The 2018 NBA Summer League continued Saturday in Las Vegas, with 10 games split between the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
The NBA already had events wrap up in Salt Lake City and Sacramento, California, but summer league doesn't start to heat up until things move to Sin City. A strong performance in Vegas can be a great springboard for incoming rookies and players looking to rebound after a disappointing start to their career.
Mohamed Bamba, Miles Bridges, Collin Sexton, Deandre Ayton and Dennis Smith Jr. were among the young stars on display Friday.
Below is a recap for how Saturday unfolded.
Portland Trail Blazers 93, Utah Jazz 78
Indiana Pacers 86, San Antonio Spurs 76
New Orleans Pelicans 110, Miami Heat 84
New York Knicks 91, Atlanta Hawks 89
Oklahoma City Thunder 90, Brooklyn Nets 76
Phoenix Suns 71, Sacramento Kings 63
Memphis Grizzlies 73, Detroit Pistons 70
Chicago Bulls 86, Cleveland Cavaliers 81
Denver Nuggets 82, Boston Celtics 69
Los Angeles Lakers 96, Philadelphia 76ers 79
Grayson Allen's Early Shooting Struggles a Worrying Sign
The Portland Trail Blazers earned a comfortable 93-78 win over the Utah Jazz to get the summer league underway Saturday.
Grayson Allen struggled for his third game in a row for Utah.
He was 6-of-29 in the Utah Summer League, and he followed up by shooting 6-of-17 from the field Saturday. Allen had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in the defeat.
Shooting was one of Allen's bigger issues at Duke. While he wasn't necessarily bad—43 percent from the field and 38 percent on three-pointers—one couldn't help but believe he had another level to reach if he could be more consistent on offense.
Allen didn't have a bad game Saturday, all things considered. His contributions extended well beyond his scoring output. However, his shooting numbers in summer league have been less than ideal.
Wade Baldwin IV stole the show instead, pouring in a game-high 20 points. Utah had little answer for Baldwin when he was attacking the basket:
The 2016 first-round pick hit the showers early, though, after getting into a scuffle with Allen. It's the second time in as many games Allen has rubbed an opponent the wrong way. He and Trae Young had a minor confrontation Thursday.
At the very least, Allen is already in midseason form in terms of getting under the skin of opposing players.
Lonnie Walker IV Offers Peek at Potential in Losing Effort
The San Antonio Spurs lost 86-76 to the Indiana Pacers, but Lonnie Walker IV gave the team some reason for encouragement.
The No. 18 overall pick scored 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting, and he missed all four of his attempts from beyond the arc. ESPN's Mike Schmitz saw flashes from Walker on Saturday:
Walker didn't demonstrate great shot selection in his only season at Miami. He shot 41.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from long range. But there's no question the offensive potential is there:
Walker couldn't have picked a better landing spot than San Antonio.
He'll have to become a smarter, more efficient shooter; otherwise, head coach Gregg Popovich won't hesitate to keep him glued to the bench. In assistant coach Chip Engelland, the Spurs also have somebody who can personally work with Walker to get the most out of his obvious talent.
San Antonio likely selected Walker in the belief he'll need a year or two before he becomes a regular rotation player, not unlike 2014 first-rounder Kyle Anderson. With that in mind, there are more positives than negatives to take from Walker's performance Saturday.
Trevon Bluiett Shows He Belongs with Another Big Game
The New Orleans Pelicans were without a first-round draft pick this year, which was the result of the Omer Asik and Nikola Mirotic trade.
That allows an undrafted free agent such as Trevon Bluiett a great opportunity to shine at summer league, and he has fully capitalized. Bluiett had a game-high 24 points in New Orleans' 90-77 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday, and he dropped another 26 points Saturday in a 110-84 victory over the Miami Heat:
NOLA.com's Will Guillory put the last two games into perspective regarding the former Xavier star:
The Pelicans have done well to add Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton this offseason as replacements for DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, but New Orleans' bench still leaves something to be desired. Because of that, Bluiett would have value to New Orleans as a reserve scorer and spacing option if offered a deal by the team.
Kevin Knox a Source of Optimism in Rebuilding Year
New York Knicks fans won't have a lot to cheer about next season. The team is likely headed for a sixth straight year outside the playoffs, and Kristaps Porzingis' torn ACL will cause him to miss a big chunk of the season.
In Kevin Knox, the franchise at least has another player who can inspire hope for the future.
Knox had a big game as the Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 91-89. He scored a team-high 22 points, the first two of which came on a thunderous two-handed dunk in the first quarter:
Knox shot 1-of-7 on three-pointers, which speaks to one of the concerns about his transition to the NBA. But the former Kentucky star flashed his athleticism and defensive length Saturday, forcing a steal and blocking a shot.
Teams can't expect to land surefire All-Stars when they have the ninth overall pick. As long as Knox can become a starting-caliber player for a decade or more, he will have more than justified his selection in the 2018 draft.
Terrance Ferguson Fails to Deliver in Win
Terrance Ferguson has a year of experience and appeared in 61 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder as a rookie in 2017-18. He should be a star in summer league because his development is more advanced than a lot of his counterparts.
Instead, he's combined to score nine points in two summer-league games. The 2017 first-round pick had just two points in Saturday's 90-76 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. He was 1-of-8 from the floor and 0-of-6 from three-point range.
The Thunder are staring down a historically high $150 million luxury-tax bill, so making any significant additions to the roster is basically impossible.
As constructed, Oklahoma City can challenge for a top-four seed. Whether it can threaten the Golden State Warriors will in part depend on how the supporting cast lifts Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
So far, the Thunder have little to show for their investment in Ferguson—a decision made worse by the fact that they passed on drafting OG Anunoby and Kyle Kuzma at No. 21. That's not to say Ferguson deserves the bust label, but Oklahoma City will expect more from the 20-year-old.
Deandre Ayton Building Rookie of the Year Campaign Already in Summer League
Ayton opened up the summer league with 10 points and eight rebounds in the Phoenix Suns' 92-85 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. The No. 1 overall pick had a double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) in the Suns' 71-63 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Some were taken aback by Ayton's numbers based on how he was impacting the game:
ESPN's Kevin Pelton highlighted what was one problem for Phoenix:
Saturday's game served as a reminder of how much the Suns need to acquire a proven point guard this offseason. Ayton is a good scorer, but he's not the kind of center who can create his own shot.
Brandon Knight might be Phoenix's No. 1 option at the point, which isn't great, even for a rebuilding team. Declining to re-sign Elfrid Payton made sense, but the team needed to have a plan in place for his successor.
Ayton is the most NBA-ready player in the 2018 draft class, and he demonstrated as much Saturday. Until the Suns upgrade at point guard, though, the former Arizona star will likely have games where he's left on an island in the paint.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Showcases Defensive Ceiling with Four-Block Night
In case anybody needed a reminder why the Memphis Grizzlies used the No. 4 selection on Jaren Jackson Jr., he provided one Saturday night. Jackson finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a 73-70 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Two of those blocks came on back-to-back possessions inside the final two minutes as Memphis was holding on to a five-point lead:
Overall, Grind City Media's Michael Wallace identified areas of improvement for Jackson but believes the potential is real:
One line of argument against Memphis' decision is Jackson remains a long-term project, and the Grizzlies need somebody who can help right away. As long as they have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley under contract, they can't go into full rebuilding mode.
If Jackson can at least be a plus defender, then he'll be valuable off the bench in the frontcourt.
Ante Zizic Deserves Shot at Meaningful Role with Rebuilding Cavs
Once LeBron James agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers entered a rebuild that will take years before it's fully completed.
Sexton will obviously play a key role for Cleveland going forward, but this rebuilding phase offers others such as Ante Zizic an opportunity to stake his claim as a regular rotation center.
Zizic had his second double-double in as many games Saturday, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds:
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are both signed for two more years, and it seems doubtful they'll remain in Cleveland beyond that. That's also assuming the Cavaliers don't trade one or both of the two in the near future.
There's no harm in seeing whether Zizic can be the long-term answer at center in the unlikely event he actually proves suitable for the role. If nothing else, Zizic can help Cleveland salvage the Kyrie Irving trade.
Malik Beasley's Big Night No Cause for Celebration in Victory
The Denver Nuggets earned their second win of the Vegas Summer League as they beat the Boston Celtics 82-69. Malik Beasley led Denver with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
Getting irrationally excited about a player—especially one who has struggled in the NBA so far—is part of the fun of summer league, and Nuggets fans are well within their rights to savor some of the lineups Denver threw out there:
But it would be way too premature to ascribe any significance to Beasley's effort Saturday.
Beasley is the kind of player who can be particularly deceiving in summer league.
A two-year veteran of the NBA, he has more experience in the league than a lot of the guys with whom he's sharing the floor. His athleticism also means he's going to have a few highlight-reel plays that bring the house down:
Perhaps Beasley is on the cusp of a breakthrough, but he has been a disappointment since the Nuggets selected him 19th overall in 2016. His performances when the games matter are what will turn that around.
Josh Hart Earning Place on New-Look Lakers
Everything changed for the Los Angeles Lakers when LeBron James agreed to a four-year deal. Now, it's seemingly only a matter of time before the Lakers package some of their young talent to land a ready-made All-Star.
Josh Hart is made a case to stick around based on his rookie season and then dropped a game-high 24 points as the Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers 96-79. Many believed Hart looked a clear step above the competition in Vegas:
Hart kind of falls in the happy medium where he's good enough to be a part of the Lakers' future but not so good he's a huge trade asset, unlike Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma or Lonzo Ball.
Los Angeles has already confirmed it re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and signed Rajon Rondo. The team shouldn't be so focused it sacrifices the long-term development of a player such as Hart in order to play an aging veteran.
Reported agreements to sign via NBA.com's free-agent tracker.