Top Standouts from the 2021 NBA Summer League

| August 20, 2021 6:32 am PDT

The 2021 NBA Summer League wrapped up recently with the Sacramento Kings winning the championship over the Boston Celtics.

Throughout this year’s NBA Summer League, we saw young players showcase their talent and take the next step. They likely earned themselves some more minutes in the rotation.

But who had the best NBA Summer League showing?

To reflect on the summer and how the top performances can impact the coming season, here’s a look at the 2021 NBA Summer League players that impressed the most.

Payton Prichard – Boston Celtics

Payton Prichard had a very efficient rookie season with the Boston Celtics. He averaged just 7.7 points per game, but he made 41.1 percent of his three-pointers.

The Celtics put Prichard on their Summer League roster to improve his game. I’d say he did that and then some.

Prichard opened up the Summer League with a bang. He scored 23 points on 7-15 shooting from three-point range. He had a very solid all-around game with five assists, five rebounds, and two steals.

In the Celtics’ following game against the Denver Nuggets, Prichard continued to showcase his all-around skill set. He went 4-5 from three with 21 points. He nearly recorded a triple-double with 12 assists and eight rebounds.

His numbers dropped slightly in Boston’s third game, but Prichard kept up his hot shooting. He made four three-pointers for the second consecutive game, this time on six shot attempts. Prichard also had 17 points, nine assists, four rebounds, and three steals.

Up to this point, Prichard was shooting an unbelievable 57.7 percent from three.

The Celtics lost by 33 points in the Championship Game against the Sacramento Kings. Prichard finally struggled as he faced Davion Mitchell. Mitchell was the ninth overall pick in this year’s draft, and is likely the best defender in the entire rookie class.

Prichard scored just six points, but he did make an impact with eight assists and six rebounds.

Here are his final stats from the four games.

  • 16.8 points
  • 8.5 assists
  • 5.8 rebounds
  • 1.8 steals
  • 46.9 three-point percentage

A lot of people are going to point to his scoring and three-point shooting, but he was already a great shooter. I’m more impressed with his other stats.

In his four years at Oregon, Prichard averaged 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds. It’s great to see him show improvement in both categories, especially the assists.

His play in the Summer League definitely warrants more playing time. Boston will likely start Dennis Schroder at point guard, but Prichard could see a lot of minutes as his primary backup.

Prichard played 54 percent of his minutes last season at shooting guard but why not take advantage of his passing ability?

Bol Bol – Denver Nuggets

Everyone loves watching Bol Bol play, and for good reason. The 7’ 2” center wows on the court with his passing ability and above-average shooting. However, Bol has struggled to put it together in his two years in the NBA.

He averaged just 2.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in his first two seasons.

In the 2021 NBA Summer League, Bol showed everyone that he has the potential to be a plus contributor.

Bol arguably had his worst performance of the Summer League in his first game. He scored 21 points but only pulled down five rebounds. One positive is he did make it to the free-throw line 14 times, making 11.

The following game, he showcased his three-point shooting by going 3-4 from beyond the arc. That resulted in a 26-point game. Bol also had nine rebounds and two blocks.

In his final Summer League game, Bol had 18 points and six rebounds, while shooting 3-8 from three-point range. He also had three blocks.

What stands out to me is his ability to get to the free-throw line.

Check out his free throw attempts per game compared to other players in the Summer League.

  • Bol Bol: 10.3 attempts
  • Cam Thomas: 9.8 attempts
  • Oshae Brissett: 9.0 attempts
  • Jonathan Kuminga: 7.8 attempts
  • Alperen Sengun: 7.0 attempts

It’s definitely a positive to see Bol attempting so many free throws. However, he is going to have to improve his 67.7 free throw percentage.

Personally, I’d like to see a seven-footer pull down more than 6.7 rebounds per game, but his 2.3 blocks per game definitely work.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I want to see Bol excel in the NBA. He is such a fun player to watch and should see more minutes this season.

The Denver Nuggets may benefit from giving Bol more minutes this season. I’d like to see what he can do as the Nuggets primary center off the bench. When you think about it, his skill set isn’t far from that of 2020 MVP Nikola Jokic.

His shooting makes him an intriguing option at the power forward position, as well.

Jalen Green – Houston Rockets

I know Cade Cunningham went number one in this year’s NBA Draft, but Jalen Green is really making people believe he is the best player in this rookie class.

Green of course didn’t take the usual route to the NBA. He opted to play in the G League instead of college. That didn’t stop him from showing off his elite scoring ability with 17.9 points on 36.5 percent three-point shooter. His success carried over to the Summer League.

He showed off that scoring ability with 23 points in his Summer League debut. Green went 4-9 from three-point range while adding in five rebounds and two assists.

That great scoring continued with 25 points in his second game, but he did it with more than just shooting.

Green went 10-11 from the free-throw line. His slashing ability and drawing contact will make him a perfect replacement for James Harden.

In the Houston Rockets’ third Summer League game, Green scored 13 points in 12 minutes before a sore hamstring forced him to miss the remainder of the game. As a precaution, the Rockets held him out of the final Summer League game.

Here are Green’s final stats from the Summer League.

  • 20.3 points
  • 4.3 rebounds
  • 2.0 assists
  • 51.4 field goal percentage
  • 52.6 three-point percentage
  • 92.9 free throw percentage

Coming into the NBA Draft, there was a ton of hype surrounding Green because of his scoring ability. His elite slashing ability and shooting drew comparisons to Bradley Beal and Zach Lavine. After watching him in the Summer League, I’d say he is on his way to reaching those expectations.

The Rockets are in the second year of their rebuild. Because of that, Green will likely start this season at shooting guard. I expect a lot of scoring from Green as he continues to develop into an all-star caliber player.

I truly believe Green has the ability to lead the NBA in scoring one day. His skill set is going to give Rockets fans flashbacks of Harden.

Green may very well win Rookie of the Year this season.

Jalen Johnson – Atlanta Hawks

Jalen Johnson’s tenure at Duke was a bit controversial. He began his college career with a 19-point, 19-rebound game. He continued to play at a high level before a foot injury sidelined him in December.

With Duke struggling and likely missing out on March Madness, Johnson made the questionable decision to leave the team during the season. In 13 games, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Despite being one of the most talented players in the draft, Johnson fell all the way to pick 20. The Atlanta Hawks were happy to get someone with his talent level at that spot.

In the Summer League, Johnson showed off his potential.

He recorded a double-double in his first game with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson also shot a very efficient 8-12 from the field.

Johnson recorded another double-double in his second game. He scored 18 points with another efficient shooting performance.

Guess what Johnson did in his third game? He recorded another double-double. His scoring dropped to just 13 points, but he pulled down a personal best 11 rebounds. This also marked Johnson’s only game with zero turnovers.

To cap things off, Johnson scored 25 points on 3-6 three-point shooting in his final Summer League. While he didn’t record a double-double, he did pull down seven rebounds.

Check out his numbers from an extremely efficient summer.

  • 14.2 points
  • 9.5 rebounds
  • 57.4 field goal percentage
  • 41.7 three-point percentage

At Duke, Johnson played small forward, but the Hawks had the 6’ 7” Johnson play power forward in the Summer League. His versatility makes him a good option at either position.

I think playing with John Collins will help Johnson develop into a more complete NBA player. The two players share similar characteristics, but Johnson doesn’t have the same high-flying ability that Collins does.

The only issue for Johnson is how much depth the Hawks have. Even with his great Summer League performance, Johnson may struggle to find playing time.

Without an injury, he may have to accept the fact that he’ll be the third small forward or power forward off the bench.

From the Hawks standpoint, it’s certainly not a bad problem to have.

Alperen Sengun – Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets were big winners in the NBA Draft when they selected Jalen Green with the second overall pick. They became the biggest winner of the draft with the selection of Alperen Sengun.

Sengun won MVP of the Basketball Super League last season in Turkey. The 6’ 10” center averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals.

With his play in the Summer League, it looks like Sengun may be one of the biggest steals of the entire draft.

He immediately made his presence felt with a 15-point, 15-rebound performance in his first Summer League game. Sengun also had four blocks and knocked down nine of his 14 free throws.

The following game, Sengun had a much more efficient performance. He went 8-14 from the field with 21 points.

His scoring fell to just nine points in the Rockets third game. However, Sengun continued to make an impact with 11 rebounds and three assists.

In his final Summer League game, he scored 13 points on 5-10 shooting. Sengun also had his third double-double with 10 rebounds, while adding in three blocks.

Sengun averaged 14.5 points on 43.2 percent shooting. However, his rebounds and blocks stood out. Check out where he ranked in each category.

Rebounds Per Game Blocks Per Game
Jalen Smith: 12.5 Daniel Oturu: 3.3
John Konchar: 12.0 Selom Mawugbe: 3.2
Paul Reed: 12.0 Alperen Sengun: 3.0
Alize Johnson: 10.8 Isaiah Jackson: 3.0
Alperen Sengun: 10.8 Sekou Doumbouya: 3.0

If Sengun can carry his Summer League success over to the regular season, he is going to be one of the game’s top centers in a few yards. He already looks like one of the top rim protectors with three blocks per game.

The biggest worry coming into the draft for Sengun was his ability to score. His field goal percentage wasn’t the best, but getting to the free-throw line 28 times is definitely something the Rockets like.

An improved offensive game could go a long way towards the Rockets returning to competitive play.

Their rebuild is off to a great start with Sengun and Green.

Other 2021 NBA Summer League Standouts

  • Chris Duarte (Indiana Pacers)
  • Davion Mitchell (Sacramento Kings)
  • Cameron Thomas (Brooklyn Nets)

There were so many players that had a great 2021 NBA Summer League. I couldn’t limit this list to just five, so the guys above are the ones that just missed the cut.

At 24 years old, Chris Duarte is the oldest player in this rookie class. He showed off his NBA-ready skill set by averaging 18.2 points on 48.3 three-point shooting. Duarte also excelled on defense with 2.5 steals and 1.8 blocks.

Davion Mitchell lived up to the hype as a great defender. He shut down both James Bouknight and Payton Prichard on his way to winning a championship. He has all the looks of a future Defensive Player of the year.

Cameron Thomas led the Summer League with 27 points per game. His offense will give the Nets bench a boost.

While these three players didn’t make the cut as far as the best 2021 NBA Summer League players that impressed the most, they sure were close.

Overall, this year’s crop of young talent was extremely impressive.

The NBA Summer League gives us a glimpse of the future. All these players look like they have a bright future ahead.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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