There are two type of rotation players that return to Summer League after their rookie season: the ones who need it and the ones who get to show off in national television. On Sunday, the latter group had its day, as Kelly Oubre, Norman Powell, Kyle Anderson and Devin Booker had performances that prove they simply are too good for Las Vegas.
Oubre and Anderson and fringe rotation players for the Wizards and the Spurs, respectively. At the NBA level they have not been consistent enough to earn a permanent role. Put them on the court against less talented and experienced players and they look like stars. Oubre had 21 points in 29 minutes against the Hawks and he needed just 15 shots to get there. Anderson, who will start his third year as a pro next season, effortlessly logged 23 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Powell was a second-round pick who had to earn his spot in the Raptors' rotation. He did after the All-Star break, averaging 24 minutes a game and logging some starts in the second half of the season. He even got to play in the postseason for a while before being buried in the bench. In Summer League play, however, he's the start of the team, their go-to scorer. He had 29 points, eight rebounds and three assists and was huge in the fourth quarter, hitting two three-pointers that put some distance between his Raptors and the Timberwolves.
Then there's someone like Devin Booker, who is simply running a dress rehearsal for when he actually becomes a star a couple of years down the road. He had 24 points and seven assists and displayed the kind of confidence that go-to scorers have. He got to do that against R.J. Hunter instead of Klay Thompson, which is very likely why he emerged victorious from the duel, but we got a glimpse at that ruthless version of him before anyone else did.
Oubre, Anderson, Powell and Booker have nothing to prove by playing Summer League ball. They will return to their teams in October to smaller roles and they will forget the July nights in which they were the best players on the floor soon enough. There's nothing to learn from their performances, either. Anderson was MVP last year and still only played 16 minutes for the Spurs the following season.
As Summer League continues the veterans will take the night off or let their teammates have their moment. Their teams will shut them down instead of pointlessly risking injury. For the first couple of games, however, they rule Las Vegas. That's a good thing, because watching those sophomores or juniors dominate is just as fun as watching the latest crop of rookies start to figure things out.
2 other things we learned
Buddy Hield can get hot in a hurry
Buddy Hield shot his way into a top-10 selection, so it shouldn't be surprising to see his stroke remain as beautiful in Las Vegas as it was at Oklahoma. There's still something special about watching a natural scorer goes off and Hield did that while trying to mount a comeback against the Jazz. After struggling for most of the game he went off in the fourth quarter, scoring four three-pointers.
Ultimately it wasn't enough but who cares about scores in Summer League? What's important is that after a poor first game and a slow start to his second, Hield reminded everyone why he was the first pure shooter to be selected in the draft. He should help space the floor around Anthony Davis and could win the Pelicans a game or two if he catches fire like he did on Sunday.
Kris Dunn is the most impressive rookie so far
Ben Simmons has amazing court vision and actually took some outside shots on Sunday but defenses are not afraid to leave him open and he can't make them pay consistently. Brandon Ingram is incredibly smooth but he has struggled a bit with physicality. Jaylen Brown is a freight train when he drives but lacks refinement. Dragan Bender has not found his footing yet, so he's constantly fouling and coughing up the ball. We have to go all the way down to the fifth pick to find the most impressive of the top rookies so far.
Dunn had 27 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals on his Summer League debut against a Denver team that had Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris on the floor. He followed that up by logging 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists against Delon Wright, Norman Powell and the Raptors. He was expected to do well because he's an older rookie but those numbers are great. The Timberwolves might have a special player on their hands.
Play of the night
What did that rim ever do to you, Christian Wood? So rude.
Hawks 88, Wizards 80
D-League Select 91, Bucks 86
Raptors 82, Timberwolves 80
Jazz 79, Pelicans 72
Spurs 85, Trail Blazers 69
Suns 87, Celtics 74
Must-watch game for Monday: Raptors vs. Mavericks (6:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV)
The Raptors are loaded. They have Delon Wright and Norman Powell in the backcourt, Bruno Caboclo at small forward and Jakob Poeltl at center. The Mavericks have Justin Anderson and A.J. Hammons along with Jonathan Gibson, who scored 30 points in Dallas' first game. There will be three-pointers, there will be dunks and, more importantly, there will be a couple of players suiting up who should have a rotation role next season.