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Longtime readers of mine (back to my RealGM days) will know that each year that I attended NBA Summer League, I came home with an overflowing notebook of items from talking to people around the NBA. These can be notes about players, teams, the league as whole or really anything related to the NBA.

Summer League is a very relaxed environment. The draft is done, free agency is largely done (especially this year!) and NBA folks are chatty. It’s also probably the most optimistic time of the NBA calendar. Everyone feels great about the work they did in the offseason and what it means for their club going forward. Admittedly paraphrasing, it’s very common to hear things like:

  • “We had him at the top of board.” (Note: This is said almost no matter what pick the team had.)

  • “The draft fell off right after pick X.” (Note: This is at whatever pick the team had, traded up to, or the pick after a pick they traded out of.)

  • “We were lucky he wanted to sign with us.” (Note: Said about almost every free agent signee.)

  • “We feel good about what we did, given our limited resources this summer.” (Note: Said by teams with cap space, teams without cap space, teams that only had veteran minimum deals to offer and teams that had multiple draft picks.)

With that in mind, the vast majority of the quotes about players and teams will be positive ones. But that’s ok! Who can’t use a little more positivity in their life?

A few more notes:

  • All quotes are anonymous. Each one came from NBA team personnel (generally a front office executive, coach or assistant coach). In exchange for anonymity, you often get candidness.

  • Anything that is an opinion from myself will be noted as such with “Opinion: …”.

  • In the vast majority of cases, these notes and thoughts were collected through Tuesday, July 11. A handful of times, folks followed up after the fact with further thoughts, but most were collected while I was on the ground in Las Vegas.

You can read Part 1, which were general NBA comments here and Part 2, which were notes from the Eastern Conference teams here.

Western Conference

Dallas Mavericks

  • “Re-signing Kyrie Irving was priority number one. Adding depth to our frontcourt was probably next on the list. And adding some young talent that fit with Kyrie and Luka (Doncic) was also high on the priority list. We feel like we accomplished all of those goals, even if there is still work to be done.”

  • “Grant (Williams) is going to help replace what we lost in Dorian Finney-Smith. He can shoot and defend, and we need guys like that. We’re also excited about his ability as a passer too. That’s something our other bigs don’t really do, so it adds a new dimension to our offense.”

  • “The kids (Dereck Lively II and Olivier-Maxence Prosper) are the kind of defense-first guys we need right now. They’ll get their minutes by defending. From there, the offense will come, especially as Luka (Doncic) and Kyrie (Irving) begin to trust them.”

  • Opinion: It’s a shame that the Matisse Thybulle offer sheet didn’t work for Dallas. He would have been a good fit for the Mavericks. Wing depth still seems to be lacking a bit for this team.

Denver Nuggets

  • “Does it feel like to you that some people have already forgotten that we’re the champs? That’s how it feels sometimes, because everyone is talking about all the other teams. But that’s ok. Keep sleeping on us!”

  • “Christian (Braun) is going to take a big step forward this year. Last season, everything was on instinct until we got to about March or so. This year, he’ll be better prepared to play right out of the gate. We’re excited to watch him grow in a bigger role.”

  • “We feel like we nailed our draft class. Julian Strawther is this year’s project. We’re excited about what he can become. Jalen Pickett could contribute right away in the backcourt. And Hunter Tyson knows how to play. Those three, combined with Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, and we have five potential rotation guys out of the last three drafts. That’s huge with our top-end payroll.”

  • “We haven’t given up on Zeke Nnaji being a rotation guy. He has to stay healthy though. If he can, there is still a chance he grabs a role in the frontcourt rotation.”

Golden State Warriors

  • “It was the only decision to re-sign Draymond (Green). We were never going to break up the core. They’ve had too much success and we won the title two seasons ago. Why would we move off that group now?”

  • “We’re aware that Jonathan (Kuminga) wants to play more. The chance will be there for him this season. We need him to be ready for a full rotation role in our frontcourt.”

  • “Brandin (Podziemski) hasn’t shot it well, but he’s done everything else. He’s a smart, tough, versatile player. It may take a year, but he’ll be a rotation guy for us eventually.”

  • “Both Lester (Quinones) and Gui (Santos) have been our best guys in both Summer Leagues. Lester is probably better than his two-way status, but we’ll see if there is room. Gui could benefit from a step up in league. I think eventually both will find their way on our roster at some point.”

Houston Rockets

  • “We set a goal this summer to improve our roster and rebalance things. We felt like we were a little too young. Nine first-round picks over three seasons is a lot. We made it a goal to come away with veteran players who can lift and enhance our young guys. We feel like we accomplished that goal.”

  • “Jabari Smith has been working non-stop. Part of the process with changing the coaching staff and roster was to make sure we could get Jabari to a place where he can be his most successful. It’s important that we get him touches, and quality touches, at that. He’s going to be a star in our league, but it’s up to us to help get him there.”

  • “Amen Thompson didn’t get a chance to show it for too long out here, but you saw a glimpse that he can do it all. We’re going to keep it simple for him early on. Let his natural instincts take charge first. But we have a plan to add more and more to his plate as the season goes along. He’ll be fine with the injury too. Not something we’re worried about long-term.”

  • “When Cam Whitmore was falling in the draft, we considered trading up. Eventually, it became clear he’d get to us. Once that happened, we felt like we had won some sort of second lottery. He’s such a powerful player at a young age. He’s going to fit in our forward group just fine. Him, Jabari (Smith) and Tari (Eason) is as good a young group of forwards as any team in the NBA has.”

  • “Fred (VanVleet) is going to be so great for us as an organizer. He’ll enhance Jalen (Green), Jabari (Smith) and Kevin (Porter Jr.) in a big way. Some think Fred and Dillon (Brooks) are going to take reps away from the kids, but we don’t see it that way. They are going to help those guys grow up quicker than they would have otherwise. Same with Jeff Green. We’re excited about getting them in the gym with the young guys.”

LA Clippers

  • “We felt like we found a nice groove after we added Russell (Westbrook) and Mason (Plumlee). So, it was important to us to bring them back. They are both great fits with our roster and how we hope to play.”

  • “Kobe (Brown) hasn’t shot it well yet, but that will come. He’s rebounding and playing defense. That’s enough for now. Having another big wing is never a bad thing.”

  • “Look, I hate to talk bad about any other team, and everyone makes deals for their own reasons, but we stole K.J. Martin. He’s going to add a whole new level of athleticism to our frontcourt. Our vets are going to love playing with him and he’ll change the energy in games for us. Just a straight up robbery to get him on our roster.”

  • “I can’t comment on any ongoing trade discussions, but we’re always looking to get better. If the right deal comes our way, it’s something we’ll look at. We feel like our title contention window is right now, so we’re always looking to add talented players in support of that goal.”

Los Angeles Lakers

  • “Getting Austin Reaves signed was our top priority. Was there a worry we’d have to match an offer sheet? Absolutely. He’s a good player and he could fit on any team. But we were prepared to match any kind of offers Austin got. We weren’t going to lose him over money.”

  • “We’re very happy with how our offseason went. We added a point guard, a forward, a wing and a big man. The two players we drafted (Jalen Hood-Schifino and Maxwell Lewis) are guys we targeted in our draft range. And we re-signed all of our important contributors. We feel great about that.”

  • “The player I’m most excited about that we added is Jaxson Hayes. He’s shown flashes of being a real player. We have minutes available in the frontcourt. My hope is that he’s ready to take them.”

  • Opinion: Keep an eye on Colin Castleton. He has nice touch and rebounding and blocking shots at a pretty good rate. After a little G League time, he could be the next guy to step into a rotation spot for the Lakers.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • “Marcus Smart is perfect for everything we want to be. We want our players to be tough, versatile, intelligent and to sacrifice for the team. And they have to represent what we want Grizzlies to be and to do right by Memphis. Marcus is going to teach some of our young guys how to win in ways they haven’t quite figured out yet. We couldn’t be happier to have him.”

  • “Our roster was getting a little overstuffed. It probably still is, to be completely honest. There could be another trade or two where we consolidate a little bit. But there aren’t any glaring needs we’re desperately trying to fill. If something becomes available, then we’ll look at it.”

  • “Locking up Desmond (Bane) was our primary objective this offseason. We now have our entire core under long-term deals. And they are all 25 and under. How many other good teams can say that?”

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • “We traded up to get Leonard Miller as a targeted player at the draft. We weren’t sure how the rest of the summer would go, but we knew getting him would mean we did alright. He’s a first-round talent. Once he fills out and adds strength, we’ll have another big to throw into the mix in our frontcourt.”

  • “Re-signing Nickeil (Alexander-Walker) is something I would be lying if I said was a priority when we got him in the trade. But he proved that he can really play and can be a nice combo guard off the bench for us. We’re happy that we kept him in the fold.”

  • “One of our goals was to add another wing and to get a little more offense off the bench. Troy (Brown Jr.) and Shake (Milton) fill those needs for us. They’ll have a chance to be rotation guys right out of the gate, and that should strengthen our team in a big way.”

  • “We remain confident we can get Jaden McDaniels signed to an extension. He’s a very big part of what we want to be going forward. In my opinion, he’s the best defensive forward in the league right now. And his offensive game just keeps getting better. Of course, you keep a guy like Jaden.”

New Orleans Pelicans

  • “Let me start with saying all the noise about Zion (Williamson) not working, not liking his teammates and wanting out, it’s all nonsense. Complete garbage. Zion knows he’s made some mistakes. What 20- and 21-year-old hasn’t? But he’s a hard worker and he gets along with his teammates. It’s painful to read some of this made-up stuff that’s out there.”

  • “Jordan Hawkins is going to be a big-time scorer in our league eventually. We’re asking him to do a lot of off-the-dribble stuff out here, because this is the time to experiment. It’s been messy, but that’s fine. It’ll come eventually. He’s a little bigger than C.J. (McCollum), but C.J. is going to be an ideal mentor for Jordan, because they have somewhat similar games.”

  • “It was a risk to decline the team option for Herb (Jones), but we felt like it would work out because we’ve put time and effort into building that relationship. And now he’s got a new, big deal and we’ve got one of our most important guys signed long-term. Hard to be unhappy with that.”

  • “Just seeing E.J. (Liddell) out there and being aggressive is great. It was such a shame what happened to him last year. But he never got down. He just put the work in, and now he’s ready for his rookie season.”

  • Opinion: Dyson Daniels needs the jumper to fall, but he’s ready for a rotation spot. He’s got size, which the veteran Pelicans guards don’t really have. Daniels should be a rotation guy from Day 1.

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • “It’s hard to be any more excited about Chet (Holmgren) joining our group this year. He made good use of what I call his “gap year” by watching and soaking it all in. In a weird way, he’s better prepared for how the NBA game is played. He’s going to start the season as one of the more skilled big men in the league. Not rookie big men, all big men.”

  • “Yeah, Jalen Williams didn’t need even that one Summer League game. He’s ready for a big second season.”

  • “Cason Wallace is what we want in our players. Work hard, play for your teammates and be tough. He’s got all of that. And he’s going to show he can do more than that Kentucky program and system allowed him to do. That’s always a thing with Kentucky guys, especially guards. We’re thrilled to have him.”

  • “Tre (Mann) has played terrific so far this summer. It’s been fits and starts for him in the league. But the talent is there. The challenge is that our guard group is so deep, and we added more guys to it this summer. But Tre can really play. We want to see how he takes on the challenge.”

  • Opinion: The Thunder are keenly aware that they have too many players on guaranteed contracts, and even non-guaranteed deals. The repeated comment was “Better to have too many guys who you like and can play than not enough of them.” But something is going to have to give, or some talented players are going to get cut.

Phoenix Suns

  • “We had a lot of rotation spots to fill. And we had to target specific players, because we weren’t bringing back a lot of depth. Overall, we feel as though we accomplished our goals of getting guys who will complement our starting group.”

  • “Brad (Beal) is going to be a terrific addition to our team. Is there overlap with Devin Booker? Sure. But show me the coach that says they have too much playmaking and scoring and I’ll show the first coach to ever say that. We think he might have his most efficient season ever too, because he’s not going to have to create so much for himself.”

  • “We’re committed to Deandre (Ayton). He’s going to play a key role for us this year as the backline of our defense. And we’ll make sure he gets enough touches on offense to keep him involved on that end too. It’s not just going to be him living off screens and offensive rebounds.”

  • “Toumani (Camara) might be more ready to play than we thought. Once that jumper comes around, we feel like we’ve got a steal on our hands.”

  • Opinion: The Suns did more with only veteran minimums to offer than anyone could have imagined. They made it clear that they went after specific players to fill specific needs, and they did well with that strategy.

Portland Trail Blazers

  • “I’m not going to stand here and proclaim that it’s a new era and expect trumpets to play and the sun to shine upon us, but it really is a new era. We’ve been fortunate to roll from one good group to the next over the years, and we’ve got the next good group in place already. They just need some seasoning and experience.”

  • “Scoot (Henderson) and Shaedon (Sharpe) are the guys everyone is focused on, and for good reason. They are both really great, young players. But we’ve still got Anfernee Simons and we also drafted Kris Murray. That’s four young guys we’d put up against anyone else’s.”

  • “We have a logjam of sorts at the guard and wing positions. But it’s a good problem to have. We’ll let them battle it out and it’ll sort itself out over time.”

  • “Jerami Grant’s contract isn’t a bad contract. People got downright idiotic with the things that were said and written about that deal. He’s making 20% of the cap and people acted like we gave him a max deal. No matter what direction our roster takes, that’s a good deal.”

  • Opinion: The specter of a Damian Lillard trade remains looming over the Trail Blazers. Within the first minute or two of every conversation in Las Vegas, everyone asked everyone else “What do you think will happen with Dame?” And it’s clear the organization is doing their best to move forward with the guys who will be there, as opposed to outwardly focusing on trading Lillard. But there’s only so much you can do with that, considering the stakes of trading your franchise player.

Sacramento Kings

  • “We didn’t even need to play Keegan Murray the two games he played (in Summer League), but he wanted to be out there. But that was more than enough. He’s going to be a great player and quicker than most people realize.”

  • “We have our entire core locked up for at least the next three seasons. That includes our entire starting lineup. How many teams can say that? And all of them are on value contracts too. That’s going to give us an edge moving forward.”

  • “We’re excited to work with Chris Duarte. He’s better than he showed last year. Injuries and a packed rotation in Indiana got him behind and he never caught up. We think he can back up Kevin Huerter and our forwards and be a rotation contributor. We don’t need him to be great. Just productive.”

San Antonio Spurs

  • “It’s a step too far to say our entire franchise is focused on making sure Victor Wembanyama becomes everything we think he can be, because we have other good players too. But clearly, we’re all focused on Victor. He’s a special talent and we can’t wait to add him in with all of our other guys.”

  • “We’ve still got some roster balancing to figure out. We loaded up on wings over the past few years, because we drafted guys we were high on. Over time, that will need to balance out a bit with more ballhandlers and bigs. But that will come. For now, we’re looking forward to seeing this group together.”

  • “There’s no rush to trade our veterans. We like what they can bring to a very young roster. Those guys are going to help the young guys figure out life in the NBA.”

  • Opinion: Dominick Barlow should be on a standard NBA deal. He’s got a lot of talent. Barlow played well when given chances toward the end of last season, and he’s been terrific in Summer League. It’s unclear if the Spurs will have a standard spot, so he might have to take another two-way deal, but he’s better than that.

Utah Jazz

  • “Adding John Collins was a no-brainer. He’s an outstanding talent. We feel like he got lost in the shuffle some in Atlanta. With us, we’re going to make sure he’s regularly involved and has a consistent role. We want to play big lineups, because it’s an advantage we have over most other teams. John is going to be an integral part of that strategy.”

  • “We knew going into the summer that we wanted to keep Jordan Clarkson around. At one point, we thought it would be via a standard extension. But once the board kind of fell into place, it was clear we could do the renegotiation and that would benefit both Jordan and us. He’s an organizational favorite and we’re thrilled we kept him in Utah.”

  • “Whenever you have three first-round picks, it’s going to be hard to feel like you nailed all of them, but we really did. Taylor (Hendricks) is going to be a terrific two-way player. It’s rare to find someone as skilled as he is, but that also likes to defend too. Keyonte (George) is already showing his leadership and toughness. He’s going to prove a lot of people wrong. And Brice (Sensabaugh) is going to be really good too. You add them to last year’s rookies, Walker (Kessler), Ochai (Agbaji) and Johnny (Juzang) and that’s six guys in two years. That’s how you fill out your roster while keeping a ton of cap flexibility for the future.”