While many believe that summer league is meaningless for recent top draft picks, that's not true. With the increasing amount of "one and done" players, many of the top NBA draft picks have played less than 30 collegiate games. Playing in the summer league gives these players the opportunity to play against opponents with both NBA experience and international basketball experience.
For second round draft picks and undrafted rookies, the summer league is obviously important given that their contracts are non-guaranteed. The summer league allows these players to not only impress the team they're playing for, but impress other teams around the league with hopes of making an NBA roster.
There are a number of rookies playing in the three NBA summer leagues taking place in Orlando, Utah and Las Vegas. The Las Vegas summer league play begins July 10 and lasts ten days. The Las Vegas summer league is by far the most robust of the three and Part 2 of this article will highlight rookies who shine there. So far, these five rookies have made the most of their short NBA summer league experiences.
Myles Turner: The 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft has been the most impressive rookie so far. The center from the University of Texas is giving Indiana Pacers' fans hope with his play and is giving the franchise peace of mind as they ship former All-Star center Roy Hibbert to the Lakers.
Turner ranks second in scoring in the Orlando Summer League at 18.7 PPG and fifth in rebounding at 8.3 RPG. Most remarkable of his numbers is his blocks per game, leading all players with an outstanding 4.3 BPG. He's also shooting 60% from the field which is very impressive for a player who shot 46% from the field in college.
Stanley Johnson: The eighth overall pick by the Detroit Pistons in the 2015 NBA draft has been a high performer during the summer league. He's third in the Orlando Summer League in scoring at 17.8 PPG, while shooting an impressive 64% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc. He's also averaging 7.3 RPG and showcasing his defensive ability by averaging over two steals per game.
With Greg Monroe leaving for Milwaukee, the Bucks will look to Johnson to be an immediate contributor. Bucks fans have to be excited to see how successful a frontcourt trio of Johnson, Andre Drummond and Ersan İlyasova could be.
Jahlil Okafor: The third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft has played well in three games at the Utah Summer League. The future starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers is posting solid numbers, averaging 14.0 PPG and 8.3 RPG.
Okafor has struggled however at the free throw line, making just 4 of 13. Also, his field goal percentage is a mediocre 44%. Philadelphia will need Okafor to be a presence offensively from the jump so those percentages must improve.
Branden Dawson: The undersized forward from Michigan State has played extremely well during the Orlando Summer League. He is averaging 12.8 PPG and second in the Orlando Summer League in rebounding at 10.3 RPG.
Dawson was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the 56th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, but traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for cash considerations later that night. Dawson is a high intensity, defensive minded player whose summer league play shows he can be a contributor for the Clips next season.
Richaun Holmes: Another 76ers rookie is playing well in the Utah Summer League. Holmes, the 37th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft out of Bowling Green, is averaging 9.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG in just over 16 minutes of play per game.
While most second round draftees are on the fringe of making an NBA roster, Holmes has played well enough that the 76ers should be content with him as a backup to Nerlens Noel.
Photos courtesy of nba.com