Basketball Sports

NBA Summer League Las Vegas : Here's What Happened

The Los Angeles Lakers Summer League squad had been on a roll. They were cheered on by basketball demigod LeBron James during their quarter-final victory, rookie Sviastoslav Mykhailiuk refused to miss anything during the double-overtime win in the semi-final against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Josh Hart had just been crowned the Summer League MVP after scoring 37 points in the semifinal victory. The summer squad of city of angels looked all set to cement back to back titles.
However, as many NBA broadcasters say it from time to time, it’s a ‘make or miss’ league. And when you miss shots during a game, it doesn’t matter what all you have achieved before that. Most Valuable Player Josh Hart had a Least Valuable Player type of game. He only made 3 out of 12 shots and ended his game with an ejection through multiple technical fouls. Sviastoslav Mykhailiuk, after making step back three pointers in the semi final, came crashing down to earth and made only 3 out of 10 shots. Ultimately, the 11 point Portland Trailblazers lead at the end of the 1st quarter turned out to be too much for the Lakers to overcome. They trailed till the end and eventually lost 73-91.
The Trailblazers’ victory shouldn’t come as a surprise though. Their roster was as stacked as it can possibly get for the Summer League. Nine members of the squad have NBA experience. Archie Goodwin holds the record for scoring the most points in Summer League history. Wade Baldwin IV and John Jenkins made their threes and Gary Trent Junior provided incredible hustle on both ends of the floor, helping the Trailbazers outscore the Lakers by 11 points during his minutes on the floor.
Six Trailblazers players scored in double figures and helped the team pull away for the win. Summer League Finals MVP K.J. McDaniels added 17 points off the bench, a lot of them with rim rattling authority. Second year player Caleb Swanigan had a Draymond Green-esque stat-line of 7 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. With him on the floor, the Trailblazers outscored the Lakers by 24 points.
This was the second straight year that the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Lakers met in the Final of the NBA Summer League. They have split the gauntlet at one a piece. Is this a trailer for a rivalry that will happen in the regular season as well? Highly unlikely as the teams are vastly different in the regular season. Perhaps they will renew their rivalry in next year’s Summer League. 
Now that the winning teams have got their due, let’s take a look at the players who shined through the Summer League. And nobody shined brighter than the Los Angeles Lakers’ draft pick out of Villanova, Josh Hart. He went into the Summer League with an intention to ‘dominate’. Aside from his surprisingly poor performance in the Final, where he only scored 12 points on 25% shooting, on the way to being ejected with 4:45 left to play, Hart did dominate the Summer League. He was averaging 24.2 points on 47.1 % shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals over the six games leading up to the Final. He earned the MVP honours, becoming the second Lakers player in two years to win Summer League MVP (Lonzo Ball won it last year).
Hart’s performance during the Summer League was so stellar that Team President and Lakers legend Magic Johnson said that Hart might enter conversations to be in the starting line-up of the Lakers once the regular season starts. Even LeBron James tweeted to congratulate his young teammate for winning the MVP.
Even before the Summer League, the Lakers were really appreciative of Hart’s defensive and rebounding abilities. Hart was aware of that but he wanted to show that he had worked in the off-season with coach Miles Simon to improve other aspects of his game as well. When specifically asked about this, he said that he had worked really hard on his ball-handling abilities and shooting off the dribble. To quote the man himself , “Hopefully guys see that and say, oh man, J-Hart is really working.”
After landing the biggest prize of free agency, LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t really go out to pursue some shooting specialists. They signed Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson instead. General Manager Rob Pelinka mentioned Josh Hart’s presence on the team as a reason why the Lakers didn’t pursue more shooters in the free agency.
Hart, who made 39.6 % of his three pointers during his rookie season, had this to say about his shooting ability, “I think I can knock down shots, and when those guys find me when I am open, I know we have unselfish guys, my job is to knock them down.”
His stellar play during the Summer League helped him earn All NBA Summer League First Team honours along with Milwaukee Bucks’ Christian Wood, New York Knicks’ Kevin Knox, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton and Chicago Bulls’ Wendell Carter Junior.
The first overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns headlined the All NBA Summer League Second Team. He was joined by Josh Hart’s teammate Sviastoslav Mykhailiuk, Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Junior, Portland Trailblazers’ Wade Baldwin IV, and Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young.
The MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, Las Vegas was a great mix of promising rookies, sophomores and other players trying to make a mark in the NBA. Here are the top 10 plays from the last few days of action.

 

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