Stars Shine at Vegas Summer League
This year’s 2019 Las Vegas Summer League was nothing like expected. Going into the tournament, fans expected Zion Williamson to dominate every team that opposed the Pelicans, and rule as king over all the other young talent. This didn’t end up being the case. Instead, it was some of the background picks, players who didn’t have too high of expectations, that shined the brightest in Sin City. Many proved themselves in Las Vegas, but three really stood out to me.
The Cavaliers selected obtained three great young players in the 2019 NBA Draft. In the first round, Cleveland chose Darius Garland with their fifth overall pick, and got Dylan Windler with their 26th overall selection. In the days after draft night, the Cavs exchanged second-round picks in four consecutive years to the Detroit Pistons for Kevin Porter Jr. These young players all have bright futures in the NBA, but Dylan Windler proved himself in Vegas.
The forward from Belmont lit it up from deep, draining several three-point bombs from way beyond the arc. Windler finished averaging 11 points and 4.6 rebounds per night. Whenever he was in, he commanded his team in a way that many young ball players can’t. He put the team on his shoulders while sharing the ball and making his team better in the process. While Cleveland’s record was dismal in Las Vegas, Windler and his teammates give the Cavalier-faithful hope for the years ahead.
After Zion Williamson went down in New Orleans’ first game against the Knicks, things were looking grim. Williamson was sidelined indefinitely with a bruised knee. The Pelicans needed a leader, and heading into their second game against Chicago, they didn’t have one. Then the NBA was introduced to Jaxson Hayes, the 6’11” forward from Texas. In his summer league debut, Hayes took care of the Bulls, dropping 28 points and snagging four rebounds. In the second quarter, Hayes took flight and threw down a dunk over Chicago’s Mychal Mulder. The dunk went viral the next day, and as of this post, has 230,000 views on Bleacher Report.
Hayes finished Summer League averaging a little over 16 points (16.3) and seven rebounds (7.3) per game, and posted an impressive 63% field goal percentage. Jaxson Hayes has proven his skills to GM David Griffin and the Pelicans. Let’s just hope what Hayes did in Vegas doesn’t stay there.
The Grizzlies picked two stellar guards in the first round of the 2019 Draft. The most well known of the two is Ja Morant, the explosive and high-flying dunker from Murray State. Morant was the second overall selection in the draft, and is already slated to be a leader on the Grizzlies squad this year after the team traded away Michael Conley to the Utah Jazz. Morant didn’t participate in the Vegas activities, but Memphis’ other pick Brandon Clarke did, and it was Clarke who steered the Grizzlies past several tough opponents, and helped them win the Summer League Tournament. Clarke, averaging 14.7 points and almost ten (9.8) rebounds per game, finished as the Summer League MVP.
With both Morant and Clarke in Grizzlies uniforms this coming season, it’s safe to say that Memphis has a talented young back court that will take the team far in the coming years.*