This year’s draft prospects had their first chance over the last few weeks to provide hope or skepticism for their respective fan bases in a few games that have their importance seemingly overblown every season. While this may be true, there is still plenty of meaningful information that can be taken away from these competitive exhibitions in the summer and we’ll inform you of who we think are the biggest winners and losers from the NBA 2K23 Summer League from the 2022 NBA Draft class.
Winner: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
There was a lot of pressure on the first overall selection given the controversy and surprise of his selection to kick off the 2022 NBA Draft and he did more than enough to help the Magic front office feel at ease as his two performances earned him the chance to rest for the last few games and turn his sights toward the start of the real NBA season in a few months.
The offensive versatility that we tabbed as the best in the 2022 draft class was on full display for Duke’s former phenom as he played with tremendous poise and confidence as a shooter, shot creator and playmaker for his teammates averaging 20 points and 6 assists per game on 41/50/80 shooting in his 60 minutes of action. He wasn’t perfect, but Banchero proved that he has the tools to be the best player in this draft, or at least the best option for the Magic, and he is off to a terrific start so far.
Loser: Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
There will be no denying throughout his NBA career that a healthy Chet Holmgren has a chance to put up the numbers to be a perennial All-Star, but dissecting his game goes far beyond the box score if we want to properly analyze his game and impact. During his three games in the Summer League, the Gonzaga product found himself underneath the basket far too often due to his lack of strength in the post. He has the length and timing to make up for it sometimes, but if he’s already getting bullied by unproven NBA players and fellow rookies, there may not be a single NBA starting center that he can keep out of the post until he puts on more weight.
Winner: Keegan Murray, Sacramento Kings
Murray and the Kings were obvious winners this summer as their highly criticized fourth overall selection led all rookies in scoring with over 23 points per game. On nearly 15 shots and nine 3-pointers per game Murray shot an impressive 50/40/81 percent from the floor and looked the part of an opening night NBA starter once the season starts up in October.
Loser: Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers
Many were excited at the prospect of finally watching Sharpe play in a real game setting, but that was cut short after just five minutes in his debut for the Blazers. Sharpe reportedly has a small labral tear in his left shoulder and had his time in Las Vegas cut short because of it. There were obviously plenty of questions about Sharpe’s reliability and desire coming into the draft and an early injury that could linger without proper healing is not the greatest start for a player who has plenty of work to do before his new fan base will trust and believe in him.
Winner: Tari Eason, Houston Rockets
Eason was the second of three first round picks for the Rockets and shined the brightest in Las Vegas on his way to First Team honors for the NBA 2K23 Summer League. He was one of five players to average a double-double in Las Vegas and averaged a block and steal per game to showcase his defensive versatility and tenacity. The former LSU standout should compete for and probably win a starting spot at some point this season as his two-way presence and potential will intrigue a coaching staff and front office looking to build from the ground up in the next few years.
Loser: Johnny Davis, Washington Wizards
Inefficiency and turnovers were the biggest flaws of Davis’ game in college and his performances in the Summer League did nothing to ease the concerns of skeptics throughout the draft process. The tenth overall pick shot just 27 percent from the floor on nearly 10 attempts per game and turned the ball over close to three times per game as the primary ball-handler for the Wizards.
While it wasn’t a terrific display by any means for the former Wisconsin star, I will say that Davis is a player who will thrive in a league built upon floor spacing and shooting as his best traits will hopefully shine through once he is surrounded by teammates who can space the floor and provide him an outlet on the offensive end of the floor. His woes are the least concerning to me out of any on this list for that exact reason.
Winner: JD Davison, Boston Celtics
I mentioned in the introduction that summer league performances need to be taken with a grain of salt as it is mostly a role player showcase for rookies or younger NBA players who haven’t totally worked out yet, but JD Davison is a player who struggled mightily in college which is a drastically worse setting than the one he shined in this summer.
The former five-star guard led the entire summer league with 8.2 assists per game, improved his scoring efficiency with 43/47/86 splits and contributed defensively with a block and a steal per game. Davison is one of the higher upside players who landed outside the first round and if he is already playing this well against better competition, he could be one of the steals of the draft if his game continues to develop at this rate.
Loser: Jake LaRavia, Memphis Grizzlies
LaRavia quickly climbed draft boards after a stellar shooting performance in a workout at the combine, but his lack of in-game speed and experience at a high level concerned our department enough to question his status as a mid-late first-round pick. These concerns felt legitimate during the summer league as LaRavia struggled with the uptick in competition as a 28 percent shooter from the floor and just 20 percent shooter from beyond the arc. He averaged 24 minutes in his four summer league contests but only had 10 total points to show for it and he will struggle to fight his way into a competitive rotation in Memphis if this continues.
Winner: Jabari Walker, Portland Trail Blazers
Alas we have an actual winner on here as Jabari Walker helped the Blazers take home the fancy new rings as Summer League champions in Las Vegas. Walker was one spot away from earning the NBA version of Mr. Irrelevant and made sure to wear this chip on his shoulder during his time in Vegas. With the Trail Blazers looking for a long-term identity, Walker can fill in as an immediate contributor should they be looking to win a championship or a valuable asset to throw into the fire should a rebuild be on the way. Either way, Walker proved he is ready for anything and looks to be a late steal from the 2022 NBA Draft.
Loser: Trevor Keels, New York Knicks
Keels is one of the younger players in this draft class and will likely be a G-Leaguer for the next 1-2 years, but his struggles in plenty of minutes this summer make it hard to imagine he can even provide much production in a G-League setting right away. The 19-year-old shot just 25% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc and struggled to get to the free-throw line despite his aggressiveness and strength being the best parts of his offensive game. It’s still early and Keels was only a second-round pick, but it was far from a great start for the former five-star recruit who took a chance on himself and made the jump to the NBA when staying in college seemed like the best option.
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
[Player: Cole Swider, Los Angeles Lakers
MarJon Beauchamp, Milwaukee Bucks
Ochai Agbaji, Cleveland Cavaliers
Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers
Kennedy Chandler, Miami Heat
Jaden Hardy, Dallas Mavericks
Wendell Moore, Minnesota Timberwolves
Christian Koloko, Toronto Raptors