Vegas NBA Summer League Sleepers
Who are some guys to watch out for in the next week that are still going under the radar?
Advanced Statistics used in this article are gathered from ESPN.com, NBA.com, and StatMuse.com
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The NBA2k23 Las Vegas Summer League is underway and there have already been some electrifying performances, as I noted in my “Initial Reactions to Summer League” article that came out on Friday. I am not gonna talk about Paolo Banchero, Dyson Daniels, Bennedict Mathurin, or any of the other top 10 picks in the draft being “sleepers” because everyone knows that they can ball.
I am also not going to discuss the obvious “sleeper” players that everyone is talking about on Twitter and other social media platforms such as Jaden Hardy, Kennedy Chandler, Nikola Jovic, Kenneth Lofton Jr., and Jalen Williams. Chandler signed the largest rookie contract for a second-rounder in NBA history, Hardy just put up 28 points and was the 2nd ranked player out of high school, Jovic had a 25-point masterpiece in the California Classic, Kenneth Lofton Jr. is certainly not being slept on anymore after his dominant performance against Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams has arguably been the most consistent player other than Giddey on the Summer League Thunder.
What I will discuss is the players in this year’s Las Vegas NBA Summer League that are still going under the radar despite solid performances. The highest-drafted player on this list is Marjon Beauchamp who I view as a top 10 player in this draft. His impact on both ends of the floor is paralleled by few in this class and many evaluators continue to sleep on his impact. Not to mention when I was covering NBA Summer League over the weekend in Las Vegas I saw Beauchamp pull up to scout and support other teams/players on Thursday night even though the Bucks weren’t scheduled to play until the next day.
When Beauchamp was done sitting courtside and picking the brain of some evaluators and current NBA players, he went into the stands and started sitting with some old heads discussing basketball in the general admission section. I noticed this as I was walking out and immediately came to the conclusion that Beauchamp will become one of the best players in this class. Not only does he have the talent, but he is the most dedicated player in this class.
I didn’t see any other Summer League participants other than Beauchamp on Thursday night stay and watch the games while picking the brain from a diverse background of basketball minds. Nonetheless, here are the guys to keep an eye on over the next week in the Las Vegas NBA Summer League.
Josh Minott, 6-9 SF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Blessed with extreme athleticism and a knack for getting to the rim, Minott has already shown out in the Vegas Summer League so far putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds and going 2-3 from downtown in his debut, then following that with 2 steals and 3 blocks in his second game. Minott did not shoot well for the Wolves in his second game (2-9 from the floor) but still made an impact showing off his talents on the defensive end of the floor. I always had Minott as one of the highest upside players in the draft and Minnesota is starting to see that upside sooner than people expected.
Marjon Beauchamp, 6-6 SF, Milwaukee Bucks
Other than being arguably the most determined athlete in this draft class, Beauchamp is also a beast on the court. He put up 16 points on 6-12 shooting in his debut and will undoubtedly showcase his talents again today when he faces the Boston Celtics for the Bucks 2nd game of the Summer League. Keep an eye out on Beauchamp over the next week as he will turn into a key rotational piece on a championship-contending team this season.
Jabari Walker, 6-8 SF, Portland Trailblazers
Walker was a guy I was told the Lakers were looking at if they couldn’t move up higher in the NBA draft. They moved up to 35th overall and obviously there were too many good players on the board (Hardy, Christie, Liddell) to take the chance on him there. Walker is a 6-8 SF/PF who is a tenacious rebounder that can guard both forward positions at a high level.
Throughout his first two Summer League games, Walker has been extremely productive in limited minutes. In his debut, Walker posted a line of 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block while hitting the only 3 he attempted in just 15 minutes played. In Walker’s second game he put up 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal in just 18 minutes played. Walker will continue to garner more minutes with stellar play and is definitely someone to watch over the next week.
Kofi Cockburn, 7-0 C, Utah Jazz
One of the more productive college players in recent years, Cockburn surprisingly went undrafted after averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game his junior season at Illinois. The Jazz were able to snatch Cockburn up as an undrafted free agent.
After two somewhat mediocre performances to start NBA Summer League (5 points, 7 rebounds in game 1, and 6 points and 5 rebounds in game 2, both in under 18 minutes) in Salt Lake City, Cockburn returned to form with a 12-point, 9 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal performance in just 21 minutes played in his 3rd game at the Vegas Summer League. I know that none of these statistics jump off the charts, but Cockburn has been productive in limited minutes and following a stellar college career, he will be a player to keep an eye on over the next week.
Jared Butler, 6-5 PG, Utah Jazz
Another player to watch on the Jazz is Jared Butler, who was a first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft following a brilliant March Madness run that ended with a National Championship for Baylor. Despite not playing that much last season, with a new roster and no Rudy Gobert, Butler will be relied upon to provide valuable minutes in the second unit next season.
Butler is coming off of two high-level performances (22 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in one game and 15 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals in the other game) and will continue to tear it up on both ends of the floor. Keep an eye out for this guy.
Dalano Banton, 6-9 PG, Toronto Raptors
Banton is a 6-9 point guard that the Raptors were very high on coming into last season. Banton struggled with turnovers, scoring, and playmaking in his rookie season but started off the Vegas NBA Summer League on a high note with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. He also had 7 turnovers which isn’t great, but it is promising that Banton is now showing the ability to take over the game, especially if he continues to be efficient from beyond the arc (2-3 from 3PT range last game).
Christian Koloko, 7-1 PF/C, Toronto Raptors
After a solid year at Arizona, Christian Koloko was selected with the 33rd overall pick by the Raptors. His ability to block shots at an elite level and catch lobs at a high percentage already made him a good prospect. What makes him a great prospect is his improvement in knocking down 3-pointers at 7-1.
A perfect 5 for the modern NBA, Koloko has shown flashes of versatility on both ends of the floor in his first game with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks in his debut. Koloko is going to end up being one of the second-round steals from this draft and many people will be asking why he didn’t go in the first round.
Jamaree Bouyea, 6-2 PG, Miami Heat
I was very surprised that Jamaree Bouyea went undrafted as I thought that the Celtics would take him with the 53rd overall pick. We all know why the Celtics chose the longer-term project in J.D. Davison now (since they acquired the guard they were looking for in Malcolm Brogdon), but I still think Bouyea should have been drafted.
One of the more NBA-ready players in this year’s NBA Draft, Bouyea just had 9 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in the Heat’s 88-78 win over the Celtics on Saturday. Because Mychal Mulder had a fantastic game (23 points), Bouyea only logged 22 minutes. Expect Bouyea and Nikola Jovic (who is coming off of a miserable 0-point game) to play more minutes and be more involved in the offense against the Hawks on Tuesday.
Isaiah Livers, 6-6 SF, Detroit Pistons
If anyone is going to have a Marcus Smart impact on the Pistons next season it will be Isaiah Livers. This man is an absolute pest on the defensive end and continues to improve his overall offensive game as well. Livers is coming off of a 20-point, 5-rebound game and will be implemented even more into the offense if Jaden Ivey continues to be out due to an ankle injury. Livers is dominating in Summer League and will be a key rotational piece and possibly even a starter for the Pistons next season.
Brandon Boston Jr, 6-7 SG/SF, Los Angeles Clippers
Boston Jr. had his fair share of offensive outbursts last season (especially against the Celtics) but he was very limited in minutes most of the year in the NBA. After dominating in the G-League, Boston Jr. is trying to become a rotational piece for arguably the best roster (top to bottom) in the NBA next season. He is off to a good start as he had 15 points and 3 steals in just 22 minutes played in the Clippers’ Summer League debut. Look out for more scoring outbursts in the next week.
E.J. Liddell, 6-7 PF, New Orleans Pelicans
Liddell was a projected first-rounder that fell to 44th overall to the Pelicans and now will be a key part of the Pels’ depth next season. Liddell struggled in his debut only scoring 2 points going 1-6 from the field, but expect the former Ohio State star to return to form today against the Hawks.
Marko Simonovic, 7-1 C, Chicago Bulls
Simonovic is a second-year 7-1 center that balled out in the Bulls’ first Summer League game. He had 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a 100-99 win against the Mavericks and said that adding 25 pounds of muscle (from 215-240) helped his overall game tremendously. Simonovic should continue to dominate throughout the rest of the Summer League and is a candidate to have a breakout second season for the Bulls.
Joshua Primo, 6-6 SF, San Antonio Spurs
Primo was the surprise selection from last year’s NBA Draft as the Spurs took a chance on the high upside “project” out of Alabama with the 12th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He didn’t get much playing time last season for the Spurs but will now be asked to have a much larger role. Is he ready to step up to the plate and accept that role?
Primo’s Summer League debut indicates that he will be as he put up an impressive line of 20 points and 5 rebounds going 5-7 from 3PT range. Primo struggled in the Spurs’ second game only scoring 10 points on 2-15 shooting, but expect him to have a bounce-back game against the Rockets today.
Blake Wesley, 6-5 SG, San Antonio Spurs
Wesley has absolutely shown out so far this Summer League scoring 20 points in each of his first two games. Wesley is a flat-out bucket getter and is way more consistent scoring-wise through two games in Summer League than he was the whole year at Notre Dame last season. The Spurs drafted Wesley 25th overall to become an elite scorer and he could become that on day 1 for the Spurs. Keep an eye out for Wesley to continue scoring 20+ over the next week.
Bryce McGowens, 6-7 SG, Charlotte Hornets
McGowens has had an up and down two games so far this Summer League posting a line of 17 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds in his debut then posting a line of 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 2-14 shooting against the Lakers in the following game. McGowens will have more inconsistencies in the Summer League but he is still an ultra-talented combo guard that will become a very good NBA player sooner rather than later.
Mac McClung, 6-1 PG/SG, Golden State Warriors
Once McClung left the Lakers Summer League team to go play for the Warriors Summer League team, the Lakers have gone 0-2 and the Warriors have gone 1-1 with McClung scoring 17+ points in both games. McClung posted a line of 17 points, 3 assists, and 4 rebounds in his debut for the Warriors then followed that performance up with a line of 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists in a win against the Spurs.
There is no denying that Mac McClung is an electrifying player that should get a shot in the NBA. It will be hard for him to make the Warriors NBA team but some team in the association should snatch this extremely talented and athletic second-year guard. McClung is must-see-TV.
Louis King, 6-8 SF, Phoenix Suns
King absolutely dominated the Lakers in the Suns’ first Summer League game scoring 20 points on 8-17 from the floor. He made the shots when it counted and King was able to take over the game in stretches. However, in the Suns’ second game King struggled immensely going 2-11 from the field with only 10 points. He was 6-8 from the free-throw line, and although King has shown the ability to have consistent stretches, he will only stay in the NBA if he becomes more efficient from the floor. 8-17 and 2-11 isn’t going to cut it in the league.
Scotty Pippen Jr, 6-3 PG, Los Angeles Lakers
I seriously cannot believe that both the Lakers Summer League stars Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider went undrafted. They are already being deemed as “steals” by NBA Twitter and should both be on the NBA roster next season. Pippen Jr. has shown an ability to carry a team on both ends of the floor so far through 5 games for the Summer League Lakers.
His mid-range game is solid, his playmaking is elite, and his on-ball defense is great as well. I think the Lakers should make Scotty Pippen Jr. the backup point guard for the NBA team on day 1. Include Kendrick Nunn in the Kyrie Irving trade package and bring this guy up to the Lakeshow immediately.
Cole Swider, 6-9 SF, Los Angeles Lakers
I would be shocked if Rob Pelinka doesn’t put Cole Swider on the Lakers right away as a rookie. This guy has the most fluid jump shot of any player drafted in the past 3 drafts and he will be a perfect fit alongside LeBron James with his innate ability to knock down threes.
Swider has gone 17-30 (57 percent) from 3PT range through 5 games and is going to be an absolute sniper for the Lakers. Something that goes unnoticed regarding Swider is his above-average defense and his 6-9 frame. This guy should be a rotational piece on a championship-contending team (if they get Kyrie Irving) right away next season and I would be surprised if he’s in the G-League.
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