The rookies at the top of the 2022 draft class dominated the NBA Summer League headlines as Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero put on a show in limited action. But the excitement of Las Vegas action extends well beyond the performances of the league’s top rookies. The two-week exhibition is also a showcase for the league’s second-year players. With prospective sophomores looking to make a leap in their second 82-game campaign, Summer League is a natural place to start.
Which sophomores made the biggest impression in the Summer League? Let’s highlight some of the top performers.
Moses Moody, warrior
Moody could join Golden State’s rotation in 2022-23 after being bench-tied for much of the Finals. He was most impressive during the California Classic portion of the Summer League, with a 34-point performance that marked an impressive start to the summer. Moody flashed his myriad talents in the outstanding performance. He hit a trio of three and could punish defenders who ran him off the line, reminiscent of Swiss army knives (Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa spring to mind) from the Warriors past. Moody’s offensive arsenal is impressive, and he should thrive when flanked by the two greatest shooters in basketball history. How much Moody contributes as a defender and rebounder could dictate how much playing time he gets from Steve Kerr, especially given the void left by the departure of Gary Payton II.
Trey Murphy III, Pelicans
Murphy showed some sparks as a pick-and-pop threat in minutes last season with New Orleans, evading 44.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc. He built on his sporadic success as a rookie during his time in Las Vegas. The former Virginia Cavalier finished third among all Summer League players as he averaged 26.5 points per game and showed an increased willingness to attack defenses from the jump in a promising move. Murphy won’t necessarily be a two-way force, although his game could be more well-rounded than what we saw during his rookie season. Pairing his three-point shooting skills with quality rebounds and finishing on the rim will go a long way toward earning a spot in New Orleans’ crowded rotation.
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Quentin Grimes, Knicks
New York’s drafting history over the past decade is shabby (to put it lightly), although the Knicks seem to have made a prudent decision when picking Grimes in the first round in 2021. Grimes is an athletic 3-and-D winger with more jumping ability than he’s given credit for and he’s had no trouble taking on the extra responsibility of playmaker in the Summer League. Grimes averaged 22.6 points per game in five Summer League competitions and spent much time as the main initiate. Grimes may soon become a cornerstone of Utah’s rebuilding in a potential Donovan Mitchell deal, but for now, Knicks fans can look to him as a potential building block in the franchise’s attempt to regain prominence.
Cam Thomas, Nets
The LSU product quickly became a fan favorite last season as it helped keep the Nets afloat amid a string of injuries and absences. Thomas had 20+ points ten times in his rookie season. With an understaffed roster, his microwave scoring ability proved crucial. A similar trend continued in Las Vegas. Thomas trailed only Moody in points per game and was one of four players to average double-digit free throw attempts per game. Perhaps a sizable chunk of his buckets has come from practically unlimited usage in Summer League, but there’s likely still a tinge of optimism to glean from his performance in Vegas. Thomas has already carved out a niche role for himself in the league as a promising goalscorer on the bench. Expect him to run more in Brooklyn this season.
Josh Giddey, Thunder
Did the Aussie point guard light up the Summer League in his five-game summer stint? Not necessarily. But I’ll take any excuse to promote one of the most adorable point guards in the league. A taste of the Giddey-Holmgren connection is absolutely drooling. Let’s hope we’ll see more of this over the next decade.
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