NBA Summer League: Cade Cunningham has a mixed debut; Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes shine

NBA Summer League: Cade Cunningham has a mixed debut; Jalen Green and Scottie Barnes shine


A few minutes into Sunday night’s matchup between the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder at Las Vegas Summer League, Cade Cunningham took a pass in the corner and knocked down an open 3-pointer. A few possessions later, he pulled up and hit another triple off the dribble. With that, the latest No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft was off and running. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the game didn’t go as smoothly for Cunningham. In his debut with the Pistons, he finished with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks, but shot just 5 of 17 and turned the ball over five times. If you just looked at the box score, you wouldn’t be that impressed, and it’s true that Cunningham didn’t have a great game. He shot the ball poorly and turned it over a bit too much. 

But, of course, there’s always more to the story. The shooting numbers are just sort of whatever. Some games you’re just going to miss shots, it happens. And while he was a little loose with the ball at times, the assist-to-turnover ratio is quite misleading. He was generally making the right read out of the pick-and-roll and made a number of great passes that his teammates either dropped or couldn’t convert. Defensively, as well, he was quite strong. In fact, his most impressive moments came on that side of the ball, including a steal for a breakaway slam and a perfect closeout into a blocked shot. 

Cunningham will be in action again on Tuesday night in a much-anticipated matchup against No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green and the Houston Rockets. After a busy first day of Summer League, here’s how the rest of the top-five picks in the 2021 NBA Draft performed. (Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic did not play.)

Jalen Green — No. 2 overall, Houston Rockets

Green spent last season with Ignite in the G League, so he was already prepared for this level of play. That showed as he put up 23 points, five rebounds and two assists on 9 of 18 from the field in his debut with the Rockets. His athleticism and shot-making were on full display, as he converted some impressive drives and knocked down a number of tough jumpers. He has the scoring ability that will make him a Rookie of the Year favorite. 

Evan Mobley — No. 3 overall, Cleveland Cavaliers

Many analysts believe Mobley has a chance to be a generational big man because of his rare combination of skill and versatility at his size. He flashed that diverse skillset in his first game with the Cavaliers on Sunday, as he made plays on both ends of the floor and finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks. His strong offensive rebound and putback slam, in particular, was very impressive. 

Scottie Barnes — No. 4 overall, Toronto Raptors

The Raptors taking Barnes at No. 4 was one of the surprises on draft night last month, as almost everyone assumed they would take Jalen Suggs. In his debut on Sunday, Barnes did his best to prove to the Raptors that they made the right decision. In typical fashion, he was all over the place and impacted the game in every facet. He went for 18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block for good measure. 

Summer League will continue on Monday with another eight games. None of the aforementioned players will be in action, but No. 5 overall pick Jalen Suggs will make his debut with the Orlando Magic. 

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