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The NBA Summer League Was About Much More Than Lonzo Ball

Summer League play gave us a nice glimpse into the future of the NBA.

The excitement around the 2017 NBA summer league was higher than ever in terms of ratings, social media presence and overall interest.

Centered around a rookie class with players who have had serious basketball fans salivating since their high school days, its no shock that this years summer serving drew such an unprecedented investment.

But what did we really learn from the action in Las Vegas? Heres our Top 10 list of what we walked out of Vegas with some clarification on.

Lonzo Ball Is A Star

Lonzo packed out Pauley Pavilion in college, reinvigorating UCLAs national prominence by making Bruin games must-see-TV. Behind the ultimate co-sign from Laker legend and current President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson, Ball brought that same energy to the Thomas & Mack Center during the Las Vegas portion of the 2017 summer league.

Need further convincing? According to the NBA PR teams tweet, an Instagram post of Balls layup line debut has 2.6 million views and is the sixth most viewed NBA IG video ever.

Not of summer league! Not of 2017!! EVER!!!

Rachel Nichols on Twitter

Think about all the crazy dunks, ankle-breakers, 3-pointers, etc the NBA puts on IG. Lonzo’s INTRO more popular than all but five of those

Consider all the retirements, All-Star games and finals moments the NBA has had in the past few years and then let that 2.6M number sink in. And with all those eyes on him, whatd he do? Deliver his team to the chip en route to a an MVP-winning Summer League body of work.

Hes a star, he should be the next Laker great and, even though I never thought wed see Showtime in its true form ever again, hes revitalizing it.

The packed arena, the summer league records (Balls the only player in summer league history with triple-doubles), the fact that for the first time since his retirement, the Lakers and broadcasters haven’t had to reminisce on Kobe Bryant, Ball proved theres a true heir to the Purple & Gold throne in the Staples Center.

Best rookie point guard NOT named Lonzo Ball

Having covered every level of hoops for the past eight years, Ive seen Dennis Smith play since he was in eighth grade. Even then, you knew he was something special.

It felt like whether or not he would be a pro wasnt the question, but just how good of a pro he would be. The things that will translate from summer to fall, like his uncanny understanding of the pick-and-roll and his unguardable athleticism point to him being every bit of Dirk Nowitzkis successor as the main man for years to come in Dallas.

Dennis Smith Jr. Full Highlights vs Kings (2017.07.13) Summer League – 25 Pts, 6 Reb

Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM: http://goo.gl/RctO1o Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES http://goo.gl/rZRTwc —- Vintage Channel: https://goo.gl/PzMHpk My Twitter: https://goo.gl/EQbwXz My Instagram: https://goo.gl/1QF2zt —- All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended.

There are about five to seven guys from this draft class that look like locks for multiple All-Star games, and Smith is right near the top of that list. Between Ball, Smith and Sacramento Kings star rookie DeAaron Fox, the competition out West wont be falling off at point guard any time soon. Speaking of Fox

Lakers vs. Kings: The Rivalry Lives On

The exchanges on and off the court between Ball and Fox have been brewing since Fox gave Ball the work to the tune of 39 points in the NCAA tournament. The playful, yet real jabs between them potentially makes for the best rivalry in the game to mature from college to the pros since Magic and Bird. We thought itd be Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but with Parkers injuries and their teams in different conferences, that has kind of fizzled out.

De’Aaron Fox Full 2017 Summer League Highlights Compilation – SPEED Kills!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM, TRY LIMITED EDITION: http://goo.gl/BhhT9J –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

Aside from the two already dueling it out over whos the best point guard in their class, theyre now both the respective faces of franchises that have a history of hating each other. While both Ball and Fox were only five-years old when the Lakers beat the Kings in game seven of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, best believe theyre aware of the history. And we get to watch the two battle it out four times this season. Thats enough for me to justify league pass.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum: The duo of the future  

As much as Boston Celtics fans are hyped to have acquired the gifted Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum is making that move look a little hasty. Simply put, Tatum wasnt out there playing games at Summer league, he was toying with the competition.

His footwork is that of an NBA All Star, along with his poise, sense of attack and ability to understand when to pick his spots. You would think he spent his last season in Boston already and not in Durham.

Its no surprise that he mentioned Kobe as his favorite player, but hes drawing comparisons to Paul Pierce from the local Boston media. He got all that mid-range operation in his DNA, word to Kung Fu Kenny.

Jayson Tatum Full Highlights vs Lakers (2017.07.08) Summer League – 27 Pts, 11 Reb, SICK!

Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM: http://goo.gl/RctO1o Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES http://goo.gl/rZRTwc —- Vintage Channel: https://goo.gl/PzMHpk My Twitter: https://goo.gl/EQbwXz My Instagram: https://goo.gl/1QF2zt —- All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended.

And not that he cant defend on his own but for all Tatum can do on offense, Jaylen Browns an  equal part assassin on defense. Theres always that second year player that looks like a man among boys in their summer league, and Brown was that guy for me defensively this year.

In the coming years, combined with the veterans already in Boston, this duo is going to do damage in the Eastern Conference.

Kyle Kuzma was the steal of the draft

As an unapologetic Lakers fan, I wont front: I had no real expectations from Kyle Kuzma. I knew he was good in college and thought he was a solid pick late in first-round, but the draft night celebrations were reserved for Lonzo Ball.

But of all the players drafted in the first round outside of the lottery, besides Kings forward Justin Jackson and Portland Trail Blazers big man Caleb Swanigan, Kuzma was the most productive this summer.

Kyle Kuzma Full Highlights vs Blazers 2017.07.17 SL Championship Game – 30 Pts, 10 Rebs, On-FiRE!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM, TRY LIMITED EDITION: http://goo.gl/BhhT9J –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – http://www.espn.com/nba-summer-league/boxscore?gameId=400968249&league=nba-summer-las-vegas DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

His versatility, ability to score from the inside and out and his aggressive defensive attitude make him look like a player way too many teams slept on.

Paired with the player he took over for in the summer league finals, Kuzma is every bit a part of the Lakers future. Id be lying if I said I thought hed average nearly 22 points a game, 6.4 rebounds and just shy of 3 assists in his true rookie debut. But Id be happy if he puts up even half those numbers in his first real season.

Most surprising player: Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell has always been the player people overlooked a bit in his class. Players like Dwayne Bacon and Isaiah Briscoe were the star guards of the 2015 graduating class, while Mitchell was known more for his high-flying.

Fast forward two years, and Mitchell averaged 28 points per game in summer league play and looks to be a great young addition to the Utah Jazz.

Donovan Mitchell Full Highlights vs Grizzlies (2017.07.11) Summer League – 37 Pts, 8 Steals!

Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM: http://goo.gl/RctO1o Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES http://goo.gl/rZRTwc —- Vintage Channel: https://goo.gl/PzMHpk My Twitter: https://goo.gl/EQbwXz My Instagram: https://goo.gl/1QF2zt —- All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended.

Bacon wound up being selected with the 40th pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. And while many think he has the potential to be a contributor with the Charlotte Hornets next season, Briscoe is merely hoping to make it to a teams summer camp roster. Crazy how things turn out.

Was it clear that Mitchell would be good in college and be a potential pro? Yes. Mostly. Was it clear hed be arguably the best pure scoring guard in a loaded draft and be a lottery pick? Not in the slightest. But his shine is a testament to his grind and the New York City product looks like hell be proving the doubters wrong for some time to come.

Where the hell was Buddy Hield?

Summer league is also about perspective and I came away with a little bit more about the position NBA scouts are in within the sphere of one-and-done players after hearing this: Scouts tend to think that if a player doesnt dominate on the collegiate level after one or two years, he probably just isnt that great.

Thats why they steer clear of players who take more than two years to develop into pros because the thought is that player is now bigger, stronger and smarter facing younger, less talented players.

Enter Buddy Hield. The second year shooting guard should have been dominating in Las Vegas, but aside from one outburst against the Lakers where he had six threes in a game, you didnt hear about him.

Buddy Hield Full Highlights vs Lakers 2017.07.10 Summer League – 22 Pts, 16 in 4th Quarter!

Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM, TRY LIMITED EDITION: http://goo.gl/BhhT9J –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – http://www.espn.com/nba-summer-league/boxscore?gameId=400959197&league=nba-summer-las-vegas DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

A year removed from being a nearly consensus college player of the year and the sixth overall pick, an MVP performance is what wed expect. Especially against a class thats making everyone forget that his draft class even existed.

Take what you want from the tidbit above, but theres something to be said about it. And Hield, unfortunately, is looking like a prime example of four year guys not translating into stars.

Biggest Takeaway

Cant stress enough just how impressive the rookie class is. There are leading men like Ball, Fox, Tatum, Smith and the No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz. All are high level players that are already looking like key pieces to their respective franchises futures.

Markelle Fultz Full Highlights vs Jazz (2017.07.05) Summer League – 23 Pts, 5 Ast, 5 Reb

Become a monster. THE WORLD’S MOST ELITE JUMP PROGRAM: http://goo.gl/RctO1o Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES http://goo.gl/rZRTwc —- Vintage Channel: https://goo.gl/PzMHpk My Twitter: https://goo.gl/EQbwXz My Instagram: https://goo.gl/1QF2zt —- All clips property of the NBA. No copyright infringement is intended.

Players like Mitchell, Miami Heat forward Bam Adebayo and Phoenix Suns stud Josh Jackson also look like future all stars. And there is also a slew of promising players out to prove they were overlooked, like Kuzma, Swanigan and Golden State rookie Jordan Bell.

This class should be one of the greats, littered with multiple titles, MVPs and Hall of Famers. Excited to watch these guys carry the league as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, the stars of the last heralded draft class, all hit the last chapters of their respective careers.

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