With NBA Summer League action in full swing, we’ve seen flashes of greatness from this year’s rookie class, disappointments, and everything in between. Those who were expected to dominate may have been underwhelming in their first few games, while players who weren’t given a second look in the draft have proved their worth thus far. The following rookies are, arguably, those who have stood out the most so far, and those who could have the biggest long-term impacts on their respective teams.
DeAndre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Given the fact that Ayton was the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, it should come as no surprise that his collegiate skills have, thus far, translated well to the NBA. In his first few Summer League games, Ayton posted two double-doubles, then went on to have fairly quiet showings. Of course, the Summer League is not always an accurate portrayal of one’s potential, but it can showcase certain skills.
Ayton’s defense has been under the most scrutiny since entering the draft. Many suggest that his defensive prowess will not translate well to the NBA, but if he is able to utilize his size for scoring, he should see success. Paired alongside Devin Booker, who is likely to garner the attention of most defenses, Ayton should have no problem getting to the basket with his combination of size and finesse.
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Young seems to be standing out for mostly the wrong reasons in this year’s Summer League. His shooting has been subpar following an impressive, almost Steph Curry-like range during his time at the University of Oklahoma. However, he has since improved since his first few games, scoring 24 points against the Bulls recently, and going 7-for-13 beyond the three-point line.
Young’s consistency will be the center of attention in his time with the Hawks, as he is fully capable of making some pretty miraculous shots while not having the most athletic build. Only time will tell if Young proves to be a boom or bust.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Coming out of Michigan State University, some analysts had Jackson as a possible first overall draft pick ahead of DeAndre Ayton. His size and capabilities have all the makings of an NBA star, so his development in Memphis will be crucial to his success.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson has shown his skills in his first few games as a Grizzly, but failed to generate much flash on offense. Memphis still has veteran players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. This may make it difficult for Jackson to see a decent amount of playing time, which could stunt his development. However, utilizing his abilities in the times that he does play should remind Memphis why they drafted this collegiate star in the first place.
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls
A player that was once overshadowed by Marvin Bagley III at Duke University, Wendell Carter Jr. has come into his own during his short time with the Bulls in this year’s Summer League. Carter posted 23 points, 6 rebounds, two blocks, and two assists in his last game despite Chicago falling to the Atlanta Hawks 101-93, showing that he is more than capable of scoring on all three levels.
The Bulls have struggled in recent seasons without much leadership at the helm, but if both Carter and Zach LaVine can prove themselves as future Chicago stars, the team may be on an upward trend sooner than later.
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks
Drafting Knox with the ninth overall pick seemed like a head-scratcher to some Knicks fans, but few would argue against the Kentucky star after his Summer League performance. Knox put up 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in his final summer game in which he went 5-for-7 beyond the three-point line. He averaged 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, and is looking like a promising addition to New York’s struggling offense.
Assuming the Knicks are able to retain Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., and some of their other core players, Knox could be a shining light in a somewhat dismal locker room.