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2023 NBA Summer League Winners And Losers: Forwards

So, Rotoballers, we've gone from the NBA Draft to free agency to summer league and now we have a bit of a dead period with the next part of NBA basketball being training camp. Sure, there's also the FIBA World Cup approaching, but a lot of the hype is going to be around workout videos where everyone tries to convince themselves that "player x" is adding the full package this season.

With that being said, we're going to take a look back at the three summer leagues that took place and discuss some winners and losers. Every year, there are players or teams that nail the draft with some amazing steals toward the bottom of the draft or just some players that seem to be early developers. Then, there are the head-scratching draft picks that people label as a bust quite early on. This list is going to take a look at all the prospects from rookies to second-year players that are listed at the forward position.

So, why don't we get this show on the road and discuss our winners and losers of the 2023 NBA Summer League?

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Summer League Winners

1. Hunter Tyson, Denver Nuggets

Many people probably expected to see a bigger name right out of the gates instead of a 23-year-old second-round selection. Tyson, however, has to be the biggest winner of summer league after he wasn't even on teams' draft boards for the longest time and has played his way to a four-year deal worth $7.7 million.

Before the draft, Tyson was invited to the G League Elite Camp where he quickly proved to be the best shooter of the bunch along with a 6-foot-8 frame. Then, he received an NBA Draft Combine invite and the scouts from the reigning champs loved what they saw. Fast forward to the summer league and Tyson did not disappoint one bit.

When it was all said and done, the Clemson product finished his Las Vegas action by averaging 20.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 54.1% from the floor and a red-hot 50% from deep on 7.2 attempts per contest. A lot of fans didn't even know who Tyson was prior to his summer league performance. Now, there's tons of praise all over social media for the Nuggets' scouting department as it seems like they found another diamond in the rough.

2. Cam Whitmore, Houston Rockets

Cam Whitmore should be on every summer league winners list. His name should just coincide with the phrase.

After somehow falling to the 20th overall pick, Whitmore has been on a mission to prove everyone wrong for letting him drop that far. Every big board had him as a top-ten talent and his summer league performance was a first-hand account of why he was ranked so high. Grabbing Summer League MVP, leading the Rockets to the championship game, and averaging 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.5 steals per game are all great ways to display his skills.

There's not much else to be said about Whitmore's summer that hasn't been said already, so let's leave it to the fact that his next concern is just getting the minutes during the regular season now that the Rockets have a much deeper team than they did last year.

3. 2022 Draftees

Yes, we're encompassing a handful of players that were all drafted last season. Most of the time, these players are expected to dominate in their second summer league stint because they've gotten a taste of live NBA action. Not everyone actually displays the talent they were originally drafted for though.

Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason are two of the guys that really stood out. Both forwards helped the Rockets to their first two wins during the Las Vegas portion and they did it from every spot on the court. Smith hit a game-winning three, Eason posted some great two-way highlights, and they both finished in the top three of points per game.

Keegan Murray, Ochai Agbaji, and Nikola Jovic are the other three to shine the most from the 2022 draft class. Murray only needed two games in the California Classic to shoot the lights out en route to averaging 35 points per contest. Agbaji, while his overall shooting percentage wasn't great, did knock down the deep ball at a high clip while putting up some great rebounding numbers on top of a knack for blocking shots. Then, Jovic looked dominant on the offensive end as he got to the line, shot above 50% from the floor and from deep, and averaged 21.5 points per game while playing fewer minutes than the sophomores mentioned above.

Honorable Mention: Emoni Bates

The Summer League champs and one of the biggest surprises from the second round in Las Vegas had to get a shout-out. Emoni Bates fell from grace after a rough collegiate career and was picked up by the Cavaliers at the 49th overall pick. He then went on to average 17.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per contest in six games while the team dominated the championship game against Whitmore and the Houston Rockets.


Summer League Losers

1. Brandon Miller, Charlotte Hornets

Was Brandon Miller's summer league all that bad? Well, no. Is it fair to expect more from the second-overall pick? Yes.

The one good part was that he started to look better toward the end of his Vegas action. That was probably the most encouraging aspect out of the five total games that he played between the California Classic and Las Vegas leagues. His shooting in Vegas was very rough as he finished with percentages of 35.4% overall on 16 attempts per game and 26.1% from beyond the arc on 7.2 attempts per contest. Seeing as that's supposed to be his biggest calling card, that's a bit worrisome when it's coming against lesser talent.

Other parts of his game, like his offensive off of the dribble, were already in question and his performance in those areas didn't calm down any of the doubters. He averaged five turnovers during the Summer Classic which came back down to just one in Vegas. Miller did flash some solid defensive abilities from time to time, but that was also inconsistent. I'm not going to tell everyone to hit the panic button on a rookie that hasn't even played his first official game yet, but his play this season is going to be something to closely monitor.

2. Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers

Especially for a team that's about to enter a huge rebuild once Damian Lillard is finally out of town, the fact that Shaedon Sharpe wasn't very impressive in his summer league run is doubly disappointing.

Yes, he did average 17.0 points per contest, but he was also averaging 16.5 shots just to get to that point total. His athleticism is still electrifying and can be his saving grace at times, but there wasn't much that truly stood out this summer other than a few plays here and there each game to make everyone think that he's going to take a giant leap this year. His efficiency is very low with .348 and .273 shooting splits on top of just a one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.

He'll get plenty of opportunities and playing time since the team won't be competing for much, but the more promising parts of the team at this moment are Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson. Sharpe is looking more like a third option and if he can't find his shooting touch, it's going to make things more difficult moving forward.

3. AJ Griffin, Atlanta Hawks

Hawks fans should all avert their eyes if they haven't been already since the first outing this summer.

Griffin had a lot of promise after appearing in 72 games for the Hawks last season while shooting 46.5% from the floor and 39.0% from three. He had a number of games that suggested he was going to be a huge steal for them as the 16th overall pick from 2022.

The issue is that his efficiency took a monster dive in his two games of summer league play while displaying not much of a defensive presence and turning the ball over four times. Griffin averaged 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game with shooting splits of .273 and .308. On top of that, he wasn't getting to the line because he didn't attack the rim much. He only shot one free throw in each game.

Everything that the Hawks front office, the fans, and dynasty managers hoped for this summer came crashing down. This was also Griffin's first-ever summer league as he didn't participate last year. So, the fact that he wasn't able to get anything going at all against incoming rookies and fellow second-year players is cause for some tempered expectations this year.

That wraps up this list of winners and losers in terms of the forwards that all participated in this year's summer leagues. While it may seem kind of harsh to name prospects as losers, let's just remember this is only in terms of this summer. A lot can change between now, the start of the season, and especially by the end of the season.

Are there any winners or losers that I missed? Let me know on Twitter @__Fisch!

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