The season is over, a champion has been crowned, and J.R. Smith has finally put his shirt back on, but that doesn't mean basketball has stopped. NBA Summer League has arrived and like an oasis in the desert, it is a welcomed site for the many basketball fans that have lost their way in the void that is watching baseball on television. With Summer League taking place in Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas there will be tons of young, exciting talent doing their best to impress their coaches.
There will be a total of 24 teams in action at the Las Vegas tournament, plenty of which that feature prospects that have spent time in the D-league. As of last season almost 40 percent of the league has played, at one point or another, in the D-League. Players like Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, and Tyler Johnson (all of whom just signed monster free agent deals) are going to be one of many D-League alums that used Summer League as a launch point for their careers. There is a lot incredible talent that will be playing but these are the D-League alums to watch out for at Las Vegas Summer League.
Jimmer Fredette, Guard, Denver Nuggets
No player on this list has higher name recognition than Jimmer Fredette. After failing to reach the lofty expectations placed on his shoulders coming out of college, Fredette hopped from team to team before deciding to enter the D-League last season. In his lone season with the Westchester Knicks, Fredette averaged an impressive 21.1 points on 45.8 percent shooting from the floor to go along with five assists and 4.4 rebounds.
At the age of 27, Fredette isn't getting any younger. It seems like everyone is waiting for him to figure out how to play defense and accept his role. His rumored poor attitude is not doing him any favors, but the thought of him fulfilling even a fraction of his potential as a shooter still has teams calling. Hopefully the year spent in the D-League has addressed concerns about his play and frame of mind.
Bruno Caboclo, Forward, Toronto Raptors
When the Toronto Raptors drafted Caboclo in 2014 with the 20th overall pick, many thought it was a reach. He was extremely raw, like Giannis Antehekumpo was when he was drafted, but showed the potential to be great. After an underwhelming rookie season buried on the bench of a playoff team, Caboclo was in need of a fresh start and some actual playing time. Last season with the Raptors 905, he got just that and then some.
Our very own editor, Dakota Schmidt, took a deeper look at his successful revival after the season ended but Caboclo looked like the versatile game-changer everyone was hoping he would become. Averaging 12.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.59 blocks, and almost one steal, Caboclo could be ready to break out on a bigger stage. He can get up and down the court with ease, he has the beginnings of a reliable offensive game, and can defend multiple positions. If his shot starts to click, he will be very dangerous for Toronto going forward.
Russ Smith, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Scoring 65 points in a game, at any level, is extremely hard to do. When Russ Smith netted 65 as a member of the Delaware 87ers, he emerged as one of the premier guard prospects in the D-League. In 22 games with the 87ers he averaged 27.9 points, five rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game, looking like a man on a mission whenever he stepped onto the floor.
His height is his biggest anchor, as he stands at only 6'1". If he was 6'4" or taller, he would be on an NBA roster. His game is electric and exciting because of how crafty he is with the ball in his hands. In a Summer League setting, Smith will ball out and be one of the more fun prospects to watch. The fact that he is with the Portland Trail Blazers is also very interesting. I hope he sticks, for no other reason than I want to see what the Damian Lillard factor could have on him. He did wonders for both C.J. McCollum and Tim Frazier's games.
Vander Blue, Guard, Dallas Mavericks
Few players look more NBA ready than Vander Blue did last season in the D-League. He was the most consistent scorer in the league, averaging 26.3 points per game over 48 games on 44 percent shooting from the floor. He was also the driving force behind the Los Angeles D-Fenders unlikely run to the NBADL Finals, eventually losing to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Blue is a leader, and at only 23 he is blossoming at the perfect time. He will look like a man amongst boys at Summer League, given his level of experience and the supreme confidence that he emits on the court. It was a pleasure watching him toy with opposing defenders while in a D-Fenders jersey. I can only imagine what he will bring out for Summer League with an NBA contract on the line.
Jordan Mickey, Forward, Boston Celtics
Much like Caboclo, Jordan Mickey is already under contract with an NBA team. His Summer League mission won't be earning a roster spot, like most of the guys on this list, but instead will serve as the perfect opportunity for him to showcase his incredible growth after spending most of the season with the Maine Red Claws. While in Maine, he averaged a stellar 17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 4.4 blocks per game in 23 games played and became a threat for a points/rebounds/blocks triple-double on any given night.
What has everyone, including myself, so excited about Mickey is what he can do in the modern NBA. If he can rebound and protect the rim at the rate he did in college and the D-League, he could be an incredible small ball five. He shoots 35 percent from deep and that will only improve has he ages and keeps working at it. If Mickey plays significant minutes this season, don't be shocked to see him on the short-list for Most Improved Player because when he gets the call he will answer it.
Sim Bhullar, Center, Sacramento Kings
There isn't a prospect on this list are more intriguing than Sim Bhullar. Standing at 7'5" and hailing from Canada, Bhullar was the first person of Indian decent to play in the NBA when he first suited up for the Sacramento Kings back in April of 2015. He has been a regular in the D-League but it is time for him to make his mark on the NBA; his time is now.
Being 7'5" and 360 pounds has its advantages as an NBA prospect. Averaging only 10 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks over his D-League career, Bhullar will be getting calls as long as he can get up and down the court based on his physical stats alone. But he is more than just a big body, there is potential there. If he can slim down and run the floor better, he will always have a job in the NBA.
Coty Clarke, Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
If teams are looking for a gritty, tough, hardworking player than they need to look no further than Coty Clarke. After going undrafted out of Arkansas in 2014, Clarke spent time overseas in Israel honing his game. After averaging a double-double he was signed by the Celtics in 2015 but was soon cut and ended up in Maine with the Red Claws. Soon after that, he worked himself into a short stint with the Celtics during the season and ended up being named second team All-NBA D-League.
Averaging 16.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 steals on the year, Clarke is the picture of versatility and efficiency. He shoots over 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from deep, and averages less than two turnovers per game. As a fan of the Timberwolves and someone that has watched a lot of Clarke this past year, I hope he sticks. He could be yet another young, versatile and position-less player who plays defense that Thibs could utilize.
Quinn Cook, Guard, D-League Select Team
The D-League Select Team is always fun to watch in Summer League, as no one really gives them a chance. But this year's team just got even more fun now that reigning NBADL Rookie of the Year Quinn Cook joined the team. First reported by Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor, Cook will join the team instead of accepting an invitation to play for the Dallas Mavericks' Summer League team.
In his rookie season he averaged 19.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.19 steals per game for the Canton Charge after going undrafted out of Duke. Much like Russ Smith, his biggest enemy is his height. Standing at only 6'2", teams usually don't like to take chances on something so unsure. But hopefully after a great year in Canton, and an even better showing at Summer League, he can emerge from this summer with an NBA contract in hand.