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Remember: It’s only Summer League

2023 NBA Draft Pick Portraits and Press Conferences

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 24: Victor Wembanyama addresses the media on June 24, 2023 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photos by Caitlin Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

After “preliminary” summer league games in Sacramento and Salt Lake City earlier this week, the entire NBA has descended upon Las Vegas for the NBA 2K Summer League. As is usually the case, Friday’s schedule featured some big individual matchups, with the top two overall picks facing off and picks three and four doing the same. That meant we would get our first look at Victor Wembanyama , Amen Thompson , and Scoot Henderson as professionals, with the former considered by many to be the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. We’ll be filing a Daily Dose column for each day of Summer League, with this edition being led by the matchup between Wembanyama and Charlotte’s Brandon Miller .

Spurs 76, Hornets 68

Thomas & Mack Center was sold out for this one, as everyone wanted to be in attendance for Wembanyama’s first (unofficial) NBA game. The defense was one full display, as he rejected five shots and changed a few others, and Wemby also showed off the ability to serve as a playmaker for others. However, he struggled with his shot, going 2-of-13 from the field and scoring just nine points to go along with eight rebounds, three assists, five blocks, and one 3-pointer. Following the game, Wembanyama said that he “didn’t really know what I was doing,” as his timing and conditioning were a bit off.

That’s understandable, as his season with Metropolitans 92 ran well into June, and unlike many other prospects, he didn’t go through the pre-draft workout process that can be grueling. The defensive potential alone gives Wembanyama a high fantasy floor, and he’s got too much talent to not be able to figure things out offensively with more experience. Julian Champagnie (20/8/6/0/1 with four 3-pointers) and Dominick Barlow (12/9/4/0/1) again played well for the Spurs, but unlike Wembanyama, the path to fantasy relevance is far less clear for them. They may be players that fantasy managers will have to consider adding later in the season, especially if the Spurs decide to rest some of their more established players.

Flipping over to Charlotte, Miller looked more aggressive on offense than he was in either of his games in the California Classic. He was just 5-of-15 from the field against the Spurs, with 10 of his attempts coming from beyond the arc, but the Hornets simply needed to see a more assertive Miller. Add the 11 rebounds, one assist, three steals, one block, and three 3-pointer to his 15 points, and the second-overall pick had a solid night.

Fellow first-round pick Nick Smith Jr. shot 2-of-10 from the field, scoring four points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, and one block, and he’s unlikely to be a great fantasy option this season due to Charlotte having LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier in the backcourt. Bryce McGowens (15 points) played well off the bench, but his fantasy value for next season isn’t all that high right now. If Charlotte were to lose P.J. Washington and/or Kelly Oubre in free agency, that may give McGowens some hope in deeper fantasy leagues.

Timberwolves 102, Pelicans 88

The frontcourt tandem of Leonard Miller and Josh Minott was fun to watch, as they combined to score 36 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Miller, the 33rd overall pick in last month’s draft, posted a line of 16 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Minott wasn’t as active on the boards, but he did finish with 20 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks. As good as they looked on Friday, Minott and Miller could be in a difficult spot once the season begins.

Minnesota re-signed Naz Reid , and the need to get him more minutes could mean more time for him at the four. And that just happens to be the position manned by Karl-Anthony Towns as he shares the starting lineup with fellow 7-footer Rudy Gobert . The upsides of Miller and Minott shouldn’t be ignored, but it’s difficult to buy into either as fantasy options in the short term. Brandon Williams , who’s fighting for a contract, scored a game-high 24 points with two rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes.

The best Pelicans player as far as fantasy potential is concerned was Dyson Daniels , who recorded a line of 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, four steals, and one blocked shot in 31 minutes. The defensive production is what stands out, as scoring opportunities could be scarce due to Brandon Ingram , C.J. McCollum , and Zion Williamson on the roster. Daniels played nearly 18 minutes per game as a rookie; getting that number into the low-20s could give him a shot at achieving fantasy relevance in deep leagues, especially if the defensive production carries over.

First-round pick Jordan Hawkins (16/2/5/2 with three 3-pointers) didn’t have a great night shooting the basketball percentage-wise, but he still made three triples while also dishing out five assists. The Pelicans are in need of more perimeter shooting, so Hawkins stands to have every opportunity to crack the rotation in the fall. Last but not least is E.J. Liddell , who made his return to game action after tearing his ACL in a summer league game last year. He played 20 minutes, finishing with nine points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot.

Bucks 92, Nuggets 85

After being on the back end of the rotation as a rookie, MarJon Beauchamp finds himself in a leadership role of sorts for the Bucks’ summer league outfit. He looked good against Denver, putting up 23 points on 50% shooting along with eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two 3-pointers. It feels like Beauchamp’s best shot at fantasy relevance during the season would be if Khris Middleton struggles to stay healthy, as was the case last season. And even if that happens, there’s still Pat Connaughton and Grayson Allen to take into consideration as rotation wings.

Nico Mannion , who’s been plying his trade overseas, added 16 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one 3-pointer in 29 minutes as the starting point guard. A good day for him, but this won’t impact fantasy basketball in the slightest. Second-round pick Andre Jackson Jr. (8/3/6/1/2) showed off the all-around game that boosted his draft value, but he also missed all four of his 3-point attempts. Like Beauchamp, Jackson should get minutes under new head coach Adrian Griffin; the issue is whether or not he’ll play enough to be worth the investment in deeper fantasy leagues.

With Christian Braun enjoying the action from the front row with some of the Nuggets’ older players, Peyton Watson becomes the focus among the Nuggets who are playing in Las Vegas. And he was very good against Milwaukee, recording a line of 23 points, five rebounds, two assists, three steals, three blocks, and one 3-pointer. The defensive versatility was on display when Watson picked up rotation minutes late in the regular season, and that attribute will serve him well in 2023-24. With Bruce Brown and Jeff Green having moved on, Watson has the opportunity to lock down consistent playing time.

And all three rookies that Denver drafted last month had good days, with Hunter Tyson (21/5/1/1/1 with three 3-pointers) being the best of the bunch. Julian Strawther (15/1/0/2 with three 3-pointers) and Jalen Pickett (12/6/5/3 with two 3-pointers) also reached double figures. Denver didn’t have the cap space needed to account for the exits of Brown and Green, so they’ll need more production from their less experienced players. Hence the decision for the Nuggets brass to go “old” with their selections on draft night, picking more experienced college players with the hope that they’ll be able to contribute

Bulls 83, Raptors 74

With regard to the Bulls, there wasn’t much to take away as far as fantasy is concerned. Dalen Terry (10/6/4/3 with one 3-pointer) was a bit erratic, as evidenced by his 4-of-14 night from the field while also committing three turnovers. Justin Lewis (7/7/1/1/1), who was back in action for the first time since suffering an ACL tear last summer, was responsible for four turnovers. With the Bulls set up to essentially “run it back” next season with most of the rotation still intact, neither Terry nor Lewis has the greatest fantasy outlook.

On the Toronto side of things, first-round pick Gradey Dick didn’t have his best night shooting the basketball, going 3-of-10 from the field (2-of-9 3-pointers) and finishing with 10 points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 30 minutes. While the Raptors finished last season ranked 11th in offensive rating, they were 28th in 3-point attempts and 21st in 3-point percentage. Dick can give the team a boost in that area, even if he didn’t look his best in his summer league debut.

Moses Brown (14/9/1/0/4) made the most of his 20 minutes on the court, but he has failed to truly establish himself as a pro. Could Toronto be the place where that changes? At this point, he’s playing for an invite to training camp, which isn’t enough to make him a worthwhile target in fantasy leagues. Markquis Nowell (17/4/5/3 with four 3-pointers) played well and captivated the crowd, but he’s on a two-way deal for the 2023-24 season. Even with the loss of Fred VanVleet , he’s unlikely to get the run needed to be of any impact in fantasy leagues.

Rockets 100, Trail Blazers 99

The good news is that the two lottery rookies in this game played well. The bad news is that both had to exit the game due to injury. Scoot Henderson suffered a right shoulder injury during the second half, cutting short a summer debut in which he put up 15 points, five rebounds, six assists, one steal, and one 3-pointer. While he did shoot just 5-of-13 from the field, Henderson looked to be in command of the Trail Blazers’ offense, making sound decisions in the pick-and-roll game throughout his 21 minutes on the court.

He’ll undergo an MRI to determine the severity of his shoulder injury, but it would not be a surprise if Portland decided to shut Scoot down regardless of the results. His fantasy value as a rookie will depend on what happens with Damian Lillard ; if Portland finds the right deal and moves its star ahead of training camp, Henderson’s fantasy value/ADP will jump considerably.

Houston guard Amen Thompson put up 16 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals, four blocks, and one 3-pointer in 28 minutes before suffering a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter. He was able to walk back to the locker room under his own power but, similar to Henderson, no one should be surprised if the Rockets ultimately decide to shut him down for the remainder of summer league. With the addition of VanVleet, he’ll most likely come off the bench, but he will still be a valued rookie in fantasy leagues. Even with the Rockets adding much-needed experience and a new head coach, they’re a ways off from contending for a postseason spot.

Besides the two rookies, a lot of noise was made by second-year players for both teams. Shaedon Sharpe (21/7/2/2/2 with three 3-pointers) was highly aggressive in getting his points, which impacted the field goal percentage (7-of-21), but he’ll be fine once the games truly matter. A potential Lillard exit will impact the entire roster, with Sharpe being one of the players with the most to gain from a usage standpoint. And Jabari Walker (15/10/3/1 with two 3-pointers) is a big who would benefit if the Blazers were to move Jusuf Nurkic at some point.

For Houston, Jabari Smith Jr. (33/7/2/0/1 with three 3-pointers) scored 29 points after halftime, capping his night with a 3-pointer as time expired. After offering little in the way of aggression in the first 20 minutes, he rose to the challenge in the second half. The key now is to get that kind of effort consistently. And this could set up as another frustrating season for fantasy managers hoping to get maximum value out of Tari Eason . He played well on Friday (20/10/5/0/4 with two 3-pointers), but any enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that the Rockets signed Dillon Brooks in free agency. While Eason can still provide value coming off the bench, that places a ceiling on him.

Rookies Cam Whitmore (14/11/2/2 with one 3-pointer) and Kris Murray (10/2/0/1 with two 3-pointers) reached double figures for their respective teams, with Whitmore going 5-of-18 from the field for the Rockets.

Cavaliers 101, Nets 97

Not sure there was much to be gained fantasy-wise in this one. While Sharife Cooper (27/3/1/1/2 with two 3-pointers) had a very good night with regard to the point tally, the key for him in summer league will be to show that he can run a team. And even if he can do that, the Cavaliers still have Darius Garland , Ricky Rubio , and free agent signing Ty Jerome on the roster at the point guard position. Sam Merrill (15/10/5 with three 3-pointers) can provide much-needed perimeter shooting to a team that worked to address the issue in free agency, but the fight for rotation minutes will be a difficult one.

Rookie Emoni Bates (16/6/0/2/1 with four 3-pointers shot 5-of-18 from the field, while Isaiah Mobley (15/9/6/1/1 with one 3-pointer) showed that he’s capable of facilitating things offensively. That said, both face difficult fights for rotation minutes once training camp begins and could get the majority of their playing time with the Cavaliers’ G League affiliate.

The player of interest for Brooklyn was first-round pick Noah Clowney , who was primarily a face-up big during his one season at Alabama. He went 1-of-9 from the field on Friday, with seven of his nine shot attempts coming from beyond the arc. The good news is that he grabbed seven rebounds, but how he fits into a rotation that has two rim runners (Nicolas Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe ) once the season begins will be interesting to see. Second-round pick Jalen Wilson (17/5/1/1/2 with one 3-pointer) did a little bit of everything in his 25 minutes on the court, but Brooklyn’s surplus of wings makes it difficult to fully buy into him as a fantasy option this season. Wilson is on a two-way deal, so he’ll likely get the majority of his playing time in the G League.

Kings 80, Hawks 76

Sacramento decided to shut down Keegan Murray after the California Classic, as he was on an entirely different level than everyone else on the floor in those two games. That decision frees up additional opportunities for Colby Jones (12/3/0/2 with one 3-pointer in 30 minutes) and Kessler Edwards (14/2/1/0/1 with three 3-pointers in 26 minutes) in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Neemias Queta (13/12/3/2) recorded his second double-double of the summer. Consistent rotation minutes are likely to be tough to come by once the season begins, but it would not be surprising if Queta was given more of a look than he was last season, especially with the Kings trading Richaun Holmes and losing Chimezie Metu in free agency. Jordan Ford (20/2/2/2 with two 3-pointers) had a good night, but he plays the same position as De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell . That does Ford no favors as far as fantasy potential is concerned.

We got our first look at Hawks rookie Kobe Bufkin , and he had a tough night shooting the basketball (4-of-14 FGs) and managing the turnover count (eight). That said, there were times when he showed off the ability to put teammates in positions where they could be successful, they just didn’t convert. With Trae Young and Dejounte Murray running things, Bufkin is highly unlikely to get the minutes needed to be of value in fantasy leagues as a rookie. Mouhamed Gueye (10/5/3/1/1 with one 3-pointer) grabbed four offensive rebounds, an area which was a strength of his in college, while AJ Griffin (12/9/1 with three 3-pointers) went 4-of-14 from the field. Of the Hawks in action this week, he’s the one who should be in the rotation once the season begins. However, Jalen Johnson appears to be better positioned for a breakout campaign, especially with the Hawks trading John Collins to the Jazz.

Lakers 103, Warriors 96

Max Christie (22/7/2/0/2 with three 3-pointers) continues to shine for the Lakers, but how much of an opportunity will he have to earn rotation minutes once training camp begins? Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell were re-signed, and the Lakers added Gabe Vincent on a three-year deal. Christie can be used on either wing, and he’s also done a good job of helping to initiate the offense during summer league. The skill set is enticing, but it could be difficult for him to carve out a role that would make him truly relevant in fantasy next season. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t do it; the Lakers’ decision-makers have to be pleased with what they’ve seen from Christie thus far.

Cole Swider (19 points, two rebounds, and five 3-pointers) and Colin Castleton (13/7/6/2/1) had good nights, while first-round pick Jalen Hood-Schifino (9/5/3/4/1) didn’t shoot the ball well but managed to impact the game in other areas. His plight is similar to that of Christie, as the Lakers’ desire to win now with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the fold likely limits the opportunities that Hood-Schifino will have once the regular season begins.

For the Warriors, Gui Santos is worth keeping an eye on, if only because the team has yet to make any two-way signings. Given how well he’s played thus far, the 2022 second-round pick could be closing in on one of those three two-way slots. Lester Quinones (15/2/5/0/1 with two 3-pointers) is another, as he’s on a two-way cap hold right now. First-round pick Brandin Podziemski (9/11/2/1/1 with one 3-pointer) didn’t shoot the ball well and was also responsible for five turnovers, but the work on the glass was encouraging to see. Given the current state of the Warriors’ rotation, Podziemski is going to have to find other ways to help the team, as the usage may not be there.