings fans wanted to select Ivey with the fourth-overall pick back on June 23rd, but after watching Keegan Murray’s performance this month, we might need to conduct another poll of how fans are currently feeling.

Ivey looks like a player that will thrive as the primary ball handler in Detroit. Murray will be able to float off-ball and be a catch-and-shoot threat around De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

Both Sacramento and Detroit appear to have gotten exactly the types of players that they were looking for.

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