This article is part of our NBA Offseason series.
As the Las Vegas Summer League moves into its final two days, it's time to begin analyzing which players helped -- or hurt -- their stock as we look ahead to the 2022-23 NBA season. We'll check in on many of the biggest names in the 2022 NBA Draft class later on, but for now we'll turn our focus to five relatively unheralded players who've turned in up-and-down performances in the desert.
As always, it's important to remember the old adage: it's only Summer League. And while that undoubtedly rings true, at this stage it's the only sample we have to draw from. With that in mind, here are five players who've shown some flashes in Vegas but also had some notable shortcomings:
Jaden Hardy, Mavericks
Summer League stats: 15.0 points, 32.7 FG% (5.0-15.5 FG), 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, 4.5 TO
Hardy displayed high-level, high-difficulty shot making and ball handling at times throughout Summer League. However, he surrounded it with poor decision making, questionable shot selection and tunnel vision. So far, even surrounded by fringe-NBA personnel, he's the same Jaden Hardy from previous campaigns of his.
The talent is there. Defensively, he's been active, working to draw charges and averaging 2.1 steals/blocks through Dallas' first four contests. He's also recording 5.0 fouls per contest -- hence using the word "active" as opposed to something definitively positive.
Ultimately, his inefficiency and turnovers are glaring. It's not surprising that a pure scoring guard will need acclimation to NBA competition, but expectations on Hardy should be low heading into his rookie season. Still, he could flash occasionally in the Mavericks' well-spaced offense, and his long-term upside as a volume scorer remains.
Christian Braun, Nuggets
Summer League stats: 11.8 points, 30.4 FG% (4.3-14.0 FG), 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, 2.5 TO
The stats look ugly -- let's preface with some context.
Braun's usage is really high in Summer League. His role on the regular-season iteration of the Nuggets will be much more conducive to Braun's success. Alongside Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and company, Braun will be a far more efficient source of hustle, transition, cutting and spot-up buckets. It'll allow him to play within himself.
While shrugging off Braun's poor shooting off-the-dribble is justifiable, even his spot-up looks in Summer League have missed. Cold shooting has clearly shaken Braun's confidence. He was a career 74.9 percent free-throw shooter at Kansas, but he is connecting on just 55.6 percent through four Summer League contests. His three-point shooting has been abysmal -- it's very hard to sugarcoat shooting 12.5 percent on 6.0 threes per contest.
There remains a lot to like. His facilitation has been healthy. He's fighting for rebounds on both ends. He's drawing fouls quite well (4.5 FTA per game). He's accumulating defensive stats and playing good team defense.
In the same way that Josh Christopher saw more success in-season as a rookie with Houston, think of Braun as a complementary piece. Friday against Philadelphia, Braun led Denver in scoring with 11 points. There is a lot of talent on Denver's Summer League squad, it just hasn't consistently been functional. Braun's well-rounded contributions are more impressive than his poor shooting is concerning. His future outlook is arguably better.
Christian Koloko, Raptors
Summer League stats: 7.0 points, 32.3 FG% (2.5-7.8 FG), 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.3 steals, 2.8 blocks, 1.0 TO
Koloko experimented with his jump shot throughout Summer League. It didn't go well. Attempts to expand his range resulted in a lot of misses, but the effort is valiant and will be ongoing for the 22-year-old.
More concerning is a lack of offensive impact inside for Koloko. On multiple occasions around the basket he was swatted by smaller wings. Koloko was a non-factor of the offensive glass.
Notably, he racked up steals and blocks -- showcasing his ability to put up defensive numbers on inferior athletes. His length is intimidating. Toronto could benefit from Koloko developing a strong presence as a rebounder and defensive anchor. However, he averaged 4.5 fouls per game and likely platoons with Khem Birch in the bench rotation -- at best -- to start the season.
Scotty Pippen Jr., Lakers
Summer League stats: 12.3 points, 33.3 FG% (4.0-12.0 FG), 2.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 3.0 TO
Undrafted out of Vanderbilt, Pippen has flashed as a passer. His ability to collapse the defense, then kick to shooters and (especially) drop-off to bigs, was impressive. He was much better at diagnosing/attacking half-court defenses than leading transitions, where his passing was less accurate and defenders read him like a book.
Pippen opened Summer League with a 19-point game, but has mostly been mired in inefficiency. Pippen shot under 43.0 percent from the field in each contest. He's connected on just 20.0 percent of his triples on 3.8 attempts per game. He was a career 34.3 percent three-point shooter at Vanderbilt. If he can't approach league-average from beyond the arc, it'll be tough for him to meaningfully see the court -- even on a Lakers team devoid of point guard depth.
Matteo Spagnolo, Timberwolves
Summer League stats: 3.5 points, 30.0 FG% (1.5-5.0 FG), 1.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.0 blocks, 1.0 TO
In 25 appearances for Vanoli Cremonal -- a club in Italy's top league -- Spagnolo hit 44.1 percent of his threes on 2.7 attempts per game.
Across four games with Minnesota in the Summer League, the 50th overall pick is 1-of-7 from downtown. He's attempted just two free throws as well. Shooting is the calling card for Spagnolo. Suffice to say he didn't live up to his pre-draft hype.
With teams on the hunt for the next European superstar, his performance is worth monitoring. Regardless, the 19-year-old was a draft-and-stash selection -- he'll spend the next season or two developing internationally.