Rookies struggle in 2017 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas

Las Vegas hasn’t brought the best out of the NBA’s top prospects–at least not in their debuts. 

While Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, and Jonathan Isaac were big hits in the Orlando and Salt Lake City summer leagues, the same could not be said for many of their counterparts.

Lonzo Ball struggled to a 2-for-15 shooting line. He did, however, display his brilliant court vision, but NBA defenders will likely be going under most screens when he brings the ball up to the three-point line.

Josh Jackson of the Phoenix Suns and De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings also missed a boatload of shots, although Jackson and Fox found other ways to score. 

The 2017 NBA Summer League, in many ways, proves two things: that very little can be derived–positively or negatively — from looking at the box scores and that most rookies have a long way to go. Ball, for example, made several NBA plays. He made the right decisions driving to the basket and kicking the ball out for corner three-pointers. He just so happened to miss 10 three-pointers. 

The growing curve hitting the rookies missed many of the sophomores. Brandon Ingram, Ball’s teammate, looked every bit the prospect that the Lakers envisioned when drafting him out of Duke. Ingram exploded for 26 points, scoring in a multitude of fashions. 

Brice Johnson, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Juan Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley all joined Ingram as second-year players who displayed better comfort and poise on the floor.

In fact, Johnson was not a factor for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2016-17, but he still had a feel for the game. The agile forward poured in 23 points in 33 minutes.

NBA Summer League games do serve a purpose. They are more than exhibitions; they allow young players to get a feel for the NBA game without having to go against top dogs like LeBron James and Kevin Durant.The misses aren’t critical, although it would be great for the Lakers and Suns if their rookies scored as efficiently as Fultz and Tatum. Many of the other heralded rookies will also be active during the Vegas summer league.

NBA Summer League also allows fans to get a good look at who will be running their franchises for the foreseeable future. Ball, Fox, and Jackson will all have the keys to their teams for some time.