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Summer League Day 3: Jabari Smith Jr. for MVP

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets

Jul 7, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (10) dribbles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

The third day of Summer League action was filled with marquee performances, poor shooting and plenty of high-profile draft picks. Let’s break down all of the games from Sunday’s eight-game slate!

Cavaliers 99, Raptors 76 - Scraping the Barrel

Yikes. Sunday’s slate didn’t start out on a high note, as the Cavs demolished the Raptors, and few players of note took the court. Late lottery pick Gradey Dick finished with 11 points (5-of-13 FG, 1-of-3 3-Pointers), eight rebounds and four assists. He should see some minutes this season thanks to his three-point shooting, but we’re not expecting too much of a fantasy impact.

We had a Moses Brown sighting, as the big man had seven points, two boards and a swat across 10 minutes - typical. Emoni Bates - the 49th pick in this year’s draft - mustered 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists and a block. Evan’s brother, Isaiah Mobley, led Cleveland with 15 points and added six boards, four assists, a steal and a block. Sharife Cooper erupted for 27 points Friday but fell back to earth with eight points, five assists and two steals in this one. He played 39 total minutes as a rookie for Atlanta in 2021-22, and he stayed in the G League for all of 2022-23. He’s looking to make the Cavs’ roster for the upcoming campaign, but in case you hadn’t noticed, this team is doing just fine at guard.

Lakers 93, Hornets 75 - Christie to the Max!

The Lakers are 2-0 after a big win over Charlotte, and Colin Castleton led the way with 21 points, 14 boards, three assists and a steal. The undrafted big man out of Florida is an interesting prospect, but minutes will be hard to come by in Los Angeles’ frontcourt. The 17th pick in this season’s draft, Jalen Hood-Schifino provided 15 points, five dimes, three boards, a block and two triples on 5-of-10 shooting. He’s looked good in Summer League play thus far, and he could make an impact this season if given the opportunity.

Max Christie contributed 11 points, six assists, four rebounds, four blocks and a triple. His scoring was muted compared to his last three outings, but he’s been the best Laker in Summer League thus far. If he can crack LA’s rotation this season, he can absolutely make some noise.

Brandon Miller finished with 10 points, eight boards, four assists, a steal and four fouls. He shot 4-of-18 from the floor and 0-of-7 from beyond the arc. It wasn’t a great night for the No. 2 overall pick. He’s struggled to find consistency in his shooting, and he’s handed out fouls like candy thus far into Summer League. His efficiency and tendency to get into foul trouble are concerning. James Bouknight shot 4-of-14 from the floor and finished with 10 points, six boards and two dimes. Nick Smith Jr., the 27th pick in this year’s draft, totaled 11 points, one rebound, two assists, a block and three three-pointers.

Nets 98, Knicks 80 - Armoni Brooks Makes it Rain

In the Battle of New York (played in Las Vegas, of course), Armoni Brooks poured in 21 points, hitting 8-of-15 shots, including five from beyond the arc. He added two rebounds, three steals and a block. Brooks played big minutes for Houston in 2020-21 and averaged better than 15 minutes per contest in 2021-22 for the Rockets and Raptors. Back in action for Summer League, he’s trying to work his way back to the NBA after not seeing the court in 2022-23. David Duke Jr. contributed 19 points, four assists, two rebounds, three steals and a pair of three-pointers, and Kennedy Chandler provided a full line of 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds, a steal and a block. None of these players is expected to play meaningful minutes for the Nets this season.

Charlie Brown (no, not the hydrocephalic Charles M. Schulz character) was the leading scorer for New York with 16 points, while Jaylen Martin (the Overtime Elite alumnus) finished with 15. Isaiah Roby had 12 points and six boards. Roby saw some playing time last season for Oklahoma City, but he’s not going to see too many minutes with his new team. Brown and Martin aren’t likely to contribute much to fantasy hoops managers if anything at all.

Rockets 113, Pistons 101 - “I’m 20 years old…”

Jabari Smith Jr. finished Sunday’s win over the Pistons with 38 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal, a block and three triples. He scored 33 on Friday and hit a game-winner, and his stellar play is a big reason why the Rockets are 2-0 in Summer League so far. When asked why he was playing in SL after a productive rookie campaign, he said, “I’m 20 years old. Why wouldn’t I play?” Smith Jr. will look to build on his big first year with an even better sophomore effort to help his squad improve on the 22-60 record they posted in 2022-23. Smith Jr. has the unique “fantasy cheat code” skillset of hitting threes and racking up blocks that could make him a dangerous option. He can score and grab boards at an elite level when he’s feeling it, so fantasy managers can expect a better fantasy finish in Year 2. His early play makes him the favorite to win Summer League MVP.

Cam Whitmore scored 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting, adding two assists, a rebound, a steal and three triples. Touted as a lottery pick and potential top-5 selection, Whitmore plummeted down draft boards due to health and character concerns, but he’s looking like an absolute steal after Houston was able to land him at No. 20 in the draft. Tari Eason scored 26 points in Sunday’s win over the Pistons, adding nine boards, three assists, two steals, two blocks and two triples. We saw how productive he could be when given the chance last season, but after an active offseason, the Rockets may have even less minutes available in 2023-24.

James Wiseman finished Sunday’s loss to Houston with 17 points, 10 rebounds and an assist, while Jalen Duren posted 23 points, 10 rebounds, an assist and a block. Ausar Thompson shot 6-of-13 from the field and scored 12 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks. In addition to these three youngsters, the Pistons will bring back Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. This team isn’t going to win a ton of games, but my goodness, they should be a fun watch!

Wizards 101, Celtics 95 - Golden State of Mind

Sporting two former Warriors in the starting five, Washington narrowly defeated Boston. Seven Wizards, including all five starters, scored in double figures to lead the team to a narrow victory. Patrick Baldwin Jr. compiled a 10/1/1 line with a block and two triples. Ryan Rollins led the way in the scoring department with 17 points and added nine assists, three boards, five steals and a triple. Both players should have the chance to get on the floor regularly this season. Johnny Davis, the 2022 lottery pick, scored 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting. This year’s top-10 pick, Bilal Coulibaly, shot 5-of-11 from the floor and finished with 11 points, five rebounds, an assist, a block and three turnovers. With Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis gone, the Wizards should be able to find playing time for all of these guys.

Justin Champagnie totaled 21 points, 12 rebounds, six dimes, a block and two triples. He led Boston in scoring and provided a 20-point game just two nights after his brother Julian did so for the Spurs. Udoka Azubuike shot 7-of-7 from the field and finished with a 14/10/1 line across 18 minutes. Azubuike finds himself in a crowded frontcourt, while Champagnie could earn some playing time after Boston lost depth by trading Marcus Smart and letting Grant Williams walk.

Trail Blazers 85, Spurs 80 - Debut, Schmaybyoo

After struggling in Friday’s debut, Victor Wembanyama came through in a big way. As my highly intelligent teammate Raphielle Johnson put it, “Remember, it’s only Summer League.” Summer League play is something, but it’s certainly not everything. We couldn’t expect Wemby to falter for a second game in a row, and he accounted for 27 points, 12 rebounds, a steal, three blocks and two triples Sunday in the loss to Portland. We’ve seen big men who can handle the ball, hit threes, sprint back in transition, close out for blocks and rebound at a high level. But we’ve never seen one with such an elite combination of size and talent. Wemby is the real deal, and if he can average even 2.0 blocks per contest (being conservative here, folks!), he can push for a top-40 fantasy season. Walker Kessler finished 57th with 2.3 blocks while averaging 9.2 points and 8.4 boards. Surely, Wemby can average better than those numbers.

Dominick Barlow was a force, putting up a 17/6/2 line with two blocks on 8-of-12 shooting. He’s had a solid Summer League thus far. Sidy Cissoko, San Antonio’s 2023 draft pick not named Victor Wembanyama, finished with eight points, two rebounds, two assists, a steal, two triples and six fouls across 22 minutes Sunday. He can be a special player on defense, but it’s unlikely he contributes enough in the box score to be of interest to fantasy managers. He shot 3-of-3 from the floor and 2-of-2 from three-point range, for what it’s worth.

Shaedon Sharpe delivered nine points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block Sunday against the Spurs. He shot just 4-of-18 from the floor, including 0-of-5 from beyond the arc. The shooting was atrocious, but there was at least one highlight jam and plenty of key peripheral contributions. He and Scoot Henderson are the future of this team, so expect both of them to shine for years to come. Rayan Rupert (drafted 43rd in this year’s draft) and Kris Murray (drafted 23rd) combined to score six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Jabari Walker produced 13 points, 11 boards, two dimes and two steals, while Michael Devoe led the team in scoring with 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting (5-of-7 3-Pointers). When your team needs some points, you must whip it! Now whip it, whip it good!

Hawks 98, Nuggets 93 - Bufkin and Martin Strike Gold

Kobe Bufkin finished Sunday’s win over Denver with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, a block and four triples. Bufkin was a pitiful 6-of-19 from the field, and he struggled with his shot in his Summer League debut as well. Through two games, he’s totaled 25 points on 10-of-33 shooting. Encouragingly, he’s doing enough elsewhere to make up for the rough efficiency. The No. 15 pick in the draft has plenty of competition at guard, so don’t expect much from a fantasy perspective in Year 1. Tyrese Martin led the team in scoring with 21 on 8-of-12 shooting, with a 3-of-6 mark from three-point range. The second-year man totaled 66 total minutes as a rookie with the Hawks last season, and it’s unlikely he sees even that many in Year 2.

Julian Strawther, the 29th pick in the 2023 Draft, went for 7/4/3 and a block on 2-of-13 shooting and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. Peyton Watson posted 15 points, and Collin Gillespie, Hunter Tyson and Jalen Pickett all posted 16. Despite Denver sporting a thin bench, it’s highly unlikely any of these players sees enough time on the court to be relevant for fantasy managers this season.

Pelicans 94, Warriors 86 - Dyson Daniels Dominates!

For a game without a lot of notable 2023 draft picks, this one had some interesting performances. Dyson Daniels, the top-10 pick in 2022, provided a massive final stat line of 17 points, 15 boards, eight dimes, two steals, two blocks and two triples. My goodness! Daniels scored 18 with five rebounds, three assists, four steals and a block Friday, so it’s safe to say his Summer League is off to a hot start. He logged better than 17 minutes per game in 59 appearances for New Orleans as a rookie last season, putting up solid numbers when given extended playing time. Dereon Seabron led New Orleans in scoring with 25, and Jordan Hawkins, the final pick in this year’s lottery, chipped in 16.

The Warriors were led by Lester Quinones, who scored a game-high 26 points. He’s appeared in four Summer League games this season and averaged 22 per contest. Brandin Podziemski nearly triple-doubled, going for 10 points, nine boards, 10 dimes, a steal and two triples. The No. 19 pick out of Santa Clara has been solid in Summer League play thus far. He and Quinones will try to push for meaningful rotational minutes, but the chances of that happening this season are slim.