clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis impress, D'Angelo Russell struggles in Summer League

With Summer League almost over, let's check in on which rookies have impressed and which have disappointed so far.

With the Utah and Orlando Summer Leagues already over and the Las Vegas Summer League entering its final stage, NBA fans have gotten an extensive look at this year's top rookies. Some players, like Orlando's Mario Hezonja, Detroit's Stanley Johnson and Charlotte's Frank Kaminsky, are already done with their obligations. Others, like Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, New York's Kristaps Porzingis and Denver's Emmanuel Mudiay, have recently played their first games as pros. But every lottery pick and the majority of all first-round picks have competed under NBA rules at least once already.

It's obviously too early to make any kind of definitive assessment about the career trajectory of anyone involved, but there is enough to form first impressions on some of the most highly-touted members of a rookie class that is looking very strong so far. So let's take a look at who has surprised and who has struggled.

Living up to the hype

Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns has the whole package. He can score in the post, protect the rim and make next-level passes when double-teamed. His averages of 14 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks in four games help illustrate that versatility.

That's the thing. You can't really pinpoint and say he's going to do this," Timberwolves' GM Milt Newton told SB Nation's Mike Prada on Friday. "He has the ability to exploit any kind of mismatch. So if you pinpoint and say he's only going to play inside, you're doing a disservice to him. If there's an advantage, he can take a bigger guy off the dribble."

He's experienced some growing pains while playing mostly in the post, but the first overall pick has been more impressive than the numbers indicate. He admitted he's still getting used to heavy minutes after being part of a platoon at Kentucky, but is already proving worth the top selection. His passing in particular has stood out.

Jahlil Okafor

Okafor is who we thought he was: a post brute that can create his own shot and rebound. It's hard for big men like him to excel in the often chaotic Summer League style, but he's averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game while showing off great footwork. The turnovers and atrocious free throw shooting are a concern, but he was supposed to struggle in those areas. The Okafor-Nerlens Noel pairing will be one of the best young big man tandems in the league next season.

Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky was one of the most NBA ready players in the draft and took advantage of his developed game to excel at the Orlando Summer League. Frank The Tank averaged 15 points and eight rebounds a game while shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc. He should be able to give the Hornets some quality minutes from the start.

Pleasant surprises

Emmanuel Mudiay

After a year in China, Mudiay had to prove to everyone how good he was despite being considered a top prospect out of high school. In three Summer League games, he has done exactly that, averaging 13 points, four rebounds and over seven assists per game. His shot is very much a work in progress (37 percent from the field) but Mudiay is proving to be a great playmaker at this level. The Nuggets have their point guard of the future.

Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis was considered a high-upside project, but is proving to be able to overcome his physical limitations and contribute, even when matched against stronger players. After being overpowered by Jahlil Okafor in the first half of the 76ers vs. Knicks game, Porzingis used his length to deny the entry passes and block the ground-bound Okafor three times.

He's still too frail and passive to make a big impact on the NBA right away, but he might give the Knicks some solid minutes off the bench next season.

Myles Turner

Turner is the American version of Porzingis: someone who has upside as a floor-spacer who can protect the rim, but seems a couple of years from realizing that potential. If his dominant run in the Orlando Summer League is any indication, however, he might be closer to being a contributor at the NBA level than many predicted. Turner averaged 19 points, eight rebounds and over four blocks a game for the Pacers and showed off his range with a couple of three-pointers.

Struggling to adjust

D'Angelo Russell

The second overall pick has looked overwhelmed for most of his Summer League run. Russell is supposed to have great court vision and a killer shot, yet he's averaging more turnovers than assists and has gone 1-for-13 from beyond the arc while struggling a bit on defense. He's showed flashes of creativity but the adjustment has not been seamless for the talented guard.

Lakers fans are preaching patience because Russell admitted he's struggled adjusting to the Lakers' Princeton offense.

Trey Lyles

After playing small forward in Kentucky, Lyles projected as a perimeter-oriented power forward in the NBA, which was just what the Jazz needed. So far, he's proving to be a long way away from being the outside threat Utah needs to balance out its big man rotation. Lyles has missed 13 of his 15 three point shots and 11 of his 21 free throw attempts. He has also struggled creating off the bounce, logging only three assists.

Justise Winslow

Winslow slipped all the way to 10 in the draft, where he was considered a steal by the Heat. Things haven't gone smoothly for the former Duke Blue Devil since then, as he struggled greatly with his outside shot in Orlando before suffering an ankle injury. He's barely played in Las Vegas and missed the last game to attend the ESPYs.

With Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng back, Winslow will be able to take his time to find his comfort zone, which could prove to be a good thing.