Summertime Sadness: Biggest Disappointments from NBA Summer League
For the most part, the 2016 and 2017 NBA draft classes performed up to par or exceeded expectations in summer league. But there were a handful of young prospects who struggled, including two Top 10 picks from this past June.
There was also a pair of returning players, one with something to prove and another looking to build on a strong rookie season, who underwhelmed in their limited action.
But the most frustrating part of summer league were the injuries, both pre-existing and new ones suffered during the event.
Overall, the following underachievers were picked based on the eye test, inefficiency and expectations relative to where they were drafted.
Tyler Lydon (Denver Nuggets, PF)
Stats (five games): 24.3 minutes, 2.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 20.0 percent FG, 13.3 percent 3PT
Tyler Lydon was arguably the worst-performing first-round pick in summer league. To make matters worse for the Denver Nuggets, Donovan Mitchell, whom they let the Utah Jazz take at No. 13 after agreeing to swap picks in a bigger trade, emerged as a star.
Lydon averaged 2.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Atlanta Hawks rookie power forward John Collins played fewer minutes and averaged 15.4 points and 9.2 boards. Portland Trail Blazers rookie big man Caleb Swanigan, who was taken two picks after Lydon, averaged a double-double.
Lydon shot 2-of-15 from three in Las Vegas, and though he's a better shooter than those numbers would suggest, the problem lies within the fact he hasn't added anything new since arriving at Syracuse. He's shown no shot-creating ability inside the arc, having attempted just five two-point field goals the entire event.
Zach Collins (Portland Trail Blazers, C)
Stats (three games): 23.5 minutes, 6.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 26.1 percent FG
Zach Collins was a hot name following Gonzaga's run to the national title game. In spite of his averaging just 17.3 minutes during his lone year in college, the Portland Trail Blazers traded up to No. 10 overall for Collins—over far more productive prospects Malik Monk, Luke Kennard, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Justin Jackson and John Collins.
The Blazers lottery pick only played three games in July but shot 1-of-7 against the Boston Celtics and 3-of-13 against the Utah Jazz.
Collins' shot-creating skills are fairly basic and he doesn't get great separation on his post moves. And though a capable open shooter, Portland can't be counting on Collins consistently drilling NBA threes (1-of-6 in summer league).
He's flashed potential across the board, from his inside game and jumper to his rebounding and defense, but at this stage, Collins doesn't look dangerous or dominant enough in any one area.
Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls, PF)
Stats (three games): 32.8 minutes, 14.0 points, 29.3 percent FG, 24.0 percent 3PT, 9.0 rebounds
Lauri Markkanen shot 29.3 percent through three games in Las Vegas after the Chicago Bulls drafted him with the No. 7 pick that they acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade.
He missed 11-of-17 field goals against the Wizards after managing to finish 0-of-10 from three against the Atlanta Hawks.
Lacking explosiveness inside the arc, Markkanen unsurprisingly leaned heavily on his jumper, having taken 25 threes to 16 two-point attempts.
He wasn't much of a playmaker at Arizona (32 assists in 37 games) and didn't surprise with any new passing tricks in summer league, having totaled three assists in just over 98 minutes.
Markkanen is no doubt a credible, promising shot-maker with some unique offensive skills for a 7-footer. The question is if he's anything more than that, and if his shooting is off, does he hold any value on the floor?
Two-Game, Summer League Veteran Disappointments
Thon Maker (Milwaukee Bucks, PF/C)
Maker earned playoff starts for the Bucks and established himself as one of the franchise's key building blocks. The bar was naturally set high in summer league. But after two games, Maker totaled 10 fouls and 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
The sample size is obviously tiny and likely didn't raise any real concerns in the eyes of Milwaukee coaches. Still, it would have been more comforting to see Maker score easier against mostly minor league competition.
Cameron Payne (Chicago Bulls, PG)
Payne could be playing for his career. He's done little through two NBA seasons and is approaching the final guaranteed year on his rookie deal.
Before leaving the Bulls for family reasons, Payne struggled through two games in Las Vegas, combining to shoot 34.6 percent from the field, including 2-of-12 from three. And he totaled just five assists to seven turnovers.
It wasn't a good look for a third-year pro who's yet to prove he belongs. An average athlete and suspect decision-maker, Payne is running out of time.
The Injured List
Summer league is a chance for prospects out of college (or France) to build some confidence and basketball IQ before training camp. And a ridiculous amount of rookies missed time or the entire event due to injuries.
The Philadelphia 76ers' Markelle Fultz was shooting 40.9 percent before going down with an ankle twist in his third game. Sacramento Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox was 1-of-8 from three before injuring his ankle, while Orlando Magic swingman Jonathan Isaac left his third game with a hip injury.
Frank Ntilikina hurt his knee in his first practice as a New York Knick and didn't play a minute in summer league. Neither did Minnesota Timberwolves center Justin Patton, who fractured his foot in early July, Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen, who hurt his hip in workouts, or New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Frank Jackson, who had foot surgery in May.
The Kings didn't even bother taking a chance with Harry Giles, given his injury history. And OG Anunoby was never going to play for the Toronto Raptors in July following January's season-ending knee injury.
Missing summer league won't be a deal-breaker for any of these prospects, but it is a missed opportunity.