The 2022 NBA Las Vegas Summer League has officially begun, as two games were played on Thursday night inside of Thomas and Mack Center.
Every year, the NBA hosts Summer League out in Las Vegas, Nevada on the campus of UNLV, an event that has suddenly turned into a spectacle that needs to be on every NBA fans bucket list.
From seeing the next generation of stars play in their first NBA games to seeing current and former stars of the game sitting courtside, Summer League is such an amazing event year-in and year-out.
This year, things started with a marquee matchup in Game 1, as Paolo Banchero, the first overall selection in this year’s draft, took on Jabari Smith Jr., the third overall selection in this year’s draft, in a battle between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
The second game of Thursday night was between the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers, featuring three lottery picks from this year in Jaden Ivey (No. 5 overall), Shaedon Sharpe (No. 7 overall) and Jalen Duren (No. 13 overall) .
The first night of this year’s Summer League definitely brought some headlines with it. In case you missed any of the action, here are some recaps and mentions of who stood out on the first day of the 2022 NBA Las Vegas Summer League!
Orlando Magic 91, Houston Rockets 77
The first game of the night featured the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, a battle between the No. 1 overall pick in Paolo Banchero and the No. 3 overall pick in Jabari Smith Jr.
Early on, Banchero really looked to make his presence felt, as he attacked the basket every chance he got. He started the game 3-3 from the floor for Orlando, hitting two three-pointers in the process.
Even when Jabari Smith Jr. was guarding him, Paolo Banchero looked like a man on a mission to prove that he was the first overall pick in this year’s draft for a reason. The rookie out of Duke finished the game with 17 points on 5-12 shooting, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal for the Magic.
On the other side of things, Jabari Smith Jr. looked a little shaky early on, but he settled down and was able to showcase some of his talent. Smith finished with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, which is not overly impressive, but the potential for him to become a star was very visible.
Fellow first-round picks on Houston’s roster in Tari Eason (14 points, 13 rebounds) and TyTy Washington (7 points, 4 rebounds) also put together some very nice performances.
Perhaps outside of Paolo Banchero, the top performer in this game was second-year guard Josh Christopher for the Houston Rockets. Christopher played in 74 games for the Rockets in his rookie season and this experience showed in his first Summer League game this offseason, as he scored 22 points and tallied 3 blocks as well.
Improving on the defensive-end is a point of emphasis for Christopher in Summer League this year and what the Rockets saw in this first game from the second-year guard has to be reassuring for them.
For the Orlando Magic, Paolo Bancheor was not the only rookie to step up and show what he can do, as second-round pick Caleb Houstan scored a team-high 20 points and he shot 5-9 from three-point range. A former top recruit coming out of high school, Houstan’s game fits the style of play in the NBA perfectly.
The Magic came away with a 91-77 victory over the Rockets in the first game of Day 1, a game that may very well be the beginning of a long rivalry between Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr.
Detroit Pistons 81, Portland Trail Blazers 78
The second game of the night featured the Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers, not as anticipated game as the one before it, but still featuring plenty of young, high-potential players.
Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee, Isaiah Livers and Braxton Key are all members of the Pistons roster from this past season that are participating in Summer League this year and both Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, two lottery picks for Detroit from the 2022 NBA Draft, are participating as well.
All seven players were featured in this game on Thursday night and rookie Jaden Ivey really stood out. Ivey finished the game with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and he was a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line. Fellow rookie Jalen Duren also played well, scoring 9 points and registering 2 blocks, but he only played 12 total minutes due to being on a minute restriction.
Saben Lee had a solid outing off-the-bench with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, as Braxton Key also proved useful off-the-bench with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals for Detroit.
Perhaps the most shocking performance of the night came from Isaiah Stewart not because of his 13 points or 9 rebounds, but because he shot 3-4 from three-point range, including hitting two clutch shots from the perimeter late in the fourth quarter to give Detroit the win.
Stewart shot just 15-46 (32.6%) from three-point range this past season, so to see him look comfortable beyond-the-arc and step into these threes with confidence could make him a very dangerous stretch big man.
On the other side of things, the Portland Trail Blazers were excited to see Shaedon Sharpe in action, but he only ended up playing just six minutes because of a shoulder injury. The extent of the injury is unknown, as Sharpe is scheduled to have an MRI at some point over the next couple of days.
Last year’s 21st overall pick Keon Johnson stole the show for Portland, scoring 21 points on 8-17 shooting and finishing the game with 2 steals as well. Johnson’s explosiveness and quick first step really showed in this Summer League battle against the Pistons, giving the Trail Blazers a glimpse of his potential off-the-bench for their current rotations.
The Pistons definitely have to be happy with their performance in the first game of Summer League simply because of what they learned about the guys on their current roster. Both Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart continue to grow and their rookie combo of Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren has a chance to be special right away.
The 2022 Draft Class Looks Good Early On
If there is one thing that stands out from the first two games of the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League, it is that this 2022 draft class has a chance to be very special.
Not only did some of the top picks in Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr. and Jaden Ivey play well, but a second-round pick in Caleb Houstan ended up being the Orlando Magic’s leading scorer and a mid first-round pick in Tari Eason led all players on Day 1 in rebounds.
Obviously all eyes were on Banchero, Smith Jr. and Ivey, but pretty much every rookie that stepped foot on the floor on Thursday had an impact for their team with the exception of Shaedon Sharpe, who left the game early due to a shoulder injury.
Summer League is always a time for the stars of tomorrow to showcase their potential and so far, there really cannot be any complaints about this year’s draft class.
Having a ton of potential for growth and already proving their worth after one day, we should expect to continue seeing rookies steal the show in Las Vegas.
Concern For Shaedon Sharpe
Other than the matchup between Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. in the first game on Day 1, the key headline to come out of Thursday’s games is the fact that Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft, only played about six minutes before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.
He did hit an impressive baseline fadeaway shot in the first quarter, but this was the only basket Sharpe made before seeing his night come to an end.
Initially, Portland said he left the game with an unspecified left shoulder injury and later on, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that Sharpe will undergo an MRI to evaluate the extent of his injury.
This is definitely not good news for the Portland Trail Blazers and their first-round pick, as they had high hopes that Sharpe would be able to spend a lot of time developing in Las Vegas.
Now, it seems like the six minutes he played against the Detroit Pistons may be the only playing time he will see in Summer League.