For those that know me, you know I have a deep-seeded passion for basketball. Even as I get older, I still enjoy playing the game, despite my buddies reminding me that basketball isn't a life sport (I respectfully disagree).
I also really enjoy talent development. In my business career, there's no greater joy than seeing young talent develop and succeed.
Put the two together, and you have a theme for today's article. Now, I'm certainly no fortune teller, and success is often a product of opportunity. However, my eyes tell me one thing, and the rest I can't control.
Here are 5 players that have stood out in the 2023 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Note: I'm not going to include anyone on this list that was a 1st round draft pick this year (hence the under the radar designation).
1. Michael DeVoe
DeVoe is a 6'4" guard that has been suiting up for the Portland Trailblazers. Undrafted out of Georgia Tech in 2022, he spent last season in the G League with the Ontario Clippers. There, he started 12 games and averaged 6.7 points per game.
Why I Like Him: An injury to Scoot Henderson put the ball in DeVoe's hands, and he's delivered. In two games, he's averaged 20.5 points per game (14th best in summer league play) and 6 assists. His 58% FG % and 70% from 3 are ungodly. Stats aside, this guy moves like an NBA player. He's not overly athletic and doesn't do anything to "wow" you, but he makes really good decisions and controls the game. At 6'4", he has good size for a guard and has moved over to PG after spending most of his life as a shooting guard. He's good enough to be a backup point guard in the league right now.
2. Luka Samanic
Samanic is 6'10" and looks the part. He was actually a 1st-round pick (#19 overall) by the Spurs in 2019. Since then, he's bounced around with the Knicks and Celtics. This past season, he was a second team All G League selection for the Maine Celtics.
Why I Like Him: He moves really well for a stretch 4. While his 3 point shooting % hasn't been great in summer league, his shot form is excellent, and you'll see that in the clips below. Unlike a lot of stretch big men, though, he actually rebounds the ball. The combination of shooting and rebounding at his size are intriguing.
3. Jamal Cain
You can call me a homer for this one given the Marquette roots, but Cain has earned this recognition. Cain played at Marquette for 4 years, followed by a Covid-year at Oakland. Undrafted in 2022, he signed a two-way deal with the Miami Heat for last season.
Why I Like Him: Cain has gotten a lot stronger and developed a more complete game since his days at Marquette. In three summer league games, he's shooting 52.9% from the field, 45.5% from 3, and 84.6% from the free throw line. That's NBA efficiency. While he tended to hang on the perimeter in college, he's been much more aggressive on the glass and near the basket. With the loss of several free agents, I expect him to be a rotational player for the Heat next season.
4. Orlando Robinson
Undrafted out of Fresno State in 2022, Robinson signed a two-way contract with the Miami Heat last year. His contract has since been converted to a standard contract for 2023-2024.
Why I Like Him: He's big (6'11", 245 lbs) but has really good hands and moves well on both ends of the floor. He's the third-leading scorer in summer league at 25.3 points per game, but he's also been active on the glass with 9.3 rebounds. His ability to bang down low, make plays off the pick and roll, and hit an occasional 3 makes him multidimensional. Like Cain, he'll get an opportunity in South Beach next season.
5. Kevon Harris
Harris went undrafted in 2020 out of Stephen F. Austin. During his senior year there, he was the Southland Conference Player of the Year and became the school's all-time leading scorer. He played in the G League last year for the Lakeland Magic.
Why I Like Him: The guy is an absolute bull. At 6'6", 216 lbs, if the NBA thing doesn't work out, he could add a few pounds and play tight end. Harris is aggressive around the basket, is a fluid athlete, and plays hard on both ends of the floor. He averaged 18.9 points per game, while shooting 51.1% from the field last year in the G League. His size allows him to defend multiple positions, and he handles the ball well. There aren't many guys whose "toughness" jumps off a tv screen. I'd like this guy on my team.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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