The NBA Summer League is largely for the sickos. Every year, basketball fans go to Las Vegas to see young players outside of the NBA try out for a last roster slot. Summer League teams often contain a diverse mix of skills, including rising second-year players, G League veterans, and career-long journeymen. But the actual reason Summer League is so exciting every year is because it gives both clubs and fans their first glimpse at the NBA rookies who were selected into the league only a few weeks before.
These rankings were decided just by who wowed us the most throughout Summer League. Many outstanding NBA rookies players were left off the list, including Nets big Jalen Wilson, Pistons guard Marcus Sasser, Cavs wing Emoni Bates, Thunder guard Cason WallaceHornets tandem Brandon Miller and Nick Smith Jr., Nuggets wing Julian Strawther, and others.
The following are the Top NBA rookies in the 2023 Summer League, as ranked.
1) Keyonte George, G, Utah Jazz
George was projected to be a top choice for much of his rookie year at Baylor until falling out of the lottery at No. 16 on draught night. If his performance in Summer League is any indicator, it appears that clubs overestimated his worth. No NBA rookies in Summer League was more remarkable than George, who demonstrated his ability to play on or off the ball, make difficult shots, a nice three-point stroke, and compete defensively.
Before suffering a damaged ankle against the Nuggets, George averaged 21.2 points per game on 60 percent true shooting in six games in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. In Vegas, he had a 33-point, 10-assist performance against the Clippers.
George’s lack of top-end athletic explosion made every bucket he got at Baylor feel difficult. That didn’t appear to be an issue in Las Vegas: he was able to reach the cup easily and could always rely on his pull-up jumper when necessary. As a scorer, George still has tunnel vision at times, but his ease of running offence with the ball in his hands raises his ceiling, while his smooth spot-up stroke from deep lowers his floor. The Jazz must believe they got a steal at No. 16.
2) Victor Wembanyama, C/F, San Antonio Spurs
Wembanyama looked human in his Summer League debut, going 2-of-13 from the field and contributing to some of the worst shots you’ll ever see. Fortunately, in his second game, Wemby showed everyone why he’s such a historic talent, dominating both ends of the floor vs. Portland to finish with 27 points in 27 minutes, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and a few three-pointers. The young Frenchman is entering the league with a lot of fanfare, but it wasn’t created out of thin air. His brilliance is truly unparalleled.
Early in his career, Wembanyama’s simplest translation will be on the defensive end. He has all the attributes to be the finest shot blocker in the NBA, standing 7’5 with an 8-foot wingspan. The Spurs are already use him as a “roamer” who will dart in to guard the rim as a help defender, which appears to be his best function for the time being. His offence will have both stunning plays and difficult times, which is all part of the strategy. As a rookie, I’d anticipate him to take a lot of mid-range jumpers, as well as a lot of those one-legged threes that look fantastic when they go in but are irritating when they don’t.
While his time in Vegas was limited, Wembanyama’s drive and ambition to succeed were evident. As an NBA rookie, he won’t always be attractive, but it doesn’t imply he’s overrated or overhyped. Wembanyama will be a fantastic player as long as he remains healthy. We can’t wait to follow him on his trip.
3) Cam Whitmore, F, Houston Rockets
Whitmore’s surprising slide to the No. 20 pick was the greatest story of Friday night. The Rockets, who allegedly considered choosing him at No. 4, were ecstatic to put a halt to his fall. Whitmore is a 6’7 forward with an excellent mix of speed, power, and jumping, and he put it all on display during his Summer League run. The former Villanova wing can viciously attack the hoop and finish over or through contact. He’s a monster in the open court and lethal on cuts when he finds a path to the basket.
Whitmore’s jump shot is also improving, and while his accuracy was lacking, his volume was excellent. Whitmore’s biggest area of growth is reading the floor and making smart passes, but if the shot falls, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with as a scorer.
4) Scoot Henderson, G, Portland Trail Blazers
Henderson just played 21 minutes before a shoulder injury terminated his career in Las Vegas, but that was enough time for him to demonstrate his game-changing brilliance. In his one game against the Rockets, the No. 3 overall choice put up 15 points, six assists, five rebounds, and a steal, reminding the world why so many evaluators thought he would have gone No. 1 overall in many other graduating classes.
Henderson’s startling blend of speed and power was on full show. The 6’2 guard is also a superb facilitator who will use his scoring threat to set up teammates for easy baskets. While his three-point shot is still a work in progress, Henderson is already a very excellent mid-range shooter who should be able to extend his range later.
5) Jordan Walsh, F, Boston Celtics
Walsh’s height and defence helped him become a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American out of Link Academy, but his lack of offensive growth as a freshman at Arkansas dropped him to the 38th choice in the draught. The biggest surprise in Las Vegas was how much better his offence appears at this level already. Walsh will continue to make his money on defence, where he is fast enough to guard guards, powerful enough to defend forwards, and long enough (7’2 wingspan) to challenge shots regardless of matchup.
Walsh’s offence was more surprising: he was taking and shooting three-pointers, attacking fearlessly, and finding ways to make jumpers from floater range. Walsh’s game would be elevated just by adding a good jump shot, and he may already be there.
6) Amen Thompson, G, Houston Rockets
Amen Thompson’s ankle injury in his first Summer League game was especially sad given how promising he appeared in his 28 minutes on the court. The whole toolset that propelled Thompson to the fourth overall choice was on display: overpowering speed, tremendous jumping, inventive passing, and insane defensive playmaking for a point guard with three thefts and four blocks.
Thompson made his lone three-point effort. It was exciting to see Amen fling outlet passes to initiate transition and leap passes to open cutters in the halfcourt. Without a dependable pull-up or spot-up jumper, he’ll have to figure out how to score against a set defence, but the fact that he can collapse an entire defence with his standstill burst and lengthy strides is a good start. The Thompson brothers’ NBA adaptation will be fascinating to follow, but this is a promising start.
7) Hunter Tyson, F, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets entered the draught in the late first and early second rounds in an attempt to acquire numerous cost-controlled contributors who can play roles within the team’s championship window. Hunter Tyson of Clemson was the final of Denver’s three picks, but he was the greatest player on the court throughout Summer League. The No. 37 overall choice is a 6’8″ 215-pound wing with the ability to shoot spot-up threes, make connecting passes, and give some bounce around the basket. During his time in Las Vegas, he averaged 21.8 points per game on 58.3 percent shooting from the field, 51.7 percent shooting from three (on 7.3 tries per game), and 88.9 percent foul shooting.
The Nuggets don’t mind that Tyson is a 23-year-old NBA rookie. Right now, they require guys who can come off the bench. The Nuggets’ other young guns looked excellent, too, notably last year’s first-round choice, Peyton Watson, who virtually redshirted throughout Denver’s championship run. The Nuggets’ ability to remain a championship-level club following Bruce Brown’s departure will depend on at least one of these young players breaking out. Tyson’s performance in Vegas was a promising indicator.
8) Leonard Miller, F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Miller’s game is simply too unique to fit into a box, which may explain how he made it to the second round. The Timberwolves were ecstatic to choose the versatile forward at No. 33, and what appeared to be a steal on Thursday night continued to appear to be one in Summer League. The 6’10 forward had a rare combination of abilities, handling and passing the ball on the perimeter like a guard, crashing the glass like a big man, and displaying exquisite touch in the paint. The biggest surprise of all was Miller’s three-point shooting, which he nailed on 7-of-19 tries for a 36.8 per cent percentage.
Miller’s outside shooting will continue to be his most difficult area to develop. Even while it’s dropping, it doesn’t appear like it’s coming out of his hands smoothly. Miller, on the other hand, is so huge, so adept as a handler and distributor, and so unconventional in his approach to the basket that he can still be an excellent forward even if the shooting never really comes around. It’s still hard to believe he fell to the second round following a spectacular season with the G League Ignite.
So these are the best NBA rookies in the 2023 summer league.