When the Summer League schedule dropped, everyone assumed that tonight’s opening salvo would feature Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. However, we all expected them to be on opposite teams.
Enough digital ink has been spilled reveling in how coolly Orlando played its hand (I mean, I guess?), so I’ll move away from the Draft and towards the game itself.
In looking at Houston’s Summer League roster, there are plenty of storylines. The Rockets are entering the season with Kevin Porter Jr. as their only “true” point guard (we’ll see if Trey Burke sticks around). That means Josh Christopher, Daishen Nix, and TyTy Washington could be fighting for the backup job. What’s more, you have to wonder if Washington’s game translates more as a combo guard, or just a 2-guard. It’ll be interesting to see the hierarchy and who gets the most time running the offense.
On the wing, Tari Eason will try to be as much of a pest on defense as he was at LSU. We’ll also get to see how his shooting translates. Last season, he shot 36% from deep, which is a respectable number. If he wants to spend meaningful time on the court this season with wings like Eric Gordon (for now), Jae’Sean Tate, David Nwaba, Garrison Mathews in his way, he’s going to have be a 2-way player that brings a bit of oomph.
I feel like I know nothing about Usman Garuba, and we can almost pretend like this is his rookie season. The “next Draymond” spent most of last season on the injured list. We’ll find out what he worked on in the offseason. Both Garuba and Nix spent fewer than 300 minutes on the court for the Rockets last season. It’s hard to use any of the data to make guesses about how either fit with the team.
And finally, there’s the number three overall draft pick in Smith. Will he try to dominate Summer League games to prove his worth, or will he settle in and find his spots? Obviously, he’s the main draw for the Rockets with Jalen Green (correctly, in my opinion) left off the roster. This team is Jabari’s, and it would be nice to see him step up if there are any big moments on either side of the ball late in the game. And before you read too much into these games, remember that while some Summer League MVPs have gone on to become superstars, several others have not. Randy Foye, Jerryd Bayless, and Josh Selby all won the coveted award at one point.
Tonight starts Houston’s four “regular season” Summer League games, with Chet Holmgren and Oklahoma City up next on Saturday night.
Tip-off is at 9pm CT on ESPN
What do you want to see tonight?
This poll is closed
A win. Nothing else matters.
Jabari have a big night. If he outplays Paolo, that means we won the Draft.
I just want everyone to go out there and have fun.
A Kevin Durant trade.
There’s a game tonight?