Summer League Scout: Blazers/Bayless Envy

I wanted to write a game-by-game account of scouting notes from today (Thursday 7/17), but stop the presses. I just got back from Day 7 of the 2008 NBA Summer League in Vegas and, as a Warrior victim of the Baron Davis departure, there is no question we should all be envious of our fellow Western mates, the Portland Trailblazers. Today, I saw one man dominate his offense and display pretty impressive fundamental defensive skills. My friends, drop what you are doing. His name is Jerryd Bayless and *gulp*, he's only 19 years old (he'll be 20 on August 20th).

I'm an avid reader of TrueHoop and on Wednesday, sure enough, Maurice Brooks wrote that halfway through the Summer League, his pick for MVP would be Bayless:

In both of the games he has played, he has been the best player on the court and it hasn't been close. Using his speed and exceptional handle to set up defenders, the combo guard has made a living at the charity stripe...

Well, make that three games now where he's been the best player (by far for the third). I sort of glanced over those accolades on TrueHoop yesterday. After all, remembering the NBA Draft, I didn't really recall the ESPN crew going ga-ga over this guy. Even at #11 overall, there were three other point guards picked ahead of him (Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and DJ Augustin). During warmups, I totally forgot about this guy, instead preparing myself to focus on Kevin Love, Cory Brewer, and maybe even Petteri Koponen (who has been mentioned a few times on Blazers-tilted TrueHoop). For real, by late first quarter, I had to stop zoning in on anybody else except Bayless. He's that fun to watch. Thus, no Love report here, sorry!

Oh boy, do the Warriors have their work cut out for them in this Pacific division Conference. We all knew Portland had young talent, but adding Bayless to that existing stack is basically unfair.

The first thing I noticed about Bayless is that he's a rock. He's ripped up top and has an unfaze-able demeanor, confident and steady -- pretty extraordinary for a teenager. He seems accurately listed at 6'3" 200 lbs.

The second thing I noticed was that he loves contact. If you watch enough (bad) Summer League games, you notice how guys tend to prove their mettle by hitting jumpers and facing up, trying to get open on the perimeter. Take, for example, the Pistons-Mavericks game, which I will detail in a separate post. That game was the epitome of "I don't like contact". Fellas, this is the NBA: No Boys Allowed. You better want the contact at some point, otherwise the most you can be is a filler. If you want to have an impact on the final score, you better absorb collisions, pick yourself up, and go to the free throw line.

Bayless has no problem doing that. Absolutely remarkable for someone that young. Also, I noticed that his feet were kinda big. Might that suggest he has another inch or two to grow? Yikes. Here are some more notes I took pertaining to Bayless. Basically, the kid is NBA-ready and then some...

  • He has great lateral movement on defense. It's almost textbook. He is a complete player, eons ahead of the typical Summer Leaguer that will make his team's regular season roster.
  • He even drew a charge on Love.
  • On a fastbreak, he had between him and the basket the spidery Cory Brewer, with two teammates coming up behind for a potential 3-on-1. It might have been difficult to execute a 3-on-1 in this case because the other 2 teammates were trailing a bit further than ideal, like Bayless was at about the three-point line when his two mates had only crossed halfcourt. Well, you either slow down and do the 3-on-1 or you take it strong a la Monta Ellis with the two trailing in case you miss. Man, Bayless was smooth. Right over an outstretched C-Brew. Nothing C-Brew could've done and it was pretty good defense given the circumstances.
  • Unlike the forthcoming bomb I will write on Arron Afflalo (and thus denounce what TrueHoop's "guru" David Thorpe has to say), Bayless comes off screens tight. He's definitely open by the time he comes around a screen off-ball.
  • He executes the high pick-and-roll in a textbook manner, coming off the big man with his shoulder, with no space for the defender to cheat. Someone close to Bayless needs to be given a pat on the back. Lute Olson and the Arizona coaching staff? His high school coach? His dad? Who taught him all this?
  • He can do a floater with either hand.
  • He's a natural-born leader. After a Timberwolves run capped by a Koponen (let's give him the nickname "PK") turnover on a penetration in which PK actually got fouled (he didn't complain, though, because it was a risky move to the tin), which then ended in free throws for the Timberwolves on the ensuing fast break, Bayless called the team to huddle and regroup. Again, very remarkable for a 19-year-old.
  • He can hit midrange jumpshots, but he's kind of got the "Monta" problem. He's so good at getting to the rim, that he doesn't really need that midrange right now, nor does he need the three-pointer. However, he will need to work on the three-pointer. He'll be fine for the break-in years, but as he starts getting into his prime (wow, I don't think I've ever forecasted that far for any Summer League player), he may need to lessen the pounding and make his perimeter game more lethal. Still, I'll bet you tons of veteran NBA players would kill to have what Bayless already has this early.
  • PK calls him "Ryd".

Finally, remarkable plays seem to follow remarkable players. Here are three more of note...

  • On one offensive halfcourt sequence, Bayless finds himself alone on the weakside, three-point area, free-throw line extended or a bit lower. I think it was PK who got him the ball off dribble penetration. Now, Bayless has the ball all alone at the three-point line and I'm thinking, he's not shooting that and, well, he doesn't (remember, the trey is not in his repertoire right now). The defense lunges out and he easily bursts pasts the guy, going baseline, but before anybody else on the Timberwolves can get to that side of the floor, Bayless slams it home with a tomahawk that made it seem like his elbow was above the rim. Holy smokes. He's only 6'3".
  • On yet another attack of the rim, Pops Mensa-Bonsu meets him at the apex of Bayless's throwdown and the ball goes the other way for a Minnesota fastbreak. Someone on the Timberwolves finally got him! Of course, out of all the possible Timberwolves, it could only have been NBA shotblock-proven Pops. As PK dribbles the ball down the next sequence, Bayless and Pops exchange smiles.
  • Near the end of the half with about 4 seconds remaining, with the Blazers on defense and Bayless helping the strongside on a dribble drive baseline right, the Timberwolves find guard Blake Ahearn alone beyond the arc on the left side, free-throw line extended. However, the pass is short-hopped and forces Ahern to lunge and get it. Ahern does retrieve it but with his momentum fading toward the sideline. With Bayless rapidly closing the gap, Ahern fires up a desperation fall-away 25-footer from the corner -- only to have it blocked by Bayless, then retrieved inbounds by Bayless, complete with a three-quarter-court heave by Bayless! He doesn't miss the 70-footer by much. Who else in Summer League can pull off a play like that? Maybe OJ Mayo?

Whew. Let's return to our regularly scheduled program. Here are some other observations that game...

  • PK's not a bad ballhandler or penetrator, with his hesitation moves and ability to spin, however, coach Monty Williams did have to remind PK to drive after missing an open jumper early in the game.
  • There was a big contingent of Portland fans at the game. Granted, the Blazers lost the game, but as I have written about Summer League before, who cares? Sometimes a dominant player can still lose a game because of his teammates' inabilities to fill in the proverbial blanks. Not to mention Summer League team defense is a crap-shoot. Although thankfully neither team employed a zone or otherwise "junk" defense, I will write elsewhere why it's stupid to play anything but man-to-man or fullcourt press in Summer League (shame on you, Dallas).
  • Portland's 6'11" 275-lb Aleks Maric looks like a huge Ben Stiller. I kid you not.
  • Someone just walked by with a "Boom Tho" comic-book-inspired-looking Rod Benson t-shirt promoting his blogsite on the back.
  • Cory Brewer is still skinny as a rail. I swear, his legs can have no larger diameter than yours or mine. Again, I kid you not.
  • A Minnesota power foward whose last name is Smith (he's not listed in the program guide's roster) lost his shoe while setting a high pick, then on the way back in transition on defense, picked it up and tossed it to the sideline. I haven't figured out why he did that. Luckily, there was a quick stoppage of play and he recovered his shoe, but that got me wondering. Is there a rule in the NBA where you cannot use your shoe for defense? What's the penalty if there is? Can you plead ignorance? Because, quite frankly, he could or should have held onto the shoe while playing defense. Turn your situation into an advantage, Mr. Smith, not a disadvantage!
  • Pooh Jeter's name is pronounced "jetter", not "jeeter". Guess we know he is not related to Derek.
  • On a disputed non-goal-tending call, Portland coach Monty Williams got a bit riled up at the refs and Maurice Lucas had to calm him down a little, giving him a "remember the big picture" love tap from two seats over. Let me take the opportunity to say that I'm tired of seeing Summer League coaches bitch and whine about calls. Especially in the 4th quarter with under a minute and no chance of winning the game (hello, Denver Nuggets?). It can only potentially perpetuate and justify frustration at the refs throughout your team, starting with your assistant coaches, then domino-ing down the bench to your players. Move on and focus your energy towards things that are under your control. I realize this is hard to do in meaningful NBA late-season regular season games, but this is inexcusable in Summer League. Summer League is for development, not winning.
  • Can someone put JR Pinnock on the right Summer League team? Last year, I think he was on the Wizards in which the spotlight was on Nick Young. This year, he's on a deep Blazers squad and hardly getting the playing time he deserves, especially if you consider some of the woeful 2's on other Summer League teams (take the Clippers, Spurs, or Hornets, for example). When Pinnock came in for the Blazers, the 6'5" 207-lb guard had a near-one-handed putback dunk, as well as a dribble-drive penetration that cut up the defense for an and-one. He's got handles which was evidenced by going coast-to-coast. He can stop and pop. He seems more confident this year than last. In fact, I'd take him over Afflalo.

This was easily the most enjoyable game to watch in my two brief annual treks to observe Summer League, but it's so much more fun just talking about Bayless.

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!

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