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Detroit Pistons’ top pick Cade Cunningham called NBA Summer League standout

By STEVE REED

AP Sports Writer

Payton Pritchard arrived at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas looking to take advantage of the opportunity to show he deserves major minutes this upcoming season with the Boston Celtics.

Mission accomplished.

The second-year point guard was one of the biggest stars in Las Vegas before leaving the team due to a prior family engagement. He averaged 20.3 points, 8.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in three games while helping the unbeaten Celtics reach tonight’s championship game against the Sacramento Kings (4-0).

That’s good news for Boston, which parted ways with Kemba Walker this offseason. Pritchard may be in line for a more prominent role in Boston’s backcourt that includes Marcus Smart at point guard.

Pritchard shot 57.7% from 3-point range and his 1.38 points per possession ranks first among all Summer League players. He also protected the basketball well, averaging 1.3 turnovers per game.

The Kings reached the championship game behind a balanced scoring attack and a consistently strong defense ignited by first-round draft pick Davion Mitchell. His numbers are eye-popping, but there’s no denying what he brings on defense.

Mitchell earned the nickname “Off Night” while helping Baylor to an NCAA national championship last season — as in, whoever he’s guarding is going to have an off night.

Here are some of the other Summer League standouts:

• Cam Thomas, Nets: Thomas is leading the NBA Summer League in scoring, averaging 27 points per game while probably making some NBA general managers wish they hadn’t passed on drafting him. The 27th overall pick in 2021 had a 31-point night that included a game-winning 3-pointer in sudden death double overtime Thursday followed by a 36-point performance Sunday. The LSU product is shooting 36% from 3-point range.

• Cade Cunningham, Pistons: The No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft hasn’t disappointed, averaging 18.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. There are surely some Detroit fans who’d like to see him with the ball in hands more often than what they’ve seen this summer given his passing ability. But he’ll needed to cut down on his turnovers (4 per game) moving forward.

• Paul Reed, 76ers: The 76ers already have an All-Star center in Joel Embiid, but G League MVP Paul Reed could bring some quality depth to Philly. Check out Reed’s numbers in an overtime loss Sunday night to the Timberwolves: 27 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocks. Reed is averaging 17.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in Las Vegas.

• Immanuel Quickley, Knicks: Like Pritchard, Quickly is another second-year point guard who appears to have taken a major step forward in his game, averaging 21.8 points and eight assists per game. He’s only shooting 25% from 3-point range, but the 2020 first-round draft pick has shown promise that he could really begin to emerge in his second season.