The 2021 NBA Summer League officially kicked off in Las Vegas this weekend. Coming so close to the NBA Draft, Summer League is always a fun exercise. Fans across the NBA are running off the adrenaline of adding new and exciting talent to their rosters, and Summer League offers a chance to immediately see these new players in an NBA setting. Some draft gurus will often make the mistake of using Summer League for instant validation of their pre-draft opinions.
It is always important to remind ourselves that Summer League is nothing more than a series of glorified scrimmages, and not at all reflective of how these players will translate to the NBA itself. However, Summer League can be useful when it comes to identifying players that are clearly of NBA caliber, at least to some extent.
Now that each team has played at least one game in Vegas, here are a few players that are leaving strong impressions early on.
Suggs looks as good as advertised
While this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, Jalen Suggs was the best player on the court in his first Summer League game. In a close 91-89 win for the Magic against the Warriors, Suggs led all scorers with 24 points after shooting 9-22 from the floor and 3-6 on three point attempts. In addition to his scoring, Suggs lived up to his hype as a complete, all-around guard by finishing with a game-high of nine rebounds.
It is definitely noteworthy that Suggs got off to such a strong start on three-point attempts. In his lone season at Gonzaga, Suggs shot 33.7 from deep on nearly five attempts per game. While this is far from an embarrassing clip, he will almost certainly need to improve that number by a few percentage points if he wants to reach his full potential in the NBA.
And in typical Suggs fashion, he came through with a clutch block late, which allowed Orlando to push the game into overtime.
Welcome to #NBASummer, @jalensuggs— NBA (@NBA) August 10, 2021
The No. 5 pick drops 24 PTS, 9 REB and gets the clutch block to force OT in the @OrlandoMagic’s win in Vegas! pic.twitter.com/5XdAB27fMm
Toppin primed for a big Year 2?
It wasn’t too long ago when Obi Toppin and the Dayton Flyers were a top-five team in college basketball with the potential to go on a serious run in the NCAA Tournament. While that Dayton team was unfortunately robbed of this opportunity due to COVID-19, Toppin was still able to parlay that exhilarating season into being a top-10 pick in the NBA Draft.
After being the eighth overall pick to the New York Knicks in the 2020 draft, Toppin’s rookie season was mainly one of disappointment. He saw just about 11 minutes per contest and averaged only four points per game. In fact, Toppin was consistently outplayed by fellow Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley who was drafted 25th overall.
If the 2021 NBA Summer League is any indication, Toppin seems determined for year two to be a different story. Through New York’s first two games, Toppin is averaging 23 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting nearly 44% from the floor. As a second-year player, the expectation for Toppin was to be one of the best players in Summer League and so far he certainly has been.
One of Toppin’s most significant hindrances to meaningful contribution in his rookie season was his three-point shooting. He was lauded as a strong three-point shooter out of Dayton, converting on 39% of his attempts in 2020. That number fell drastically to 30% as a rookie in the NBA. So far, Toppin has made five of his 16 three-point attempts in Vegas. This is barely an improvement and it certainly still needs to get better. This will definitely be a trend to follow through the rest of Summer League.
NBA fans everywhere should be hoping to see more of Toppin in his sophomore season, because when he is on the floor, he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen.
Obi Toppin with the coast-to-coast SLAM pic.twitter.com/KygiQKnES0— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 8, 2021
Hyland impresses in debut
VCU’s Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland made his Summer League debut late Tuesday night, and it was an impressive display. He was Denver’s second-leading scorer, finishing with 16 points while shooting 5-11 from the field. However, it wasn’t the scoring that was the most impressive aspect of Hyland’s first game. While nearly everyone expects Bones to get buckets in the NBA, one of his biggest question marks entering the league is his passing and distribution. Hyland enters the league after having a 2:3 assist to turnover ratio last year at VCU, an extremely concerning mark for someone that projects as a combo guard at the next level.
Hyland finished with seven assists to just three turnovers in his first Summer League game. This was actually more assists than Hyland had in any game of his sophomore season at VCU. If Hyland spends some time at point guard in the NBA, it could really inflate his professional value, so his debut performance has to be a promising sign for Nuggets fans.
Caleb Homesley leads Wizards
Former Liberty standout Caleb Homesley had a strong start to 2021 Summer League. After winning the ASUN Player of the Year Award in 2020, Homesley went undrafted but signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Washington Wizards. He was shortly released and spent most of last season playing with the Erie BayHawks, who are affiliated with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Homesley finds himself playing with the Wizards again this summer, and he led Washington’s Summer League team with 17 points on 6-8 shooting last night. He also converted three of four attempts from beyond the arc. While Homesley still has a lot of work to do if he wants to carve out an everyday role in the NBA, he does possess a skill set that is a natural fit in today’s NBA. In a league where the importance of three-point shooting is at an all-time high, Homesley could perhaps fit the archetype of a modern 3&D wing.