NBA Summer League 2021: Jalen Green, Top Prospects Shining in Las Vegas
The Houston Rockets will not leave the NBA Summer League with a first-place finish, but they will depart Las Vegas with something much more promising for the future of the franchise.
No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green led one of the most promising squads in Las Vegas over the past week. The performances from him, Josh Christopher and Alperen Sengun created a nice base for the Rockets coaching staff to work with.
The Rockets are not going to take a meteoric step forward in the Western Conference next season, but their rebuild could accelerate if Green and the others cash in on their potential.
Green was far from the lone standout over the past week, however.
Atlanta Hawks first-round pick Jalen Johnson proved he could be one of the steals of the draft, while Miles McBride and Cameron Thomas showed that they could provide scoring boosts off the bench during their respective rookie campaigns with the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.
Green averaged 20.3 points per game in his three Summer League contests.
The 2021 No. 2 overall pick showcased his scoring ability against two of the highest-profile rookies on display in Las Vegas. Green started his Summer League slate with 23 points against Evan Mobley and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had 25 points in the next matchup versus No. 1 overall selection Cade Cunningham and the Detroit Pistons.
In the Rockets' third matchup in Las Vegas, the G League Ignite product suffered a hamstring injury against the Toronto Raptors. According to ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Houston doesn't feel there is a "significant concern" about the knock, which will require a precautionary MRI.
The good news for Green is he will some time to rest up before going at full speed for training camp and the start of the regular season.
Although it was only two full games, Green displayed a scoring prowess that Houston could build its roster around for years to come. For now, he will play a supporting role alongside John Wall and Christian Wood, which is good for his development as he transitions into the league.
If Green continues to display the chemistry he had with Christopher and Sengun, who had solid performances in Las Vegas as well, Houston will have a great base for the future as it tries to climb out of the Western Conference cellar.
Atlanta may have come away with a first-round steal in Johnson.
The No. 20 overall pick may have fallen out of the lottery spots because he left Duke before the end of the college basketball regular season. No matter what the reason was for his departure, it was clear in his time there that Johnson has oodles of talent.
Johnson showcased his ability during Atlanta's run through the Summer League circuit. He opened his account with 20 points against the Boston Celtics, who ended up in the championship game. Johnson capped pool play with 25 points in a tight win over the Miami Heat in which he had seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Unlike other top rookies, Johnson will not earn starting minutes right away. He could land that gig eventually, but he should come off the bench at the start of his career.
Johnson's scoring ability should provide a boost to Atlanta's depth and allow the Hawks to give Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter some more rest with a long season and a playoff push expected to be ahead.
Cameron Thomas is a certified bucket-getter.
He left his mark on the Summer League on Sunday with 36 points, which was the highest individual point total at the event since 2018, per SportsCenter.
Thomas was one of the best pure shooters in college basketball last season at LSU, and that skill could earn him rotational minutes with the Brooklyn Nets. He will not crack the starting five, but he could help Brooklyn manage the minutes of its top shooters with an eye on the NBA Finals.
The No. 27 overall pick could feature in the secondary shooting role Landry Shamet occupied last season after he was dealt to the Phoenix Suns this offseason.
Thomas can not only pick up knowledge from James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but also from Patty Mills, who should be the floor general of the second unit.
If he continues to score at a high rate during his on-floor opportunities, Thomas could be an important piece in Brooklyn's title push.
The New York Knicks must feel over the moon that they were able to steal Miles McBride in the second round based off his Summer League exploits.
McBride finished off his four-game pool-play slate with 23 points to complement Quentin Grimes' 28 points in a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The West Virginia product proved he could recover from a cold shooting night with his performance Saturday. He shot 2-of-14 with four points in the previous game against the Pistons.
McBride still needs to be more consistent with his shot to break into the New York rotation, but he displayed promising signs in Las Vegas that suggest he could impress Tom Thibodeau during training camp and preseason.
If McBride's game translates well to Thibodeau's system, he could complement Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks and Grimes. Although that may not seem like much of a role, McBride's presence, plus the developed game of Quickley and those of the other young players, could help the Knicks have more sustainable depth for a longer playoff run.