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NBA AM: Hidden Gems of Las Vegas Summer League

A number of notable players are competing in the Las Vegas Summer League. Here’s a look at who shined.

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With the Orlando and Utah Summer Leagues already complete, the Las Vegas Summer League will draw to a close in the coming days. The single-elimination tournament to determine the champion began on Wednesday and will continue through Monday with teams being eliminated each day.

As we did with the Orlando and Utah Summer Leagues, we’ll honor some of the best players of the week with our final installment of the ‘Hidden Gems’ series of the summer. These are players who are fighting for a roster spot. Some of these players are undrafted rookies, some are from overseas and some are more experienced players trying to return to the league.

With 24 teams participating in the Las Vegas Summer League, there was a huge pool of players to choose from. Here are some hidden gems (in no particular order) from the week (all stats are current through Tuesday):

Scottie Wilbekin (Philadelphia 76ers) – 18 points, two assists, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals in three games:

Wilbekin finished his first three games in Las Vegas by averaging 18 points, which was good for 14th-best among all players. That’s not too bad, considering he’s up there on the scoring list with much more notable players like Zach LaVine, T.J. Warren, Jahlil Okafor and Jordan Clarkson.

Wilbekin earned his points largely behind the three-point line as the former Florida Gator has been one of the best shooters of the week. He’s hit a staggering 59 percent (13-of-22) from behind the arc and converting on nearly 49 percent from the field. He’s coming off of his best performance on Tuesday after he dropped 26 points in which he hit 6-of-8 shots from three-point range.

In addition to Vegas, Wilbekin also had a productive week in Orlando after he averaged 9.6 points per game for the Orlando White Team. By opting to play in Vegas, Wilbekin has been able to showcase his shot, which should earn him a training camp invitation.

Larry Drew II (New Orleans Pelicans) – 9.3 points, nine assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in three games:

Drew has thrived with the Pelicans’ offense. The up-tempo pace allowed Drew to utilize his strengths as a passer, as his nine assists per game indicates.

He came close to setting a Summer League record on Monday as he dropped 16 dimes in an 89-83 win over the Brooklyn Nets, falling just one assist shy of tying the record. Drew led the entire D-League last season in assists with 9.6 per game and his nine assists in Las Vegas leads all players at the Summer League.

Drew earned two 10-day contracts last season with the 76ers before they opted not to sign him for the rest of the season following his second 10-day deal. It seems he’s done everything possible in the D-League and Summer League to earn himself a training camp invite. While it’s possible he may not earn that invite with the Pelicans (as they’re heavy on point guards), he should draw some interest from teams following his 16-assist performance.

Scotty Hopson (D-League Select Team) – 19.3 points, five rebounds and 1.7 assists in three games:

Hopson has had himself a nice week in Vegas thus far after averaging 19.3 points through his first three games. He began the week off by dropping 27 points in a 111-104 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday, and then followed that game up by scoring 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field on Sunday.

Hopson is one of those players coming in with some overseas experience, as he has three seasons under his belt in Greece, Israel and Turkey. He played last year for Sioux Falls in the D-League and had a very successful season, setting a Sioux Falls franchise record with 52 points scored back on February 24.

Having transferred from overseas to the D-League last season, Hopson appears to be ready to give the NBA another shot. He’s shown the ability to score and can also get to the free throw line with ease, as he’s drawn 22 attempts from the foul line in his three games.

Seth Curry (Pelicans) – 25 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.3 assists in three games:

Seth Curry has been the most consistent scorer in Vegas, and it’s no wonder that he currently leads all players in scoring at 25 points per game.

The interesting part about Curry is he’s getting the bulk of his scoring done from within the three-point line. Curry is only converting on 18 percent of his shots from behind the arc, but hitting 63 percent of his shots inside the arc. This is a guy that shot 46.7 percent from three-point range last season in the D-League, so he’ll eventually snap out of this slump.

Curry has also been getting it done all across the board as he’s adding 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.3 assists per game as well. The Suns brought Curry up at the end of the season on a 10-day contract, but didn’t bring him back for a second deal. He may be able to contribute to a team in need of shooting off of the bench, despite his poor shooting performance in Vegas.

Glen Rice, Jr. (Houston Rockets) – 22.7 points, five rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.3 assists in three games:

Rice has bounced back from a rough outing in the Orlando Summer League by averaging 22.7 points per game in his first three outings in Vegas. Rice shot just 22 percent in three games for the Orlando White Team, while averaging only 6.7 points per game. He’s found his rhythm again in Vegas and is second in scoring, behind only Curry’s 25 points per game.

The former second-round pick in 2013 has played in just 16 games in the NBA since getting drafted, as he’s spent the majority of his time in the D-League. His production in Vegas is similar to what he did during his time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League when he averaged 20.4 points per game in 23 outings last season.

Rice is another player who can step in and provide a team with three-point shooting as he’s converted on 40 percent of his three-point attempts in Vegas. In a league that is starting to be dominated by shooting, Rice could find a new home sooner than later.

Ronald Roberts (Toronto Raptors) – 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in three games:

Ronald Roberts has quietly put together a solid week for the Raptors. The former St. Joseph’s product is averaging 10.7 points in three games on a blistering 60 percent shooting from the field. He’s also pulling in 8.3 rebounds per game, with 2.6 per game coming on the offensive end.

Roberts, who is 6’8 and 225 pound, has perhaps some of the best athleticism of any big man in Vegas and that shows with his ability to pull in those offensive boards. He turned in a 14-point and 12-rebound performance in his first action on Friday and then had 10 points and eight rebounds on Sunday, which apparently was enough to earn himself a partially-guaranteed deal with the Raptors for next season.

Given his ability to dunk alone, Roberts is a player that should be playing in the NBA.

Justin Dentmon (D-League Select Team) – 12.7 points, 3.3 steals and 2.7 assists in three games:

Dentmon came into the Summer League with a very accomplished resume outside of the NBA. He’s coming off of a season in which he averaged 30.4 points per game in China and 16.3 points per game in the D-League. He’s also been an All-Star overseas, he’s led the Israeli League in scoring, won the D-League MVP Award in 2012 and is trying to use that success to help him find a permanent role on an NBA team.

He caught the eye of many in Vegas on Friday after recording 14 points, eight steals and five assists in a loss to Houston. He’s also shooting 55 percent from the field on the week and converting on 50 percent of his shots from behind the arc. He’s made the most of his opportunity this week and could finally get a chance in the NBA.

Victor Rudd (Pelicans) – 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in three games:

Rudd has responded after going undrafted in this year’s draft with a solid showing in Vegas. The former USF Bull had 17 points, six rebounds and three assists in his first game on Friday and then turned in another good showing on Monday after scoring 12 points and nine rebounds.

He may need some time in the D-League to refine some of his skills, but he should be a player that could be on the radar for an NBA spot next year.

*****

These are players who are currently fighting to earn their way into the league. They’ve all paid their dues to get to this point, and are waiting on an NBA opportunity. They all had the benefit of playing in Las Vegas, where there are representatives from every team there scouting games looking for their next under-the-radar guy. Don’t be surprised if these players are in the league sooner than later.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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