The NBA landscape shifted Friday, literally and physically.
Even before Kawhi Leonard went to the Lakers – bringing Paul George with him – the future of the league became a little clearer when two of this year's top-three draft picks played their first games in NBA jerseys. Oh right, and then the ground literally shook in Las Vegas due to the 7.1 magnitude Earthquake that hit Ridgecrest, CA.
Eight and three-quarters games were played on the opening day of the Las Vegas Summer League Friday. Here are the key takeaways:
Pistons vs. Croatia
Svi Mykhailiuk: The Pistons' Summer League roster doesn't have a ton of NBA-caliber players on it, especially since 15th pick Sekou Doumbouya did not play Friday. So while Mykhailiuk shouldn't get a ton of credit for being the game's second-leading scorer with 17 points in 30 minutes, it's a good sign that he was able to outperform the underwhelming competition. The Pistons have been thirsting for a reliable wing scorer for a while. Mykhailiuk has the shooting ability to seize that role, but he'll need to show some consistency here in Vegas to force his way into that competition.
76ers vs. Bucks
Shake Milton: This game was supposed to be a coming-out party for 20th pick Matisse Thybulle, but Milton absolutely stole the show. Most of his 15 points came from 11 made free throws – and he's probably not going to be attempting 13 free throws a night in the regular season - but he also tallied seven assists and two rebounds. More importantly, he made his presence felt constantly, on both sides of the ball. The 76ers just signed Milton to a four-year contract, and with T.J. McConnell now gone, Milton has a shot to become the backup PG.
Matisse Thybulle: Thybulle showed some of the defensive prowess that made him a first round pick, but he mostly disappointed Friday. He spent most of his 24 minutes on the court away from the action – regardless of which team had possession – and he appeared to be playing "hot potato" any time he touched the ball on offense. It was just one game, but it was not a positive showing.
Zhaire Smith: The 76ers 2018 draft pick, 16th overall, looked very good, though that was only partially reflected in his stats. He finished with a respectable 10 points, five assists, three rebounds, one block and one steal. More importantly, despite missing almost all of 2018-19 due to some unusual health problems, he proved that he was ready to play at a high level. The 76ers' starting lineup is, of course, loaded with stars, but Smith showed that he should be capable of playing good minutes off the bench – and the Sixers will need him.
Timberwolves vs. Cavaliers
Josh Okogie: Every summer, a few young players – usually guys entering their sophomore season – only need about 10 minutes to prove that they are too good for Summer League. Okogie was probably the first player of the day to make that immediately obvious. Depending on how the Timberwolves structure their lineup, Okogie could end up starting for them this season. He put up 14 points, five rebounds and four assists. Don't be surprised if he only plays one or two more games before the Timberwolves realize that he shouldn't even be on this roster.
Heat vs. China
Tyler Herro: There's not a ton to say about a 103-62 game that was mostly devoid of NBA caliber players. Herro continued his strong Summer League play (the Heat also participated in the California Classic), scoring 23 points in 24 minutes and going 4-for-9 from behind the arc. I'm pretty sure he didn't play the entire fourth quarter. He's looking worthy of a late-round flier in fantasy drafts.
Mavericks vs. Nets
Rodions Kurucs: This was a weird matchup. The Mavericks' squad was very bad, and the Nets included Jarrett Allen in their lineup despite the fact that he started every real-NBA game he played in as a sophomore. Allen, predictably, dominated. Kurucs and Theo Pinson are the only players who actually belong in an article like this – i.e. borderline NBA players. Kurucs' 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists reinforced what we already saw when he was part of the rotation in 2018-19 – he's good enough to be a part of the NBA. If Kurucs develops into a starter or sixth man, his statistical profile could attract some fantasy attention.
Lakers vs. Bulls
Coby White: As my colleague Adam King said after the second play of the game: "he's already better than Kris Dunn". White's jump shot looked a little ugly – he went 0-for-7 from three – but part of that could be because he's still adjusting to the NBA three-point line. He finished with 17 minutes, three rebounds and three assists. Overall, it was a solid debut for the lottery pick. Bulls fans have reasons to get excited, and he looks like someone who will be worth considering for a late-round flier, especially in deeper leagues.
Daniel Gafford: Gafford was an absolute force in this game, cruising to a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double and chiming in four blocks for good measure. He scored the first points of the game completing an alley-oop from White, and remained the most important player on the court for the entire game. A 20-year-old out of Arkansas, Gafford has not yet landed on an NBA team, but he did as much as he possibly could Friday.
Hornets vs Warriors
Dwayne Bacon: Bacon led the way with 25 points, and emphasizing what probably should have been obvious before tip-off – he's too good to be in Summer League. Bacon started the last 12 games for the Hornets, and as their roster continues to get worse, he's likely to see a significant role in their rotation this season.
Miles Bridges: Bridges is likely to attract some late-round fantasy attention this season, and his performance Friday justified his building hype. Though he wasn't exceptional, his across-the-board contributions provided a tease of what he might do when the real games start. He scored 13 points on 55% shooting, and added seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
Magic vs. Spurs
Mo Bamba: The 2018 lottery pick scored 15 points in 24 minutes, but he didn't do much else. Two rebounds and zero blocks not great for a player who's supposed to be a major factor in both areas. The Magic frontcourt will be even more crowded in 2019-20 than it was in 2018-19, and underwhelming showings like this from Bamba are not going to help him earn a larger role in the rotation.
Knicks vs Pelicans
Game called early in the fourth quarter following the earthquake.
Zion Williamson: He's a force to be reckoned with. His Summer League career was cut short after just nine minutes, but that was enough time for him to score 11 points, embarrass Kevin Knox, and demonstrate his incredible ability to impact an opponent's shot. Though he recorded no official blocks, he was called for two borderline goaltends, both of which could have gone the other way, and both of which demonstrated his shocking knack for locating the ball. His ADP this fall is almost certainly going to be too high, but he's going to be really good in both fantasy and real life.
Editor's note: Williamson will not play in the remainder of the Las Vegas Summer League due to a minor knee injury.
RJ Barrett: If you're a Barrett advocate, there were some signs to imply that he'll be a good player. But his performance wasn't great. Some lottery picks come out and dominate Summer League right off the bat. Barrett definitely didn't do that. It was just one game, but it wasn't a great start for Barrett.
Mitchell Robinson: This dude is way too good for Summer League. The building might have been shaking because of the earthquake, but it could have been the reaction to Robinson's show-stealing dunks alley-oops. He logged four blocks – and I expect him to lead the NBA in blocks this season – and also grabbed 10 rebounds and two steals. He's going to be a great fantasy pick.
Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, Frank Jackson: All three of these players had very good games. Jackson led the Pelicans with 30 points, while Trier put up 21 and Knox put up 17. All three warrant mention in a recap article like this, but their fantasy relevance is far less than the other three players already highlighted from this game.