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2023 NBA Summer League Game Thread: Wolves vs. Hornets

Minnesota wraps up their summer league against the winless Charlotte Hornets squad (0-4 in Vegas, 0-2 in Sacramento), who will be without Brandon Miller and Kai Jones.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

The final game of the Las Vegas Summer League is upon us. The Wolves face the Hornets, one of the biggest losers of the summer. No, I’m not just referencing their 0-4 record in Vegas nor am I considering their 0-2 record in the California Classic Summer League. The question marks surrounding number two overall pick, Brandon Miller, are larger than they were entering summer action. It’s even more devastating when you consider Scoot Henderson, who they passed on, and just how spectacular he was in only 21 minutes of game time. Regardless, Miller has still been Charlotte’s most productive player this summer, though they’ll be without his and the exciting high-flying big man, Kai Jones, services today. As far as the product on the court? The Hornets rank:

  • 28th in points per game (79.8)
  • 21st in 3PM per game (8.5)
  • 29th in FG% (37.1%)
  • 30th in assists per game (12.0) by a large margin

Let’s dive into some things we can focus on in this early tip (Sorry, Josh Minott’s stomach).

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Mystery Men: Moore, Miller, Minott

It’s been mixed results for the second year guard. Even within individual games, Wendell Moore Jr. has looked like a serviceable backup guard who can defend his ass off, but then look totally outmatched against G-League level players on the next possession. He’ll make smart and accurate passes to cutters on a dime, but then follow it up with a wild outlet pass that go sailing three feet out of bounds. His perimeter shooting has been inconsistent, to put it politely. Moore has a very soft opponent today and this will be his last opportunity to publicly campaign for a better spot in the rotation before training camp, as the depth chart is deeper than ever.

In some respects, Josh Minott and Leonard Miller both “fell back to Earth” in their last game against the Kings. Though they still had flashes, it was a stark reminder that there is still a long way for the youngsters to go before they’re fully ready to be unleashed. I’m excited to see if they can dominate an 18-year-old rookie center, James Nnaji, and some combination of sub 6’9” forwards Tre Scott and Xavier Sneed.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

There’s not much meat left on the bones outside of those three Wolves. Everyone’s favorite two-way candidate, Brandon Williams, will likely be questionable today after exiting with a right knee contusion at halftime of Thursday’s match. That leaves DJ Carton with one last opportunity to showcase himself for that final two-way spot. Feron Hunt has been intriguing with his high flying antics and defensive prowess. Kok Yat almost played four whole minutes against the Kings, a summer league high! #FreeKok

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Hornets Players to Watch

With both Miller and Jones done, that leaves few remaining players of interest to watch on the other side. There are just four particular players that I’ll have my eyes on, two for the wrong reasons and two for the right reasons. Nick Smith Jr., the 27th overall pick, is young prospect with a gunner mentality. He finally broke out for a 33-point performance earlier this week, but he is still shooting just 41.1% from the field while chucking up 14 FGA per game. If you squint hard enough, Smith may have some playmaking ability for others, but it’s hard to see it between his 3.0 APG to 2.8 TOV averages. Our very own John Meyer had Nick Smith Jr. on his ice/bad list in his piece leading up to the draft.

Speaking of inefficient volume scorers, James Bouknight also finally got loose for a 28-point outing on Thursday. From 100 feet away, the soon-to-be third year guard looks exactly like Smith on the floor. Though he is less “jump shooty,” as evidenced by his .382/.276/.800 splits, he makes sure to get his shots up, averaging 13.8 FGA per game. The way these two play as primary ballhandlers is certainly indicative of why the Hornets have such a poor record and have such awful assist numbers.

2023 NBA Summer League - Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On the other hand, we have Bryce McGowens and Amari Bailey. Although a cursory look at the box scores may lead you to wonder how two players can have worse numbers than Smith and Bouknight, but from the Hornets games that I’ve tuned in for, these two wings certainly pop on the court. McGowens, who the Wolves actually turned into Josh Minott and Jaylen Clark a year ago, is a superb athlete who boasts an all-around game. He signed a Gupta special four-year contract in February. Speaking of big-time athletes, the 19-year-old Bailey is prone to doing something once per game that leaves you impressed. He was just rewarded with a two-way contract for the Hornets. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing them hoop today.