(Photo: Rik Ster)
With the NBA Summer League having now concluded, it’s time to take a look at some of the players who stood out in Las Vegas, due to their improvements.
(In previous posts, we covered New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley, Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard, Houston Rockets center Alperen Şengün, Brooklyn Nets guard Cameron Thomas and Chicago Bulls forward Patrick Williams.)
Davion Mitchell – Guard, Sacramento Kings
The overwhelming majority of NBA rookies come into the league as bad defenders. It’s not their fault, as the leap from college basketball to the professional ranks is quite severe. Not only are players older and more seasoned, they’re also bigger, quicker and have more tools in their offensive bag.
However, Mitchell seems likely to buck that trend. Not only is the 6’2 rookie guard athletically proven and has great speed and lateral movement to his advantage, but he also has a mentality that you won’t find in most NBA players, even if they are well-established.
Mitchell absolutely hounds his opponents, the most shining example of which came in the Summer League Championship game. Mitchell completely shut down yesterday’s blog subject, Payton Pritchard, forcing the guard into a woeful 3-for-9 shooting night.
The Kings comfortably won the Summer League Championship by outscoring Boston with 33 points.
Tyrese Maxey – Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
Where you’re an NBA scout or college recruiter, one of the primary skills people look for in a player is shooting. Maxey is the type of player who routinely goes overlooked due to his lack of elite floor-spacing. But underestimate him on your own accord.
Despite not being a high-efficiency three-point shooter, Maxey has a high motor and a passion for the game that all young players should be forced to watch. The 20-year-old, who spent his first season as a back-up with the Sixers, is a speedy guard who will constantly find holes in the defense and drive the ball down the throats of opponents.
Maxey’s intensity, and seemingly unlimited energy, allows him to play beyond his means. While skilled, it’s clear Maxey is determined to maximize every ounce of the potential he’s got in his tank by outworking everyone around him. If that means sprinting to a loose ball, chasing down an opponent in transition or playing high-intensity “deny defense”, that’s what he will do.
Maxey’s aggressive nature did result in a 26-point scoring average over two games in Summer League, and the Sixers hope he will take a leap in production during his second season.
Paul Reed – Forward, Philadelphia 76ers
We’re staying with the Sixers, where forward Paul Reed keeps piling up numbers. Over five games, Reed averaged 17.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 2.2 blocks per game. Those numbers are obviously impressive, but even more optimistic is his 37.5% from three-point range and 82.4% clip from the free throw line, even if both were small sample sizes.
Reed is an energetic big forward who can run, jump, block shots, rebound and ultimately be a bit of a hustle player. But if he has added a reliable offensive game to his high energy level, it should accelerate his chances of getting more minutes during the regular season.
Affectionately known as “B-Ball Paul” by the Philadelphia fan base, Reed has long been a player Sixers hopefuls wanted to see get a chance on the bigger stage. If his play during Summer League was a sign of what’s to come, it will be difficult for head coach Doc Rivers to not use him when the Sixers go to their second unit.
Further noteworthy is how much space Reed covers defensively in a small period of time. He understands how to leverage his length and athleticism in a way that makes him a constant threat to stop the ball. On several occasions during Summer League, opponents would offensively try to keep the ball away from the areas where he defended, knowing full-well how quickly Reed can force turnovers, which leads to quick scores on the other end of the floor.
What can we take away from Summer League?
It needs to be mentioned right off the bat that success in Summer League is no lock to carry over and into the regular season. There are countless variables that factor into a player getting minutes, whether or not he can function in his role, and of course who his teammates are. These players represent a crop of rookies and second-year players who have identified key areas on how to establish themselves more thoroughly on the next level.
But playing well in Summer League can work as a positive jumping-off point. There are roughly two months until NBA training camp opens, which gives players time to further develop and sharpen their game. Using the success of Summer League, or the disappointment of it, as motivation for continued progress will always be in any player’s best interest.