Free agency has been quite the whirlwind, but it’s time for some real(ish) games featuring rookies making their first appearances on NBA rosters. Three NBA Summer Leagues tip off within the next week, starting with the Orlando Summer League today, Utah Summer League on July 6 and Las Vegas Summer League on the 10th. This will be the first preview of the three leagues, looking at some of the top prospects from the eight teams at the event. Depending on how players perform in these games might determine if they get invited to training camp in October, as they attempt to realize their NBA dreams.
**Note: The Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers were late add-ins to this league, and were edited after the original article was published.
Prospects to Watch: Cliff Alexander PF, Khem Birch PF, Markel Brown SG, Earl Clark SF/PF, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson SG/SF, Cory Jefferson PF, Juan Pablo Vaulet SG/SF
Breakdown: The Nets have a foursome of intriguing power forwards who have potential to make the roster on their Summer League team in Alexander, Birch, Clark and Jefferson. The team doesn’t have much help on the perimeter, but shooting guard Markel Brown played a role off the bench last year for the Nets and it’ll be nice to get a first look at Argentinian swingman Juan Pablo Vaulet. The Nets traded for rookie swingman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, so look for him on the perimeter as the lockdown defender on this roster.
Prospects to Watch: Frank Kaminsky PF/C, Troy Daniels SG, P.J. Hairston SG/SF, Aaron Harrison SG, Kevin Murphy SG, LaQuinton Ross SG/SF
Breakdown: The Hornets team lacks much in the post as the only notable is rookie power forward/center Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky should be a mismatch nightmare at this level and showcase his stretch ability and versatility in the frontcourt. Guard Troy Daniels made an impact in the NBA off the bench for the Rockets a year ago, and could get a training camp invite. Swingmen Hairston, Murphy and Ross all have the ability to stretch the floor, and shooting guard Aaron Harrison gets his chance to impress as an undrafted rookie.
Prospects to Watch: Solomon Hill SG/SF, Myles Turner PF/C, Christian Watford SF/PF, Joseph Young PG/SG, Romero Osby SF/PF
Breakdown: The Pacers have a weaker roster, lacking proven NBA talent with only swingman Solomon Hill having played meaningful regular season minutes last season. Watford and Osby both are versatile and have stretch four potential. Turner, the Pacers’ lottery selection this year, should see plenty of time against quality Summer League competition, which will help show how ready he is for the NBA. Combo guard Joseph Young should be a spark-plug and will have an opportunity to show if he can play a similar role in the regular season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Prospects to Watch: Jordan Hamilton SG/SF, Nate Wolters PG, Branden Dawson SF/PF, Royce White SF/PF, C.J. Wilcox SG
The Clippers Summer League roster is very balanced with perimeter threats, defense, athleticism and length. Los Angeles doesn’t have a lot of cap space this summer and had to buy their way into the draft to select forward Branden Dawson who is probably the biggest standout on the roster. Hamilton and Wilcox will help stretch the floor and Wolters will be able to control the game at point guard. One of the most intriguing names on the roster is former lottery selection forward Royce White. White has the ability to make an NBA roster, but with his inability to fly on airplanes, White has always been a question mark. This team is well balanced and should be a tough out during the week.
Prospects to Watch: Russ Smith PG/SG, Jarnell Stokes PF/C, Jordan Adams SG/SF, JaMychal Green PF, Andrew Harrison PG/SG, Alex Kirk C
Breakdown: Memphis has a well-balanced roster featuring versatility, shooting and size, despite their 2015 first-round power forward, Jarell Martin, being out with a foot injury. It’s going to be important for Green and Stokes to standout in hopes of impressing despite Martin being selected in the draft. Andrew Harrison has a chance to impress with his immense size and versatile game complementing combo guard Russ Smith. 2014 first-round pick, Jordan Adams, needs to take a step after struggling shooting last year, something the Grizzlies will desperately need again next year. Kirk is a 7-footer who can do some things and possibly earn a training camp invite.
Prospects to Watch: Stanley Johnson SG/SF, Darrun Hilliard SG/SF, Spencer Dinwiddie PG/SG, Quincy Miller SF, Adonis Thomas SG/SF
Breakdown: The Pistons have a variety of wing players who should be standouts in a setting like this. Draft picks Johnson and Hilliard are versatile and should see plenty of time on the court. Dinwiddie showed promise as a rookie last year and needs to continue improving from the perimeter. Quincy Miller has always been an intriguing perimeter prospect who needs to gain some weight and consistency. Watch out for Adonis Thomas who has been impressive in the D-League and is looking to get invited to Detroit’s training camp.
Prospects to Watch: Hassan Whiteside C, Zoran Dragic SG/SF, Justise Winslow SG/SF, Henry Walker SF, James Ennis SG/SF, Tyler Johnson SG, Shabazz Napier PG, Willie Reed PF/C, Josh Richardson SG, Travis Trice PG
Breakdown: The Miami Heat have the most loaded roster by far at the Orlando Summer League, featuring six players from last year’s team who saw NBA minutes during the regular season. Whiteside on this list is surprising, but maybe they’re hoping to give him more post touches to gain comfort there. Swingmen Dragic, Walker, Ennis and Johnson all bring different skills to the table. 2015 lottery pick Justise Winslow will get a chance to show what he can do on the perimeter, and second-rounder Josh Richardson is intriguing as a possible depth piece for the Heat. Napier has a lot of room to grow into a backup point guard, but watch out for Michigan State standout point guard Travis Trice, who can stretch the floor and distribute. This team will be a tough out in Orlando.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Prospects to Watch: Mitch McGary PF/C, Dakari Johnson C, Marquis Teague PG, Samaj Christon PG
Breakdown: The Thunder have only one player who saw significant time on an NBA court last year in versatile power forward/center Mitch McGary. McGary has a lot of potential for growth this season, and perhaps it will be good for him to get as much usage as possible in Orlando. Dakari Johnson has a great opportunity to show what he can do without being overshadowed by a multitude of other big men like he was at Kentucky. Marquis Teague and Samaj Christon are probably competing for the third point guard invite to Oklahoma City’s training camp, with Russell Westbrook and Cameron Payne already slated as the top two on the depth chart. Payne isn’t participating thanks to a broken finger in his non-shooting (right) hand. The Thunder probably have the second-worst Summer League roster top to bottom.
Orlando Magic Blue
Prospects to Watch: Aaron Gordon SF/PF, Elfrid Payton PG, Devyn Marble SG/SF, Mario Hezonja SG/SF, Tyler Harvey SG
Breakdown: The Magic ‘A’ team has three players (Gordon, Payton and Marble) who saw significant action on an NBA floor last year. It’ll be interesting to see how/if Payton or Gordon improved their respective jump shots this offseason. Marble and 2015 lottery pick Mario Hezonja should be a great tandem on the wing, providing versatility and shooting ability. Harvey has a chance to impress off the bench as a shooter and playmaker, something the Magic could definitely use next season.
Orlando Magic White
Prospects to Watch: Chris Singleton SF/PF, Glen Rice Jr. SG/SF, Melvin Ejim SF/PF, Jordan Bachynski C
Breakdown: The Magic ‘B’ team is probably the worst team among these eight. Only two players have NBA experience in combo forward Chris Singleton and swingmen Glen Rice Jr. Among other notable players are combo forward Melvin Ejim and center Jordan Bachynski. Ejim is an NBA athlete who attacks the rim with force, and Bachynski has potential to earn a training camp invite on some team thanks to his 7-2 size and shot blocking ability. This team might be overwhelmed by other competition in Orlando.