Rising Stars Shine in the 2021 NBA Summer League

Staff Writer: Trent Murtha

The NBA Summer League concluded on Aug. 17, with the Sacramento Kings, led by their top pick Davion Mitchell, blowing out the Boston Celtics 100-67.

Although the game was not close, the Celtics young group of Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, and Romeo Langford all performed well and showed flashes of potential. The Kings finished with an undefeated 5-0 record for the Summer League. With the win against the Celtics, the Kings are now the first team to win multiple championships in the summer league, with the Kings also winning it all in 2014.

Throughout the Summer League, there were many dominant performances by rookies. From Jalen Suggs’ elite versatility, to Cam Thomas’ scoring ability, to Cade Cunningham’s playmaking potential, and to Davion Mitchell’s lockdown defense, it’s safe to say that the 2021 NBA Draft class did not disappoint.

Thomas averaged 27 points per game, which was enough to win co-MVP honors along with Mitchell. They both looked amazing, one a lethal scorer and the other a defensive specialist, however it was clear that if Suggs or Green were healthy, one of them would have won MVP.

In Suggs’ first game, the 5th pick scored 24 points and 9 rebounds for the Magic against the Warriors, including a game-saving block to send it to overtime and the game-winner in OT. Green, the 2nd overall pick, outmatched Cunningham, the 1st overall pick, in the first of many games for the anticipated rivalry. Green notched 25 points and led the Rockets to victory over the Pistons.

Unfortunately, both their Summer Leagues were cut short due to injury, with Suggs spraining his thumb and Green having a sore hamstring. Although they were both held out of summer league, the injuries are not considered serious and shouldn’t keep them out for long. With Green out with an injury, rookie center Alperen Şengün stepped up and flashed his potential.

Davin Gonzales, on who he thought was the most slept on player in the Summer League, said, “I think Şengün was the biggest sleeper in this year’s Summer League because he showed his ability to shoot the ball from deep and be an elite defender.”

Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood
Jalen Suggs (4) scored 24 points in an overtime thriller against the Golden State Warriors

Although the spotlight this summer league was on the rookies, the players entering their second year also shined. The 2020 Draft class is hitting the floor at Summer League for the first time after last year’s edition was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Players such as Tyrese Maxey, Desmond Bane, and Immanuel Quickley. Most impressive of all sophomores was Payton Pritchard, who averaged 17 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds per game while leading the Celtics to the championship game.

Obi Toppin also has developed well after a disappointing rookie season. Although he didn’t stuff the stat sheet like his teammate Immanuel Quickley, it was clear that he has the lockdown defense and ability to run the floor that was advertised last year when he was drafted with the 8th overall pick in the 2020 Draft.

Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood
Immanuel Quickley (5) scored 32 points to lead the Knicks past the Pacers

Photo Credit: Garrett Ellwood / NBAE

Immanuel Quickley (5) scored 32 points to lead the Knicks past the Pacers.

Undrafted and G-League players also showed out in the Summer League despite not being in the spotlight like the rest of the draft picks. LiAngelo Ball and Gary Payton II are both young guards that proved they deserve to be on an NBA team.

Alden Hinkelmann, on who he thinks was the biggest sleeper in the summer league, declared, “LiAngelo Ball, no questions asked. He was one of the best players and likely earned a spot in the league.” LiAngelo played for the Hornets in the Summer League, and if he signs with them, he will be playing with his brother, reigning Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball.

Additionally, Romeo Langford, guard for the Boston Celtics, flashed his star potential the Celtics saw when they drafted him. Langford was the 14th pick of the 2019 Draft, but his first two seasons were injury riddled and involved him spending a lot of time in the G-League, as he only totaled 50 NBA games.

We saw many great young guys play in the 2021 NBA Summer League. Whether that be rookies, second-year players, or players fighting for a roster spot, it’s clear that the future of the NBA is bright.

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