How NBA Summer League Would've Impacted 2019 NBA Draft
Though summer league isn't always an accurate indicator of NBA success, certain performances can appear telling every year.
Last season, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Mitchell Robinson seemed like obvious steals in July. During the 2019 edition, a handful of participants similarly looked more comfortable than they did in college. Some were able to ease previous concerns by executing against stronger and faster competition.
Had the draft taken place on July 16, the following players would wind up going earlier than they did on June 20. A few would even hear their names called after they went undrafted last month.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies PF
Drafted: No. 21
Re-draft range: Nos. 5-14
It was surprising when 20 prospects were picked before Brandon Clarke on June 20, and it's even more shocking after summer league.
Named MVP, Clarke was a driving force behind the Memphis Grizzlies' championship run. He averaged 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, regularly bouncing over opponents for easy baskets off rolls and missed shots on the offensive glass.
But he also flashed some budding skill with the ability to slash from the arc or activate touch using one-handers in the paint. Clarke even made five of his nine three-pointers after converting just four all season at Gonzaga.
His defensive impact was also evident. He averaged 1.8 blocks and challenged plenty more shots that didn't show in the box score. His combination of timing and verticality is special. And while most young players struggle with foul trouble in summer league, Clarke was only whistled nine times in six games.
Coming in, concerns centered around his ceiling, as he was a 6'8", 207-pound 22-year-old without much of a perimeter game. But given his extreme success in both college and Las Vegas, it should be easier to picture Clarke defying the traditional rules of upside.
He'd deserve consideration as high as No. 5 overall in a re-draft.
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat SG
Drafted: No. 13
Re-draft range: Nos. 6-12
Summer league created the ideal environment to unlock Tyler Herro's potent offensive game.
He went off with more pace, space and a longer leash to shoot through mistakes. Compared to Kentucky, the rim appeared wider to Herro in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, where he was able to play freely, build confidence and sustain it.
He averaged 19.5 points, putting on a shot-making clinic off quick-trigger transition threes, pull-ups and zero-hesitation catch-and-shoot jumpers.
With a green light to handle the ball more, Herro also got to show creation skills that didn't always pop during his one year in college. He averaged 3.8 assists in summer league, showing the ability to shake and pass off the dribble. That helped strengthen his image as a combo guard and not just a gunner.
Since Darius Garland, Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, Cameron Johnson and PJ Washington all sat out, it's difficult to say how much higher Herro would go in a re-draft. But one team in the Nos. 6-12 range would now likely have trouble resisting his scoring, shooting, secondary playmaking and potential Devin Booker-like trajectory.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans Pelicans PG/SG
Drafted: No. 17
Re-draft range: Nos. 11-16
The headline to emerge from New Orleans Pelicans summer league has nothing to do with Zion Williamson. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the team's third first-round pick at No. 17 overall, became the story by averaging 24.3 points and 6.0 assists.
Had the draft taken place after his performance, it would be tough to believe the Phoenix Suns (No. 11), Charlotte Hornets (No. 12), Boston Celtics (No. 14), Detroit Pistons (No. 15) and Orlando Magic (No. 16) would all pass on Alexander-Walker.
A player can suddenly look different with more freedom, space and talented teammates. That was the case for this combo guard in Las Vegas.
A lack of strength and burst didn't appear as restrictive. His command of the ball and offense was stronger. He picked apart defenses as a passer, delivering one-handed dimes through and above traffic—many to Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans' No. 8 overall selection. In terms of his comfort level and playmaking IQ, Alexander-Walker looked more like a point guard than in previous years.
But he also scored in volume and flashed more shot-making creativity off step-backs and post-ups than he did at Virginia Tech. And he made 40.6 percent of his threes (13-of-32), helping validate the shooting numbers he registered through two years in college (career 38.3 three-point percentage).
With Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson and Josh Hart on the roster, Pelicans fans may have to wait and see what Alexander-Walker can do during the regular season. He just gives this franchise another long-term asset, one multiple teams presumably regret overlooking.
Carsen Edwards, Boston Celtics PG/SG
Drafted: No. 33
Re-draft range: No. 15-25
Even after averaging 34.8 points through four NCAA tournament games, Carsen Edwards still fell to the second round. Teams wouldn't allow that to happen in a re-draft.
His elite shot-making carried right over to Las Vegas, where he averaged 19.4 points and 4.2 threes in just 23.3 minutes per game.
For a 6'0" guard, predraft concerns—39.4 field-goal percentage, 2.9 assists, 3.1 turnovers—suggested Edwards' margin for error as a shooter would be too small.
However, he may just be that dangerous around the perimeter. He showcased his versatile jump shot and range, connecting on pull-ups, knocking down spot-ups and scoring off screens at an efficient clip (47.9 field-goal percentage, 46.7 percent three-point percentage).
After summer league, teams should have an easier time picturing a streak-scoring specialist for their second unit. With Terry Rozier now on the Charlotte Hornets, the Boston Celtics may be prepared to hand Edwards that role early in the season.
Ignas Brazdeikis, New York Knicks SF
Drafted: No. 47
Re-draft range: 20s
The New York Knicks traded up to No. 47 from No. 55 to secure Ignas Brazdeikis. In a re-draft, however, they'd have to act sooner and more aggressively.
Brazdeikis looked like a first-round pick in Las Vegas, where he averaged 15.4 points and went off for 30 against the Phoenix Suns.
He was questioned entering the draft for his suspect athleticism, playmaking and defensive outlook, but those concerns faded with each game of summer league. The 20-year-old wing shot 50.9 percent and showed no real trouble creating and making shots. His combination of strength, body control and coordination consistently translated to one-handed buckets off drives. He also went 11-of-22 on threes, which was another exciting sign for a new Knicks roster that needs shooters.
Brazdeikis' reads as a passer and defender were equally encouraging since his 0.8 assists per game and lack of quickness seemed problematic at Michigan. Over the last 10 days, he did an admirable job finding teammates and staying in front of his man.
His signature toughness and competitiveness are just more positives that suggest he's a fit for what the Knicks need.
Daniel Gafford, Chicago Bulls C
Drafted: No. 38
Re-draft range: Nos. 25-35
Daniel Gafford didn't show anything new in summer league, but he was a force just by playing to physical and athletic strengths that should continue working during the regular season.
He averaged 13.8 points on 68.3 percent shooting, used mostly as a dunk target off guard penetration, pick-and-rolls and full-court sprints to the hoop in transition.
At 6'10½" with a 7'2¼" wingspan and strong, vertical leaping ability, Gafford played higher above the rim than others in the paint. But he also flashed finishing versatility from tougher angles below the rim.
Along with the easy baskets, he blocked 2.8 shots per game—a noteworthy development since his block rate fell as a college sophomore and he doesn't project as a switchable defender.
Though centers who can't shoot are losing value in today's league, there are still roles for those who can own their area around the basket. Gafford has the tools, mobility and competitiveness—and now an effective summer league—for Chicago to feel confident it's found Wendell Carter Jr.'s backup with the No. 38 pick.
Terence Davis, Toronto Raptors SG
Re-draft range: 25-40
A standout at the G League Elite Camp and NBA combine, Terence Davis was projected at No. 34 on our final mock draft. He'd likely go somewhere in that range if teams could re-make their picks.
It took one summer league game for the Toronto Raptors to feel confident others missed on Davis, who they signed hours after he went for 22 points with the Denver Nuggets. Switching teams in Las Vegas didn't cause any problems for the combo guard, as he totaled 33 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, five threes, threes steals and two blocks during his two matchups with Toronto.
An athletic and confident scorer, Davis was able to generate offense in different ways by making jumpers, runners off ball screens and finishes off cuts. The Raptors also let him bring the ball up at different times, allowing him to show his improved set-up passing skills.
With the ability to get hot offensively and make highlight defensive plays on the ball, he has the look and feel of a spark plug on both ends.
Chris Clemons, Houston Rockets PG
Re-draft range: Nos. 45-60
After his five summer league games, one team would have to be willing to go back and re-draft Chris Clemons with a second-round pick.
His 5'9", 180-pound body didn't look too small in Las Vegas.
The NCAA's leading scorer in 2018-19 averaged 20.2 points on 42.1 percent shooting from three. Though limited inside the arc, he hit 24 threes, needing minimal space to rise and release off the catch or dribble.
Compensating for a height disadvantage with a strong frame, bounce and high-level shot-making skills, Clemons will eventually receive a chance to score off an NBA bench.
DaQuan Jeffries, Orlando Magic SG/SF
Re-draft range: Nos. 45-60
Too many teams that could use wings passed on DaQuan Jeffries, previously the projected No. 46 pick to the Orlando Magic in our final mock draft.
Orlando scooped him up after all 60 selections were made. Over five games, he shot 12-of-22 from three with 10 assists, seven steals and five blocks. He looked like a three-and-D NBA player who slipped through the cracks.
After shooting at least 50 percent from the floor during each of his three collegiate seasons with Oral Roberts and Tulsa, he put his efficient and mature game on display in Las Vegas. An improved shooter, opportunistic driver, willing passer and active defender, Jeffries made a compelling case for a contract with his easy-fit, role-player game.