Some players have surpassed expectations in July while others have fallen by the wayside.
The NBA summer league is winding down, as the preliminary round of games ends Thursday.
Only the top eight seeds will advance to a single-elimination tournament set to begin July 13, so quite a few prospects will have to wait until the preseason begins in October to return to the court.
Some players have surpassed expectations in July while others have not. Success in the summer league doesn’t necessarily translate to the regular season, but let’s take a look at who’s hot and who’s not so far.
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
Herro’s criticism ahead of the 2019 NBA draft was based on his poor defense and lack of efficiency, despite his reputation as a sharpshooter. The summer league has allowed him to showcase that he has more to offer than shooting, though.
The 6-5 guard initiated the Heat’s offense early and often and helped lead the team to a 3-1 record in the preliminary round. He showcased his playmaking ability out of pick-and-roll sets and has averaged 19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals so far.
Herro probably isn’t close to being a primary option for the Heat, especially since Miami already has Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Justise Winslow on board. But Herro’s versatility is a good sign.
Lonnie Walker IV, San Antonio Spurs
Walker had his rookie season derailed by a meniscus tear, but he appears like he’s poised to have a great sophomore campaign.
The 6-5 guard entered Thursday tied for first in the summer league in points per game (30.0) and he’s been ridiculously efficient. Walker shot 58% from the field in his two appearances.
His team went 2-2, so it’s not likely he’ll play again in the tournament.
The Spurs will have some serious battles in their 2019-20 backcourt, as Walker will compete with the likes of Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan for time after playing in just 17 regular season games last season.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
The Raptors have found yet another diamond in the rough.
Boucher, 26, has played in 29 regular season games and is routinely dominating the summer league by averaging 22.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. Toronto has the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player in Pascal Siakam, and Boucher could be up next.
The 6-10 big man is fresh off a season in which he was crowned MVP and Defensive Player of the Year of the G-League, playing for Toronto 905. He won his second straight NBA title with the Raptors in 2018-19, as he played for the Warriors in 2017-18.
The departure of Kawhi Leonard could clear space for him to break into Toronto’s rotation.
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
New York was initially favored to win the summer league championship, but went an underwhelming 1-3.
Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, averaged 14.0 points and 8.8 rebounds but shot 30% from the field with genuine rotation players around him.
The Knicks could be in a lot of trouble if his shooting struggles linger.
Nassir Little, Portland Trail Blazers
Many felt Portland got a steal when it selected Little with the No. 25 pick in 2019 but he definitely has some work to do.
The 6-7 wing has tallied 22 minutes per contest through three games. He’s averaging 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 33% from the field.
Little has shown flashes of his athleticism and is still figuring out how to fit in offensively.
Dean Wade, Cleveland Cavaliers
Wade went undrafted after four years at Kansas State, so there weren’t lofty expectations for him.
However, the Cavaliers haven’t gotten much from him in the 27 minutes he has averaged through three games.
The 6-10 forward is averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds but is only shooting 26% from the field. That’s a big drop off for a player who was the first option in college and hovered around 50% shooting.