The Five Teams You’ll Want To Watch At Las Vegas Summer League

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Summer League can be a bit hit or miss when it comes to star power, as it’s not always a guarantee that top picks will participate, but this year’s rosters seem to house more potential rotation players than in seasons past — both incoming rookies and more established young players. So many players who could be future stars or factor in prominently to a team’s 2022-23 success seem like they’ll be gracing the hardwood in Nevada.

Analyzing the results of Summer League is always a precarious endeavor, yet the intrigue surrounding a handful of rosters is rather enticing. The vibes will always reign supreme during Sin City’s mid-summer tournament, of course. Nonetheless, let’s hit on some rosters that should be a delight to watch bound up and down the hardwoods of Thomas & Mack and Cox Pavilion later this week.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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The Thunder are an essential inclusion to this list. The No. 2 overall pick, Chet Holmgren, will suit up. Fellow top-20 picks of prior years in Josh Giddey and Aleskej Pokusevski are slated to appear in the Utah portion of Oklahoma City’s Summer League runs. Other alluring young dudes like Aaron Wiggins, Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl are on the roster.

Joining Holmgren as members of the Thunder’s 2022 Draft class are Jaylin Williams, Jalen Williams (cue the Spiderman meme) and Ousmane Dieng, who will take the court alongside the domineering 7-footer. Oklahoma City is entering Year 3 of its rebuild without much clarity of its core beyond Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, and (almost assuredly) Holmgren.

Summer League won’t answer those questions necessarily, yet a smattering of contenders to entrench themselves in that core will be present in Vegas to try and lay the initial groundwork for that possibility. Plus, these dudes are just fun to watch hoop and joy is integral to the Vegas experience.

San Antonio Spurs

Over the past 11 months, San Antonio has dealt away DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, a trio of players whose contributions were essential to the Spurs making playoff and play-in appearances. Entering 2022-23, a true rebuilding season seems to be in the cards after two decades of competitiveness and championships.

Among those who the Spurs look to be leaning on to shepherd a new era of prosperity are Josh Primo, Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley, a quartet of youngsters who were selected in the top 25 of the past two drafts. All of them will don the San Antonio black and silver at Summer League.

Primo, Branham, and Wesley are all shot creators, while Sochan is a defensive-minded forward with offensive questions. Getting a glimpse of how the 2022 draftees translate to an NBA-adjacent environment and seeing how Primo applies the lessons of his rookie season should be a treat. It’s rare to bank on prospects to hammer home the Spurs’ appeal, but that’s precisely the case for this next season and starts in Vegas.

Golden State Warriors

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With the departures of Otto Porter Jr., Gary Payton II, Nemanja Bjelica, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Damion Lee this summer, Golden State’s veteran depth suffered a substantial hit over the past week. While Lee and Toscano-Anderson were not mainstays in the playoff rotation, the other three all saw key minutes in the Finals (especially Porter and Payton) and helped propel the Warriors to their fourth title in eight seasons.

To replace those services, Golden State will likely lean on its trio of lottery picks in Moses Moody, James Wiseman, and Jonathan Kuminga. Moody and Kuminga saw spot minutes throughout the playoffs last year and their rookie seasons were fairly encouraging. Wiseman’s 2020-21 rookie year was tumultuous, though filled with flashes of promise to maintain the optimism of his proponents.

They are all scheduled to play together in Vegas and begin their efforts to make good on the faith the Warriors are extending them. For Wiseman, it’ll be his first NBA action since early April 2021. Golden State nabbed him second overall in 2020 and deems him a pillar of its future. Moody and Kuminga are reportedly thought fondly of within the organization as well. Watching them connect and aim to bring the Warriors their second title in as many months could be quite the show.

Detroit Pistons

So, I’m not sure if Detroit knows this is Summer League, not the regular season? The Pistons are sending virtually their entire core to Vegas. Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee, Isaiah Livers, and Jaden Ivey are all on the roster. Once the trade that renders Jalen Duren a Piston finalizes, I’d imagine he’ll be there too.

To be clear: I don’t have any issue with Detroit bringing everyone to Sin City; the freedom Summer League grants players can be a worthwhile breeding ground for important experimentation. It’s merely funny for Cunningham, Stewart, and Bey to be there, given they’ve established some reasonable footing in the NBA, especially Cunningham, who was a Rookie of the Year finalist three months ago and is soon to be a star.

Their inclusion is our gain, though. Cunningham, Stewart, and Bey might resemble the ‘96 Bulls in Las Vegas. Ivey’s electric nature will light up the gym. Predicting the Summer League champions is a futile game, but Detroit hoisting that trophy would not be a surprise. Although, I’d be shocked if Cunningham plays more than a couple games. Even so, this roster is loaded.

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland’s quintet of Damian Lillard, Josh Hart, Anfernee Simons, Jerami Grant, and Jusuf Nurkic is pretty dang good. Its depth, however, raises eyebrows. Maybe, some combination of Nassir Little, Eric Bledsoe, and Justise Winslow offer consistency. The upside play rests in its youth, though.

Greg Brown III, Shaedon Sharpe, Keon Johnson, Brandon Williams, Jabari Walker, Trendon Watford, and Didi Louzada all carry some level of fascination that could help them wiggle into the Blazers’ nightly rotation and supplement their top five.

While the Lillard-Hart-Simons-Grant-Nurkic grouping is good, it’s certainly not enough to guarantee anything in a deep, daunting Western Conference. The chance of actualizing a playoff series victory necessitates a leap or surprise from these young dudes — Simons included. Everyone aside from Simons will take the court in Vegas and kick off their 2022-23 seasons, one that looms large for Portland.

Assuming Lillard is back to proper health, he could regain his superstar title. Pairing that talent with postseason success cannot stem from him alone. He needs reinforcements. Portland’s Summer League roster may not headline those reinforcements. Regardless, they undoubtedly have a chance to be part of them.

Source: https://uproxx.com/dimemag/summer-league-five-teams-to-watch-las-vegas-thunder-spurs-warriors-pistons-blazers/

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