NBA lottery picks are held to a higher standard than most drafted players, even more so for those higher up the draft board.
These ballers are selected by teams that missed the playoffs the previous year(s). As such, they are either handpicked to help squads make the postseason or be the cornerstone of an ongoing rebuild. These boys among men are expected to play like a pro and contribute to the team's direction right away. And the Summer League is the first time we see them and all other NBA hopefuls go head to head.
Preseason stardom doesn't equate to making it big in the NBA, the same way bad Summer League performances don't equate to bad careers. Still, it's one way to project the potential and readiness. Let's look at how this year's lottery picks are matching up to fellow pro talent.
Note: Third overall pick Luka Doncic and 14th overall pick Michael Porter, Jr. have yet to play this summer league as of writing.
#1 DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns)
Ayton has looked like a man among boys. Averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds a game, he has looked every part of a top pick. While he still doesn't look like a great NBA defender, he doesn't look as bad as he was made out to be. He looks more engaged and more comfortable defending the rim now that he isn't playing as a power forward like he did in college. Ayton and Devin Booker will light up the scoreboard and Suns fans have something to cheer about again.
#2 Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings)
Bagley is out for the Kings with a bruised pelvic bone—which is rough because he seemed to be picking up his game after a rough patch in the Summer League. He had 15 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, a block, and a steal in his last outing. Bagley is still inefficient but can make up for it with his tremendous gifts. The explosiveness and flashes of skill just mean he deserves patience from his doubters.
#4 Jaren Jackson, Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)
One of the rawer 2018 prospects, Jackson has all the athletic tools for a modern big man to thrive in the NBA. He has the touch from deep and the shot-blocking prowess to become an excellent stretch 5, not to mention, he won't turn 19 until September. This has got to make the downtrodden Grizzlies franchise thrilled with their selection.
#5 Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
Young has been the ultimate tease this Summer League. He's been hitting the kinds of threes and dropping dimes that skyrocketed his draft stock in his one-and-done season. On the other hand, he has looked physically overmatched by any preseason point guard and is only shooting 23-of-85 field goals (27%) in six games. He has the talent to break out one of these days—he just needs to be more consistent.
#6 Mohamed Bamba (Orlando Magic)
Mo has done his job. He's blocking 2.3 shots as well as grabbing 5.7 boards per game. He's also making the most out of his scoring opportunities, hitting 12 of 20 attempts. All of this in under 20 minutes a game. Surely, Magic fans want him to do more as a lottery pick, but he still has a lot of developing to do. What's important is that Mo already has what no one can teach: height and length, and he's putting them to good use. Even if the other aspects of his game don't develop this year, Mo will still prove useful.
#7 Wendell Carter, Jr. (Chicago Bulls)
Arguably the most impressive lottery big man has been Carter. On offense, he picks his spots well and shoots at a high percentage (57%), while also displaying great help on defense and timing, (3.7
#8 Collin Sexton (Cleveland Cavaliers)
With LeBron bolting for the Lakers, the Cavs are now rebuilding (or at least they should be). Their first-round pick may not be a traditional point guard, but he is a solid building block to relevance. Sexton attacks the rim and shadows his man with ferocity and intensity. He has to get his teammates involved more, as he's only averaging two helpings per game. That is nowhere good enough for a future franchise floor general in the league.
#9 Kevin Knox (New York Knicks)
Knox has been a pleasant surprise so far. Most scouts projected that he could use a lot more bulking up and polishing in his game to be a worthwhile NBA player. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder, though, scoring in the '20s, rebounding well, and using his length on defense. Knox is well ahead of the timeline and has already shown that he belongs in the league.
#10 Mikal Bridges (Phoenix Suns)
Bridges is one of the steadier new guys. He can comfortably play off the ball and defer to his teammates, at the same time can create his own shot when the need arises. Bridges is a prototypical 3-and-D player, which is something Phoenix needs alongside great scorers and not-so-great defenders in Booker and Ayton. The Suns might be heading somewhere with their youth movement, with its players helping unlock one another's games.
#11 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Los Angeles Clippers)
The 6'6" combo guard from Canada may not be the most explosive prospect but compensates well by being a smooth operator and an all-around player. Gilgeous-Alexander has been putting up almost 20 points, five rebounds, and three assists per game. Proof of him being well-rounded are his two steals and a block for each outing. His game and built screams versatility, a key attribute in the modern NBA's positionless basketball.
#12 Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets)
Kemba Walker has to be surrounded by players that compliment his skill set, and with Bridges, the Hornets may have found a keeper. He won't commandeer possessions but is a capable playmaker. Bridges
#13 Jerome Robinson (Los Angeles Clippers)
The Clippers have two lottery picks playing for them this season, and while Gilgeous-Alexander was considered a high prospect, Robinson was not. This Summer League, however, he has shown that he can be a useful piece for the future, particularly with his shooting. Robinson has a quick, fluid stroke and the size (6'5") to rise above defenders. His length also allows him to be a useful perimeter stopper for a Clippers team that is looking to rebuild post-Lob City era.