The official Summer League for the 2022 offseason begins Thursday in Las Vegas. There are still some games in the Salt Lake City event, but the headliner edition is finally here. While fringe G-League players make up a lot of the rosters, there are enough rookie and second-year guys in action to create some intrigue for the upcoming season. Here’s a look at the 10 most important players to watch in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Jaden Ivey - Detroit Pistons
Some may say Ivey fell to the Pistons at No. 5, given how he was considered the consensus No. 4 prospect heading into the draft. Detroit took Ivey despite Cade Cunningham being on the roster, so that fit is going to define this selection. We’ll get an early glimpse of that arrangement in Summer League, making Ivey the most intriguing player of the showcase.
Shaedon Sharpe - Portland Trail Blazers
Portland is trying to thread a fine line with Damian Lillard’s career, and Sharpe was a high-risk selection at No. 7. The Blazers have to hope he is everything people have said he is, and this will be his first competitive game in over a year. A lot is riding on Sharpe’s play in Vegas.
Chet Holmgren - Oklahoma City Thunder
The Salt Lake City games were enough to get people salivating over Holmgren’s potential. The Thunder rookie has had some trouble with bigger players, although he still manages to put up excellent numbers. Oklahoma City is building an exciting core, with Holmgren potentially being at the center of it all. We’ll see if he can keep up his dominance in Las Vegas.
Keegan Murray - Sacramento Kings
Murray was excellent in the California Classic, averaging 19.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game on 51/43/100 shooting splits. Even against weaker defenses, that is a ridiculous line. There were questions about his ceiling coming into the draft, but this looks like a great pick by the Kings. Murray should be able to contribute immediately for a team hoping to snap a long playoff drought. Let’s see if he can keep up his hot scoring display.
Paolo Banchero - Orlando Magic
The Magic played hide-and-seek regarding Banchero, revealing their intentions at the very last moment to take the Duke forward. It’s now up to Banchero to show out in Las Vegas and take away some of the momentum Holmgren has built early. The Magic are banking on this guy being the best player in the draft, and the early returns here are important landmarks.
Max Christie - Los Angeles Lakers
Christie was projected to be a first-round pick at one point, but his inconsistent play sent him into the second round. The Lakers are banking on his development timeline but the early offensive returns are not promising. Christie shot 25% from the field and 14.3% from deep in three California Classic games. He had 7.7 rebounds per game but that’s not going to matter if he can’t space the floor. This looks like a project for the Lakers, unless Christie can turn things around in Sin City.
Kai Jones - Charlotte Hornets
Jones was the 19th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and saw 3.0 minutes per game in 21 contests last season. The Hornets are clearly looking to be an up-tempo offensive team and Jones does fit the bill perfectly as a bouncy forward/center. Will he be able to carve out a bigger role with a massive Summer League campaign or will he get stuck behind a loaded frontcourt rotation once again?
Sharife Cooper - Atlanta Hawks
Cooper was one of the surprise tumblers in the 2021 draft, going to the Hawks in the second round. He was expected to complement Trae Young in the backcourt, but the Dejounte Murray addition has made Cooper a bit expendable. Can he become a potential trade chip, or will he remain on the end of the bench in Atlanta behind two young star guards?
Jaden Springer - Philadephia 76ers
Springer looked solid in his 2022 Summer League debut, which makes one think he could crack the Sixers rotation this season. Philadelphia has high hopes for the guard and given how Tyrese Maxey has developed, it’s not a stretch to say Springer could blossom here. Given the team’s aspirations, Springer taking on an expanded role would mean he had a productive summer. That starts in Las Vegas.
Jaden Hardy - Dallas Mavericks
There are some similarities between Hardy and Jalen Brunson, who departed the Mavericks for the Knicks this offseason. Hardy’s inefficiency in the G-League is concerning, but his upside is undeniable. If he can show out in Las Vegas and help make up some of Brunson’s scoring, the Mavericks will be content with their decision to not bring back the upstart guard.