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Takeaways from the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-78 win over the Houston Rockets in Summer League Championship

Isaiah Mobley’s 28 points help deliver the Summer League title.

2023 NBA Summer League Championship Game - Houston Rockets v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers captured their first Las Vegas Summer League Championship with a decisive 99-78 win over the previously unbeaten Houston Rockets. Isaiah Mobley and Sam Merrill once again led the way as they combined for 55 points.

Winning breads winning

Despite the outrageous rings, the ultimate goal of Summer League isn’t to win games. It’s to develop players for the future. The Cavs are uniquely positioned in that they don’t have any first round picks they drafted on their summer team. Everyone under team control are either second-round projects, undrafted free agent or G League pickups. None are destined to be franchise cornerstones.

Cleveland isn’t looking for another franchise cornerstone though. They need role players who can star in their roles around their established core. Each starter showed that they can do that in some way these past two weeks.

Head coach Mike Gerrity did an excellent job of getting each player to buy into their assignments. For each of these players to crack into the Cavs’ rotation in the future, they will need to continue to buy in like they’ve done the last few weeks.

Winning this doesn’t mean much on its own. But it shows this group that they can be a part of something special if they continue to buy in and star in their roles like they did in Las Vegas.

Sam Merrill has game-changing gravity

As has been the theme throughout Summer League, Merrill’s shooting broke the opponent’s half court defense. That happened Monday night as he poured in 27 points on 6-12 shooting from distance.

There is no defense for a good shot. Ultimately, the defense’s best option is to keep the shooter from comfortably getting attempts up. What has made Merrill so effective this tournament is his never-ending motor. His constant movement keeps the opponent’s attention off of what is happening on-ball and more focused on what’s happening off. That is the most valuable thing a shooter can bring.

The Cavs desperately need shooting and players who can create gravity off-ball. Merrill has consistently shown in his time with the Cleveland Charge and in Vegas that he can provide that. He’s ready for his opportunity this fall.

This was Emoni Bates’s most complete game this summer

Bates has had a good Summer League as he earned a spot on the All-Summer League Second Team. That honor was mostly due to his scoring numbers and his efficiency from the outside which was on display once again as he put up 19 points on 6-13 shooting. For him to be the best version of himself, he needs to consistently find other ways to impact the game.

The rookie showed that he has the potential to do that as he contributed five rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block. He’s never going to be a point forward, but he does need to continue to become more comfortable bringing the ball up and finding teammates for easy looks for him to get the most out of his shooting ability. Monday was the blueprint for what his game could look like.

Bates made waves coming into Summer League saying he fell back in love with basketball by being with this group. He showed that on the court over these past two weeks as he looked more like the sure fire lottery pick he was supposed to be instead of the late second he became.

Bates still has a ways to go before he’s able to contribute for a contender. The pieces are there though.

Craig Porter Jr. keeps the show running

Porter is one of those players you’d hear the phrase ‘he does so many things that don’t show up in the stat sheet’ used to describe his game. While that applies to Porter, he also has a way of filling up the stat sheet. Monday night he finished with eight points, nine rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a block.

The most impressive aspect of this summer for Porter is that he already plays exactly how you’d want your backup point guard to. His feel for the position is there. It’ll be fun to see how he’s able to expand his game with the Charge this upcoming season.

Isaiah Mobley got the award he deserved

Mobley was snubbed from the All-Summer League teams that were announced earlier Monday afternoon. He responded by putting up 28 points on 12-20 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks en route to being named MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game.

Mobley has been open about his struggles in Summer League last year saying he didn’t know how the game worked then. This shown out in the numbers as he averaged 8.8 points on 33% in five games in 2022.

That experience prompted him to expand his skillset for a more spaced out league leading to a successful season with the Charge. A year later he showed back up averaging 17.8 points on 49.3% shooting 8.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while claiming the championship MVP trophy.

The elder Mobley isn’t a finished product. There are areas of the game, mainly defending in space and holding up physically in the paint, that he needs to improve in order for him to be a rotation piece for the Cavs. But if this last year is any indicator, he’s going to continue to do everything in his power to be the best version of himself he can be.

There’s a reason the Cavs are in the “Mobley business” as Koby Altman likes to say.