The Las Vegas Summer League exists for one reason, and one reason only: to overreact. It’s the time where we talk about how a player who hasn’t played a single game yet is destined for the Hall of Fame, or perhaps will be out of the league by November. That’s the whole point of the event.
I’m trying to tone that down this year. I made it a goal to observe but not project. So please note that this article is not intended to fan the flames as I spew hot take after hot take.
It’s just some observations — observations that might look foolish when these players actually don real NBA jerseys, and not whatever these weird half-real, half-practice Vegas jerseys are.
We spent a lot of time discussing who the Warriors would draft before the ultimately settled on Jonathan Kuminga at No. 7 and Moses Moody at No. 14. And so far those look like pretty solid selections.
But what about the players the Warriors didn’t select? The Dubs were linked to a handful of other players who were available at No. 7, and even some at No. 14.
I’ve been sitting in uncomfortable chairs in Vegas all week, watching an amount of bad basketball that can’t be good for my health, and I’ve been trying to pay extra close attention to the dudes the Dubs passed on. Here are my takeaways.
Early on in the draft process, the Warriors were linked to Mitchell with their first pick. As time went on, it became clear that wouldn’t happen, but Golden State was reportedly optimistic that he’d fall to them at their second pick.
That didn’t happen, as the Sacramento Kings scooped up the 22-year old point guard with the No. 9 pick.
Part of Mitchell’s allure was that he was a win-now guy, which makes Sacramento’s choice a little bizarre. But my oh my is Mitchell fitting that description.
This is my third Summer League, and I can’t remember a single player getting an ovation for defense, unless it was a highlight block. Mitchell flipped that script on its head. In his first game he played such pesky on-ball defense that the crowd started rumbling every time his counterpart had the ball. At one point he even drew a standing ovation for suffocating James Bouknight in the corner.
being guarded by Davion Mitchell looks like hell pic.twitter.com/ryHtwmERAA— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) August 9, 2021
But Mitchell has been just as impressive on offense. He’s been able to get wherever he wants on the floor and, just as impressively, sets himself up to take advantage once there. He’s balanced and in control, ready to pull the trigger on a shot or pass at any time.
Davion Mitchell gettin' shifty early pic.twitter.com/ehBlFAATcK— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 9, 2021
The concerns about his ceiling are still valid. He’s four years older than Kuminga, and nearly a year older than Jordan Poole. He should be putting on a point guard clinic in Summer League. Anything less would be disappointing.
But he certainly looks like a player who would get time on the Warriors this season.
Wagner started gaining late momentum to the Warriors, as he began popping up on mock drafts in the final week. But the Dubs passed on him, and the Orlando Magic selected him up one pick later.
It was fitting that Wagner and Kuminga were often matched up against each other in each player’s first Vegas game. Kuminga got the better of that matchup — comfortably — and nothing either player has shown since has changed that.
Wagner has been highly underwhelming thus far. He hasn’t shown much ability to create offense, either for himself or for his teammates. He’s not getting by defenders easily, leaving his primary offensive contribution to be shooting — and he doesn’t do that well enough to be so one dimensional.
Perhaps most concerning is that Wagner’s defense hasn’t looked great. He was one of college basketball’s top defensive players a year ago, but so far that hasn’t translated to a bigger and faster game.
No. 7 pick Jonathan Kuminga overpowers No. 8 pick Franz Wagner pic.twitter.com/qrQAXcHvpy— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) August 10, 2021
Wagner entered the draft listed at 6’9, but there were whispers from his camp that he grew over the summer and was 6’11. I am here to dispel those rumors. That man is not 6’11.
The Warriors were reportedly convinced that Duarte would be on the board at No. 14, only for the Indiana Pacers to grab him at No. 13. That led to the Dubs reportedly offering a trade of Moody and some other assets to get Duarte on their team.
You can see why Golden State was enamored with him. Watching him in Vegas feels like watching Malcolm Brogdon play against a bunch of G Leaguers. His defense was excellent, his playmaking was precise and careful, and his scoring was in control.
He looks like a player who could play this year, but with the Warriors offseason additions, is that actually important? Duarte is already 24 years old. There’s no doubt that he’s one of the best players in the draft right now, but a player’s ceiling is limited when they’ll be 28 when their rookie contract expires.
Bouknight was a very popular player to be mocked to the Warriors at No. 7, and very well might have been the pick had Kuminga not still been on the board. Instead, Bouknight fell to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 11.
It doesn’t look like a great loss right now. Bouknight’s offense has not stood out too much. He’s been fine, but again, Summer League exists so we can overreact. Bouknight has done little to allow you to overreact and peg him for stardom.
What he has done sure has been pretty though.
Absolutely filthy hesi from James Bouknight as he finishes this lay high up off the glass!! pic.twitter.com/8Z7LyWSUZM— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) August 12, 2021
I’m cheating a little bit here because Şengün wasn’t particularly linked to the Warriors. I just chose him at No. 14 in the SB Nation mock draft because I was high on his potential.
After watching him a few times in person, I’m even higher on his potential.
Şengün’s footwork is every bit as good as advertised — some of the best I’ve ever seen at Summer League, and he just turned 19. His creativity is on full display, and his offensive rebounding is special.
Alperen Sengun is the real deal, folks. I’m flying to Vegas right now gushing from my seat watching him get buckets. Already improved as a shooter and defender. All of the Rockets rookies look great too. Rafael Stone’s draft is looking pretty, pretty good. pic.twitter.com/JQHKTVMxCk— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) August 11, 2021
The concerns about the young Turkish big man were threefold: his defense, which certainly has holes but has been a lot more NBA-ready than I expected; his size, though he looks big enough to be a 5 to me; and his shooting, which still has a ways to go but has looked smooth so far, and gone in a fair amount of times.
I might have selective vision with Şengün since I wanted the Warriors to take him (he went to the Houston Rockets at No. 16 instead), but he absolutely looks the part of a successful modern big.
The Warriors didn’t draft Mitchell, Wagner, Duarte, Bouknight, or Şengün, of course. They drafted Kuminga and Moody, and right now those picks look solid.
But, barring a trade, we’ll spend the next few years either applauding the Dubs for their draft brilliance, or wishing they taken one of these players that they were linked to. This is just the first step of many.