I guess Summer League only means something if you need it to mean something.
For the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, the Summer League has given them proof that their decisions at the top of the NBA Draft were the correct ones. Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren have impressed, and otherwise meaningless games in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas have allowed them to consider their drafts a success. Their futures are secure in the hands of the young big men from Duke and Gonzaga.
Houston, meanwhile, are still waiting on their top pick to have a huge game. Jabari Smith Jr. has improved in each game he has played in Vegas, and that’s the sort of thing Houston will be happy to see. Sometimes, improvement comes in a huge burst, like it did for Jalen Green after the All-Star break. For others, it’s about a steady climb to conquer consistency and then dominance. That’s the more common path to being a good player in the NBA, and it’s the one Houston’s front office and coaching staff would be content to see Jabari pursue. Slow and steady. No need to make a splash when the games don’t matter.
Then there’s Tari Eason.
If you’ve watched any of the Summer League games, you’ve seen Eason being an absolute menace on the court. His defensive metrics at LSU seemed preposterous, and yet here we are. Offensively, there’s room for his game to grow, but when a player isn’t wowing you on offense and he’s still being noticed? Yeah that’s a keeper. Houston has a similar sort of talent in Jae’Sean Tate, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Rockets fan that doesn’t like Tate. Eason is going to make Stephen Silas’s rotation decision difficult. Last year’s biggest area of need in terms of depth (wing) suddenly looks like it’s on the upswing.
For Houston, Josh Christopher will be out with hip soreness. Christopher has used the Summer League to try to show off his own development, so those wanting to see more from the rookies will see this as a boon. For Portland, their own first round pick, Shaedon Sharpe, is out with a labrum tear. Remember, there was a 48% chance that Houston’s draft pick would have ended at #5 and Sharpe was a distinct possibility to be a Rocket.
Tip-off is at 8:30pm CT on NBA TV