Many paths to the top
With the conclusion of the Summer Leagues comes the announcement of All-Summer League Teams and a new reason to believe for many fan bases. Although these players may not be household names currently, their performances give a glimpse of the future even as they took different paths to the trophy podium.
Blossoming starlets: Josh Hart and Wade Baldwin IV struggled to earn minutes in their early NBA days despite being first-round selections and have both experienced a change of team within their short careers, with Hart getting traded on draft day while Baldwin was waived by the Grizzlies. The Summer League has brought redemption for them however, as Hart earned MVP honors and rave reviews from Lakers president Magic Johnson while Baldwin led a talented Portland Trail Blazers squad to the title.
The chosen ones: Despite the pressure that comes with an early draft selection, some top picks manage to live up to the expectations and dominate their peers in Summer League play. Three fellow top-five picks – Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Trae Young – shared Second-Team honors, contributing to their teams’ successes.
The right fit: Although these players were talented to begin with, the right situation brought out the best in them. The intensely-competitive Collin Sexton shone on a Cleveland squad that could not do without his leadership and defense, while Wendell Carter Jr. had a solid showing for the Bulls after playing alongside the more-heralded Marvin Bagley III in college. Kevin Knox had similar breakout performances after playing out of position for the wildly talented Kentucky squad with fellow draftees Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo.
The sleepers: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was gifted enough both academically and basketball-wise to enroll at the University of Kansas at just 16 years of age, but was largely buried on a deep squad. With more playing time for the Lakers Summer League team, Mykhailiuk has managed to show off his outside stroke and versatility even as the 47th pick. The uber-athletic Christian Wood rounds out the crew with an even more feel-good story, going undrafted in 2015 and spending multiple seasons in the G League before earning his spot for his shot-blocking and rebounding.