I attended the SL games yesterday, and I feel like sharing my thoughts on what I saw, Warriors-related and otherwise. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: this is all anecdotal. When you're in the arena, you're watching the games a lot of the time, but you're also distracted often by Paul Millsap sitting three seats to your left, or that cute girl working for NBATV who keeps walking by, or whatever else. The following is what stood out to me from the stretches where I was actually paying attention.
Let’s start with the Warriors. Harrison Barnes was really aggressive looking for his shot. Whether the shots were made or missed is somewhat irrelevant in a sample size of one Summer League game. More important were the athleticism and mindset Harrison put on display. Over the course of a season, the shots will either fall consistently or they won’t. But how Harrison generated the shots was very encouraging.
Klay Thompson looked good on defense. He moved laterally very well, and his hands were active. Both were issues for him last year imo. He made a legitimate impact defensively. Granted, it’s only summer league competition, but playing with the Olympic team may have had a nice impact on his game. Obviously, his offense isn’t a question. He really didn’t belong on the court with these guys in that respect.
Speaking of defense, Festus Ezeli was a beast. He really took up space and used his body well. This Warriors summer league team is pretty damn small as a group, but when Festus is out there, it’s not an issue at all. Let’s hope he gets to use his skills for the real Warriors this year.
There were stretches of this game where the Warriors’ rebounding was as bad as Warriors fans should be used to. This is where Draymond Green really had an impact. I know certain people on this board like to hate on the term "toughness" for not being a precise construct that leads to team success, but it’s exactly what Draymond provided. He grabbed some boards, but also valuable was his willingness to wrestle with the Lakers’ players for position. It didn’t always translate to rebounds ending up in Draymond’s hands, but it made an impact. Combined with his ability to step in and draw a couple charges, as well as generally physical defense, I can’t think of a better word than "toughness" for what he provided last night.
I kept waiting for Chris Wright to do something stupid with his athleticism. It seemed like every game last year, he had a moment where he amazed the crowd with a huge dunk or something. He almost connected on an alley-oop in the fourth quarter, but alas, it never happened. Oh well. I'm hearing he won't continue with the Warriors from this point forward. Best of luck to him as he tries to make it in the League.
David Lee and Jarrett Jack were both looking good sitting sideline in Warriors attire. Both seemed happy to be there, happy to talk to fans and reporters, and David even signed the Lee jersey I was wearing. Cool dudes.
Lastly, as much as I hate to admit it, it felt great to watch our team dismantle players wearing Laker jerseys.
And the other teams:
The Hawks and Wizards were up first, and the first thing I noticed was that I had actually heard of every starter for the Wizards. Must be a pretty good SL team, right? (They ended up getting blown out, lol.) Brad Beal showed his skills, but didn't take the game over in any way. Jan Vesely was clearly one of the most talented players on the court, but didn't seem to take the game too seriously. He was not locked in mentally, and it showed. John Jenkins of the Hawks really showed his shooting ability (no surprise there--he was obviously one of the best shooters, if not the best, in the entire draft).
Rockets-Raptors up next. Within the first two minutes of the game, Royce White showed his passing ability. Some players just understand where their teammates are on the court and how to get the ball to them. He was the only "special" passer I saw all day, whatever that means. If his other skills can develop over the next couple years, he could be an x-factor in this league.
Speaking of the Rockets, Donatas Motiejunas is elite. Very, very polished in the post. He just looked like a pro out there. It seems risky for him to come over this year with the Rockets’ depth at PF, unless he somehow knew they were gonna amnesty Luis Scola. I’m thinking they must have promised him some minutes because otherwise that’s just a bad decision. But regardless, the kid can play. He has a great looking jumper too. He made a couple threes, but (more importantly imo) his form looks really solid.
Terrence Jones is a physical beast, he looked huge out there. If he has the skills and quickness to handle himself at the wing, he will really be something to watch. Unfortunately, for most of the game he seemed to struggle to use his physical gifts to get himself good shots. If he struggles with that against SL-level competition, that’s not a good sign. But perhaps he will develop. (Also, I was sitting next to a member of the Rockets’ coaching staff for a bit, and he said they weren’t positive yet that he’s going to play on the wing for them, but they’re gonna let him give it a shot. Take that for what it’s worth.)
Guys like the Wizards’ Shelvin Mack, the Hawks’ John Jenkins, and the Raptors’ Devoe Joseph are good players, but I’m not sure their bodies will allow their skills to translate to bigger, longer, faster competition.
Lastly, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in transition, wow. He simply refused to play at the pace everybody else was playing at. We’re all aware of his imperfections as a player, but there is a hunger about his play that is undeniable. The word ruthless comes to mind watching him play and compete. NBA, get ready.