Summer League MVPs: Full list of winners through the years

Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Houston Rockets second-year forward Jabari Smith Jr. has been on a tear in the Summer League, as he's been able to dominate his matchup at will. It hasn't mattered who the opponent is, Jabari has been giving everyone hell.

It was somewhat expected that Smith was going to perform well, considering his finish to the 2022-23 season, but Smith's numbers have been video-game-esque.

Evaluating Jabari Smith Jr.'s MVP case in Vegas

Jabari's play has catapulted him to the top of the MVP list, as he's been far and away the best player in Vegas. But how strong is Smith's case to win the award? Let's take a look at the recent award-winners and assess.

-2006: Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Randy Foye
-2007: New York Knicks point guard Nate Robinson
-2008: Portland Trail Blazers point guard Jerryd Bayless
-2009: LA Clippers power forward Blake Griffin
-2010: Washington Wizards point guard John Wall
-2012: Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (co-MVP) and Memphis Grizzlies point guard Josh Selby (co-MVP)
-2013: Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas
-2014: Washington Wizards shooting guard Glen Rice Jr.
-2015: San Antonio Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson
-2016: Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones
-2017: Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball
-2018: Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Josh Hart
-2019: Memphis Grizzlies power forward Brandon Clarke
-2021: Sacramento Kings point guard Davion Mitchell (co-MVP) and Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Cam Thomas (co-MVP)
2022: Sacramento Kings power forward Keegan Murray

My initial observation when looking at this list is the fact that so many eventual MVP winners were guards (12 of the 17 listed), which shows just how difficult it can be for a big man to win the award. Another thing that stands out is how many winners were selected outside of the lottery, as eight award recipients were selected after the 14th pick in the draft.

Smith could be working against these historical biases.

Now let's dive into the numbers. Smith's current scoring averages (35.5 points) are higher than any past MVP winner and his four assists are more than any MVP-winning big man.

Truthfully, Smith's scoring and overall dominance should land him the award, not to mention the Rockets' overall success thus far (due in large part to him). It also helps that Smith has already had a significant MVP moment (which oftentimes influences the likelihood of a player winning the award).

The real question is whether he'll continue to suit up for the remainder of the week or whether the Rockets will shut him down.

Only time will tell.