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All The Best Plays From Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, And Evan Mobley’s Summer League Debuts

Sunday marked the start of the 2021 edition of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, with 14 of the league’s 30 teams in action at either the Thomas & Mack Center or Cox Pavilion. While there were other storylines to monitor, the league’s schedule-makers seemingly targeted top draft picks in prime time, with four of top six picks (including Josh Giddey) in the 2021 NBA Draft squaring off against one another in two nationally televised games. With that in mind, there was plenty to glean from the opening slate of action, and that extends to No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, No. 2 pick Jalen Green and No. 3 Evan Mobley.

Here’s what we saw from the young stars who took the NBA stage for the first time in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Cade Cunningham

Cunningham wasted absolutely no time in Detroit’s matchup against Oklahoma City. The do-everything wing converted a pair of three-pointers before the first timeout of the game, with the second triple arriving in pull-up fashion.

For large portions of the first half, the Pistons allowed Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes to initiate the offense, meaning Cunningham’s on-ball reps were reduced. There will be plenty of time for that, of course, but he managed to make a difference defensively, using his length and acumen to create havoc while also making sound rotations.

Cunningham continued that havoc creation with a steal that led to a fast break dunk early in the third quarter, and he added some half-court offense with an efficient, effective rim attack.

All told, it wasn’t as if Cunningham was efficient or utterly dominant in his debut and, because of this, the overreaction machine may kick into overdrive. He did commit five turnovers, flagging a concern that existed during his collegiate career, and Cunningham finished 3-for-10 from inside the arc.

Given how Green performed (see below), Cunningham’s game may be seen as a disappointment, but his abilities flashed along the way. He made high-level passing reads, rebounded well, showcased his underrated defensive ability (particularly off the ball) with playmaking and execution, and certainly displayed his overall feel for the game.

Jalen Green

In a game that was truly entertaining — something that doesn’t exactly happen frequently during Summer League — Green was the most electric offensive force on the floor between the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He opened the evening with a bang, using his craft, athleticism, and overall skill level to leave an imprint.

Green closed the first quarter on a beautiful note, taking the ball to the rim and finishing with conviction to beat the buzzer.

All told, Green led all scorers at the break, and he wasn’t done. His scoring profile was the headline trait in advance of the draft, and the bucket getting continued after halftime, pouring in contested jumpers and creating space with his burst.

The scoring will undoubtedly (and rightfully) get the attention, but Green did show other flashes. He’s an effective hit-ahead passer, and also shows creativity as a distributor in half-court settings.

Green’s defense has a long way to go in some respects, but he did show competitiveness. Memorably, he held up reasonably when switched onto Mobley in a no-win situation.

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Even with a scoreless fourth quarter, Green was the leading scorer in the game. He scored 23 points, on 9-for-16 shooting and 4-for-9 from three, through three quarters. In short, it was a highly effective debut that reminded observers of his full scoring arsenal. It may not be like this for every Summer League game, but Green was generally fantastic.

Evan Mobley

Coming into the opener, it was a safe projection that Mobley may not pop in the same way as Green. After all, Summer League is often a guard-based enterprise and, in the case of Mobley, he is reliant on Cleveland’s guard play in a way that may not be advantageous for garnering box-score stats in this setting. However, Mobley flashed his arsenal, just as Green did, and it was encouraging all the same.

Early, Mobley showcased a comfortable handle and passing willingness in transition.

Mobley also put his touch as a finisher on display, and he is a dangerous lob threat.

Perhaps the most impressive highlight run arrived when Mobley generated a rebound, threw down a monster dunk in traffic, then blocked the shot of Rockets first round pick Alperen Sengun.

Mobley’s performance was more understated than Green’s happened to be, and that was illustrated with 12 points and five rebounds. However, his defense really came to the surface, not only with three blocked shots, but also with general awareness, versatility and the ability to change the approach of opponents with his length.

Offensively, Mobley wasn’t efficient, scoring 12 points on 17 shots, and he did struggle down the stretch. Still, the lack of help from Cleveland’s perimeter options was stark, and Mobley’s defense jumped off the screen for those paying close attention. He’ll need to add bulk to his skinny frame, but Mobley flashed the well-rounded game that made the Cavs take him with a top-three selection.

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