Winners and losers from 2022 NBA Summer League

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Winners and losers from 2022 NBA Summer League originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The 2022 NBA Summer League has come and gone after an exciting 10 days of action in Las Vegas.

Though the headlines were dominated by some of the top picks in this year’s draft, countless players were looking to turn heads going into the upcoming regular season.

So, which players optimized their opportunities and which ones failed to leave a mark? Let’s sift through 10 winners and losers from the 2022 Summer League in Vegas:

Winner: Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers

Portland finally did something this summer that it should’ve done a long time ago: add more quality 3-and-D wings and forwards next to Damian Lillard. Jerami Grant was the marquee acquisition this offseason, but Jabari Walker could break through this season. Portland grabbed him with the 57th overall pick this year, and the Colorado product delivered in Vegas. 

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 12.4 points and 9.0 rebounds on a 67/44/73 shooting split across four games, which earned him a three-year, $4.76 million deal with the franchise. That’s a big win for the second-to-last pick in the draft.

Loser: Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers

Moving to a fellow teammate, Shaedon Sharpe entered the draft as the biggest mystery after not playing at Kentucky. After the Trail Blazers drafted him at No. 7 overall, Summer League was the first chance to see what he could bring to the table at the next level. But he still remains a mystery after suffering a small labral tear in his left shoulder just five minutes into the Summer League opener. NBA fans will have to wait even longer to see him in action. 

Winner: Cole Swider, Los Angeles Lakers

Cole Swider out of Syracuse was an undrafted rookie this year but was quickly picked up by the Lakers after the draft concluded. The 23-year-old, 6-foot-9 forward was known as a sharpshooter during his run with the Orange and brought the goods at Summer League. 

In five games, he shot 50% from 3 on 7.6 attempts per game, which fits the types of players the Lakers need around LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook (for now, at least). Still, the Lakers found an undrafted gem last year in Austin Reaves, so Swider could be next in line.  

Loser: E.J. Liddell, New Orleans Pelicans

Liddell was regarded as a mid-to-late first-round pick all throughout the draft cycle with his production at Ohio State. However, he fell all the way to No. 41 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans. What could’ve been an opportune time to prove other teams wrong turned into a nightmare for the forward, as he tore his ACL in the second game. He’ll have to wait at least another season to bounce back.

Winner: Santi Aldama, Memphis Grizzlies

Aldama was the last pick in the first round in 2021 but didn’t play a prominent role with the Grizzlies last year, mainly due to their insane amount of young depth. This was his moment to prove he can do more, and he did just that. The 6-foot-11 Spaniard appeared in four games and averaged 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on a 57/39/67 shooting split. He had a 31-point outing in just 27 minutes, which could boost him into Memphis’ rotation. 

Loser: Tre Mann, Oklahoma City Thunder

Mann, the 18th overall pick by the Thunder last year, did not have a good Summer League as a rookie in 2021. Though he gradually developed throughout the regular season and stood out among Oklahoma City’s treasure trove of youth, his Summer League play this year left a lot to be desired. In three games, he averaged 11.3 points on 26.3% shooting (12.7 attempts) and 25% from 3 (5.3 attempts). 

Maybe it’s just a Summer League thing for him and he’ll be just fine when the regular season starts, but it was still a rough showing for someone who is expected to take another leap alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt. 

Winner: Dalano Banton, Toronto Raptors

Banton, the 46th overall pick by Toronto last year, played a miniscule role off the bench as a rookie. But in Vegas, he emerged with enhanced shotmaking and playmaking potential, averaging 16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals on a 47/46/83 shooting split. The 6-foot-7 wing fits perfectly into Toronto’s scheme of switchable, two-way players with size, and could enter the rotation moving forward.

Loser: Jay Scrubb, Los Angeles Clippers

Scrubb, the 55th overall pick in 2020, hasn’t been able to break through with the Clippers due to nagging injuries, but this Summer League was his big chance after the team didn’t extend the qualifying offer to him. However, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard couldn’t build on much, shooting 38.6% from the field on 11.0 attempts and 33% from 3 on 3.0 attempts per game. 

The obvious flaw in his game is his vision. Once he sees an opportunity to shoot, he’ll shoot. Being a ball-handler was another area he could’ve leveraged to stand out, but he ended the tournament with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.5-2.8. His time could be running out. 

Winner: Keon Ellis, Sacramento Kings

Ellis was touted as a second-round pick throughout the 2022 draft cycle, though he eventually went undrafted. The Kings scooped him up and inked him to a two-way contract, but the Alabama product could get promoted to the 15-man roster sooner rather than later. 

He’s been an efficient shooter on and off the ball (44/54/100 shooting split through four games) and is a pest in the passing lane, generating 2.3 steals per contest. Sacramento needs more 3-and-D wings on the roster, and Ellis’ time in Vegas showed he fits the bill.

Loser: Sharife Cooper, Atlanta Hawks

Cooper, a 6-foot-1 point guard, was considered a mid-to-late first-round pick all throughout the 2021 draft cycle – until he plummeted to 48th overall and the Hawks grabbed him. The Auburn product had a similar playstyle to that of Trae Young (minus the shooting efficiency), so it made sense why Atlanta would want him on board. 

After a year in the G League, Cooper, however, struggled mightily in Vegas. After five games, he averaged just 4.4 points, 4.2 assists and 2.6 turnovers in 21 minutes per game. Even worse, his shooting split finished at 19/18/67 on an attempt split of 7.4/2.2/1.8. You can make a case that he had one of the most disappointing Summer League campaigns in recent memory, especially if his time in the NBA is cut short.