First impressions of Sacramento and Utah Summer Leagues

ByKevin Arnovitz and Marc J. Spears ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 4, 2018

If Las Vegas is the main event of the NBA's summer, then Utah's and Sacramento's pocket-sized summer league exhibitions are the appealing open acts.

Eight teams are in action before the Las Vegas Summer League starts Friday. Three of the top five picks highlight the Utah and Sacramento leagues, giving fans a glimpse of elite prospects from this June's draft class. As always, there have been both rookie jitters and jubilation.

A rundown of the highlights (and lowlights) of the first two days:


  • Following his 29-point debut in which he sank 8-of-13 attempts from beyond the arc Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson, Jr. worked on his inside game Tuesday against a Utah Jazz defense more attentive to his perimeter game."I had a feeling they were going to play my 3 a little bit more," Jackson said. "I got a couple to fall, but I knew it would be harder to get them off."Jackson finished 4-for-11 from the field (2-of-4 from 3) with 10 points and eight rebounds against Utah Tuesday. Jackson might be classified as a big man, but is a committed perimeter player -- and far more than just a stand-in-the-corner brand of stretch-big. He's flaring off screens and collecting dribble-handoffs.But on Tuesday, Jackson was also more than happy to bang inside, brandish some fancy footwork, and work off the dribble against tight close-outs. A lanky presence down low on the other end, Jackson has mobility and reasonably good instincts. He unleashed a nasty block in the closing minutes and does appear capable of cultivating a mastery of NBA big-man defense.
  • On the heels of a rough 4-for-20 night in his debut on Monday, Trae Young struggled again from the field in the Hawks' 103-81 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting, with three assists (his teammates didn't help him in this regard).Yet the total performance wasn't nearly the disaster the line might suggest. Young did a nice job facilitating against the Spurs' aggressive pressure."I'm getting a lot of face guards, a lot of [being] picked up full court, so I'm just trying to make the right play, make the right pass," Young said after the game.Young is deeply enamored with his floater -- which he proved at Oklahoma can be effective in spots -- but at present in Salt Lake City, it's rendering him an inefficient scorer. He missed his first six shots, draining his first bucket just before halftime -- a straight-away 3-pointer.Young enjoyed some nice moments in the second half. When he challenges the defense by changing speeds to get to the rim with the intention of finishing, he's an effective driver.
  • Derrick White, the Spurs' first-round pick from 2017, took charge and dominated the early game Tuesday against Atlanta. A smart combo guard who played in 17 games with San Antonio last season and averaged 20 points in 24 games at the Spurs' G League affiliate in Austin, White initiated offense with ease, scoring 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting, dishing out nine assists, and collecting six rebounds. He alternated between scoring and playmaking, excelling in the pick-and-roll, passing up good-not-great shots to find cutters with open lanes to the rim, and kicking it out to shooters when he met a wall of defenders on a drive. Though White isn't an elite-level athlete, he's steady and unselfish, with a chance to be a reliable shooter from the outside.
  • Grayson Allen had the night off Tuesday. Allen strained an adductor in pre-draft workouts, and though he's fine, there's little reason to push him in a back-to-back. Allen scored 11 points (4-for-16 shooting) on Monday night to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists.Likewise, the Spurs sat their first-round draft pick, Lonnie Walker IV on their only back-to-back of the summer league season. And like Allen, Walker struggled from the field in his debut, scoring seven points on 3-for-16 shooting.

-- Kevin Arnovitz


  • It was the tale of two nights for Sacramento Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III in his new home arena. The No. 2 overall draft pick had 18 points and a spectacular dunk in his summer league debut Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Bagley scored efficiently (6-of-11 field goals, 5-of-6 free throws) while adding three blocked shots.But on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors' athletes bothered Bagley as he missed 13 of 16 shots. Tuesday night was a forgettable night for all the Kings, but especially those not named Justin Jackson (20 points, 7-of-11 field goals) or Frank Mason (16 points, 5-of-10 field goals). Outside of those two, the Kings combined to shoot only 7-of-48 from the field (14.1 percent).A silver lining for the Kings is that 2017 first-round pick Harry Giles III played in both games after missing all of his rookie season due to knee rehabilitation.
  • LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers could use some more perimeter shooting on their revamped roster. Perhaps it can come from rookie sharpshooter Svi Mykhailiuk, who has made 5-of-14 3-pointers (35.7 percent) in the first two games. Mykhailiuk was the 47th pick in the 2018 NBA draft, so he's playing for a roster spot in Los Angeles.Power forward Moritz Wagner, selected 25th overall by the Lakers last month, is only 3-of-12 (25 percent) from 3 through two summer games.
  • Warriors power forward Jordan Bell is known for his athleticism and his dunks. But so far in summer league action, he looks as if he has added confidence in a midrange jumper, though he is not taking 3s yet.Bell shook off a 2-of-8 shooting performance Monday against Miami by going 4-of-5 from the field Tuesday against Sacramento. The defensive side is still where Bell shines, as he has five steals and four blocks through two summer games.
  • Miami Heat small forward Derrick Jones, Jr., has averaged 23 points during the first two summer league games. Jones ended last season on Miami's roster on a two-way contract, and he earned a standard contract from the Heat on Monday.Center Bam Adebayo has been an elite rebounder so far, averaging 12 rebounds in the first two games. Adebayo has been turnover prone, however, giving up the ball nine times already.

-- Marc J. Spears

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