Everyone comes to see the top draft picks. Fans hope to run into a big player to grab a picture or perhaps shake hands with Shams. (That one actually happened to me! Shams! I would have got a few pictures but all my devices were electronic cadavers after filming/photographing multiple games.) Sunday was also a travel day and then it was straight to the gym. Once the phone and camera were dead, so was I. They can be plugged into a Thomas and Mack Assembly Center wall. I needed a king-sized bed at a hotel that has not paid to be mentioned. I gamble with them, they can gamble on some MMH ad space, right?
I did hit my first bet! A parlay on the Pelicans and 76ers to cover. That $20 paid for a $60 dinner!
Follow along on Twitter if you’re interested in the bets to come or want to see the coaching huddles in real-time instead of watching commercial breaks from home. Listen to the podcast to hear things that hit the cutting room floor. But to jump off this week on the writing side, here are the top 10 standouts from the first two days in Las Vegas.
1. Payton Pritchard opened the day off with a 23/5/5 line while hitting 7/15 of his three-point attempts and committing no turnovers. It was a throwback flamethrower game from his days at Oregon. In fact, Pritchard and Carsen Edwards seemed to be doing their best Dame and CJ impression against the Atlanta Hawks. Neither will be asked to carry the offense in Boston unless the Leprechauns have a very unlucky season but they did get a two-point win late by running a full-team offense rather than the entertaining, jack-up shots, two-man game of the first three quarters.
2. LiAngelo Ball was the most known name among undrafted players of the past few years. He was also the most pleasant surprise in the Hornets/Trail Blazers game. He looks almost lithe after years of Bloated Ball jokes. He was running around screens with real pace, not just plodding around the court. Ball hustled his way into 5 rebounds in limited minutes.
He dropped shots like his more famous brothers. He defends like those two brothers always darted after those long loose rebounds as kids. Lavar Ball raised three professional ballers. Gelo should probably get a G-League shot as long as this wasn’t a flash in the pan, playing like it’s the game 7 of your career is always a promising indicator.
3. Kai Jones might have the best dunk of Summer League.
That always gets a mention. 10 points and 10 rebounds from someone who hasn’t even been playing basketball for 5 years is amazing. From Basketball Without Borders summer camp in 2017 to NBA Summer League in 2021. He has the athletism. He sees the floor and the pass. He can dribble a bit in open court transition and though he went 0/3 in the game, Jones was hitting more often than not in pregame warmups. He is a project but so was Giannis….
4. Jalen Green had 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4/9 from deep, and Houston Rockets fans came out of the game all wanting to buy a …checks notes…Alperen Şengün (5) jersey. 15-15 games tend to churn up excitement in Summer League play even if most of the players will never be heard from again.
Şengün added 4 blocks and 3 assists but would have had at least 7 if not for teammates fumbling the pass or missing the shot. Şengün might have been the second-best player on the court behind Green. He outplayed the Cavs #3 pick Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro for long stretches.
6. Tyrese Maxey won the battle with Tyrell Terry (7). Maxey finished with 21 PTS, 4 AST, 5 REB, and 3 STL on 15 shots. He had 3 turnovers and hit 3 of his 6 three-point shots. Tyrell Terry (22 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST) had 5 turnovers. Not that the Dallas/Philadelphia matchup was particularly close after the first commercial break. These two having a battle didn’t lead to a 20 point gap on the scoreboard but it did provide plenty of entertainment for everyone not betting on the Mavericks to cover the spread.
Scottie Barnes shared the team spotlight with Malachi Flynn but Obi Toppin (8) and Immanuel Quickley (9) stole the show in the Raptors/Knicks game. Toppin bossed the boards. He showed the confidence and ability to hit the three-point shot while banging his way to 22 points on 20 shots. That is a big developmental story for the Knicks because it will help the spacing on big lineups around Julius Randle.
Quickley had 8 assists but was a bit of a disappointment in missing 8 three-pointers. Some of them were just bad, out-of-rhythm shots when he had time to reset, still, his potent slash game guided him to 11/21 from the field. Hitting all 6 of his free throws kept his confidence up and he finished with 32 big points.
10. Trey Murphy III 26 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 body. With Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, and the now-dubbed 3M3 by the Pelicans 12, the New Orleans Pelicans should start including bodies in the stat lines. An example:
Trey Murphy III had 26 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 body in yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He also had no turnovers or fouls in 27 minutes. His 6 made threes were more than Philly (5) had all game.
The New Orleans Pelicans might have moved down 7 spots, shed 2 contracts, and got the one big steal of the draft. As Naji Marshall was yelling to a certain Chicago Bull, “F**k that big draft pick! We play defense here!”
Naji Marshall was very hyped towards the end of the game. That’ll be his role in the regular season for the most part. Hype, Hustle, and Heart. Murphy III will be thrown into the fire in his first season. Seeing how he channeled the energy for his first professional game was very encouraging. Marshall was yelling from the sidelines “He tired! He tired!” and it only gave Murphy III more energy.
Throw in a few transition threes and a few momentum-swinging dunks and the Pelicans pulled away from the Bulls in the second half. Murphy III was a big part of that and really stole the show. Yea, I’m biased but his dunk in the noon game is arguably the highlight of the day. It should definitely be nominated for the NBA TopShot moments. I need that NFT like I need to see Murphy III run with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.