By Adam Hensley
The NBA Summer League serves as one of the crucial segments of a rookie’s or journeyman’s hopes to make it in the league.
Each night, players compete for roster spots on their respective teams. Most of the players won’t make an NBA roster and may find themselves in the G-League or playing overseas. Only the top prospects survive and advance.
Five players in particular have opened eyes in their time on the court this summer.
Jayson Tatum — Forward, Boston Celtics
NBA scouts tabbed Tatum as one of the prospects to have a smooth transition to the professional league.
Although it may just only be Summer League ball, the scouts seem to have nailed their predictions.
Tatum’s Carmelo-Anthony-like scoring ability has been put on full display. He averaged 18.7 points per game in Salt Lake City and 17.7 in Las Vegas, scoring from on the block, from mid-range, and from beyond the 3-point line — his crossovers and silky-smooth step-back jumper highlight just a handful of moves the former Duke Blue Devil possesses.
The Celtics relied heavily on Tatum for offense, but he also showed growth in the rebounding game (9.7 boards in Salt Lake City, 8.8 in Las Vegas).
Donovan Mitchell – Guard, Utah Jazz
Sitting just behind Bryn Forbes in the scoring department in Las Vegas, Mitchell seemed unstoppable at times, both on offense and defense.
Just look at the Jazz’s overtime loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Mitchell scored 37 points, the most by any player in the Summer League, and recorded 8 steals (all of which came before the end of the third quarter).
Utah’s guard came out of Louisville as one of the top athletes in the 2017 draft class, and he has not disappointed anyone.
Mitchell’s strong Summer League performance provides Utah’s fans with some hope after Gordon Hayward’s departure earlier this month, giving optimism for another go-to scorer to emerge.
Bryn Forbes — Guard, San Antonio Spurs
Forbes leads the Las Vegas Summer League in scoring (29.3 points per game).
The former Michigan State Spartan scored 35 points and knocked down 6 three-pointers in a win against the Portland Trailblazers.
The Spurs also participated in Utah’s Summer League. In Salt Lake City, Forbes led the league in scoring (21.3 points) in his team’s three appearances.
He’s long been known as a 3-point specialist, dating back to his days in East Lansing. But he added a spot-up game from all around the court, and it remains evident in his action this summer.
Bam Adebayo — Center, Miami Heat
Adebayo entered the NBA Draft with a raw offensive game; his defensive abilities highlighted his potential. In the Summer League, the Kentucky product has gotten it done on both ends of the floor.
Through four games in Orlando, Adebayo averages 17.5 points per game, fifth best at the location, ties for second in blocks (2.3), and ranks third in rebounds (8.3). He’s also registering 1 steal and 1.3 assists per contest.
In his third game for the Heat, he notched a double-double (29 points and 11 rebounds) and blocked 2 shots.
With his stats averaged per 48 minutes, he’s looking at a 27-point, 13 rebound, and 3.5-block stat line.
Luke Kennard — Guard, Detroit Pistons
A sharpshooter with the athleticism and intangibles to spread the floor, Kennard’s Summer League contributions have silenced the doubters questioning the Pistons for drafting the Duke guard at No. 12.
Detroit’s first round pick’s hot stroke from behind the line (47.8-percent) leads the team. He’s putting up 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in Orlando.
Kennard and Company went as far as the title game in Orlando, losing in the championship in overtime to the Dallas Mavericks. However, he scored 24 points and drained three 3-pointers, one of which came with seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into OT.