LEXINGTON, Ky. – The NBA’s Summer League, while not exactly great competition and largely irrelevant in the big picture, is at least a fun first look at the rookies and a peek at the progress of some second- and third-year guys.
We enlisted NBA.com and NBA TV analyst Scott Howard-Cooper to break down six former Kentucky stars – three each from the 2015 and 2016 drafts – who stood out during this year’s Summer League action.
Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Draft: No. 7 overall pick in 2016
Summer League stats: 5 games, 29.6 minutes, 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.8 turnovers, 0.8 steals, 42.5% FG, 27.6% 3-pointers, 88.9% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “It was a little disappointing to not see him get more time with Emmanuel Mudiay, because that’s obviously one of the big questions moving forward: How are things going to fit in the backcourt in Denver? They weren’t able to get a long look at that, but otherwise he played a lot of minutes himself and had a big finish with the scoring, which was encouraging. Didn’t shoot the ball really well, especially from the 3-point line, but I’m one who tends to throw out a lot of stats that you see in Summer League.
“Karl-Anthony Towns (Rookie of the Year) shot about 39 percent last year in Summer League, so that’s a valuable perspective. But I think Jamal has a very bright future, and it’s just a matter of the Nuggets sort of sorting through the backcourt with him, Mudiay and Gary Harris and figuring out how to get time for everybody and how they play together.”
Skal Labissiere (Sacramento Kings)
Draft: No. 28 overall pick in 2016
Summer League stats: 5 games, 24.2 minutes, 11.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 2.4 turnovers, 2.4 fouls, 45.8% FG, 75% 3-pointers (3 of 4), 57.1% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “I thought it was really promising the way he battled. He stayed inside and hung in there against a lot of guys who are older and bigger and stronger. Obviously, anybody who knocks the level of competition in the Summer League is pretty accurate – this is not to be confused with an NBA All-Star Game – but there still are some guys there who are in their second year and third year and beyond. Skal is obviously pretty far behind in that learning curve, but he had some games where I thought he did really well rebounding-wise – had a couple games where he blocked some shots, too – so that’s what jumped out to me.
“I think he’s going to be getting to know a lot of the D-League arenas this year; he’s going to be spending a lot of time in the minors, but he’s a terrific pick that late. He’s definitely worth the investment and the time to get bigger and stronger. And coaching is important for every rookie, but especially somebody like Skal, who just does not have a great feel for the game sometimes.”
Tyler Ulis (Phoenix Suns)
Draft: No. 34 overall pick in 2016
Summer League stats: 6 games, 32.2 minutes, 14.5 points, 6.3 assists, 2.8 steals, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 turnovers, 41.2% FG, 31.3% 3-pointers, 75.0% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “I wrote at the end of the Summer League that this was exactly like Tyler Ulis at Kentucky. He wanted the big moments, he played like somebody who has a lot of experience, he played under control. I think that Tyler had the best Summer League of any rookie – and that includes Vegas, Orlando and Salt Lake City. He was terrific.
“To have so few turnovers would’ve been encouraging, that assist-to-turnover ratio, but especially in that kind of setting. These guys have not had much practice time together. High turnover numbers are pretty common for guys who have their hands on the ball a lot, because things just get ragged. It’s not much beyond a pick-up game in some cases in those first Summer League games. But he put the ball in the right places and made big shots, scored at a nice rate. That’s obviously going to change in the regular season, but it was a very, very encouraging first few steps for Tyler.”
Trey Lyles (Utah Jazz)
Draft: No. 12 overall in 2015
Summer League stats: 5 games, 32.0 minutes, 23.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 3.4 turnovers, 39.0% FG, 47.0% 3-pointers, 89.4% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “Scored, didn’t shoot the ball well, but played inside and out. It was a little bit of a different role for him than when he’s with the Jazz, because he didn’t have to worry about (power forward) Derrick Favors or (center) Rudy Gobert. So he used a lot of the court, averaged about 24 points a game. He was really good, one of the best players in any of the summer leagues.”
Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Draft: No. 13 overall pick in 2015
Summer League stats: 2 games, 33.5 minutes, 26.0 points, 6.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 turnovers, 47.4% FG, 60.0% 3-pointers, 66.7% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “Everybody knows Devin’s reputation as a shooter, but one of the things you saw from Summer League that was really interesting was a continuation of what he showed as a rookie: he’s getting the ball to other people; he’s not just a guy who’s going to want the ball and be a spot-up shooter.
“It stands out, because in Summer League you think that’s a time when guys like Devin just want to put up huge numbers. He’s coming off a promising rookie season and he’s better than most everybody out there, so he might be thinking, ‘Ah, I can go for 25 in my sleep.’ But he was terrific at getting other people involved, and I think that’s a facet of his game more people are going to notice moving forward.”
Dakari Johnson (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Draft: No. 48 overall pick in 2015
Summer League stats: 5 games, 25.6 minutes, 11.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks, 3.2 turnovers, 44.2% FG, 54.1% FT.
Howard-Cooper says: “Dakari was good, especially the way he rebounded the ball. He’s able to make an impact in that way. I think he definitely still has an NBA future (after a rookie year in the D-League). I wouldn’t say he’s definitely going to play in a rotation this year, but there’s no question you can see it’s worth the patience.
“He got to the line a lot, which I thought was real encouraging. I saw a lot of misses, and that’s not encouraging, but the fact that he’s getting to the line and being aggressive with the ball is a good sign. Along those lines, one thing I noticed is here’s a guy that’s playing inside and wants to play physical, but he didn’t have foul trouble. He was in there playing physical without fouling.
“That’s a good sign of a guy that’s playing the right way. He’s getting rebounds because of position and hustle and having learned that much more from his year in the D-League. Because of the transition in OKC, he’s got a chance to be part of the future there. And if not, if the Thunder don’t keep him, there would definitely be other teams out there that would have an interest.”
OTHER CATS IN SUMMER LEAGUE
Aaron Harrison (Charlotte Hornets): 4 games, 34.0 minutes, 14.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 4.2 turnovers, 30.8% FG, 19.0% 3-pointers, 77.7% FT.
Andrew Harrison (Memphis Grizzlies): 5 games, 26.8 minutes, 13.6 points, 4.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 3.8 turnovers, 23.0% FG, 15.0% 3-pointers, 84.1% FT.
Marquis Teague (Dallas Mavericks): 5 games, 20.4 minutes, 10.6 points, 3.6 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 45.5% FG, 50.0% 3-pointers, 56.3% FT.
Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings): 4 games, 23.8 minutes, 7.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 25.7% FG, 57.9% FT.
DeAndre Liggins (Cleveland Cavaliers): 7 games, 25.3 minutes, 5.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 50.0% FG, 45.5% 3-pointers, 80.0% FT.
James Young (Boston Celtics): 6 games. 20.5 minutes, 7.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 32.8% FG, 43.4% 3-pointers, 79.2% FT.
Alex Poythress (Orlando Magic): 5 games, 10.6 minutes, 5.0 points, 1.4 rebounds.
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.