NBA Summer Surprises: 5 players who have stood out in Vegas

Jul 13, 2022, 9:48 PM | Updated: Jul 14, 2022, 9:49 am
Houston Rockets' Tari Eason dunks against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of an NBA...

Houston Rockets' Tari Eason dunks against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Saturday, July 9, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

(AP Photo/David Becker)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — As NBA summer league winds down in Las Vegas and teams begin making plans to finish up and leave this coming weekend, some players might have done better than most in showing their potential.

This list doesn’t include the biggest names. Paolo Banchero was stellar for Orlando. Chet Holmgren was exceptional for Oklahoma City. That shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Banchero was the No. 1 pick and Holmgren the No. 2 pick in last month’s draft.

But for some, these couple weeks in Vegas might have been a bit of a coming-out party — or at least a reminder that there is no shortage of talented players still waiting for a real chance to make it in the NBA.

Here’s five that might have been overlooked during games in Las Vegas:

TARI EASON, HOUSTON

Not a total surprise, given that he was the No. 17 pick last month. But Eason was clearly one of the top performers in Las Vegas, averaging 16.7 points and 11.7 rebounds entering Thursday. He shot the 3-pointer well, defended very well at times and showed that he’ll be ready to help the Rockets right away. The Rockets came to Las Vegas with all eyes on No. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr., and rightly so, but Eason reminded some people that Houston had a very good draft.

QUENTIN GRIMES, NEW YORK

He averaged 6 points per game last year for the Knicks and certainly had some good moments, but summer league could be a serious springboard for the shooting guard going into his second NBA season. Grimes was getting 3-pointers airborne by the truckload in Las Vegas, but wasn’t exactly forcing many of them. He played with the savvy of a guy who has already been in the NBA; he got to the line efficiently, wasn’t getting called for fouls on every possession like some seemed to be — the 10-foul rule in Summer League isn’t great for creating good habits — and was a leader.

MOSES MOODY, GOLDEN STATE

He played in 65 games — 52 regular season, 13 playoff — for the Warriors on their way to the NBA championship this past season. He might have taken another step forward in Las Vegas. He didn’t shoot it great at times, but there were also times where he just couldn’t be guarded. James Wiseman’s return after 15 months was maybe the biggest development for Golden State out of summer league, but Moody might have also shown that he’s ready for more responsibility when the Warriors try to win a fifth title in nine years this coming season.

TACKO FALL, UTAH

The 7-foot-5 Fall has always been a project. He still is. But a 12-point, 15-rebound, three-block game in 17 minutes was a loud-and-clear reminder of the potential that the former UCF center has. He turns 27 later this year and has appeared in 37 games over parts of three seasons with Boston and Cleveland. It might be make-or-break time for Fall, but considering Utah — which had him for summer league — needs some bigs after trading Rudy Gobert to Minnesota, there might be another chance awaiting him. Plus, Utah boss Danny Ainge had Fall in Boston, so he knows firsthand how much Fall has improved.

SANDRO MAMUKELASHVILI, MILWAUKEE

He’s on a two-way with the Bucks, which looks like an absolute steal. In his first three games of summer league, he averaged 21 points, shot 9-for-16 from 3-point range, put the ball on the floor better than most 6-foot-9 guys in Las Vegas could, and moved very well. The native of the Republic of Georgia, who played his college ball at Seton Hall, keeps getting better.

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NBA Summer Surprises: 5 players who have stood out in Vegas