It’s the middle of July, the worst part of the year for sports. There’s exhibition baseball, MLS, and, uh, the World Series of Poker. But never fear: The doldrums of cucumber season aren’t just a dry spell that pushes you to go outside, travel, and reevaluate your life. It’s also a brief, wonderful moment when you can get far too invested in the performances of the NBA’s future 12th men.
Summer League is happening, and more than an opportunity for fans to catch sneak peeks of famed rookies like Zion Williamson, it’s a chance for some obscure players to make a name for themselves against inferior competition. Their highlights are just as valid as anyone else competing right now, so here are a few names who are making the most of their small pond:
A former one-and-done Michigan Wolverine, Iggy is the best. And because the second-round pick is playing for the New York Knicks, people are crazy for him after just two meaningless games:
That’s the New York Post shoving the third-overall pick out the door so it can hail a pale-faced Lithuanian-Canadian wing with a snake tattoo as the team’s new savior. The former Michigan Wolverine (did I say that already?) scored 30 in the second game of Summer League to almost give the Knicks an OT victory over literally no one cares who they played. Along the way, he showed off the skills that took his old team, the Michigan Wolverines, to a third-place finish in the Big Ten and a Sweet 16 appearance. Iggy’s a crafty scorer who can make tough buckets when he drives, at least against these scrubs:
Hear that? He’s a hooper. And since he’s a Knick, he’ll definitely get playing time this season. If he’s lucky, he’ll recreate this performance exactly one time in the regular season, probably against the Hornets in March.
Not a rookie! The Spurs picked Walker with the 18th pick in the 2018 draft, but after playing only 118 minutes in his debut season, he’s still more memorable for his tall hair than for anything he’s done on the court.
However! The tides are changing. On Monday night, Walker put on a shooting clinic to score 32 points, mixing three-point bombs with funky mid-range stuff and the occasional drive to the basket. The 20-year-old guard might actually have some skills, at least by the staggeringly low standards of this month and level of play. This is some RELATIVELY ELITE burst:
Is he going to keep it up come autumn? Probably not! Moving on...
Oh, you know Tacko Fall, at least if you watched the thriller that was UCF’s near-upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament. He was the tall one. Yes, the really tall one. Even though Fall went undrafted, you knew an NBA team would take a shot on the 7-foot-7 23-year-old from Senegal. That team ended up being the Celtics, and he’s been totally worth it for these cheat-code dunks alone.
Can he run? Legitimately unclear. Does he have any kind of stamina? Uh, next question. But can he dunk and block shots? Oh hell yeah, he can. If Fall doesn’t go one-on-one against Boban Marjanovic underneath the basket for at least one possession this season, Adam Silver should be legally required to contract both the Mavericks and the Celtics—or possibly relegate them to Summer League.
Keep an eye on these Summer League Guys for the time being. I guarantee you will have forgotten at least two of their names by the time you close out this blog, but if summer is good for anything, it’s quick flashes of fleeting, unsustainable happiness. That’s what Iggy Brazdeikis is on this earth to bring you.