NBA rookies and sophomore players to watch, best games

The 2022-23 NBA season is still three months away, but over the next 10 days NBA fans will get a first look at the players who were recently drafted and how they fit into the team. There have already been two Summer League stops in California and Utah, but all 30 teams will be in Las Vegas for the tournament, which begins Thursday night. The Sacramento Kings won the whole thing last year, and they will be a team to watch after drafting Iowa forward Keegan Murray with the No. 4 pick over Jaden Ivey.

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re going to the Las Vegas Summer League.

Place: Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion (UNLV) in Las Vegas

dates: July 7-17

Where to watch: All games will be broadcast on ESPN networks and NBATV

Top rookies to watch

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder

In his Summer League debut in Salt Lake City, Holmgren scored 23 points, six blocks (an SLC Summer League record), four assists and seven rebounds† He made an early statement and all eyes are on Holmgren in Vegas as he faces tougher competition. There are glimpses of strong team chemistry forming with Josh Giddey and Holmgren in the pick and pop and Holmgren running the track in transition. There are still critics who doubt Holmgren’s game can translate to the NBA with his 7-foot, 195-pound frame, but he has proven that he can play every step of his career at an elite level and many will be tuned. to see if he can do the same in Las Vegas.

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

Banchero was the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draw and there is always extra pressure to perform right away, especially in the first few games of Summer League. The 6-foot-10 forward is comfortable with the ball in his hands and is always looking to run off the floor from a missed shot. Banchero will not be playing alongside the same backcourt as he has been during the season, with Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz all absent, but expect him to be the primary ball handler in transition and the all-rounder for the Magic in Las Vegas.

Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

Smith Jr. came out on top in the draft, taking down 42% of his three-pointers at Auburn last year. The Rockets shot just 35% from deep last season and were able to put his six foot tall in the lane alongside Alperen Sengun and Kenyon Martin Jr. Smith Jr. choose No. 3 when many thought he was the consensus No. 1.

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Ivey made it very clear that he didn’t want to go to Sacramento, who had the No. 4 pick, and was thrilled to join Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons after being selected fifth overall. Ivey is the best guard in this class and had a glimpse of Ja Morant during his sophomore season with Purdue. Both Cunningham and Killian Hayes are listed on the Summer League roster in what will be the most exciting backcourt to watch in Vegas.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers

Sharpe went No. 7 to the Trail Blazers and was the biggest mystery in the design. He did not play a single game in Kentucky after joining the team in January. Despite his spare time, Sharpe is still a dynamic shooting guard who likes to play above the rim and is a consistent shooter from behind the bow. Sharpe was able to surprise many people and show fans why he was the number 1 player to come out of high school.

best games

Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic

Thursday, July 7, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This is the first match of the 10-day tournament and it features the No. 1 overall pick, Banchero, vs. No. 3 Pick, Smith Jr. Leading up to the draft, Smith Jr. considered the consensus No. 1 pick and when the Magic selected Banchero, it surprised even Banchero.

“I feel like I’m a great player and people will expect a lot from me,” Banchero told Yahoo Sports on draft night. “It’s always been that way, so it’s nothing I’m not used to. I just let the game come to me. That’s what I’ve been doing all my life, so I’m not going to change anything.”

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Detroit Pistons

Friday, July 8, midnight ET (ESPN)

Sharpe has not played a game since October last year and he will have a lot to prove in his first game. There’s no better test or matchup to kick off his NBA career than taking on No. 5 Ivey. The Purdue 6-foot-4 shooting guard was the best guard in this draft class. Both players love to go out in transition and finish above the rim and there will be no shortage of impressive dunks and finishes in this game.

Orlando Magic vs. Sacramento Kings

Saturday, July 9, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This will not be a direct showdown with number 1 pick Banchero vs. number 4 pick Murray, but it gives Murray a chance to continue to prove why he deserved to be a top five pick. On his Summer League debut in California, Murray hit 26 points (10-for-14 from the field) and added eight rebounds. Last season, in his sophomore year at Iowa, Murray led the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 23.5 points per game.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets

Saturday, July 9, 8:00 PM ET (ESPN2)

Whenever one of the big three from the draft – Banchero, Holmgren, Smith Jr. – enter the field and play, the people will be tuned. When two of the three break up, the arena will be full. Holmgren and Smith Jr. haven’t played against each other since the fall of their senior year of high school and both of their games capitalize on the NBA floor space.

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Saturday, July 9, 10pm ET (ESPN2)

This will be a second look at Sharpe and he will face the eighth pick in the draft, Dyson Daniels. Daniels played one season in the G League for the G League Ignite and grew two inches from the start of the season, and now stands as a 6-foot-8 combo guard. Daniels is a great secondary ball handler off the wing and reads the defense well from the pick and roll option. Every time Sharpe takes the field, fans and NBA staff alike will check to see if he’s consistent and worth the hype of a top-10 pick that hasn’t played for nine months.

Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Monday, July 11: 9:00 PM ET (ESPN)

Number 1 vs. number 2 choice. Chet vs. Paolo, round 2. The first match-up was in Las Vegas in November to a sold-out crowd, and Banchero emerged as the brighter prospect on the pitch, setting up 21 points in the win. Banchero has the size advantage and Holmgren is the better rim protector. Both players have a miss-shot grab-and-go style and can shoot the three in the pick-and-pop. This is arguably the best match and best match-up of the tournament.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren leads the field against the Memphis Grizzlies during a Salt Lake City Summer League game on July 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren leads the field against the Memphis Grizzlies during a Salt Lake City Summer League game on July 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)

Second and third year players to watch

Last year it was Tyrese Maxey who emerged in the Summer League and dominated the competition, with just two games and an average of 26 points per game. He became a breakthrough star in the 2021-22 season, scoring 17.5 points and 4.3 assists in 35 minutes per game. Below are a few players to watch early (returning players on the roster rarely play after the first weekend) who could play a bigger role on the team this coming season.

Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets

Thomas was a star in last year’s Summer League, seeing sporadic minutes spent with the Nets throughout the season. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving most likely leaving Brooklynthe opportunity for a bigger role is available and Thomas could be that man to step in and out in his sophomore year.

Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, Golden State Warriors

This duo were lottery picks last season and were NBA champions at the ages of 19 and 20. There were glimpses of Moody’s outdoor shots during the season and Warriors fans got a taste of what Kuminga could bring offensively off the wing. With Gary Payton II gone, both Kuminga and Moody could play a bigger role next season. When you enter the Summer League with an NBA title in your pocket, you can expect both players to play with a lot of confidence.

Josh Primo, San Antonio Spurs

Primo was the 12th pick in the 2021 NBA draft and the Spurs put him in the G League to work on his development last season. This could be Primo’s breakthrough year and this Summer League Spurs team is going to be fun to watch with Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley making their NBA debuts.

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