NBA Summer League: Takeaways from Pool Play

NBA Summer League: Takeaways from Pool Play

Thursday marked the seventh day of the LVSL, and the final day of the round robin portion of the event. On Friday, the tournament stage begins.

With a week of LVSL games now under our belt, let's take a look at the statistical leaders to this point.


Lonnie Walker IV, Spurs: 30.0

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Pelicans: 24.5

Chris Boucher, Raptors: 22.7

Aaron Holiday, Pacers: 22.3

Anfernee Simons, Trail Blazers: 22.0

Other notables: Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans: 20.5; Tyler Herro, Heat: 19.8; Rui Hachimura, Wizards: 19.3; Carsen Edwards, Celtics: 18.0

*Minimum two games played

Lonnie Walker and Chris Boucher have done solid work prolonging their NBA careers here in Las Vegas, but, realistically, neither of them are likely to make any impact this season. Both are likely to be buried pretty deep on depth charts, barring some shocking multi-player trades.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, the 17th pick last month, is in a direct competition with Frank Jackson for the Pelicans' backup point guard spot. Unfortunately for us, both played very well this summer, so we really haven't gained much clarity. Backup PG could become a role with significant fantasy importance this season, as several projected backcourt starters have lengthy injury histories.

On the other hand, the role could be almost meaningless. Though Alexander-Walker and Jackson are likely to slot in as second and third on the depth chart behind Lonzo Ball, many have argued that both Jrue Holiday (projected starting shooting guard) and Brandon Ingram (projected starting small forward) are at their best when manning the point. All that said, the lofty draft capital implies that the Pelicans are hoping to use Alexander-Walker, who is primarily a point guard, and his high scoring and 7.0 assists per game this summer are positive signs of his ability to compete on an NBA stage. 

While it made some sense to include Aaron Holiday on the Pacers' Summer League team, I'm somewhat surprised they didn't shut him down after the first game. He quickly established that he was the best player on the floor. On top of the scoring, he also added 4.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks through three games. The Pacers added Malcom Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb this summer, complicating Holiday's path to minutes, but any time injuries open up increased opportunities for him he should be on the fantasy radar.

The Trail Blazers are optimistic about Anfernee Simons, and hope that he can take on a larger role in 2019-20. Picked at the end of the first round in 2018, Simons spent some time in the G-League and saw only sporadic garbage time minutes last season. He's the only point guard on the roster behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and his strong summer league performance is an important step in his path to securing a larger role. An important note for fantasy: Simons is unlikely to provide many assists. He's more of a Terry Rozier-type fantasy producer, i.e. pretty good per-minute points and threes, good rebounds for a guard, and only a small smattering of assists and steals.

All of the players in the "notables" section – Hachimura, Hayes, Herro and Edwards, are likely to see more minutes in 2019-20 than any of the other players listed above. Among these, Hachimura and Herro probably have the clearest paths to minutes, and could become some of the most fantasy-relevant rookies this season.


Jarred Vanderbilt, Nuggets: 12.0

Tony Bradley, Jazz: 11.3

Terance Mann, Clippers: 11.3

Mitchell Robinson, Knicks: 11.0

Zhou Qi, China: 10.8

Jarred Vanderbilt has arguably been the standout performer of Summer League. Though he didn't do much in his first game, he's been dynamic since. He put up 12 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a three against the Celtics on Tuesday. While that stat line would be solid against any opponent, it's particularly impressive against the Celtics, whose roster features possibly the most NBA players of any squad in Vegas.

The next day, Vanderbilt followed that up by scoring 20 points and grabbing 17 rebounds, to go with three assists and three steals against the Warriors. It's also worth noting that he started at power forward against the Celtics, and started at center against the Warriors. The 2018 second-round pick only appeared in 17 games as a rookie, but he's done a lot to ensure that he secures a spot on the roster this season. That said, he's unlikely to make much fantasy impact, as he figures to be buried deep on the Nuggets' loaded frontcourt.

Tony Bradley was the 28th pick in the 2017 draft, but he's played only 12 games through his first two seasons. He's finally having a breakout in Las Vegas, scoring 19.7 and adding 2.7 assists in addition to the rebounds. He's a clear third on the Jazz depth chart behind Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis, but the Jazz don't really have any traditional power forwards following the departure of Derrick Favors, so Bradley's position isn't quite as bad as it first appears. Either way, barring injury, 10 to 15 minutes per game would be even better than his realistic best-case scenario this season.

If you don't know who Terance Mann is, then his Summer League production will seem even more impressive when you find out that he's a shooting guard/small forward. In addition to his rebounding, he's near the top of the leaderboard in assists at 5.7 per game. However, in terms of regular season fantasy relevance, Mann's position is actually a problem, as he probably won't be cutting into Kawhi Leonard's workload. Or Maurice Harkless. Or Landry Shamet, or Rodney McGruder. Mann will need some injuries ahead of him to become a fantasy factor.

Mitchell Robinson has been the captain of the 2019 I'm not even supposed to be here squad. He has absolutely no business being in Summer League. He's a starting center and I have him just inside my fantasy top-50. He shot 84% from the field. The only commentary I have on his performance this week is that I'm disappointed that he only averaged 3.5 blocks per game. 

Zhou Qi was a Summer League fan favorite a few summers ago, and he made a few appearances in 2017-18 for the Rockets. There is probably some bad team stat inflation going on here, as Team China has been one of the worst at LVSL. He's still only 23, but he's had some chances and shown that he's just not quite there to make it in the NBA. 


Bruce Brown, Pistons: 8.3

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Pelicans: 7.0

Codi Miller-McIntyre, Lakers: 6.3

Kendrick Nunn, Heat: 6.3

Chris Chiozza, Rockets: 6.0

Brown notched a triple-double on Wednesday. He's been good throughout Summer League, but I paid him short shrift in the earlier recap articles to focus on his teammate, Svi Mykhailiuk. While Mykhailiuk started stronger, now that we are four games in, Brown has been the more impressive Piston. Brown was the team's starting shooting guard from mid-December on, though he averaged just 20.8 minutes as a starter.

Brown could enter 2019-20 as the starter, but the Pistons' wing depth chart is still very much in flux. As his standing atop the leaderboard implies, he has the ability to be a solid distributor. Yet, despite the gaudy Summer League stats, Brown will have to show a lot of improvement to become a fantasy factor. He provided almost no statistical help last season, even when he was getting consistent minutes.

Miller-McIntyre's production is probably just another case of bad team stat inflation. The Lakers are one of the very worst teams at LVSL. They are winless through four games and have the third-worst point differential. He is unlikely to make the Lakers roster. His 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds through three games on top of his assist totals may help him land somewhere else, but for now we don't need to worry about him.

Nunn is a 23-year-old out of Oakland who spent last season as one of the best players in the G-League. He's been excellent this summer, also ranking just outside the leaderboard in points with 21.0 per game. The Heat are probably not done tinkering with their roster, and if upcoming moves result in Goran Dragic leaving without a replacement point guard arriving, Nunn could take on a fairly significant role – and his work this summer has probably given the Heat added confidence to consider such moves. As things stand, he's off the fantasy radar in all but exceptionally deep leagues, but that could change in the months ahead.

Chris Chiozza is unlikely to make the Rockets' regular season roster, so this looks like another impressive statistical performance that can probably be ignored.

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Alex Rikleen
Rikleen writes the NBA column "Numbers Game," which decodes the math that underpins fantasy basketball and was a nominee for the 2016 FSWA Newcomer of the Year Award. A certified math teacher, Rikleen decided the field of education pays too well, so he left it for writing. He is a Boston College graduate living outside Boston.
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