(Disclaimer: We know NBA Summer League is by no means perfect or all that meaningful, but it’s all the information we have on newly drafted players thus far.)
With the annual Summer League coming to a close, two former Cal players had their first chance to show what they can do in the NBA, participating in Utah’s Summer League and then one in Las Vegas. The results were largely mixed for Utah Jazz guard Tyrone Wallace, the 60th pick in June’s draft, and the Boston Celtics’ forward Jaylen Brown, who was picked third overall.
Brown played in six of the Celtics’ eight games after missing a few because of an injury to his knee. While he struggled early, Brown put things together in his last three games. Initially, he shot some ugly percentages from the field, failing to do anything but get to the free throw line effectively, turning him into more of a volume scorer. He scored 16 points in his first game, but made only two out of his seven shots. Brown leveraged his athleticism into trips to the line, however, ending up with 17 free throw attempts.
He then missed Boston’s final two games in Utah, before making only three of his next 19 field goal attempts in the Celtics’ first two matchups in Las Vegas. Brown’s summer league was starting to look like it’d end more disappointing than promising, with more turnovers and bricks than highlights.
But then came Brown’s performance against the Mavericks. Brown, who had combined for 14 points in his previous two games, scored 20 against Dallas, and wrapped it up with some of the more impressive finishes any rookie has had this month. He followed that up with his best game, scoring 25 points and making eight of his 16 shots. Brown capped it off with an and-one as time wound down that showcased his impressive finishing ability and kept his team in the game, though they ultimately lost to the Cavaliers. He notched 20 more points in his Summer League finale against Portland, leaving his average over the final three games at almost 22 points per game.
Over his five games, Brown proved an able rebounder, grabbing more than six boards per game on average. He scored 16 points per game but, even after his hot streak, made an unseemly 32.4 percent of his shots.
Overall, Brown’s performance was promising. It showed that the potential that made him such a highly ranked prospect to begin with isn’t totally unfounded. But, being great in Summer League doesn’t matter as much as it matters to not be outclassed.
Brown’s shooting, however, was as bad as advertised. He made 22.7 percent of his threes and until he improves dramatically, defenders just won’t have to respect him beyond the arc. When Brown is playing with his veteran teammates on the Celtics, it’s unlikely he’ll have the ball in his hands often enough to minimize the disadvantage of his poor shooting. Brown, however, can certainly make a mark just with his athleticism, his ability to get to the rim and his talent at starting fast breaks when he grabs defensive rebounds, even at such a young age.
Wallace, meanwhile, struggled for the Jazz. His best game came in Las Vegas in a win over the Pelicans. Despite making only four of his 13 shots, Wallace scored 15 points, largely on the strength of an abnormally strong night from the three point line. He made three of six from beyond the arc in what was easily his best shooting night. In fact, in his other six games, Wallace failed to make a single three and ended up hitting 21.4 percent of threes this month. He made 26.8 percent of shots overall.
His non-shooting stats didn’t really stand out either, with three rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. Outside of his standout game, Wallace really doesn’t look ready to play any sort of minutes at the NBA level. And given Utah’s depth at the point guard position — Dante Exum, George Hill, Raul Neto and Shelvin Mack — and its readiness to compete, it was always unlikely for Wallace to play this early.
He will most likely spend the majority of the season in the Developmental League, where the Jazz organization will hope he can patch up his perimeter shooting. Without doing that, it will be tough for Wallace to catch on as a significant contributor. Playing in the D-League should give Wallace the chance to play at the point, which he had for the majority of his Cal career, after mostly playing off the ball this month. So, while he probably won’t be playing much in the NBA yet, Wallace definitely will have the chance to prove he’s up to the challenge in the growing D-League.