Outside of Damian Lillard’s run in Las Vegas in 2012, it’s hard to think of another Trail Blazers rookie who had a better summer league than forward Caleb Swanigan, who Portland selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. The 6-9 forward out of Purdue averaged a double-double of 16.1 points and 10.6 rebounds, joining Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Mareese Speights as the only rookies to ever average a double-double in summer league play, while leading the Trail Blazers as the 16-seed to the tournament finals. Swanigan, named to the All Summer League first team, also showed an ability to defend multiple positions and shoot the NBA three with relative success, so all in all, the 20 year old known as “Biggie” did just about everything you’d hope to see out of a first round pick.
Thanks to his play as summer league, Swanigan makes an early appearance on the NBA.com’s “Rookie Ladder” rankings, showing up at No. 5…
Zach Collins, the No. 10 selection, remains the top Portland prospect from the first round, but Swanigan, picked 16 spots later, has a chance to contribute sooner while better able to handle the physical play of the NBA. Swanigan needed just 30.9 minutes to average 10.6 rebounds, second only to Matt Costello of the Timberwolves in Las Vegas as the only players there to finish in double digits, and also contributed 16.1 points to the second-place team in the tournament. The big improvements from 2015-16 at Purdue to 2016-17 has continued into his early days as a pro.
Swanigan comes in behind Atlanta forward John Collins, selected with the 19th overall pick, and ahead of Dallas guard Dennis Smith Jr., selected with the 9th overall pick. Swanigan joins forward Kyle Kuzma, selected by the Lakers with the 27th overall pick, as the only non-lottery picks to make the Top 10 of the NBA’s rookie rankings.