Power Ranking Every NBA Summer League Starting 5
Between the NBA draft, the league's inaugural awards show and the impending kerfuffle around free agency, you might've forgotten there's still some actual basketball to be played in the Association. Come July 1, balls will be bouncing in Orlando, followed by a small gathering in Salt Lake City starting July 3 and finishing with the main event in Las Vegas beginning July 7.
Granted, the basketball on display won't look anything like the master class put on by the Golden State Warriors. Heck, we'd all be lucky if the annual consortium of rookies, sophomores, international imports and hopeful hangers-on so much as resembled the regular-season frenetics of the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers.
But outside of retirees playing half-court ball in Ice Cube's Big3, the return of The Basketball Tournament and local leagues from coast to coast, this is the closest we'll get to bona fide NBA basketball until October. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Not that summer-league ball is bound to be a bust entirely. Some squads will be stacked with the stars of tomorrow, however far they may be from reaching those heights. Others could put together impressive runs by virtue of having experienced pros, even if they lack much in the way of hallowed upside.
To prepare for what's left of the Association before the fall, let's rank the possible starting lineups of all 30 organizations, based on a combination of potential summer-league success and NBA impact down the line.
30. Washington Wizards
Point Guard: Maalik Wayns
Shooting Guard: Sheldon Mac
Small Forward: Kris Jenkins
Power Forward: Chris McCullough
Center: Daniel Ochefu
No one will soon mistake Maalik Wayns and Sheldon Mac for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Nor should anyone in D.C. expect the Washington Wizards' summer-league squad to suddenly sprout blue-chippers in the absence of any 2017 draft picks.
Chris McCullough, with his 6'9" frame and solid outside stroke, is the one Wizard who looks like a potential player down the line. But if he couldn't cut it with the Brooklyn Nets while they were searching high and low for help, what hope is there for him with a playoff contender in the Beltway?
The good news: If Washington can keep things close down the stretch of its games in Las Vegas, it can always put the ball in the hands of Kris Jenkins and pray the Villanova product can keep knocking down buzzer-beaters like the one he nailed during the 2016 national championship game.
29. New Orleans Pelicans
Point Guard: Quinn Cook
Shooting Guard: Frank Jackson
Small Forward: Axel Toupane
Power Forward: Royce O'Neale
Center: Cheick Diallo
The New Orleans Pelicans' lack of a first-round pick, let alone an elite prospect, won't make their summer-league squad any less important within the purview of the franchise's future. In the absence of any meaningful cap space this summer, with or without Jrue Holiday's return, the Pelicans will have to get creative about finding talent with which to surround Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Quinn Cook could be useful to that end. The Duke product hit 6-of-12 threes and logged nearly three times as many assists (14) as turnovers (five) during his nine-game stint in the Crescent City. Frank Jackson can fill in at either backcourt spot, with a solid outside stroke (39.5 percent from three at Duke) to boot.
Axel Toupane, another late addition to New Orleans' roster last season, could develop into a workable two-way wing. Royce O'Neale and Cheick Diallo both bring slighter builds to the Pelicans' burley frontcourt.
In truth, this roster isn't likely to yield the kinds of impact players the Pels so desperately need. That could be clear long before the team leaves Las Vegas—if not prior to its arrival at McCarran International Airport.
28. Los Angeles Clippers
Point Guard: Jawun Evans
Shooting Guard: Sindarius Thornwell
Small Forward: James Bell
Power Forward: Brice Johnson
Center: Diamond Stone
Not that Brendan O'Connor won't have some interesting youngsters to evaluate. Jawun Evans, whose draft rights the Clippers bought from the Philadelphia 76ers, has some CP3-ish traits about his frame (6'1", 177 lbs) and game. Sindarius Thornwell, L.A.'s other 2017 second-round purchase, can get buckets—a type for these Clippers, who still have Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers and now Lou Williams in their backcourt.
With Paul off to Houston, these two could figure prominently into the team's plans.
The same applies for Brice Johnson and Diamond Stone if Griffin bails. Johnson, a late first-rounder, missed most of his rookie campaign with a back injury suffered during the 2016 preseason. Stone, a second-round selection last year, played sparingly in the D-League and even less with the Clippers.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
Point Guard: Kay Felder
Shooting Guard: Andrew White
Small Forward: Casey Prather
Power Forward: Grant Jerrett
Center: Edy Tavares
The Cleveland Cavaliers aren't teeming with young talent—which is to be expected for a maxed-out squad coming off three straight Finals appearances.
Grant Jerrett has played in just eight NBA games since going undrafted out of Arizona in 2013. Andrew White bounced from Kansas to Nebraska to Syracuse before signing with the Cavs as a free agent fresh out of college after this year's draft. Casey Prather, now entering his fourth straight summer league, has been cutting his teeth in the D-League and overseas since finishing up at Florida in 2014.
But what this group lacks on long-term potential it makes up in the ability to win games in Las Vegas.
Before Kay Felder became the unwitting subject of every LeBron James subtweet about the Cavs' need for another point guard, he was pouring in 15.3 points and 3.9 assists per game as Jordan McRae's sidekick. Edy Tavares may not have the foot speed to make a major impact in the NBA, but in summer league, his 7'3", 260-pound frame should do ample damage.
Don't be surprised if Damon Jones, Cleveland's head coach in Las Vegas, has a dark-horse contender on his hands when his team lands on UNLV's campus in July.
26. Houston Rockets
Point Guard: Ray McCallum
Shooting Guard: L.J. Peak
Small Forward: Chris Johnson
Power Forward: Cameron Oliver
Center: Zhou Qi
The Houston Rockets will bring to Las Vegas an odd mix of players who either aren't ready for the NBA or have already passed their summer-league expiration dates.
In the first bucket is Zhou Qi, a 7'2" center from China who will have to show enough all-around skill to compensate for his frail frame, and Isaiah Hartenstein, a 7'0" German-American who fell into the second round this year.
In the second, Rockets fans may see Ray McCallum, who played for three NBA teams in three years before slipping into the D-League this past season, and Chris Johnson, who's played for five NBA teams since 2012-13.
Caught between those two groups is L.J. Peak, a lockdown defender from Georgetown, and Cameron Oliver, an undrafted rookie out of Nevada. Those two could be the best bets to get any run under Mike D'Antoni in the fall, with Oliver's size and range (38.4 percent from three as a sophomore) making him an intriguing fit for the Rockets' spread pick-and-roll offense now with James Harden and Chris Paul on the roster.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Point Guard: Wade Baldwin IV
Shooting Guard: Andrew Harrison
Small Forward: Dillon Brooks
Power Forward: Jarell Martin
Center: Deyonta Davis
Age-wise, Dillon Brooks (21) would fit right in with a Grizzlies group that features Wade Baldwin IV (21), Andrew Harrison (22), Jarell Martin (24) and Deyonta Davis (20). Attitude-wise, the same confidence and bravado that made Brooks a standout at Oregon could serve him well alongside a slew of players who've already logged time in Memphis.
Skill-wise, the Grizzlies could use someone of Brooks' ability, be it in summer league or at the highest level. The 6'7" Canadian is a bona fide bucket man (14.8 points per game in college), won't shy away from shots in big moments and improved his outside stroke enough (40.1 percent from three as a junior) to suggest he may develop into a long-range threat.
Memphis might need someone of Brooks' skill and will, depending on how Chandler Parsons' recovery and Tony Allen's free agency shake out. In the meantime, the Grizzlies will get to see how the 45th pick in the draft fares alongside guys who could be slated for significant roles in head coach David Fizdale's rotation.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
Point Guard: Jack Gibbs
Shooting Guard: Charles Cooke
Small Forward: V.J. Beachem
Power Forward: Perry Ellis
Center: Justin Patton
For the first time in what feels like ages, the Minnesota Timberwolves will head to Las Vegas without a can't-miss prospect in tow.
Of course, there's good reason for that. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have both graduated from summer-league duty. Whoever else Minnesota might've sent to Sin City (i.e. Kris Dunn, the No. 7 pick in this year's draft) will now be suiting up for Chicago by way of a stunning trade for Jimmy Butler.
None of this is meant as disrespect to Justin Patton. The Omaha native was so efficient during his redshirt freshman season at Creighton (12.9 points on 67.6 percent shooting) that he'll now be bringing home a guaranteed NBA paycheck.
Chances are, though, Patton will be putting in plenty of work with the G League's Iowa Wolves, alongside his summer teammates. With Towns and Gorgui Dieng entrenched up front, Patton could have a tough time carving out minutes in Minneapolis.
That is, unless he leaves such a strong impression in summer league and training camp as to force Tom Thibodeau's hand.
23. Charlotte Hornets
Point Guard: Briante Weber
Shooting Guard: Treveon Graham
Small Forward: Dwayne Bacon
Power Forward: Johnny O'Bryant III
Center: Przemek Karnowski
Hornets assistant coach Stephen Silas, who's serving as the team's head coach in Orlando, might've had a more competitive squad on his hands with the help of a healthy Malik Monk. But a sprained left ankle has already knocked him out of Charlotte's summer-league training camp and threatens to sideline him for actual games in July, per ESPN.
Instead, fans in the Queen City will await (perhaps less eagerly) the debut of Dwayne Bacon, whose rights the team acquired in a draft-day swap with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Florida State sophomore averaged 16.5 points per game during his two seasons in Tallahassee.
The rest of Charlotte's top summer leaguers may ring one bell or another. Briante Weber built up some bones as a pesky Patrick Beverley-ish defender at the point over the past two campaigns with the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors and Hornets. Treveon Graham made the most of a small sample in Charlotte this season, draining 9-of-15 three-point tries.
The Hornets could really make hay in Central Florida if they lean on their frontline. Between Johnny O'Bryant III and Przemek Karnowski, Charlotte will sport more than 530 pounds of beef with which to batter some of the younger, more frail forwards and centers who tend to get run in summer league.
22. Indiana Pacers
Point Guard: Joe Young
Shooting Guard: Travis Leslie
Small Forward: Georges Niang
Power Forward: T.J. Leaf
Center: Rakeem Christmas
Indiana Pacers assistant coach Popeye Jones will guide his squad in Orlando without the services of 2017 second-rounders Edmond Sumner and Ike Anigbogu, both of whom are battling knee problems.
Not that Jones is without alternatives. In Joe Young and Rakeem Christmas, he'll find familiar faces to serve as the Pacers' summer-league lynchpins. Young is a speedy point guard who may have more opportunity to work through his shooting struggles (36.5 percent from the field, 21.7 percent from three in two NBA seasons) with Jeff Teague headed for unrestricted free agency. Christmas, approaching his third season out of Syracuse, might not be so lucky behind rising star Myles Turner.
With Indy facing a full-scale teardown in Paul George's wake, T.J. Leaf could emerge as an important piece of the team's future. The 6'10" forward from UCLA will be out to prove his impressive collegiate stats (16.3 points on 61.7 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists) were the product of not only Lonzo Ball's deft hand at the point but also his own supply of skill and athleticism.
21. Orlando Magic
Point Guard: Kalin Lucas
Shooting Guard: Wesley Iwundu
Small Forward: Jonathan Isaac
Power Forward: Stefan Jankovic
Center: Stephen Zimmerman
All eyes will be on Jonathan Isaac, the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft, when the Orlando Magic take the floor for the summer league they host. The Florida State product might be the most upside-y prospect in this year's rookie class, between his wiry 6'11" frame, 7'1" wingspan, soaring athleticism, budding skill at either forward spot offensively and potential to lock down just about any position defensively.
Will that be enough to carry the Magic to the top of their own league? That depends on which squad Isaac lands on. Orlando typically fields two teams to compete at its practice facility—a Blue team and a White team.
At this point, it's too early to tell whether either will have enough talent to contend, let alone set the team's NBA roster on the right foot to start the Jeff Weltman-John Hammond era in Central Florida.
20. Toronto Raptors
Point Guard: Fred VanVleet
Shooting Guard: Matt Thomas
Small Forward: Paul Watson
Power Forward: Pascal Siakam
Center: Jakob Poeltl
The Toronto Raptors' summer-league squad could come to be consequential depending on how free agency shakes out.
If Kyle Lowry and the Raptors split, Fred VanVleet could be thrust into a bigger role within Toronto's backcourt rotation. Should Serge Ibaka wind up elsewhere, the Raptors might have to entrust Pascal Siakam as a starter, just as they did for much of the 2016-17 season. Jakob Poeltl could get a crack at that role, as well.
Toronto's summer could've been even more critical if not for rookie O.G. Anunoby's inability to participate as he recovers from his collegiate season-ending knee injury. Instead, it'll be up to coaches Jama Mahlalela and Patrick Mutombo to help sort through a slew of wings who might make the Raptors 905 G-League roster.
19. Detroit Pistons
Point Guard: Lorenzo Brown
Shooting Guard: Luke Kennard
Small Forward: Hollis Thompson
Power Forward: Henry Ellenson
Center: Eric Moreland
Detroit Pistons assistant coach Bob Beyer will once again have the horses to put together an impressive July run in Orlando.
Lorenzo Brown, a second-round pick of the Timberwolves in 2013, will be out to prove he can be Detroit's third point guard, behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith. Hollis Thompson, who was party to the early days of Philadelphia's "Process," will be looking to latch on in the Motor City. Eric Moreland has been one of the D-League's best bigs over the last three seasons, though his work in the minor leagues has thus far yielded just 11 appearances in the Association.
Thus, fans in the Motor City would be well advised to train their eyes on Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson. The Pistons have high hopes for Kennard, a sophomore out of Duke, as more than a standstill sniper.
"I think the one thing that is really important to note is we don't look at Luke as a guy who is a stand-in-the-corner spot-up shooter," Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy said, per MLive.com's Ansar Khan. "He can shoot the ball, but there's a lot more to it than that."
Kennard, though, may have a hard time carving out minutes at shooting guard ahead of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (a restricted free agent this summer) and Stanley Johnson once he gets to the big club.
Ellenson won't find the sledding any easier in Detroit. The towering 20-year-old appeared in just 19 NBA games last season while Marcus Morris and Jon Leuer held the fort at power forward.
In time, though, Kennard and Ellenson could emerge as just the sort of upside plays the Pistons will need to take another step forward with Jackson and Andre Drummond as their centerpieces.
18. Denver Nuggets
Point Guard: Monte Morris
Shooting Guard: Malik Beasley
Small Forward: Tyler Lydon
Power Forward: Juancho Hernangomez
Center: Robert Carter Jr.
As of now, the most promising Nugget coming off his rookie campaign (Jamal Murray) looks to be a no-go for Denver in summer league. That could mean more run in Las Vegas for Malik Beasley, who played sparingly during his rookie season while stuck behind Murray and Gary Harris on Michael Malone's depth chart in the Mile High City.
The more immediate people of interest for Nuggets fans, though, are Juancho Hernangomez and Tyler Lydon. The former, the No. 15 pick in 2016 out of Spain, brought tons of energy off the bench for Denver this past season while flashing an effective outside shot (40.7 percent from three). The latter, the No. 24 pick out of Syracuse this year, drained nearly 40 percent of his triples in college—a particularly promising percentage for a 6'10" forward.
With Danilo Gallinari gunning for free agency and Kenneth Faried perennially on the trading block, Hernangomez and Lydon could emerge as versatile forwards to open the floor for the all-court offensive talents of Nikola Jokic.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder
Point Guard: Semaj Christon
Shooting Guard: Dylan Ennis
Small Forward: Terrance Ferguson
Power Forward: Malcolm Hill
Center: Domantas Sabonis
The Oklahoma City Thunder's Orlando Summer League squad could feature three surprisingly key role players.
Semaj Christon is once again slated to soak up what few minutes Russell Westbrook leaves behind during his MVP defense in 2017-18. Domantas Sabonis could slide back into the starting lineup if Taj Gibson's price point skyrockets in free agency. Perhaps the same will be true for rookie Terrance Ferguson, a potential 3-and-D wing who spent a season in Australia, if Andre Roberson's restricted free agency turns into a money pit.
Beyond that trio, the Thunder can't afford to lean too heavily on unproven youth. If they're to convince Westbrook that he can compete for a title in the Sooner State, they'll have to be able to cite tangible results with established veterans rather than point to potential that might not hit until OKC's lone star is past his prime.
16. Brooklyn Nets
Point Guard: Isaiah Whitehead
Shooting Guard: Archie Goodwin
Small Forward: Caris LeVert
Power Forward: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Center: Jarrett Allen
No, D'Angelo Russell won't be suiting up in summer league for a third year running. But that doesn't mean the Brooklyn Nets, despite their dearth of top picks, will be devoid of talent worth tracking.
The wing combination of Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has the potential to stick in the NBA long enough to see Brooklyn rebound from its current quagmire. LeVert has the look of a rangy scorer, while Hollis-Jefferson is already a pesky defender.
Isaiah Whitehead, a Brooklyn native, got plenty of run for his hometown team as part of head coach Kenny Atkinson's revolving door at guard. Archie Goodwin, a 2013 first-round pick of the Phoenix Suns, averaged 7.9 points and 1.9 assists during a late-season stint with the Nets in 2016-17.
Jarrett Allen, the 22nd pick in this year's draft, is a long way from the player he may turn out to be. At 6'11" with a ridiculous wingspan wider than 7'5", the 19-year-old out of Texas could loom large as a shot-blocker and finisher in Las Vegas, albeit with a body that might not be Association-ready.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Point Guard: R.J. Hunter
Shooting Guard: Pat Connaughton
Small Forward: Jake Layman
Power Forward: Caleb Swanigan
Center: Zach Collins
The focus for the Portland Trail Blazers this summer will naturally turn to Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins. Aside from their statuses as first-round picks, these two stand out due to their potential to (eventually) fill a frontcourt slot next to Jusuf Nurkic—Swanigan with his bulk and rebounding ability, Collins with his lanky frame and inside-out game.
But if the Blazers are going to make waves in Las Vegas, they'll likely do so on the experience and explosiveness of their wings.
Whatever name Jake Layman has made for himself, he's done so with his hops. The Maryland product posterized Phoenix's Marquese Chriss during last year's Las Vegas Summer League and made fans out of the Los Angeles Clippers with one of his slams last November.
Pat Connaughton's high-flying CV is no less impressive. Though he hasn't racked up highlights quite like Layman, his 44-inch vertical leap has come in plenty handy when soaring through the lane, be it for a death-defying dunk or a score-saving swat.
14. Miami Heat
Point Guard: London Perrantes
Shooting Guard: Rodney McGruder
Small Forward: Okaro White
Power Forward: Zach Auguste
Center: Bam Adebayo
It's safe to say the Miami Heat are smitten with Bam Adebayo.
“One day, this jersey is going to be hanging up in the rafters” Heat president Pat Riley proclaimed at Adebayo's introductory press conference, per the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro.
Long before that happens, Adebayo will have to drag a Heat squad with so-so talent through stints in Orlando and Las Vegas. He'll have help from Rodney McGruder, a hard-nosed 25-year-old guard who emerged as a key contributor during Miami's stunning run through the second half of the 2016-17 season. Okaro White, another of the Heat's late-season finds, should figure prominently into the team's summer-league plans.
Beyond that trio, Miami's group will have to get by on the guile and guts of middling prospects just hoping for training-camp invites.
13. San Antonio Spurs
Point Guard: Bryn Forbes
Shooting Guard: Dejounte Murray
Small Forward: Derrick White
Power Forward: Jaron Blossomgame
Center: Davis Bertans
The Spurs being, well, the Spurs, their final summer league roster could be stocked with international prospects that they've drafted and stashed over the years. That doesn't mean their starting lineups in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas will be the same.
Once upon a time, Davis Bertans was just such a prospect before San Antonio brought him over to fill Matt Bonner's shoes as the resident "Giant Shooting Ginger." He fulfilled that promise by draining 39.9 percent of his threes during the regular season and 8-of-20 during the playoffs.
Bryn Forbes and rookie Derrick White could serve as steady hands on the ball, with Jaron Blossomgame filling the wing.
However the Spurs' top five shakes out, Dejounte Murray figures to be the centerpiece. The 20-year-old sophomore-to-be looked like more than just a potential role player this past season, thanks to his blend of length, fluid athleticism and playmaking instincts on both ends of the floor. Murray may not be ready to be San Antonio's point guard of today, but with the right tutelage—and you know he'll get it in the Alamo City—he could emerge as an eventual successor to Tony Parker.
12. Utah Jazz
Point Guard: Dante Exum
Shooting Guard: Donovan Mitchell
Small Forward: Eric Griffin
Power Forward: Joel Bolomboy
Center: Tony Bradley
If Dante Exum is ready for his long-awaited leap, the Utah Jazz could boast the best backcourt in all of summer basketball.
Exum, the No. 5 pick in 2014, should show what kind of difference he can make with his length and quickness while he turns 22 in Las Vegas. Donovan Mitchell, whose rights Utah acquired in a draft-day trade, also looks like a long-armed slasher and defender, albeit one with a bit more bulk than Exum.
Throw in Joel Bolomboy and rookie Tony Bradley, and there may be no getting by the Jazz defensively, whether on their home floor in Salt Lake City or on either court in Las Vegas. That's the kind of identity on which Utah will have to double down should the doomsday scenario of Gordon Hayward and George Hill's dual departures come to pass in free agency.
11. Dallas Mavericks
Point Guard: Dennis Smith Jr.
Shooting Guard: Yogi Ferrell
Small Forward: Nicolas Brussino
Power Forward: Dorian Finney-Smith
Center: A.J. Hammons
The Dallas Mavericks will feature more (vaguely) familiar names than they can fit into one five-man unit. Among those who might have to fight their way off the bench: Johnathan Motley, a potential first-rounder-turned-undrafted free agent out of Baylor; Dwight Buycks, who got some run with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers before taking his talents to China; Jared Uthoff, a 6'9" forward who played nine games with the Mavs during the final month of the 2016-17 season; and Steven Spieth, a four-year player out of Brown who also happens to be the brother of golf superstar Jordan Spieth.
Then again, since Dallas will be one of six squads appearing in multiple summer leagues—and one of two, along with the Miami Heat, trekking from Orlando to Las Vegas—it's entirely possible that everyone in the Mavs' employ will get a taste of that starting life.
Still, each of Dallas' ideal top five could figure into Rick Carlisle's rotation in some capacity during the 2017-18 season. Dennis Smith Jr. is the crown jewel, a top-10 pick with the talent, build and athleticism to help Dallas chart the course for a post-Dirk Nowitzki future. He'll combine with Yogi Ferrell and Nicolas Brussino to form a perimeter trio that, while not the most physically imposing, is replete with playmakers and scorers.
That should make things relatively straightforward up front for Dorian Finney-Smith and A.J. Hammons, who can focus on setting screens, crashing the glass and doing the dirty work—just as they'll be asked to do in the Metroplex.
10. Atlanta Hawks
Point Guard: Bryce Cotton
Shooting Guard: DeAndre' Bembry
Small Forward: Taurean Prince
Power Forward: John Collins
Center: Alpha Kaba
The Atlanta Hawks will head to Las Vegas with one of the strongest crops of wings and forwards in either summer league.
Taurean Prince, a late lottery pick in 2016, solidified a starting spot in Atlanta down the stretch this past season. The Baylor product logged five straight double-digit scoring games during the Hawks' first-round playoff loss to the Washington Wizards.
He'll be joined in Sin City by DeAndre' Bembry, the 21st pick in last year's draft. The 6'6'" swingman out of Saint Joseph's spent parts of his rookie season shuttling to the D-League, where he averaged 16.2 points on 54.1 percent shooting (37.5 percent from three) with 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in six appearances.
Most eyes, though, will be trained on John Collins, a rebounder and inside scorer out of Wake Forest who could get some serious run up front in the ATL during the regular season with Dwight Howard already out and Paul Millsap eying free agency.
9. Golden State Warriors
Point Guard: Xavier Munford
Shooting Guard: Patrick McCaw
Small Forward: Kevon Looney
Power Forward: Jordan Bell
Center: Damian Jones
Patrick McCaw, Kevon Looney and Damian Jones will have to wait until October to receive their championship rings from the Golden State Warriors' dominant run. In the meantime, they've got work to do to solidify their roles with the soon-to-be-defending champs.
McCaw garnered significant minutes during the postseason—and deservedly so—and could be among the first in line for an expanded role if Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston doesn't return to the East Bay. The same may be true for Damian Jones, the 30th pick in the 2016 draft, with so many of Golden State's bigs (Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee) ticketed for free agency. Kevon Looney, a first-round pick out of UCLA in 2015, could tap into head coach Steve Kerr's rotation if he's ever able to stay healthy.
Jones and Looney, in particular, have every reason to up their games now that Jordan Bell has entered the fray. The Warriors paid the Chicago Bulls $3.5 million for the rights to the Oregon product. He's already been pegged by many, including The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks, as the next in Golden State's never-ending line of switch-friendly defenders:
After Chris Boucher tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament, Bell turned himself into the NCAA version of Draymond Green, almost single-handedly carrying Oregon to the Final Four. He switched screens and locked up smaller players on the perimeter, controlled the lane as an interior defender, dominated the glass, and picked apart opposing defenses from the high post. The only thing he didn’t do well was box out, and it ended up costing Oregon a chance to play in the national title game. Nevertheless, Bell’s combination of athleticism and high basketball IQ makes him a perfect fit for the way Golden State plays.
8. Chicago Bulls
Point Guard: Kris Dunn
Shooting Guard: Denzel Valentine
Small Forward: Paul Zipser
Power Forward: Lauri Markkanen
Center: Amida Brimah
The Chicago Bulls will head to Las Vegas with ample reinforcements for their summer league title defense. Granted, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen arrive by way of a blockbuster trade involving Jimmy Butler that raised more than a few eyebrows around the league, but we're not here to re-litigate that deal.
Instead, let's consider what Dunn, who scored 48 points across two summer league games with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year, might do during his second go-round. Perhaps Denzel Valentine, who hit the championship-clinching shot for the Bulls in 2016, will be back with another dose of clutch.
Paul Zipser showed some zip as a potential sharpshooter in Chicago this past season, with a pair of double-digit scoring games in the playoffs to prove it. He might not be the top marksman on this squad, though, with the 7' Markkanen bringing his shades of Dirk Nowitzki to Chi-town.
Folks outside of Storrs, Connecticut might not know much about Amida Brimah. But the four-year center from UConn sports the sort of shot-blocking prowess (2.8 blocks per game in college) that could put all of Sin City on notice.
7. New York Knicks
Point Guard: Frank Ntilikina
Shooting Guard: Ron Baker
Small Forward: Mindaugas Kuzminskas
Power Forward: Maurice Ndour
Center: Willy Hernangomez
The New York Knicks could form a starting five comprised solely of players with NBA experience, if they were so inclined. Their Orlando Summer League roster will feature no fewer than six such hoopers, including Willy Hernangomez, who took over as the team's starting center down the stretch of the 2016-17 season.
But the Knicks would be remiss to leave Frank Ntilikina out in the cold. After all, they didn't spend the eighth pick in a loaded draft on the French teenager just to let him wilt on the vine...right? With the way things seem to be operating at Madison Square Garden these days, who the heck knows?
As bad as New York may be during the NBA season, its young talent could be tough to contain in Orlando. Hernangomez, Ron Baker and Mindaugas Kuzminskas were all legitimate rotation players this past season. Maurice Ndour logged 32 appearances with the Knicks himself.
Then again, with two other draft picks (Damyean Dotson and Ognen Jaramaz) and at least one promising undrafted free agent (Nigel Hayes) on deck, it's entirely possible that the Knicks will shuttle aside more of their sophomores-to-be in favor of their incoming rookies.
6. Sacramento Kings
Point Guard: De'Aaron Fox
Shooting Guard: Buddy Hield
Small Forward: Malachi Richardson
Power Forward: Skal Labissiere
Center: Georgios Papagiannis
With so many incumbent youngsters on Sacramento's summer league roster, most of the Kings' draft picks—for which they've been lauded—could have a tough time cracking the team's starting lineup this July.
Justin Jackson, the No. 15 pick, will have to compete with Malachi Richardson, who showed promise on the wing before his rookie campaign was cut short by a hamstring injury. Even if Harry Giles, the No. 20 pick, is fully healthy, he could get boxed out up front by Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis, both of whom were first-rounders in 2016.
Frank Mason, the reigning college player of the year, figures to get pushed back by fellow rookie De'Aaron Fox.
That the Kings have as much young talent as they do, with DeMarcus Cousins gone and the team's 2019 first-round pick already on the fritz, could bode well for the next rebuild. Before then, it could yield an exciting run in Las Vegas for a franchise and a fanbase that hasn't had much hope in more than a decade.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Point Guard: Markelle Fultz
Shooting Guard: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
Small Forward: Brandon Austin
Power Forward: Alex Poythress
Center: Charles Jackson
Ben Simmons isn't slated four a second summer tour through Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, though the Philadelphia 76ers should be plenty competitive without him.
They'll fashion their efforts, first and foremost, around Markelle Fultz, this year's No. 1 overall pick. If Fultz is all he's cracked up to be, as a do-it-all guard who can run pick-and-roll, the Sixers figure to make some serious noise across Utah and Nevada.
The kid out of Washington won't be alone. He'll have three NBA-seasoned wings—Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Shawn Long and Alex Poythress—to turn his passes into scores, particularly in transition.
The more Fultz can do to build chemistry with his Philly teammates in July, the better his odds will be of sharing the ball effectively with Simmons in the fall.
4. Phoenix Suns
Point Guard: Davon Reed
Shooting Guard: Derrick Jones Jr.
Small Forward: Josh Jackson
Power Forward: Marquese Chriss
Center: Dragan Bender
When it comes to draft-day buzzwords (i.e. length, speed, quickness, athleticism, upside, etc.), the Phoenix Suns could take the cake.
Marquese Chriss was a whirling dervish oozing with inside-out talent during his rookie campaign. The Suns figure to encourage Dragan Bender, at 7'1", to let it fly from three, just as they did when he launched 6.8 triples per game in Las Vegas last year. Derrick Jones Jr. looked like more than just a dunker once he got real minutes during the 2016-17 season's waning weeks.
As for the newcomers, Josh Jackson, 2017's No. 4 pick, has the size (6'8") and mentality to be a bulldog on the wing defensively, and the hoops IQ to be a secondary playmaker. Davon Reed, the 32nd overall pick, could be a steady 3-and-D type from Day 1 after his four years at Miami (FL).
If Tyler Ulis were healthy enough to play point, the Suns might've been the favorite on this list. Instead, they'll have to settle for a spot comfortably in the top five—at least until the actual basketball begins.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Point Guard: Gary Payton II
Shooting Guard: Malcolm Brogdon
Small Forward: Sterling Brown
Power Forward: D.J. Wilson
Center: Thon Maker
What does Malcolm Brogdon get for being named the NBA's Rookie of the Year? How about a return trip to Las Vegas for summer league?
Chances are, the Milwaukee Bucks won't demand much from the 24-year-old Brogdon beyond a few outings to get even more familiar with his younger teammates. He and Thon Maker played a modest 305 minutes together last season, per NBA.com—still well ahead of the eight minutes Brogdon shared with Gary Payton II.
Nonetheless, that trio should serve as the foundation of a fivesome with D.J. Wilson, Milwaukee's first-round pick, and Sterling Brown, a second-round selection of the Sixers, completing the puzzle. Wilson, at 6'10", could be the latest athletic anomaly to join a Bucks squad that's chock-full of them. Brown, on the other hand, brings the same pedigree of strength and athleticism that made his brother, Shannon Brown, a nine-year NBA veteran.
2. Boston Celtics
Point Guard: Demetrius Jackson
Shooting Guard: Jaylen Brown
Small Forward: Jayson Tatum
Power Forward: Jordan Mickey
Center: Ante Zizic
It's unusual for a conference finalist to send such a stacked squad to any summer league, let alone two of them. The Boston Celtics, with their treasure trove of draft picks and talented prospects, are anything but ordinary.
This year's group figures to feature plenty of curiosities over whom the Beantown faithful can salivate. Jaylen Brown should have an easier time finding the rim, both inside and out, after his rollercoaster rookie campaign. Demetrius Jackson made hay in the D-League with the Maine Red Claws (14.8 points, 6.0 assists) this past season, as did Jordan Mickey (20.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks).
Ante Zizic may be the best bet among Boston's summer leaguers to start with the big club in 2017-18. The 6'11" center from Croatia is due to join a vertically challenged Celtics roster after averaging 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds back in his home country.
But the brightest future among Gang Green's gaggle of youngsters might belong to Jayson Tatum. The 6'8" St. Louis native flashed tremendous two-way potential (16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.1 blocks) during his lone season under Mike Krzyzewski's thumb at Duke. His scoring skill could make him a go-to guy for the Celtics this summer and a double-digit contributor in Boston this fall.
And that's without mentioning Guerschon Yabusele, who spent this past season in China but won't be coming over for summer league, and Semi Ojeleye, an intriguing two-way wing the C's snagged early in this year's second round.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Point Guard: Lonzo Ball
Shooting Guard: David Nwaba
Small Forward: Brandon Ingram
Power Forward: Kyle Kuzma
Center: Ivica Zubac
There may be times during the 2017-18 season when the Los Angeles Lakers trot out lineups that look awfully like this summer league quintet.
However things shake out in L.A. between now and the fall, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram should figure prominently into the Purple and Gold's plans in both July and October. Ball, the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, has already been hailed by Magic Johnson as the "new face of the Lakers." Prior to that, Johnson tagged Ingram, the second overall selection in 2016, as the only untouchable among the Lakers' young core, per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes.
Together, they could form the most dynamic duo on display in Las Vegas. If nothing else, they'll be the most watched—and most cheered, what with all the Lakers fans who tend to take over the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion each year.
Sprinkle in David Nwaba's energy and defense, rookie Kyle Kuzma's shooting and Ivica Zubac's 7' size and soft touch around the basket, and you've got the makings of a five-man unit with a blend of talent and toughness that could hold its own at Staples Center down the line.