When compiling potential winners and losers outside of the rookie class, it was quite clear that the defending champions have a bright future as both of their lottery picks from a season ago showed that they appear ready to make a huge jump in their sophomore seasons. Moody led all players in scoring in his two games in Vegas with 27.5 PTS while Jonathan Kuminga also ranked in the top-10 with 19.3 PTS.
With impactful role players like Gary Payton and Otto Porter departing in free agency, there is room in the rotation for the likes of Moody and Kuminga and their performances in Las Vegas were stellar auditions for Steve Kerr and the Warriors coaching staff looking to run it back in 2023.
Loser: Sharife Cooper, Atlanta Hawks
Cooper spent the 2022 season in the G-League as he looked to develop his craft and improve as a shooter and decision maker to compete for a roster spot in 2023 with the Hawks. A Dejounte Murray trade and abysmal summer league performance later has the former Auburn star presumably on the outside looking in with another season in the G-League looking more and more likely.
Cooper had an outstanding opportunity to prove that his time last season did wonders for his game, but few players on the court struggled more than the 6’1 point guard. In five games and over 100 minutes, Cooper shot just 18% from the field and from the perimeter while averaging close to three turnovers per game. There is undeniable talent in Cooper’s game but his lack of production so far in his young career doesn’t indicate he’ll have an NBA roster spot anytime soon.
Winner: Quentin Grimes, New York Knicks
While it isn’t the most coveted trophy in basketball, the Knicks still made it back to a championship game and they can thank their 2021 first-round pick for it. Grimes looked sensational while carrying his squad to the Summer League Championship as he averaged 22/4/4 in his five games in Las Vegas.
The projected 3-and-D prospect showed flashes of self-creation and finishing that rarely showed up on tape in his rookie season as he embraced the role of a star for the young Knicks summer roster. Grimes was one of the few bright spots in the 2022 season for the Knicks and his emergence in the summer league could help him compete for a starting role in 2023 if he continues to play the way he did this summer.
Loser: Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons
Typically, you don’t want your top-10 pick to still be playing in the summer league going into their third season, but that is the unfortunate reality for Killian Hayes and the Pistons. The playmaking southpaw has seen plenty of minutes for Detroit in his two seasons, but hasn’t quite lived up to the hype so far. Despite the early career struggles and a less than impressive summer league performance this offseason, Hayes is still only 21 and has shown flashes that his playmaking and ball-security will make him an efficient floor general even if it means doing so off the bench.
Winner: Trey Murphy, New Orleans Pelicans
The 2021 NBA Draft for the Pelicans gets better and better every week it seems and the summer league proved to be no different. You can make an argument that Murphy didn’t really belong out there, but there’s nothing wrong with providing your previous first-round pick with a confidence booster heading into his second season.
In just two games, Murphy averaged 26.5 PTS including a sensational 30-point performance against Atlanta in what turned out to be his last summer league game of the season and probably his career. The former first-round pick is flourishing in New Orleans as a lengthy 3-and-D wing and should be a valuable role player for years to come alongside an exciting, young core.
Loser: Tre Mann, Oklahoma City Thunder
There was a lot to like about Tre Mann’s first season in Oklahoma City, but his stats and performances somehow got worse this summer with a young and talented core of players around him against worse competition. He averaged over 10 points as a rookie last season and while he scored 11 this summer, he only shot 26 percent from the floor and 25 percent from the perimeter with nearly as many turnovers as he had assists. Mann will get his chances this upcoming season, but if he continues to falter in those opportunities, the front office might turn the page and look for the next diamond in the rough as Mann gets pushed out of the rotation.
Winner: Isaiah Joe, Philadelphia 76ers
The lack of depth in Philadelphia was ultimately the downfall of their rollercoaster 2022 season that ended in the Easter Conference Semifinals. James Harden’s presumed pay cut, as well as the valuable additions of P.J. Tucker, De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House, should help solve this problem, but an in-house addition to the rotation might also be a viable solution for Doc Rivers as he creates a rotation.
Isaiah Joe was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft, and has rarely made much of an impact for the 76ers since. That could all change this season as he aims for a breakout campaign in Year 3. The former Razorback shot the lights out this summer while leading the Salt Lake City tournament in scoring and shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc in his three games in Las Vegas. He was known as a tremendous shooter coming out of college and now that he is finding his touch again from the perimeter, Joe is poised for a larger role in Philadelphia in his third season.
Loser: Duane Washington Jr. Jr., Free Agent
After a productive rookie season with the tanking Pacers, Washington found himself looking for a new team once the front office offered Deandre Ayton a max contract and waived Washington to make space for it. The second-year guard from Ohio State played in close to 50 games for Indiana last season and averaged 10 points, but his 34% FG and 8 points per game in the summer league made them comfortable enough to let him go to bring in Ayton, which ultimately didn’t work out. The cut may be good news for Washington who has proven to be a worthy rotational guard and could find a home on a contending team in the coming days or weeks.
Winner: Santi Aldama, Memphis Grizzlies
Few teams have more depth or bench talent than the Memphis Grizzlies and Santi Aldama threw his name into the ring as another worthy candidate to earn some minutes in the rotation. After flying under the radar at Loyola (MD) and earning a first-round selection, Aldama played in just 32 games for the Grizzlies and only averaged 11 minutes per game in those contests. This summer offered him an opportunity to improve on these numbers and he took full advantage.
His unique athleticism and shooting at 6’11 was on full display this summer as he averaged close to 17 points per game including a 31-point outburst against the Nets to lead his team in scoring in Las Vegas. Any mobile stretch-big can flourish with Ja Morant running an offense so look for Aldama to have a potential breakout season in 2023 if he gets some minutes with the Grizzlies superstar.
Loser: Kai Jones, Charlotte Hornets
The flashes of untapped potential and raw ability are exciting to say the least, but Kai Jones continued to struggle as a perimeter shooter this summer and it remains to be seen what kind of player he can be at the professional level. He is a tremendous athlete, but he hasn’t proven to be a legitimate floor-spacer or the kind of versatile defender he was projected as coming out of Texas. He’ll most likely find minutes hard to come by once again this season and he could be running out of chances for a Charlotte team that is looking to finally get back to the playoffs, not provide minutes for a long-shot boom or bust prospec