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Vegas Diaries – 1

Thoughts During the Flight

En Route to Vegas

I’ve been meaning to go to a Summer League for a while now. It is crazy to think that no one paid the slightest attention to this event 4-5 years ago, and now every single game is broadcasted on ESPN2 and NBATV. I tried to get a media pass this year, but applied way too late, so hopefully next year I should be able to interview some summer league studs. 

I’ve enjoyed watching the summer league so far. Cedi Osman has absolutely been tearing it up during the first round of games. One controversial topic, especially in the Turkish basketball community, is that Cedi wasn’t given enough opportunities in the playoffs. Especially after seeing how bad JR Smith was. I get the whole rookie thing, but come on now. The Cleveland Cavaliers have an awesome core to build on with the Osman-Sexton-Zizic trio. They will be a sneaky fun team to watch on league pass this year. I truly believe that Kevin Love can revert back to his old dominant self after the departure of the King. He has been used like a Ryan Anderson during his tenure with the Cavs, which was blasphemous. 

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Speaking of league pass, how about them Phoenix Suns. Ayton – Booker has “superstar duo” written all over them. the Addition of Mikal Bridges during the draft via trade was also a phenomenal move by the Suns’ front office. They are reportedly practicing on a 14-second shot clock, and with that up-tempo offense, I wouldn’t be shocked if booker even wins the scoring title this year. That boy can play. I really don’t want to categorize bender as a bust, but the clock is ticking for him. 

The Atlanta Hawks‘ acquisition of Jeremy Lin was an interesting move. I was really looking forward to Trae Young jacking up all kinds of 3s next season. He still will have many opportunities to create his shot next season, considering he has Steph Curry range. He really needs to gain muscle weight since he will be a target for pick-and-rolls all season long. It would be ludicrous to expect huge and, more specifically, consistent numbers from him the first couple of years. There will be a lot of duds throughout the way. 

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Star potential: Kevin Knox. New York Knicks fans should boo their draft picks more. They really wanted to draft Michael Porter Jr. with their pick, but it’s safe to say they’ve made the right decision thus far. I know we shouldn’t take Summer League too seriously, but he is a great shooter that can attack the rim. What more can you ask for, offensively, from a rookie?

Wendell Carter Jr. looks like another steal. He played with Marvin Bagley at Duke last year and hasn’t received the attention that he deserved. We’ve seen his versatile play in the beginning stages of Summer League. He will be one of the main reasons to watch the Chicago Bulls next season. 

I have to mention my other Turkish guy, Furkan Korkmaz, for the Philadelphia 76ers here. I was ready to buy his jersey after his 40-point explosion in the summer league, but then he came right back down to earth. It was an unfortunate rookie season for Korkmaz, who sat out most of the year due to injuries. He is a fearless shooter who can really handle the rock. He was also the 5th player ever to score more than 40 points in the summer league. Even though he shot only 1 of 18 in the last 2 games, he still got some valuable minutes in the second unit for the Sixers. The departure of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli opened up some minutes, but Wilson Chandler will soak some of that up.

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A player that I didn’t want to like, but has impressed me so far, is Grayson Allen. The controversial Duke product got into a scuffle and was already warned by the refs for tripping people. He has performed exceptionally well in the point guard position. The problem is that the Utah Jazz threw a lot of money to both Raul Neto and Dante Exum this summer, so it will be interesting to see how much burn he gets in his rookie season. I was also pleased to see that the Jazz kept Ekpe Udoh around for another year. He brings great energy and defense off the bench. 

Josh Hart has been one of the best players in the summer league, with the new Los Angeles Lakers core, it will be interesting to see what his role will be. I still cant get over the Lakers paying KCP 12 million next year, meanwhile, all other teams are getting bargains left and right. The Lakers also signed a long-term contract with their second round pick out of Kansas, Svi Mykhailiuk. He has been a tremendous shooter for the Jayhawks, and I was glad to see him impress the coaching staff and quickly lock in a deal. 

Houston Rockets had two late second-round picks with this draft, and De’Antony Melton had an impressive campaign so far. Melton, the USC product, didn’t get a chance to play in his sophomore year. RJ Hunter, who couldn’t play for the Celtics, and got acquired by the Rockets last year, is a player I really want to see succeed. His college and march madness games from a couple years ago are still fresh in most of the college fans’ minds. Qi, on the other hand, is a huge project. The Chinese wall still needs to add 40 pounds of muscle to make it in the league. He is getting some nice blocks during the summer league, but he still has miles to go. Losing Ariza and Luc will really hurt the rockets, so it’ll be interesting to see how the forward minutes will be split up, and what Ennis’s role will be next season. 

For me, the biggest bummer is that Luka Doncic hasn’t played at all during this period. He played more games than any other rookie last season, so the Dallas Mavericks want to rest their prize player. Carlisle even made a trip back to Slovenia with Luka to get to know his point guard better. Next season, there will be a lot of lobs coming at DeAndre Jordan’s way, who signed a massive 1-year/$24-million deal in the offseason. During Doncic’s absence, Jalen Brunson has been running a PG clinic. He is a bit undersized, but the Mavs will give their young PGs as many opportunities as possible. 

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Last year was an injury-plagued season, and we were all sick and tired of injury news popping up day after day. Unfortunately, Summer League has been full of injury news as well. The 2nd pick of the draft, Marvin Bagley, will be missing couple of weeks. He had a monster jam earlier in the league, but we wont be able to watch him any more. Donte Divincenzo from Villanova has catapulted his way up to 17th pick after winning the MVP award at the NCAA finals. He missed most of the summer league due to injuries. Kansas’ best player last year, Devonte Graham, also had to miss the rest of the summer league with charlotte. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and traded at the draft day. The latest addition to the injury report was Lonnie Walker, who the San Antonio Spurs are looking into. 

I wanted to jot down some notes before we land in Vegas and am pretty excited about the next couple of days. There will be a ton of games to watch Friday and Saturday. Lets go the last Cedi!

Author: Baran Sonmez

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