Donovan Mitchell is still a member of the Utah Jazz as the Knicks ostensibly remain as a suitor for the three-time NBA All-Star. In the meantime, the Knicks reached the championship game of the NBA 2K23 Summer League in Las Vegas, losing to the Portland Trailblazers 85-77 on Sunday. The Knicks ended their five-game stay in Vegas 3-2.
Understandably, a significant number of Knicks fans don’t put much stock in the summer league having tangible efficacy over the course of the regular season. It’s a small sample size and many players that excel in July rarely see the court over the 82-game schedule that matters. Others continue their development and become valuable rotation fixtures.
Then there are the performers such as Houston Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr., who went No. 3 in last month’s draft, and whose solid statistics—14.4 points per game and 9.4 rebounds—don’t tell the story of how the 6-foot-10, 19-year-old from Auburn has stardom shining all over him. Knicks fans didn’t have a Smith, or summer league MVP Keegan Murray of the Sacramento Kings, this year’s No. 4 pick, or Paolo Banchero, the Orlando Magic rookie and No. 1 overall pick, to elicit visions of a foundational talent.
But the play of guard Quentin Grimes and improvement of center Jericho Sims should be perceived as encouraging. Grimes and Sims both played quality minutes as rookies last season and it showed over their five games in the summer league. The 6-foot-5 Grimes averaged 22. 6 points per game and had increased ball handling responsibilities. While his efficiency needed to be much better as Grimes shot just 41.4% from the field and 68.6% from the foul line, he displayed shot creativity and an ability to get to the front of the rim utilizing tight ball handling and strength.
Sims maximized his noteworthy athleticism to build on his skills as a lob threat, rim protector, proficiently tracking rebounds outside of his immediate space, and disruptor of screen and rolls. Yet the optimism of what Grimes and Sims can become will not temper the fans’ disappointment if the Knicks do not land Mitchell.