With the right guidance, any rookie can enter the NBA with the look of the superstar. However, while it pays to look the part off the court, that’s not the most important part. If a player wants to remain in the league, then they better get the job done on the hardwood. And no rookie faces this sort of pressure quite like Lonzo Ball.
Heading into the NBA Summer League, the Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick needed to make a statement. He needed to block out the noise; overcome any distraction his father, LaVar Ball, might’ve brought to the table; and go out and play his game. Fortunately for Lakers Nation, Ball did just that. But was it enough to help him win over the Vegas oddsmakers and put him in position for the NBA Rookie of the Year award? See for yourself.
7. (tie) Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns
Josh Jackson’s outside shot — which is inconsistent at best — is still a major concern, but the 6-foot-8 forward definitely flashed his two-way potential during the NBA Summer League. In five games in Las Vegas, the No. 4 overall pick got the job done on both ends of the floor, averaging 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while notching one block and 1.2 steals a night. If Jackson is able to develop into a legitimate threat from three-point range, the Phoenix Suns could have a superstar on their hands.
7. (tie) Malik Monk, Charlotte Hornets
Malik Monk didn’t play in the Summer League due to a sprained ankle he suffered during the draft workout process, but everyone knows what he brings to the table. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard, whom the Charlotte Hornets selected with the 11th overall pick, is arguably the most naturally-gifted scorer in the entire class — something he flashed in spades during his lone season at Kentucky.
On his way toward earning SEC Player of the Year honors during the 2016–17 season, Monk shot 45% from the field, knocked down 39.7% of his triples, and put up 19.8 points a night. Should this scoring touch carry over into the league, Monk has a real shot at taking home some individual hardware.
5. (tie) De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
Like Jackson, the biggest concern surrounding De’Aaron Fox is his outside jumper. However, when it comes to other areas of his game, specifically his speed with the ball, ability to get to the basket, tenacious effort on the defensive end of the floor, and affinity for steals, it’s easy to see why many think Fox has the potential to be the best point guard of the bunch.
Fortunately for the freshman out of Kentucky, the Sacramento Kings made some underrated offseason signings that should make his transition to the NBA a heck of a lot smoother. If you ask us, the Kings couldn’t have gotten a better bang for their buck with the No. 5 overall pick in 2017.
5. (tie) Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers
An ankle injury cut short Markelle Fultz’s Summer League participation, but it’s easy to see why the Philadelphia 76ers made the move up to No. 1 to take him. Not only does the Washington combo guard play with a nearly effortless confidence, but his ability to score in many ways on offense tends to leave a lasting impression. The scary part is, at just 19 years old, Fultz hasn’t even come close to scratching the surface of his potential. Don’t look now; the Sixers are ready to take “The Process” to the next level.
4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
After watching Jayson Tatum go to work at the NBA Summer League, it’s easy to see why the Boston Celtics coveted him so much. In three games at the Utah portion of the Summer League, the No. 3 overall pick averaged 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, shot 46.8% from the field, and showcased a versatile and polished offensive game.
The former Duke standout continued his outstanding play in Vegas, where he averaged 17.7 points and eight rebounds a night over three contests. Tatum may occasionally settle for the difficult shot, but make no mistake, the 6-foot-8 forward is ready for the next level.
3. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
A foot injury kept Ben Simmons out for the entire 2016–17 season. But now that he’s healthy, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 is poised to make a splash.
In case you forgot what Simmons brings to the table, let us remind you: At 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, Simmons possesses the size and athleticism of a forward with the vision and handle of a point guard. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and his playmaking skills are truly special. If Simmons is able to stay on the floor, the future will be that much brighter for the Philadelphia 76ers and their eager fanbase.
2. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas Mavericks
It’s still early, but the Dallas Mavericks might’ve gotten the steal of the draft in Dennis Smith Jr. The former North Carolina State freshman displayed his athleticism, burst, and scoring prowess from the moment he stepped on the hardwood in Las Vegas.
Smith got to the basket at will, jammed like he was auditioning for the Slam Dunk Contest, and dazzled the crowd to the tune of 17.3 points in 25.8 minutes a night. And just think, somehow the Mavs managed to snag the electric point guard with the ninth overall pick in the draft. Crazy.
1. Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
Lonzo Ball struggled in his first Summer League game, but quickly bounced back to show just how special a player he can be. In six games in Vegas Summer League, the No. 2 overall pick displayed incredible court vision, an affinity for getting his teammates easy buckets, and an undeniable ability to make everyone around him better.
The soon-to-be face of the Los Angeles Lakers averaged 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 9.3 assists, and 2.5 steals per game, recorded two triple-doubles, and received Summer League Most Valuable Player honors. After a display like this, it’s easy to see why oddsmakers like his Rookie of the Year chances.