August 12, 2022

The NBA 2K23 Summer League kicked off Thursday night with a matchup between Paolo Banchero of Orlando and Jabari Smith Jr. of Houston, the No. 1 and No. 3 picks, respectively, in last month’s NBA draft.

The Magic won 91-77 in the first meeting between two of the NBA’s most anticipated rookies, with Banchero scoring 17 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Smith had a quieter night in his Rockets debut, finishing with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

No. 5 overall pick Jaden Ivey made his debut for the Detroit Pistons, scoring a team-high 20 points en route to an 81-78 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Blazers rookie Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 7 pick, had his debut cut short by a shoulder injury that ended his night after just six minutes.

The action continued Friday with several more rookies getting their first action in Vegas.

Which first-year players stood out? Our NBA insiders break down the rookies who stole the show in the first two days in Las Vegas.

NBA Summer League 2022: One player to watch on every team


#1 vs. #3: Banchero and Smith meet for the first time

Banchero entered the NBA draft process touted as the most NBA-ready prospect in the class. Smith, on the other hand, is brimming with potential but turned 19 less than two months before draft night and was always going to need time to develop. When they squared off on the court Thursday night, the two players proved those scouting reports — at least for one night — to be accurate.

Banchero, who looked like 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, used his size and physique to get where he wanted on the court. He finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists in 25 minutes. He played as he likely will for Orlando next season: serving as a de facto point guard in a power forward body.

He hasn’t always had much separation and has work to do defensively, and he admitted after the game that he was using the summer league to get in shape, but even in a sample of a game, it was easy to see what had put him on top. draft.

Smith, on the other hand, is going to take a lot longer – and it has shown. He was criticized at times last season at Auburn for not being assertive enough with his teammates to get the ball, and that happened Thursday night.

But there’s a lot to like about his game. Smith’s high and quick release, combined with his 6-10 frame, has the potential to make him a serious shooting threat. In time, he could easily gain weight to expand his game like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and other young throwable wingers before him.

He competes hard in defense and has quick feet, which also gives him a significant advantage for this purpose.

Smith’s development is going to take time, especially on a very The Rockets’ young squad with inexperienced guards gets the lion’s share of ball-handling minutes, led by last year’s No. 2 pick Jalen Green.

Two other key rookies also stood out in this game: Houston’s Tari Eason (#17 overall) and Orlando’s Caleb Houstan (#32 overall).

Eason, a 6-8 LSU forward, has the kind of long build that could make him an elite defensive wing. His 3-point shooting, however, is going to take a lot of work to make him a true 3-and-D player, and he’s done a lot of extra work on offense in this game that he won’t be doing in action in regular season.

Houstan, a former Michigan five-star freshman who struggled as a rookie and fell in the first round, is a very intriguing prospect. He finished with 20 points on 5-for-9 3-point shooting in 28 minutes. The 6-foot-8 Houstan is the kind of tall, athletic forward who could be a real find for Orlando if he becomes the player he was meant to be before his only college season. –Tim Bontemps


Ivey and Duren shine for the Pistons

The Detroit Pistons emerged from the NBA draft last month feeling like big winners after adding a pair of lottery picks – No. 5 overall pick Ivey and No. 13 overall pick Jalen Duren – to a budding young core centered around Cade Cunningham, last year’s best overall selection. Pistons and Cunningham fans, who watched from the sidelines, got their first glimpse of the duo in Thursday’s opener against the Portland Trail Blazers – in the first game of the game.

On the game’s first possession, Ivey alley-ooped to the basket for Duren, who finished a two-handed dunk with authority.

Ivey scored a team-high 20 points with 6 rebounds and 6 assists while showcasing the athletic traits he brings to a Pistons backcourt that has a chance to be dynamic. Ivey got past the defenders with a quick first step and headed for the basket like a runaway train. However, his Summer League debut was still a bit erratic, especially during the first half as he tried to adapt to the speed of the match. He made errant passes and ill-advised decisions that led to five turnovers and five fouls.

Duren, meanwhile, had waited all week for the nightly draft that brought him to Detroit to become official, and he was officially added to the roster the morning before Game 1. Although the team kept him on a minutes restriction which limited him to 12 minutes, he made the most of his time on the pitch. Duren, who won’t be 19 until November, finished with nine points, a rebound and a pair of blocks. His height and vertical ability were so imposing that he seemed far from the youngest player in last month’s draft.

There will certainly be growing pains with both rookies, but their debuts provided enough reason to remain optimistic about the future in Detroit. –Jamal Necklace


Mathurin leads all Pistons scorers

Bennedict Mathurin, the Indiana Pacers’ highest draft pick (No. 6) since Rik Smits in 1988, played the role in his first summer appearance on Friday against the Charlotte Hornets. Mathurin led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, knocking down three 3-pointers.

Mathurin’s ability to shoot NBA 3 is the foundation of his game entering the league. Opponents should respect Mathurin who could shoot the dribble – one of his three marks was off the dribble in transition – which improves his ability to create space as a driver. Mathurin took advantage of this piece to land pull-ups with an equally fluid stroke.

I would like to see Mathurin develop his plan to attack the hard fences. He dribbled after one for a pull-up midrange attempt, the once-dominant strategy in the NBA that has now fallen out of favor with a sidestep or reset in a dribble for an open 3-pointer. . Mathurin’s athletic repertoire also includes fence-driving ability and jumping ability which saw him finish off a backboard transition lob of 2021 Indiana first-round pick Chris Duarte with a powerful dunk.

On the defensive side of the pitch, Mathurin’s strong fame helps him as a defender of the ball. He could handle being more defensively active off the ball.

On the other side, Hornets center Mark Williams faced a learning curve in his debut. Without a strong pick-and-roll point guard to set him up like he will have with LaMelo Ball during the regular season, Williams frequently caught the ball mid-paint and struggled to finish. Williams, who shot 72% in the 2021-22 season at Duke, was 2 of 8 from the field. He contributed eight rebounds and a pair of blocks during that span. –Kevin Pelton


Agbaji should give Cleveland fans hope for the future

Cleveland’s Ochai Agbaji scored 16 points in his encouraging summer league debut, but it’s how he did it that should excite Cavs fans the most. Twelve of Agbaji’s 16 points came from beyond the arc, and he proved to the NBA world that he could not only knock down catch-and-shoot 3s, but also create his own looks in depth, as he hit that NBA-ready step back at the start of the first.

Abgaji looked confident on his debut, and he has good reason for that – he arrived in Vegas with one of the best resumes of any rookie in his class. The 22-year-old shooter not only helped the Kansas Jayhawks win the NCAA title in April, but he was also named a First-Team All-American and Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Those accomplishments owe a lot to the simple fact that this rookie played a ton of college hoops — he was the only senior drafted in the first round this season and the oldest lottery pick in this year’s draft.

Still, the Cavs hope Agbaji’s best days are still ahead of him and he can help this group improve their offensive efficiency. Last season, the Cavs ranked fifth in the league on defense but only 20th on offense, thanks in part to a lackluster outing from beyond the arc.

Agbaji has the potential to become an elite 3-point scorer, and his debut has only backed up that claim. He took nine 3s in his first game as a pro, making four of them. If he can add some perimeter strength to this Cavs core that already includes Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland’s future is only getting brighter. — Kirk Golden Berry