The 2013 NBA Summer League has provided numerous players with the opportunity of a lifetime to step up and prove their upside as NBA players. While some have produced in the manner expected, others have taken Las Vegas by surprise.
The question is, Who have been the best breakout stars this summer?
This isn't to honor the players who we expected to see shine, as draft lottery picks and NBA players with growing reputations are bound to discover some form of success. The following players have instead defied the odds and surprised us with their standout performances.
Some may even carry their success over into the NBA.
5. Josh Akognon, Dallas Mavericks
Position: Point Guard
Summer League Averages: 26.4 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 36.8% 3PT
If you're not a diehard—and we mean diehard—college basketball fan, you're probably looking at this name and going, "Who?"
For those who do remember, Akognon transferred from Washington State to Cal State Fullerton and went on to win the 2009 Big West Player of the Year award.
Four years later, he's been dominating the Las Vegas Summer League.
Prior to Dallas' disappointing elimination game, Akognon was averaging 20.5 points and 1.5 steals in 25.8 minutes of action. In that time, he has posted a slash line of .490/.419/.950, displaying his uncanny ability to get to the basketball and score.
Most impressively, he's made at least three three-point field goals in each of his Las Vegas Summer League games and has committed only two turnovers.
Akognon has spent the past four seasons playing around the world, including in China, Estonia and the NBA D-League. Regardless of where he has gone, Akognon has been an elite-level scorer, overcoming his 5'11" stature to come up with big plays.
Keep in mind that this is the same player who dominated Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy by scoring 27 points and hitting the game-winning jumper when Washington State upset Washington in 2006. How's that for having a good memory?
Whether or not this will earn Akognon an NBA contract is uncertain, but he did spend three games with the Dallas Mavericks towards the end of the 2012-13 regular season. With his top-tier production in Summer League play, it's not improbable to imagine Akognon receiving an invite to training camp.
Until then, enjoy his offensive arsenal. It has been a pleasure to watch.
4. Jack Cooley, Memphis Grizzlies
Summer League Averages: 30.0 MPG, 15.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 54.8% FG
A case could be made that undrafted rookie Jack Cooley has been the best big man in the 2013 NBA Summer League. Not only is the All-Big East selection pounding it inside and crashing the boards, but he's also displaying three-point range.
All in all, Cooley is displaying a legitimate NBA upside.
Thus far, Cooley is averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds on 52.0 percent shooting from the floor. Over the course of his past four games, Cooley is averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in taking his game to an entirely new level.
For a Memphis Grizzlies team that has built its franchise through its interior, Cooley appears to have a legitimate NBA future.
Cooley was viewed as a player who was all power with little finesse, but during Summer League play, he has proven those evaluations wrong. Not only has he been comfortable in stepping out for jump shots, but he's been able to score out of the post as well.
There are players with bigger names, but no interior player—no matter where you look—has been this consistently effective. With contracts on the line, Cooley couldn't have picked a better time to shine.
With the proper development, Cooley could be a rotational big man at the next level.
3. Kent Bazemore, Golden State Warriors
Position: Shooting Guard
Summer League Averages: 29.8 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.5 SPG
When you're known more for your celebrations on the sidelines than your play on the court, something needs to change. This summer, Kent Bazemore has taken it upon himself to be more than a towel-swinging player-turned-fan and has dominated in Las Vegas.
And we mean dominated.
Bazemore has led the Golden State Warriors to an undefeated record and the top seed in the Las Vegas Summer League championship tournament. From his scoring to his surprisingly efficient facilitating and dominant defense, Bazemore has done it all.
Most recently, he scored 25 points to bring Golden State back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and advance to the quarterfinals.
Bazemore won the 2011 Lefty Driesell Award, handed out to the best defensive player in college basketball. For a Warriors team that is in dire need of a defensive presence, Bazemore certainly has a place on its roster.
If he keeps playing like this, it'll be hard for them to keep him on the sidelines.
2. Andrew Goudelock, Chicago Bulls
Summer League Averages: 29.3 MPG, 18.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 50.0% 3PT
Andrew Goudelock has been successful at every level that he's played at during his young career. That's not a hyperbolic statement, but one with validity.
Now, Goudelock is continuing that trend at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League.
Goudelock was the 2011 Southern Conference Player of the Year as a senior at the College of Charleston. In 2013, he was the NBA D-League MVP after dominating on the court with both the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
After being called up for just one regular season game, Goudelock averaged 12.0 points in 26.7 minutes in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
During his time in the Summer League, Goudelock has used his gorgeous floater and lethal three-point shootings to dominate the opposition. While he closed out the summer in a less-than-ideal manner, we saw two of the best performances of the season from the scoring guard.
That included a 31-point outing in which he was 10-of-13 from the field, 5-of-6 from three-point range and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Goudelock can score, and when it comes to his prospects as an NBA player, that's what will make him his money. Teams may have been hesitant in the past, but after a full calendar year of top-tier production, it's becoming clear that Goudelock has a place in the NBA.
A team needing a sharpshooter will be monitoring Goudelock for the remainder of the summer.
1. Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats
Summer League Averages: 31.3 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.8 SPG, 36.8% 3PT
With Andrew Goudelock slowing down and Jeffery Taylor maintaining his pace, the Las Vegas Summer League MVP award appears to be headed to Charlotte. Not only has Taylor been an extraordinary scorer, but he has also dominated as a scorer.
Thus far, Taylor is averaging a Summer League-best 20.3 points per game.
Taylor has been a consistent source of offense, shooting the three-ball with efficiency and attacking the rim with relentless pursuit. Finally understanding how to use his top-tier athleticism, Taylor has been exploding across the gym for vicious dunks and forcing turnovers at will.
That's exactly why the Charlotte Bobcats drafted him in 2012.
Taylor was the No. 31 overall draft choice in 2012, sliding out of the first round after most had him pegged in the 20-to-30 range. While his skills remain relatively unpolished, he's your quintessential three-and-D player with an extra twist of having elite athleticism.
Taylor has proven how far a little hard work can take a player this summer.