LAS VEGAS—There are two easy ways to screw up the All-NBA Summer League teams: 1) By giving too much credit to hyped up lottery picks over lesser-known undrafted players or second-round guys, and 2) By favoring a single memorable performance or a small sample size over a full body of work.
This year’s selections, made by a media panel and announced Sunday, generally avoided both hurdles. The 10 players selected included a 2015 lottery pick, multiple 2014 lottery picks, late first-round picks, a second-round pick and multiple undrafted players. Together, the group’s diversity stands as a nice reminder that there is no single path to the NBA. The First Team, in particular, was also loaded with players that made extended impacts by advancing deep into the event’s tournament bracket.
Media members were asked to select an MVP, and a First Team and Second Team consisting of two backcourt players and three frontcourt players each. Without further ado, here are the official selections:
All-NBA Summer League MVP: Kyle Anderson
Here’s a full rundown of SI.com’s official ballot selections, which were submitted Sunday in advance of the event’s semifinal games. Note: I gave bonus points for all-around play (rather than pure scoring) and success in the tournament format. Younger players also received a boost over older, similarly performing players, due to degree of difficulty.
MVP: Kyle Anderson, Spurs
As noted Monday, Anderson, 21, was one of this week’s clear “Winners,” averaging 22 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists while leading a San Antonio roster full of pretty anonymous players to the championship game.
During his rookie season, the action often seemed to be happening around Anderson, as if he was an overwhelmed bystander trying to keep up. Las Vegas was a much different story, as he arguably exerted greater command and demonstrated better consistency than any other perimeter player. As his “Slo Mo” nickname suggests, Anderson is never in a hurry with the ball in his hands, and at this level he got just about everywhere he wanted to go all week. Set apart from many young prospects due to his ground-bound nature and “When you least expect it” approach to shot-generation, Anderson was a versatile difference-maker on both ends, even if his highlight reel is more likely to produce appreciative nods rather than oohs and aahs.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will look for the last player selected in the first round in the 2014 draft to build on this performance next season. San Antonio has rotation minutes up for grabs on its perimeter with Marco Belinelli departing for Sacramento, Cory Joseph taking off for Toronto and Manu Ginobili euro-stepping towards retirement. In an ideal world, Anderson will back up reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, adding his generalist’s contributions to a bench that will include Ginobili, Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and David West.
All-NBA Summer League First Team
Seth Curry, Pelicans: Summer League’s leading scorer (24.3 PPG) may very well have played himself into his first solid NBA gig this week. Yes, there’s a “not quite” feel to watching him play: he’s not quite as smooth, not quite as quick, not quite as polished and not quite as decisive as his older brother, reigning NBA MVP, Stephen Curry. Guess what? Most of the NBA falls in those categories, too.
Seth did well to display his comfort on the ball and his natural scoring instincts while also playing with good energy defensively. This year’s Summer League didn’t produce that many crazy individual scoring streaks, but Seth’s ability to get hot swung multiple games, and he was the driving force behind New Orleans’ run to the semifinals. Will Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, fresh off a title run with Steph in Golden State, give Seth a shot?
Norman Powell, Raptors: The UCLA product was the standout member of 2015’s second-round crop, averaging 18.2 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 50.9% from the field. His shot was “on” during Toronto’s first three wins, but he came back to Earth a bit in the Raptors’ opening-round playoff loss.
Although the 6'4" Powell isn’t huge for a wing defender, he makes up for it with his commitment and aggressiveness in on-ball situations. He was just a pest all week, poking at dribblers, stepping into passing lanes, making shooters work to get open and contesting hard on jumpers. Raptors coach Dwane Casey is surely delighted that GM Masai Ujiri loaded up on perimeter defenders this offseason—signing DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph while drafting Delon Wright—to complement his All-Star backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Minutes are going to be tight, but Powell put his best foot forward.
Kyle Anderson, Spurs: SI.com’s MVP decision came down to Anderson and Curry. This was a very close call, as both were pleasant surprise, both scored in volume as lead options, both led teams deep into the playoffs, and both were steady contributors all week. The fact that Anderson is three years younger than Curry ultimately served as the tiebreaker on this ballot.
Alan Williams, Rockets: “Grown man strength” is a helpful commodity at Summer League, where potential and upside reign. Williams, 22, has that base covered after spending four years at UC Santa Barbara. After three straight seasons of averaging at least 17 points and 10 rebounds, Williams averaged 20.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in Las Vegas, becoming the only player to crack the 20/10 club.
The burly 6'8" forward/center did his work in the paint, as expected, bullying smaller defenders to establish deep post position and create high-percentage looks. His scoring instincts from six feet and in and his motor helped him have his way with Philadelphia (22 points and 21 rebounds) and the D-League Select team (27 points and 10 rebounds). Williams’ height, age and offense-first game help explain why he went undrafted, but there wasn’t much more he could do in Las Vegas to catch somebody’s eye.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves: Like many of his 2015 lottery mates, Towns’s numbers weren’t overwhelming. The No. 1 overall pick averaged 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2 assists, and a shooting slump kept him to just 39.6% shooting over five games. Given that production, I might be guilty of breaking my own rule about overrating highly-touted rookies. At the same time, the 6'11" Kentucky product looked like a strong answer to the all-important “Which player would you most like to have on your team for the next decade?” question.
It’s worth noting that Towns was asked to do a lot: he faced regular double teams, Minnesota’s roster was lacking in shooters, and key teammate Zach LaVine sat out most of the week with a finger injury. That left Towns to do his best against opponents that could key on him without remorse, and he often settled for jumpers that just weren’t falling. That said, the flickers of a truly special player were there thanks to his passing ability, comfort in creating shots, and his easy movement from the post to the perimeter. Towns, 19, didn’t set off Summer League like Andrew Wiggins did last year, but he did plenty to reinforce the notion that Minnesota’s top two prospects will make a tantalizing duo for years to come.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets: As noted Monday, Mudiay’s buzz probably outpaced the quality of his full body of work in Las Vegas. The rookie averaged 12 points and 5.8 assists, but he shot just 38.5%, struggled with turnovers and couldn’t hit a jumper to save his life. Dominant guard play was in short supply this week, though, and Mudiay, 19, stood out for his fearlessness, his size/strength/quickness combination, his ability to get deep into the heart of a defense at will, and his ability to find and deliver tough passes. Trading away Ty Lawson to clear the decks for Mudiay was an absolute no-brainer for Nuggets GM Tim Connelly. Get on with the future.
Larry Drew II, Pelicans: Settling on a fourth guard for these awards was the toughest choice. Bigger-name candidates like Zach LaVine and Marcus Smart went down with injuries, while Lakers’ No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell started slow and didn’t pick up enough steam over the course of the event to warrant a selection. Absent another great option, Drew, 25, was the pick thanks to his league-leading 7.8 assists per game and New Orleans’ run to the semifinals. The undrafted Drew has bounced around in the D-League for the last few seasons, but he reminded talent evaluators this week that he’s capable of pushing the pace and playing the drive-and-kick game.
Noah Vonleh, Blazers: Charlotte’s trade for Nicolas Batum looked questionable when it happened, and Vonleh’s strong showing in Las Vegas should cause some consternation for Michael Jordan. The 2014 lottery pick looked much bigger and stronger than last year, and he emerged as a leading producer (17.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG) for the Blazers. Although Vonleh is still growing into his 6'10" frame, he showed finishing ability at the rim and three-point range.
After the Hornets invested so much time in recent years searching for stretch bigs (Josh McRoberts, Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes, Frank Kaminsky), it’s curious that they would trade away the most promising one of the bunch. For Portland, Vonleh is a steep drop from All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who signed with San Antonio this offseason, but he’s a really nice building block as the Blazers enter the Damian Lillard era.
Dwight Powell, Mavericks: Dallas had two strong choices worthy of All-Summer League selection: Powell, a 2014 second-round pick, and Justin Anderson, a 2015 first-round pick. The 6'11" Powell, who hails from Canada, barely gets the nod here, as he ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounds and was an athletic handful for opponents all week. The Mavericks’ coaching staff was particularly encouraged by Anderson’s play, though, and he may be called on for minutes this season as starting wings Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews work back from major injuries.
Lucas Nogueira, Raptors: Both McDermott and Warren are deserving options with this last spot, given their scoring output, but here’s a little love for Bebe, who took a nice step forward this summer. Although the 7-foot Brazilian center still has a long way to go in all facets of the game, he averaged 7.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, placing him near the top of the leaderboard on those last two categories. The crazy length that made him a 2013 first-round pick was on display all week, as he swatted shots in the basket area and above the rim. Nogueria is not only filling out physically, he’s starting to figure things out too. Where that gets him remains anyone’s guess.