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Taking stock of the Summer Hawks after Las Vegas

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2023 NBA Summer League - Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

2023 Las Vegas Summer League has come and gone, and the Hawks now face a long stretch without organized basketball until October. The Hawks had an up and down summer campaign, finishing 3-2 but with some interesting individual performances. Of course, this is just a testing ground for development and experimentation, and there’s only so much to be gained from a five-game sample size without much structured practice.

But, just as I placed the players into tiers prior to the first game, let’s take a look at where things stand for the fringe roster players at this point in time.

Stock Up:

Mouhamed Gueye: Gueye might be the player with the most hype surrounding him despite his second-round selection in the 2023 NBA Draft. in 24.1 minutes per contest, Gueye finished with 9.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in Las Vegas. He flashed a unicorn-like blend of three-point shooting (38%) and defensive versatility (1.4 blocks per game).

John Hollinger of The Athletic also shouted him out in a recap of Summer League standouts:

Second-round power forwards doing stuff

Finally, let’s give a tip of the hat to the multiple power forwards who were drafted in the second round and gave strong efforts in summer league. Minnesota’s Leonard Miller, Atlanta’s Mouhamed Gueye, Memphis’ GG Jackson and Phoenix’s Toumani Camara all had observers asking, “How’d that guy get picked so late?”

The consistency will come in time, and I’d be very shocked if he sees many minutes outside of College Park this season, but the upside remains intriguing.

Seth Lundy: While Gueye is seen as a more ‘high ceiling’ prospect, Lundy comes into the professional ranks with a more refined, ‘high floor’-type of game. After a four-year career at Penn State, Lundy comes into the league as a 23-year-old ready to possibly slot into the Hawks’ rotation in short order.

Defensively, he showed out with impressive range and instincts leading to a team-tying seven blocks during Summer League. He mixed it up as a rebounder as well, grabbing 4.4 per contest despite his size.

Still, Lundy has an obvious calling card on offense. He put up an astounding 43 three-point attempts in 91 minutes of play, accounting for 79% of his field goal attempts and hitting 32% of them from deep. That number was higher before going 0-for-5 from long range in the final game, but it speaks to his fearlessness and confidence in the role he needs to play to succeed.

Stock Holding:

AJ Griffin: Griffin didn’t have the best time shooting the ball or attacking off the dribble, finishing with just 18 points on 22 total shots. But there’s no real need to worry after just a two-game sample size. He showed a more advanced read of the game on defense with an improved ability to hold his own at the point of attack. Unlike last season, he’ll have a chance to enter the regular season after a healthy offseason.

Miles Norris: The other two-way contract recipient along with Seth Lundy — as of now — only saw action in four of the five games. But he did what he needed to do as a stretch-forward, hitting 5-of-11 (46%) of this attempts from deep. The perimeter defense is a significant worry, but he’ll presumably get plenty of run with the Skyhawks to work and improve in that area this season.

Stock Down:

Kobe Bufkin: Bufkin had a difficult time in Las Vegas. There’s no escaping that fact. But he was also filling a role that he’s not used to as an on ball guard, and the mistakes he committed there will go a long way toward helping him down the road.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN offered measured remarks about his performance while also naming him the slowest-starting rookie around:

Bufkin’s 4-of-29 shooting from 3-point range (13%) isn’t particular concerning given the small sample size. We know Bufkin, who hit 35.5% from the shorter college line, is more accurate than that. Given the keys to the summer Hawks’ offense, however, Bufkin also led all players with 4.6 turnovers per game against 3.6 APG.

With Dejounte Murray signing a contract extension to stick alongside Trae Young, Atlanta doesn’t really need Bufkin to run the offense for extended stretches any time soon, so he can develop as more of a combo guard. On the plus side, Bufkin scored the game winner last Thursday as the Hawks beat Philadelphia.

John Hollinger wrote about Bufkin in a piece about players who struggled in Nevada:

Birds of a feather with Hood-Schifino (above) in some ways, Bufkin was a mid-first-round pick whose team (the Hawks) immediately put the ball in his hands a zillion times in summer league. That’s the right thing to do — it’s a developmental league! — but it also put a magnifying glass on all his warts.

Bufkin played as a combo guard in college, and having to run the offense every play seemed to really slow him down; you could almost hear the gears cranking at times as he thought through a pick-and-roll read. This was a different guy from the one making quick darts down the lane at Michigan and pulling up into soft floaters. There were too many times when he paused too long and either got his dribble picked or threw a pocket pass half a beat late; ball pressure in particular really bothered him.

Bufkin’s stats also took a blow by shooting 4 of 29 from 3; he needs to improve as a shooter, but numbers this bad are mostly small-sample variance. I’d be more troubled by the multiple finishes that were swatted at the rim, again caused by him seeming to cruise through an opening too slowly.

Bufkin already has some things working against him, with a very narrow frame and an outside shot that needs more work. As with Hood-Schifino above, his team’s backcourt depth gives him the luxury of working out the kinks in the G League for the first half of 2023-24. Additionally, the repeated on-ball reps likely make his statistical picture look much worse than if he’d just been chilling off the ball for spot-ups (it’s possible he’s just a two and that’s where he needs to play, but the Hawks are right to try him at point guard first). Nonetheless, his was among the worst showings of any first-rounder at summer league.

The Others:

Vit Krejci

Tyrese Martin

Vit Krejci flashed his passing chops once again, leading the Hawks with 23 assists in the five games. Tyrese Martin used his handle and physicality on both ends to lead the Hawks for long stretches in Summer League for the second year in a row.

On the surface, it seems as though Krejci and Martin are fighting over the same roster spot. The Hawks have 14 guaranteed contracts on the books for 2023-24 — to go along with two two-way contract players — and with a limit of 15, either one or neither seems likely to stick. One decision will be made today as Martin’s team option date due has arrived.

Jarkel Joiner

David Singleton

Joiner and Singleton both have Exhibit-10 contracts, meaning they’re likely to be involved in training camp this fall. Joiner was the more impressive of the two, showing off some occasional 94-foot defense and a willingness to create his own shot. But there’s no real indication either has improved their long term odds with the franchise.

Brady Manek

Mfiondu Kabengele

Tyson Etienne

Marcio Santos

Uroš Plavšić

Yves Pons

Kabengele started all five games at the center position and showed some real worth on both end of the court as a rebounder and tough-nosed defender. Manek cooled off after a 17-point outburst with five triples in the first game against Sacramento.

Still, this is probably the end of the road for the six names above.