Top 10 Summer League Steals

July 24th, 2008

By: Jessica Camerato

There were teams who struck it rich on Draft Night and others who overlooked promising talent. Those players who were bypassed in New York City had the chance to showcase their games during summer league play in Orlando, Las Vegas, and Utah. HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the top ten players who proved to be a steal on Draft Night.

#5 Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)
Kevin Love may have been a top five pick, but the Minnesota Timberwolves got a steal when they acquired him from the Memphis Grizzlies on Draft Night. Love knew his conditioning was under fire when he came to Las Vegas, so he dropped the pounds and picked up his game. He was in noticeably better shape and got up and down both ends of the court to impress on offense and defense. Love averaged 18 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting nearly 50% from the field. After posting 26 points and 15 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers, it was clear Love could have gone earlier in the draft and the T'Wolves had played their hand successfully.

#11 Jerryd Bayless, Portland Trail Blazers (via Indiana Pacers)
Teams around the league should take notice -- if the Trail Blazers want to make a Draft Day trade, just say no. Two years ago GM Kevin Pritchard nabbed Brandon Roy from the Minnesota Timberwolves and this summer he swiped Jerryd Bayless from the Indiana Pacers. Bayless won MVP honors at the Las Vegas Summer League and looked more like a top pick than an 11th. Even though the Trail Blazers still have to determine how well Bayless can play the point, the real point is that they made out like bandits once again.

#14 Anthony Randolph, Golden State Warriors
When the Golden State Warriors drafted Anthony Randolph, it seemed as though they chose the second coming of Brandan Wright. As it turns out, Randolph is an upgrade. The 6-10, 205 pound forward ranked fifth in scoring in Las Vegas, posting 20.8 points per game. Despite his lean and lanky frame, Randolph is not afraid of contact. He got to the line 18 times in his Vegas finale and shot another 17 free throws in his most recent Rocky Mountain Revue match up. Wright may not have lived up to his rookie year expectations but the Warriors got it right with Randolph.

#16 Marreese Speights, Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers' running game cannot succeed if they don't have big men grabbing rebounds for quick outlet passes. They found a perfect fit in 6-10, 245 pound Marreese Speights. Speights ranked second in rebounding at the Vegas Summer League with over 10 boards per game and posted two 20+ point performances (18.2 ppg). He has to work on his free throw shooting if he wants to be effective at the basket, but the 19-year-old could have an upside nearly as big as his size.

#19 J.J. Hickson, Cleveland Cavaliers
After striking out on the likes of Luke Jackson and Shannon Brown, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally got it right with J.J. Hickson. He is just one of three players who the Cavs have locked in after next season and should prove to be a valuable investment. Hickson exploded for 26 points and nine rebounds in his first game and averaged nearly 20 points and eight boards during summer league. He outscored highly touted lottery picks O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love, showing he was worth the Cavs' wait at the 19th spot.

#27 Darrell Arthur, Memphis Grizzlies (via New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Houston Rockets)

The cameras rarely lost sight of Darrell Arthur's frustration on Draft Night as he slipped further and further down the first round. Arthur bounced around from three teams that night with his kidney condition raising question marks across the league. His game, however, should not have been a concern. Arthur clearly had something to prove in Las Vegas and scored 18 points off of 9-for-12 shooting in his debut. He has an diverse offensive repertoire and is not limited to merely the post up moves of a big man. Drafting Arthur may have been a risk but putting him on the court will not be one for the Grizzlies.

#28 Donte Green, Houston Rockets (via Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies)
Donte Green introduced himself to the NBA by dropping 40 points on the Phoenix Suns, nearly breaking the Vegas Summer League scoring record. Green never scored more than 22 points after his debut but he didn't have to dominate the ball to showcase his value. His jumpshooting presence will boost the Houston Rockets' offense next season and give them more scoring options in the frontcourt. The 29th overall pick was shipped around the league before landing in Houston and he will try to prove it's where he belongs.

#34 Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat (via Minnesota Timberwolves)
Michael Beasley may have been the center of attention at the Orlando Pro Summer League, but Mario Chalmers was the biggest surprise on the Miami Heat. Chalmers, who slipped to the second round after pushing the Kansas Jayhawks to the NCAA Championship, showed he didn't leave his game behind in college. He averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 assists per game, ranking just behind Beasley in scoring for Miami. More noticeably, the 6-2 guard got to the free throw line 47 times in five games and shot nearly 92% there. Beasley stole the spotlight but Chalmers made his presence known.

#41 Nathan Jawai, Toronto Raptors (via Indiana Pacers)
Nathan Jawai earned the nickname "Baby Shaq" in Australia but it's tough for a moniker like that to stick in the NBA. The 6-10, 280 pound Aussie knows he has his work cut out for him overseas so he hit the gym to learn from the best. Jawai worked out at Joe Abunassar's Impact Basketball with teammate Jermaine O'Neal this summer and showed his determination to improve. He averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games, and although he struggled from the free throw line (53.8% FT), he has the focus to make that wrong a right. Jawai doesn't have to be "Baby Shaq" to be successful, being himself just could be good enough.

#54 Maarty Leunen, Houston Rockets
Expectations are rarely high for a 54th pick and few were anticipating Maarty Leunen would make a splash in Vegas. 16 points and five rebounds per game later, Leunen broke the mold. He consistently scored in double digits and, at 6-9, shot 44% from three-point range. Leunen may have grown up milking cows in Oregon but now he can milk his summer league performance for all it's worth.