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Key takeaways from NBA Summer League 2023 in Las Vegas

Here’s the biggest storylines coming out of Las Vegas.

2023 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v San Antonio Spurs
Brandon Miller of the Charlotte Hornets defends against Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images

The 2023 NBA Summer League has come and gone, with the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the Las Vegas edition over the Houston Rockets Monday evening. Here are the biggest takeaways from this year’s Summer League as the NBA truly heads into the offseason.

What kind of workload will Victor Wembanyama have in Year 1?

The Spurs rookie was great in his second game of Summer League play after missing the mark in the opener. However, the team immediately decided to shut him down after that outing. It’s understandable for San Antonio to want to protect its investment, but it’s also a bit unorthodox since it was just one game. Wembanyama’s highlights are undeniable, but there are still moments where he looks a bit lost on the court and his frame is still considered a weak point. What type of workload do the Spurs plan on giving him during the regular season? Will he be load managed from the jump, or will he be truly unleashed?

Brandon Miller’s struggles are concerning

In three Summer League games, Miller shot 35.4% from the field and 26.1% from deep. His impact on the glass was good to see, but the lack of offense is concerning. His defensive instincts are also something to monitor, especially his fouls. It would be foolish to deem Miller a bust after three Summer League games, and it’s not like he didn’t show any progression. However, he’ll have to really impress to start the regular season to show these performances were just flukes. Otherwise, the Hornets could be regretting taking him over Scoot Henderson at No. 2.

Are the Rockets set to make a big leap?

Houston made some odd moves in free agency, splurging on veterans to supplement a young core seemingly going nowhere. Summer League changed some things. Jabari Smith led the Las Vegas showcase in scoring before being shut down, and Cam Whitmore was named the Summer League MVP. Amen Thompson didn’t play due to injury, but he’s another piece in the mix along with Tari Eason. This rebuild appears to finally have some direction, and young players making leaps together can have a compounding impact. Houston should be a team to watch after winning 22 games last season.

The Cavaliers could be a darkhorse in the East

Cleveland entered the offseason with bench problems and spacing issues. The Cavaliers addressed the latter in free agency, bringing in Max Strus and Georges Niang as perimeter threats. Their bench could be bolstered through Summer League standouts Emoni Bates, Isaiah Mobley, Luke Travers and Sam Merrill. Look for at least two of those players to have sizable roles and if everything comes together, the Cavaliers would be legitimate contenders in the East along with Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

Will Damian Lillard, James Harden trades materialize?

Lillard has said he only wants to play for the Heat, but the Trail Blazers are not going to force a deal without getting the right return. Harden has only said he doesn’t want to play for the 76ers, but Philadelphia is not in a rebuilding phase. Getting good pieces back in a Harden deal is paramount, especially with Joel Embiid expressing doubts about whether he can win a title in Philly. There has been little traction on any sort of deal involving these two star guards throughout Summer League, Will the rumors pick up in the coming weeks, or will we have to wait until training camp to see things move?