NBA Rookie of the Year Value, Intel from Summer League
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Pictured: Paolo Banchero.
With Summer League wrapped up in Vegas and the NBA set to go dark (outside of a potential Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell trade), here’s a look at what I heard from various people while in Vegas and some bettable angles.
Let’s start with the rookies and their ROY chances.
1. Paolo Banchero (+350): No one looked better in Vegas among the rookies, period.
“I would put Paolo on a tier by himself, then a gap, and then start with the other guys,” one talent evaluator said, reflecting the common consensus.
It wasn’t the skill, which everyone already knew was present, it was how strong and polished Banchero looked. He looked bigger and tougher than most of his matchups and yet was still handling and creating with the ball in his hands.
Carmelo Anthony was the most consistent comp made for him, which is pretty high praise for where Anthony was as a rookie.
“Defense is not going to be a priority for him,” one scout said, “But with with that skillset, he doesn’t have to in the league.”
Banchero’s rebounding was a concern. In his second game, he had no rebounds in the first half before committing and grabbing six in the second two frames.
Overall, Banchero looked like the player most deserving of the No. 1 pick and the player most ready to be a franchise guy for Orlando.
2. Keegan Murray (+650): The impressive thing about Murray was how he just accumulated stats. I watched one of his games intently and felt he was largely quiet and mostly invisible.
Then I looked up in the third quarter and he had 14-5-4. He just got numbers, he just filled in gaps and he just found ways to produce.
The Kings have a lot of veteran talent and intentions to compete for a playoff spot, so the risk with Murray is that he’ll get lost in that and his playing time may vascillate. But given his combination of skills and how high the Kings were on him — drafting him over Jaden Ivey — he still has value here.
If you want to feel more certain, wait until training camp to see where he fits in the rotation and if he starts.
3. Chet Holmgren (+420): Holmgren wowed in Salt Lake Summer League and was really good in Vegas. His opening game set a high bar that he was unlikely to hold up to, especially with Summer League’s weird environment, schedule, and style.
Still, Holmgren looks like a franchise cornerstone and more than one person said I should look out for Shai Gileous-Alexander’s assists props because Holmgren will feast on pick and pops with his frame and release point.
Holmgren’s best value may be on the defensive side though, with incredible rim protection instincts and recovery ability. But the same concerns about his frame popped up in various matchups and blocks very rarely deliver ROY awards.
It’s also notable that OKC, by all accounts, has been focused on Holmgren going back to last fall. The Thunder would have been happy with any of the top three in the class, but they firmly believe Holmgren is the guy.
4. Benedict Mathurin (+1200): Mathurin had an easy scoring touch and looked right at home, as a player who looked like he “belonged” in pro basketball. That’s the first step. I have some concerns about his playing time with Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte likely to take up usage, but several scouts thought he looked like he would translate easiest.
5. Jaden Ivey (+800): I’m not going to bet this because Cade Cunningham’s presence inherently dampens another guard’s usage. Ivey looks to be the perfect compliment to Cunningham’s steadiness with his insane explosiveness.
Ivey looked faster, more explosive and more dangerous than any other player in his limited play before an ankle injury. More than anything, Ivey looks like the kind of player who will actively look to put his stamp on games in box score ways that will lead to ROY contention.
Jabari Smith: Smith had better games as Summer League went on and his defense looked really good. But a consistent trend was that he would need good guard play to set him up and several people I polled were skeptical that Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green were the guards to put him in position to have a great rookie year.
“Jabari was the No. 1 guy on my list, but I’m just worried there will be games where the ball doesn’t find him.”
That’s not to say Smith’s a no-bet. He didn’t look bad and there were plenty of positives. Let’s wait and see what training camp and preseason look like and then maybe his usage will be higher than expected and the number will still have value.
Shaedon Sharpe: The Blazers’ mysterious pick was injured in the first game and that was it. There’s just not enough to go on either way.
Jaden Hardy: The Mavericks’ pick averaged 15-5-3 and will have chances with the roster changes this summer to Dallas, but he doesn’t fit the profile of a ROY. However, don’t be surprised if he earns a role as Dallas looks to return to the Western Conference Finals.
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Here’s some league intel from various conversations I had in Vegas.
1. EVERYONE’S MAD AT THE WOLVES
There’s some wondering in league circles about who exactly pushed hard enough for the Wolves to trade four picks and a swap for Rudy Gobert. Was it was Tim Connelly looking to make his stamp immediately or (eventual) new ownership in Marc Lore looking to reshape the team in his (and A-Rod’s) image?
Either way, the deal has gotten a lot of shorts in a bunch around the league.
“How are we supposed to establish a market after that?” one executive commented. “It was one thing when Milwaukee (traded five firsts for Jrue Holiday), they were in a specific spot. If you want an All-Star, it starts with six picks, plus good rotation guys? It’s going to poison the market for a while.”
Picks have become more liquid in recent years. For more on that, read this from ESPN’s Zach Lowe. But if there is one takeaway from the conversations about how teams are trying to build, it’s frustration at what the Hawks gave up for Dejounte Murray and what the Wolves gave up for Gobert.
If part of your betting involves “they might trade this player” or “they might trade for this player,” you should proceed with caution. The market is severely damaged at the moment and sellers will be holding up unreasonable standards of return relative to what most teams are willing to give.
This is an inherent issue when you have 30 teams actively competing against each other while also being responsible for market stability. The Wolves’ primary responsibility is not to the market, but to themselves. If it makes things harder for other teams, that, in fact, is a feature, not a bug. As one executive said:
“Yeah, Minnesota screwed us if we look to move one of our key guys. But isn’t that what they should want?”
2. A KEVIN DURANT WAITING GAME
“I won’t be surprised if (KD) is on the Nets in camp, or at the deadline” one league source said, echoing a popular sentiment.
The thinking goes that if the Nets have to trade Durant, the franchise’s run of contention is over. There’s no way to get a player or package back that keeps them in contention. Even what are thought to be the “good options” in Toronto and New Orleans only put Brooklyn back into potential playoff range.
So if you’re doomed, you’re not on a timeline. No one believes Durant will sit out. He’s well known as someone who loves the game so much and is enough of a professional that he’ll play even if he’s unhappy. It will be uncomfortable and a circus, but Daryl Morey proved last year with Ben Simmons that if you can stomach that distraction, eventually it dulls and patience is your ally.
“(Morey) waited all year, with you guys (media) asking every day about it and eventually it was just in the background until he got the guy he wanted,” one executive remarked. “Even with how (James Harden) looked later, that’s better than what their offers were in preseason.”
The Nets can tell Durant, honestly, that they’re working to move him to a suitable destination, but that it’ll take time.
I’ve strongly advocated for the idea that if Durant wants to get moved, he’ll get moved, and he’ll get moved where he wants as that’s typically what happens with these deals. The Suns deal gets infinitely less likely with the Suns matching Deandre Ayton and in doing so giving him a no-trade clause.
However, Durant can accelerate the timeline or he can pick the location. Getting both is where the Nets likely draw the line.
Does this mean a reconciliation is possible? Could the Nets ultimately just run it back? It’s possible, but one longtime league observer offered wise words while in Vegas:
“These situations wear on locker rooms, and they wear on chemistry, and they wear on nerves. The regular season is a slog. Dealing with these circuses hurt your margin for error.”
3. THE WEST IS BACK TO A BLOODBATH
An Eastern conference executive reflected a theme I heard a lot. “How many good teams are there in the West? Someone always gets hurt, but Denver, the Clippers and the Wolves are going to be better and most of the top teams aren’t going anywhere.”
Denver revamped its rotation with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a shooting and defensive upgrade over Will Barton, and Bruce Brown, the best wing they’ve had off the bench in several years. They get Jamal Murray (who played full five-on-five in summer league practice and looked “just like his old self” according to Nuggets personnel) and Michael Porter Jr. (who said he is 100% on NBATV during Summer League) back.
The Clippers get Kawhi Leonard back, a full season (hopefully) of Paul George and added John Wall.
The Warriors lost three players from the Finals rotation, but there’s broad expectation that Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and Summer League standout James Wiseman will fill the gaps along with free agent signing Donte DiVincenzo.
The bigger issue that will impact win totals betting is that there are very few teams in the West who will likely plan to tank next season, even with projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama a constant discussion point in Vegas.
The Suns, Warriors, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Nuggets, Wolves, Clippers, Pelicans, Blazers, Lakers and Kings all definitely want to compete for the playoffs. The Thunder may wind up there if Chet Holmgren is as good as OKC believes he can be, though young teams rarely solve the regular season riddle.
The Spurs, Rockets and Jazz (if they trade Donovan Mitchell) are the only teams expected by various league personnel to not be in contention (and a few said Houston could surprise people).
Last year only three teams had win totals below 30 and only four teams had win totals above 50. How will parity play out in this gauntlet of the West?
4. GREAT FOR YOU, NOT FOR ME
Finally, I just find it necessary to remark on a common sentiment I heard in Vegas pertaining to Kyrie Irving.
Nearly everyone I talked to — from scouts to executives to a few members of coaching personnel — said the same thing about the controversial Nets star. Let me paraphrase:
Irving is an incredible talent and a lot of teams should absolutely take on the risk of bringing him to the squad. He’s a pure hooper with elite, all-time talent. Also, we do not want him or think he fits with our team.
Everyone likes the idea of Irving. No one actually wants the risk.