2023 NBA Summer League : Sophomore Standouts


Following the top Summer League Rookie Standouts, we take a look at the top second year players that participated. Here are the top Sophomore standouts from the 2023 NBA Summer League!

Jabari Smith Jr. Houston Rockets — 3rd selection of 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

79 G — 12.8 PTS —7.2 REBS — 1.3 ASTS —0.9 BLK —0.5 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

2 G — 35.5 PTS — 7 REBS — 4 ASTS — 1 BLK — 0.5 STL

The Rockets started 2023 Summer League with an almost-unfair lineup, led by Jabari Smith Jr., who stood out as, easily, the tournament’s best player. The Rockets team ultimately made the Summer League Finals, without three of their top players (impressive sophomore Tari Eason, highly touted 2023 draft member Amen Thompson, and Jabari Smith Jr.).

The Rockets decided to shut down Smith Jr. after two games because that’s just what happens sometimes with more senior / accomplished players. There was no specific injury that led to the decision. Perhaps it was just too darn easy for him.

You love to see how easily the game was coming to Smith (in his limited action). He entered last year’s draft in the discussion for the top overall pick. Smith has a tantalizing combination of skills, finesse, and size. Where he will need to continue developing is in assertiveness, toughness, and rebounding. There’s not much else to say here — he just absolutely dominated this year in Vegas. Smith seems to  have a lot more potential left to develop than overall number one pick Paolo Banchero.

Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trailblazers — 7th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

80 G — 9.9 PTS — 3 REBS — 1.2 ASTS — 0.3 BLK — 0.5 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

4 G — 17.0 PTS — 5.25 REBS — 2.5 ASTS — 0.75 BLK — 1 STL

Shaedon Sharpe had been a bit of a mythical creature until recently. He was an unranked high school recruit until his senior season. Then, overnight, he became a 5-star recruit and sat a top many lists as the top prospect in the class. He enrolled at University of Kentucky for the 2021–22 season. But then he never played. Sharpe still managed to get drafted 7th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. But then he got injured halfway through his first Summer League game.

Once the 2022–23 NBA season came around, we finally started to see the magic this guy makes on the court. While he started the NBA regular season with a limited role on the Portland Trailblazers, his role expanded as the season wore on. He is now a key piece of Portland’s bright future.

In this year’s Summer League, I lost track of how many times I thought “WHO is THAT?!” It was usually Shaedon Sharpe. Over and over again, I absolutely blown away by the athleticism and shot-out-of-a-cannon and came-out-of-nowhere plays and movements of the guys. Dude’s an alien.

With all of his physical tools, he will need to continue developing across the board — shot selection, shot creation, defensive intensity, consistency and so on. But Portland has itself a highlight reel of a human being (or alien).

Jaden Hardy, Dallas Mavericks — 37th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

48 G — 8.8 PTS — 1.9 REBS — 1.4 ASTS — 0.1 BLK — 0.4 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

3 G — 23 PTS — 5.33 REBS — 2.67 ASTS — 1 BLK — 1 STL

This 37th overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft is a certified bucket getter. Jaden Hardy showed his stuff at the 2023 Summer League, where he was the 4th leading scorer. It must be noted that Hardy’s efficiency was atrocious. He shot 35% from the field and 24% from three (on high volume). That said, he made up for it at the free throw line — he was 2nd in the Summer League in attempts per game at 11. He has the scorer’s mentality and is extremely athletic. He finishes well around the hoop and is adept at drawing contact. The Mavericks will hope that he continues to improve in his efficiency to shoulder some of the offensive load for the team in the coming season(s).

Orlando Robinson, Miami Heat — Undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

31 G — 3.7 PTS — 4.1 REBS — 0.8 ASTS — 0.4 BLK — 0.4 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

4 G — 25.8 PTS — 9.3 REBS — 3.8 ASTS — 0.75 BLK — 1.5 STL

This undrafted (2022 NBA Draft) big man was the second leading scorer in the 2023 NBA Summer League at 25.8 ppg. While Robinson an average athlete by NBA standards, the Heat are banking on him making up for that deficiency in other ways. Robinson shot an impressive 58% from the field at Summer League, and converted on 1.5 threes per game at 35% shooting. That’s all pretty darn goot for a near-7-footer. He also showed off an impressive passing ability, dishing out nearly 4 assists per game.

The Heat have a history of making good use of guys, even if they lack traditional athleticism, as long as they can make up for it with grit and skill. Robinson likely needs to continue to prove that he can be at least a neutral part of the Heat’s defensive unit in order to earn more playing time. Offensively there is no doubt about his abilities.

Lester Quinones, Golden State Warriors — Undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

4 G — 2.5 PTS — 0.8 REBS — 0.5 ASTS — 0 BLK — 0.3 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

5 G — 21.2 PTS — 4.6 REBS — 5.2 ASTS — 0.6 BLK — 1.2 STL

Is it fair to already call this guy Jordan Poole’s replacement? The talk of the internet as well as inside the Thomas & Mack / Cox Pavilion, where Summer League takes place has been about how Quinones is not only a potential replacement, but resembles the former Warrior. If you want a description of Quinones’s game, just think about a not so blindingly quick Jordan Poole. He’s a shifty combo guard with soft touch, and high level play making ability. However one key difference is that Quinones also appears to give solid effort defensively. After going undrafted just a year ago, he’s looking more and more like a guy who may have slipped through the cracks of scouts’ radars. He’s an all around combo guard with a smooth game who stands to slowly creep his way into the Warriors’ rotation. Despite going undrafted in 2022, Quinones appears to have a brighter future than Warriors 2023 first round pick, Brandin Podziemski, who had some flashes, but figures to struggle for minutes due to speed and defensive limitations.

Honorable Mention

Kenny Lofton Jr., Memphis Grizzlies — Undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

24 G — 5 PTS — 2.1 REBS — 0.8 ASTS — 0.1 BLK — 0.2 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

4 G — 18.25 PTS — 6.5 REBS — 1.75 ASTS — 1.25 BLK — 2 STL

Remember what I said about Shaedon Sharpe? Where the guy just does things that make you think “this guy’s an alien?” Lofton has a similar end result, although with an entirely different path.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate the point: I remember attending a Knicks vs. Pacers game in the 1990s. Charles Oakley going up against Dale and Antonio Davis. It could have been like a Batman comic book with “pow!” and “boom!” When these guys made contact it felt like there was some important Physics event happening — some small world-bending explosion.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen something reminiscent of that. In Kenny Lofton Jr, I have once again found it. And it happens nearly every play. Lofton throws his weight around, putting his defenders in hell, and capitalizes off of the space he creates with a remarkably soft touch in a powerful frame. It is really something to watching in person — someone so large, yet light on his feet, who embraces contact to this extent, yet also possesses such soft shooting touch.

Quick note, baseball fans: This Kenny Lofton Jr. reportedly has no relation to the former baseball player, Kenny Lofton!

Isaiah Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers — 49th pick of the 2022 NBA Draft

2022–23 NBA Regular Season Stats

12 G — 2.6 PTS — 1.7 REBS — 0.3 ASTS — 0.3 BLK — 0.3 STL

2023 Summer League Stats

6 G — 17.83 PTS — 8.33 REBS — 4.5 ASTS — 1.5 BLK — 1 STL

The brother of Cavs star Evan Mobley proved he isn’t just on the team thanks to his brother. He’s earned his spot. Mobley won the Summer League Finals MVP, demonstrating a fantastic all-around ability, from scoring, to playmaking, to defense. Mobley has a similar size and skill set to his brother Evan, and may be a deep-bench backup for him come the regular season for the Cavs.


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