Ethan Piechota, Scout
Alex Brown, Head of Scouting
Scouting LVSL is always an interesting process, as there are players from a myriad of different backgrounds with an equally copious amount of goals and contexts to track. Some are trying to prove their worth to lower level international teams by filling a role and excelling at it, some are being experimented with in a larger role for the upcoming NBA season, some are fighting for that final two-way, some for the G-League, some for the paycheck and exposure, etc. Understanding the context of what these players will be asked to do and what their goals are is key to understanding what is occurring on the court.
Naturally, those players typically asked to do more on these rosters are the second year guys, which we will begin with here. These are the players we thought excelled in an expanded role and showed just how much they have developed after a year in the NBA/G-League.
Keep in mind that while there were many great performers, these are the players that stood out to us when narrowing down 4 interesting cases in SL. These players were not necessarily the best, but stood out to us nonetheless.
2nd Year Standouts
G Tyrese Maxey (PHI) – Maxey dominated in his summer league appearances this year, scoring 52 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out 9 assists through his two games. Using his quick twitch burst and change of pace, the second-year guard got into the paint at will, creating advantages for himself and leveraging that gravity to create for others, especially out of the PnR. Though he’s only shot 4/14 from three through two games, he’s showcased much improved (as expected) OTD pull-up shooting mechanics, with clear instruction from the 76ers coaching staff to let it fly behind the arc. All the while, his elite skills that made me so high on him last year have remained elite, hounding inexperienced guards on the perimeter defensively and using his diversified layup package and body control around the rim to remain a top-of-the-line giant slayer at his age.
F Obi Toppin (NYK) – After a somewhat up-and-down rookie season playing behind 2020-21 Most Improved Player Julius Randle, Obi Toppin has made clear off-season improvements, most notably with his jump shot. Behind volatile mechanics Toppin shot just 26/85 (30%) on primarily catch and shoot threes last year. In summer league thus far, Toppin’s stroke from behind the arc has looked improved, and more importantly, way more consistent with increased volume. Almost entirely shooting off the catch, he sometimes still struggles to get full range of motion and line-drives some attempts, but in rhythm, his pre-shot preparation and release point have made needed strides, which has been an emphasis on his offensive development that is starting to come around. He’s also been aggressive and under control as a driver, utilizing his size and finishing ability to bully smaller defenders. If he is able to make the jump as a 3PT shooter this season, Toppin’s ability to attack closeouts and rim pressure OTD will be a welcome sight for many Knicks fans. Though Toppin is still rough defensively and will need to be masked on that end for the most part primarily due to his limited lateral movement and slow hips, he’s focused the positive part of his athletic skillset to his advantage by getting out in transition with his straight-line speed and finishing around the rim with his vertical pop.
G Malachi Flynn (TOR) – Malachi was one of our favorite players to scout for the 2020 draft due to his complete game, mental approach, and lacking holes in his skillset. He finished well above his draft slot on our boards, and we got a chance to watch him again in that lead combo guard role that we loved him in at SDSU. Through 3 games at the 2021 LVSL, Flynn has been able to create advantages off the bounce and get into the paint at will, which was a major part of what made him so attractive to scouts coming out of San Diego State last year. He’s been tough to stop as a PnR ball handler and as a pull-up shooter, averaging 17.3 PPG and shooting 45% from three on 6.7 attempts per game. He will need to continue to make strides as a finisher (43% through 3 games in the paint), although this was expected as we mentioned in our 2020 draft coverage of Flynn. Flynn is also a tough, pesky, and sturdy defender that makes impactful, winning plays on the court, and we believe that he should see meaningful minutes as a part of Toronto’s guard rotation this year.
C Omer Yurtseven (MIA) – Yurtseven was one of the best bigs in Vegas. He shot the 3 with confidence and volume, protected the rim at a very solid level, and controlled the glass on both ends. He will have to work on taking care of the ball when help comes and defending without fouling, but his offensive acumen mixed with his serviceable defensive presence makes him a promising option to bet on regarding sticking in the NBA. Here at APB, we have been high on Yurtseven’s chances to make an NBA roster for quite some time. After a stellar beginning to LVSL, Omer signed a 2 year, 3.5 million dollar contract with the Miami Heat where he will show that he can stick in the league due to his modern and versatile skillset at 7’0. We expect him to get low rotation minutes this year.
The volatility of rookie performances is always interesting to observe. Seldom do the results of LVSL mean a lot for their careers, and confirmation bias is a huge hindrance to evaluating rookies properly here. Understanding what summer work is attempting to be implemented, what their coaches are asking of them, and what approach they have to SL is huge to understanding their performances.
W Ziaire Williams (MEM) – Williams was a fairly polarizing prospect out of Stanford after an injury-ridden season derailed his freshman campaign. In LVSL, Ziaire was out there to make mistakes, get initiator reps, begin catching up to the speed of the game, and to just try stuff and feel the game come to him. We expected him to look raw and probably not shoot the ball very well, and that is pretty much how it went. However, he never looked fully healthy at Stanford, but early on throughout LVSL Williams has looked far more explosive with rim finishing flashes and increased burst off the bounce. This is a great sign for Ziaire’s development, especially after measuring in at 6’9 ¾ at the NBA Combine a few months ago and his pre-college sample of impressive vertical athleticism coming together. Still, the most intriguing parts of his upside is his shooting and handle at his size. His mechanics and pull-up shooting upside are frankly special and are bets worth taking with Ziaire’s intangibles. His lateral movement on-ball is still a work in progress, but he generated events playing the passing lanes off-ball with his size and wingspan. Williams appears to be in a great spot as well in Memphis, a place where he will have time to develop before being asked to play meaningful rotational minutes. Overall, it was great to see him out there playing with pace and trying new things, and we are confident in his long term value eventually paying dividends on the stat sheet, like we saw in the Miami game offensively.
W Trey Murphy III (NOLA) – Drafted 17th overall by New Orleans, Trey Murphy III was one of our favorite prospects here at APB due to his true 3&D mold to pair with excellent physical tools and the intangibles to excel as a long term NBA wing. After a stellar year of defensive development and elite shooting at Virginia, questions still remained about the on-ball equity Trey could provide regarding if he could get his own shot off in a pinch and playmake to round out a more globally impactful skillset. Trey flashed both of these skills, including a 7 assist game and a few P&R H possessions that were impressive. This occurred while still excelling in his 3&D role and locking down some really tough wings, including more than holding his own against Patrick Williams and Kuminga. He appears to have gotten stronger physically and more comfortable with the ball in his hands since he last played at Virginia, and we are confident he will be a long term starter in the league.
F Jonathan Kuminga (GSW) – Kuminga has impressed with his blend of ball-handling, physicality and functional athleticism at his size early on. It’s clear his development in the G-League Ignite system with in-game reps against NBA talent has been beneficial, using his strong frame to bully ball opponents off the dribble en route to the basket. As expected, he’s had impressive athletic flashes on both ends, including a game against Toronto where he nearly threw down three monster dunks. Two major concerns for Kuminga coming out were his lack of feel and shooting, both of which appear to be improved upon. Though he’s still occasionally out of position defensively and has turned the ball over too often, he’s had some really impressive playmaking flashes and better situational and spacing awareness than he displayed at GLI. Again, he is still behind in these areas for an NBA player, but we feel that he is making strides in the right direction. His shot is still a work in progress, as he doesn’t look comfortable or confident OTD whatsoever, but his mechanics off the catch have looked better than they did in GLI. He still has changing mechanics and employing an occasional full dip before release off catch, but he’s also had good off-catch flashes where his posture and upper body look much improved. Being able to space the floor will be key for Kuminga as he hopes to crack Golden State’s rotation next year.
G Cam Thomas (BKN) – Coming out of high school, Cam was roughly top 20 on Alex’s board due to his inherent ability to score at will with the expectation that ancillary skills will develop as competition increases. While he fell due to lacking development in these traits in and role questions, Cam reminded us why we liked him so much after leaving high school. Averaging 27 points per game is no easy feat, even for veterans in this setting. Despite not doing much apart from scoring and turning the ball over too often, Cam did do one thing that made him a standout player: free throw generation. Cam was able to get to the free throw line in bunches, and that was honestly the difference between him being either a lethal offensive weapon or just a low efficiency volume scorer. Summer League is rather notable for its fouling though, as players are incentivized to experiment and play physically. We will be very curious to see if Cam’s ability to get to the free throw line sticks with the rise in competition, as if it doesn’t we worry he will not have the ancillary skills to fit a role outside of a low efficiency bench scorer. This is a trait we expected to translate in volume bench scoring archetypes like Mason Jones, but it has yet to keep guys like him in a role. Can Cam succeed where Jones has yet to, or will he need to remold his game? A curious case to follow, indeed.