Summer League’s Biggest Winners and Losers

Jul 19, 2022

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As the 2022 NBA Summer League winds down, we have seen some really impressive basketball from the league’s next generation of stars.

Of course, there is bound to be some disappointment as well, be it injuries suffered by players like Jaden Ivey, Shaedon Sharpe and Dyson Daniels or poor overall play from people we simply expected more out of.

After a fun few weeks, these are the biggest winners and losers to come out of the 2022 Summer League in Las Vegas.

Winner: Keegan Murray 

Murray has been arguably the best overall player in Las Vegas. It is quite the compliment considering we have seen the three players who were selected ahead of him (Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith), along with lottery picks from the 2021 and 2020 NBA drafts.

His strong play also (at least momentarily) takes the pressure off a Kings’ front office that caught heat for either not selecting Jaden Ivey fourth overall or trading back with some team looking to take the Purdue star.

Murray has averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 50 percent overall and 40 percent from three over his first 4 games. He’s shown the ability to play on or off the ball, being used as both a spot-up shooter or coming off screens to knock down open threes at a high rate.

Perhaps the best compliment of any player in Summer League is to say that they simply do not belong, which is how the 21-year-old looks playing against people both younger and older than he does. While Murray was the best “fit pick” as a long-term option for the Kings as a big, two-way forward, he looks like he will be a lock for a starting job immediately between people like De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis.

We’ve seen Murray’s ability as a scorer, defender, rebounder and flashes as a passer, as he’ll be able to fill in the gaps as a do-it-all forward for new head coach Mike Brown this fall.

It would have been easy to make fun of Sacramento had Murray come out and stunk up Summer League, but he has done the exact opposite.

Loser: Killian Hayes

If a top-10 draft pick is still playing in the Summer League going into his third NBA season, something has probably not gone according to plan.

Such is the case with Hayes, the Detroit Pistons point guard and No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 draft. After struggling in his first two seasons, this was a chance for Hayes to establish himself among other younger Pistons in Summer League and perhaps show a long-awaited ability as a somewhat competent scorer.

Instead, Hayes has played in just one Summer League contest, scoring a mere seven points (two of which came on a goaltending call) to go along with three rebounds, four assists, two turnovers and six fouls in his 22 minutes.

After the Pistons took ball-handling guards in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey in back-to-back drafts—even with Hayes on the roster—this could have been the 20-year-old’s last chance to try and hold on to a starting job before eventually settling in as the Pistons’ backup point guard.

Outside of a few nifty assists to Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren, Hayes did nothing to prove he deserved to hold off Ivey to start the season.

With career averages of just 6.8 points (on 37.4 percent shooting overall and 26.8 percent from three), 3.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 25.2 minutes, Hayes could be in danger of not even having his fourth-year team option picked up by the Pistons.

Given that he has been in the NBA for two years and was getting his second dose of Summer League, it would have been nice to see Hayes get more of an opportunity and do more in the chance that he did have.

Winner: The Warriors’ Future

It is probably not fair that the reigning NBA champions, a group led by four All-Stars and three future Hall-of-Famers, also possess one of the best young cores in the league.

Alas, the Warriors may indeed be light years ahead of the rest of the league again.

Fans of basketball, in general, should be thrilled to see James Wiseman return to the court after missing the entire 2021-22 season recovering from knee surgery. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft is averaging 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and shooting 54.5 percent in just 20.3 minutes.

He has been moving well following his injury and showed his massive potential as a defender. He has also been used as a rim-roller and occasional floor-spacer on offense.

Second-year guard Moses Moody is second among all players in scoring (27.5 points per game), while Jonathan Kuminga is not far behind (19.3). Both should see increased roles on the Warriors this season following the departure of veterans like Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr., Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Nemanja Bjelica through free agency or signing overseas.

After both being selected in the lottery in 2021, Moody and Kuminga are big, athletic multi-positional threats who carry star potential, especially after showing out in Summer League.

With the Warriors core of Stephen Curry (34), Klay Thompson (32) and Draymond Green (32) inching closer to the end of the road, injecting three elite prospects into bigger roles next season could mean an even better squad than the team that just won yet another title.

Loser: Jaden Hardy

Hardy and his new team, the Dallas Mavericks, looked like big winners following his first Summer League game.

Hardy went for 28 points on an efficient 9-of-19 shooting, including four rebounds, three assists and a steal. After struggling in the G League last season, this was the version of Hardy that made him one of the top high school players in the country. It also meant a potential reliable ball-handler and offensive threat next to Luka Doncic, with Jalen Brunson leaving for the New York Knicks.

Of course, this is the danger of small sample sizes.

Hardy’s following three games have looked like more of the same from his time in the G League, where he displayed poor shot selection, sloppy handles and an unreliable three-ball (26.9 percent).

Hardy has averaged 11.8 points on 30.4 percent shooting overall and has made more than 26.7 percent of his shots in just four contests following his first game. He also racked up 19 total turnovers and 18 personal fouls over this span.

This is exactly what the Mavericks did not want to see after knowing of Hardy’s shooting struggles last year. A strong Summer League showing from Hardy, as if he produced in his first outing, may have had head coach Jason Kidd and the Mavs already penciling the rookie into the regular-season rotation.

Instead, Hardy looks like he will indeed be a long-term project, something the win-now Mavericks may not be able to wait for. Dallas needs players who can hit shots and defend around Doncic, and Hardy has not shown the ability to do either consistently in the G League or in Summer League thus far.

Winner: Cam Thomas

Between the constant drama surrounding Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons with the Brooklyn Nets last season, Thomas was often overlooked despite showing promise as a rookie.

The No. 27 overall pick in 2021 was one of the top scorers in all of college basketball during his lone season at LSU and is getting a chance to show off his offensive chops once again at Summer League after taking home co-MVP honors last year.

The 20-year-old ranks first in scoring (28.0 points per game) to go along with his 3.8 assists. While his three-point shooting has not come around yet (28.6 percent), he has shot 48.1 percent inside the arc.

His handles allow him to freeze defenders before blowing by and getting into the paint or hitting a step-back three-pointer. A big guard at 6’4″ and 210 pounds, Thomas can draw and finish through contact and has made 42 of his 48 free throws (87.5 percent) through four games.

No matter what happens with Durant’s trade request or Irving’s always-questionable availability, Thomas has proven he deserves a bigger role on the Nets next season, ideally as a spark plug sixth man who can create instant offense.

Thomas is not the first name that is brought up when talking about Brooklyn, but his play this Summer League suggests he is a future star in the league.

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