NBA Summer League 2022: The top rookie standouts from Las Vegas

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The Las Vegas Summer League came to a conclusion on Sunday as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the New York Knicks to claim the championship trophy.

Throughout the 11-day competition, there were plenty of exciting performances from players and teams alike. With few second-year players in action, the rookie class was on full display with several individuals playing at a high level.

Of course, No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero dazzled in a limit showing before getting shut down after two games. Further down the draft board, other players stepped up and showed little trouble adjusting to their first NBA action.

With the event now wrapped up, Rookie Wire took a look at some of the best performances from the rookie class this year in games played in Las Vegas.

Note: Players arranged in alphabetical order.

Ochai Agbaji, Cleveland Cavaliers

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The Cavs’ first-round pick proved to be effective on both ends of the floor in four games in Las Vegas. He posted averages of 15 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals on 37.5% shooting from 3-point range, and had his best game on July 13 with 24 points. He was impressive as a shooter, hitting in a variety of ways, and proved to be a pest on defense. Overall, Agbaji showed that he can be a player that can contribute next season and that should help his development.

Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

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While the No. 1 pick lasted just two games, he impressed everyone watching. Banchero averaged 20 points, six assists, five rebounds, 2.5 steals and one block before the Magic shut him down. He finished his stay by producing 23 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks on July 9. The showing even drew high praise from Draymond Green, who loved his activity and ability to play without the ball. He offered a taste of what he can bring to the next level and fans are certainly eager to see him take the court next season.

Malaki Branham, San Antonio Spurs

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The 20th pick averaged 15.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists in five games. He scored in double figures four times and saved his best outing for their finale, producing 23 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Branham was smooth on offense throughout summer league and had each area of his game on display. He earned high marks from the team for his decisiveness as he often made the right play and rarely forced the issue. He looked good in his first showing with the Spurs and offered a glimpse of what he can bring next season and beyond.

Tari Eason, Houston Rockets

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Eason emerged as one of the top first-year players after averaging 17.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.6 assists and one block. He led all players in rebounding and was named to the All-Summer League first team. Eason was effective on both ends of the floor and flourished on defense and as a facilitator for his teammates. The scoring was certainly on display but his ability on defense will be a valued addition to the Rockets next season. He will likely have to fight for his minutes but the 17th pick can do a lot on the court.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

Tommy Kuhse, Orlando Magic

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When the Magic opted to sit Paolo Banchero, the move was designed to shut him down while also getting a better look at other players. Kuhse, who went undrafted last month, was a direct beneficiary of that move. He had a strong showing with the Magic in Las Vegas, averaging 17.3 points, 3.3 assists, three steals and two rebounds in three games on 40% shooting from 3-point range.

He turned in his best game on July 14 with 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field. Kuhse showed some great things on offense, from his scoring to his ability to work in the pick and roll. It will be interesting to see what’s next for Kuhse but the former Saint Mary’s standout made the most of his opportunity. He could join the Magic in training camp and compete for a two-way spot.

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

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Lofton averaged 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and two assists in five games in Las Vegas. To cap it all off, Lofton put up 27 points and 12 rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. He impressed throughout summer league with his size and strength and was just smooth with the ball in his hands. He often bullied smaller opponents down in the paint, but could also step back and shoot. Lofton had a strong run with Memphis and should be a player to watch next season that could potentially have his two-way contract upgraded at some point.

Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers

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While the debut of Mathurin was cut short due to a toe injury, the sixth pick still impressed during his three games. He was named to the All-Summer League second team after averaging 19.3 points, four rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 steals on 38.5% shooting from 3-point range. He used his athleticism to create for himself and was highly effective in getting into the paint and finishing at the rim. He looked to improve each game and that resulted in a strong showing. The Pacers must be happy with what they saw from Mathurin in his early showing and will be looking forward to getting him in the lineup next season.

Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings

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Murray finished fourth in scoring among all players and was named the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League after averaging 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, two assists and 1.3 steals in four games. He scored at least 20 points in each game in Las Vegas and shot 40% from 3-point range on 8.8 attempts. He even reached that mark in his final game in only three quarters. Murray led the Kings each game and looked to be the top rookie player this year.

Put simply: Murray had himself quite a showing this year.

Cole Swider, Los Angeles Lakers

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Swider, who went undrafted, signed a two-way contract with the Lakers and performed to expectations. In five games, Swider posted 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and one assist on 50% shooting (19-of-38) from 3-point range. He led all players in 3s and made at least two triples in each game from Las Vegas. He anointed himself the best shooter in the draft this year and proved to be one of the best in summer league and will look to continue that into next season.

Blake Wesley, San Antonio Spurs

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Wesley finished summer league by averaging 17 points, four assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals on 34.4% shooting from 3-point range. He struggled a bit overall from the field, converting only 30% of his attempts, but found success in driving to the basket and finishing at the rim with his elite athleticism. The Spurs made him a focal point of their offense in Las Vegas and he responded well. His activity on offense also allowed him to get others involved and he made a number of impressive passes as the facilitator.

Honorable Mention

JD Davison, Boston Celtics: Davison, who signed a two-way contract with the Celtics after going undrafted, averaged 13 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks in five games. His 8.2 assists led all players in Las Vegas as he dished out at least 10 dimes two times. He looked to see the floor well and could find himself on a standard contract before it is all said and done.

Darius Days, Miami Heat: Days, who went undrafted, played in Las Vegas with the San Antonio Spurs but was eventually offered a two-way contract from the Heat after his play. He averaged 13.7 points and 10 rebounds in three games with two double-doubles. Days will now have the opportunity to play with the Heat next season and develop within their system.

Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons: The highly anticipated debut of Ivey was cut short after suffering an ankle injury just five minutes into his second game. The team then opted to shut him down for precautionary reasons. However, in 37 total minutes, Ivey recorded 31 points, eight assists and six rebounds between his two appearances. Injury or not, Ivey looked to be electric on the court and should fit right in next to Cade Cunningham & Co. next season.

Tyrese Martin, Atlanta Hawks: While lottery pick AJ Griffin was unable to go due to foot soreness, Martin stepped up and performed well. He posted 13.8 points, 3.6 rebounds 2.2 assists on 45.6% shooting from the field. He turned in his best game on July 12 with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds in a win over the Miami Heat. He impressed enough to earn a two-way contract from the Hawks and looked to be a player that can contribute next season.

Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets: The third pick looked to improve each time he stepped onto the court and showed why he was in the running to be the top pick. He averaged 14.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks in five games. Smith was highly touted as a scorer and shooter but also rebounded well and looked to be great on defense in stretches. He had himself a good showing in his first NBA action.

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