Another year, another NBA Summer League in the books. But before we pack away the Basketballs and the box containing all of the people that let Andrew Bynum walk out of his house looking like this. It's time to hand out all the really crappy plastic awards and take one more look at the past months worth of basketball to see who did what and more importantly who can I rant about for at least 500 or more words. So without further ado let us begin.
Valanciunas or bust.
For many these past 10 days have been trying to make an impression on any NBA team. For Jonas Valanciunas it's been about showing progress from last season and convincing the new GM Masai Ujiri, that he really is the building block Toronto should be building around. For those of you who are un famililar with JV's rookie season let me give you a quick summary. He averaged 8.9 points per game with a 6.0 rebounds per game and 1.3 blocks per game stat line through 62 games. Jonas suffered from minor injuries that kept him off the court and restricted his minutes per game to a mere 23.9 minutes per game. This year was JV's first year playing in Summer League and he dominated. In 4 games he posed a 18.8 PPG with a 10. R.P.G in 29 minutes of play. Watching him on the court one thing immediately stands out which is his size. At 7'0 and weighing 241lbs he looks the part of an NBA centre. Big, bulky, very hard to move of his position and excellent ability to back down defenders. It's a move he showed off countless times during the Summer league against his smaller foes. However the main areas to which we should be paying attention are his offensive repotoire and his ability to stay out of foul trouble.
Jonas like most other young big men still working on their game lives off second chance oppotunities and any other rewards that can be claimed by solid rebounding. However there is more than meets the eye when it comes to JV's game. One thing he has for him that extremely less big men seem to have is a solid shooting stroke which has translated into a 87% FT throughout the Summer League. His post game is still rather raw although he has shown some interesting little facets which I'm hoping will develop into go to moves. He obviously relies on his size and strength to basically utilize the ''jump hook em to death'' tactic. He's shown decent ability to use the spin move and running hook also but one move in particular i'm excited to see him develop is his face up pump fake drive. What he basically does is this. The ball will come to him usually on the left block. He'll turn to face his marker and hold the ball around about head height and stall it there. The next part is where it get's interesting. If he sells the jumper and get's his man up in the air the result is something along the lines of this. However when the man guarding him doesn't buy the fake he'll usually drive baseline and look to bully his way to the basket that way. Although the problem is he'll try to double back so he can try a jump hook with his stronger right hand. This is usually read like a book by the defense and all it takes is a help defender to cut him off when he cuts back and he's trapped.
This week has been a showcase for how high the ceiling is with Jonas. However there are quite a few things still left to work on. Valanciunas averaged 5.8 PFPG over the 4 games while only averaging .8 Blocks per game. This is concerning. If he can't play defense without fouling then he looses a shed load of value to the team. His presence on the floor could be equal to that of Roy Hibbert or Marc Gasol in the way they anchor their defense. But if he can't stay on the floor then he's screwed. Offensively speaking his progression has been fantastic. He's got the size and the base set of moves. If he uses that solid shooting stroke to perhaps integrate a solid mid range jumper into his stable of moves then he can really begin to cause problems especially in the pick and pop game.
But what's more is that Valanciunas(In my eyes) has a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders considering the state of the Raptors franchise. They traded a first rounder this year to Houston for Kyle Lowry who's so far not sold everybody on the idea he can be a starting point guard for this franchise. With the team in transition from one GM to the next and a team in flux the one piece they need to work out is Valanciunas. The team still has the pieces to possibly make a run at the Eastern Conference 7th or 8th seed but all things consdering would that be the wisest option considering the strength of this supposed draft class to perhaps re-adjustment and move one of their mammoth wing contracts and focus building around Valanciunas or whoever else they may pick up. Either way a lot of this franchises future hopes rest solely on this 7ft Lithuainain's shoulders.
How to pigeon hole your franchise into mediocrity for the next 3-5 years: Milwaukee Bucks edition.
Okay rant time about how bad Milwaukee's GM John Hammond has boned this franchise. Let's take a look at recent history. The Bucks decided to turn the page on the Andrew Bogut book by trading with Golden State to acqure Ekpe Udoh and Monta ''Have it All'' Ellis. And thus Satan's back court was formed. Don't get me wrong I like Brandon Jennings but don't think I forgot about his horrific ball hogging tendencies. Milwaukee form a semi competent team around the interior defensive mastery of one LARRY SANDERS! and Satan's back court. This team stumbles to 38 wins and to the 8th seed in the play offs and get swept by the Heat. So the off-season rolls around and both the contracts of Monta and Jennings run out. WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT. I've forgotted something. There was an absolute whale of a trade they made at the dealing which in my opinion was one of the biggest mess up's any GM could make which was trading a young asset for an expiring contract on a shooter/6th man for their playoff run. By the way did I mention that asset's name? Apologies. It was Tobias Harris that was traded to Orlando for J.J Reddick.
Now that we have that little clerical error out of the way let's move onto the off-season of fun and promise. Sorry my finger slipped that last word should have read fun and hilarity at laughing at Milwaukee's off-season moves. Okay so Monta goes to Dallas. Who do they get? Why the guy Monta was replacing in O.J Mayo on a 3 year deal. Like Billy Mays always said ''BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!''. They use their draft selection on Giannis Adetokoubo, two picks after Atlanta would select a point guard by the name of Dennis Schroeder(This will become more important later). Now the Bucks decide they need to fill the hole still open at point guard. They decide that instead of paying their own RFA PG in Jennings 12 million for 4 years they want to pay someone else RFA PG Jeff Teague 8 million for 4 years. Nothing against Teague he performed extremely well in his first full year of being the starting point guard but just like Jennings he's not going to drastically change the fate of this franchise and make them into a conteder in the east.
Before you think i'm going to suggest Dennis Schoeder is that player don't worry i'm not that silly. But this is the funny thing is Atlanta matched their contract and now they are stuck with paying 4 million extra to Brandon Jennings to lead them to mediocrity over the next 4 years. They are trapped in the Atlanta Hawks playoff purgatory but worse. I mean any GM worth their salt would have realised that this was the perfect chance to clean the slate and start a new and be done with Jennings. Instead they've decided to stick in purgatory and waste the gift they do have in John Henson and LARRY SANDERS! I hate seeing teams decimated like this in favour of short term ''success'' over long term growth ,stability and success. And this brings me neatly on to me next topic which is...
Why the Heat model can't work.
This idea came to me during the Dwight Howard saga when the Lakers started to immediately started to talk about their prospects regarding the free agency market. In particular their chances of landing Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. It got me thinking and also reflecting on the Miami Heat's rise to promience. Does anybody realise how screwed they are after those big 3 break up? Can you imagine the scenes in Miami after 2 years of the team being led by Norris Cole? It'll make Marlins new park look like carnival. This is why I think it's impossible to think that this way of constructing a franchise is healthy. I mean you're basically relying on yourself as salesmen more then an actual basketball team. It also gives me a chance to talk about teams like the Pacers, Warriors,Spurs and Thunder. Building through the draft and augmenting your young talent with free agency and trade acquisitions. I mean look at the Spurs as the perfect example. They drafted their star in Tim Duncan and then continually built through the draft adding Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to that core. What's more is this method allows for a continually grade of success. If you add players like Kawhi Leonard to the team by the time the old stars retire the team will still be in a semi decent shape due to the development of those young players under the veterans. It's something the Warriors have started to do more and more of. Players like Carl Landry, Jarrett Jack, David Lee and Andrew Bogut not only serve has key members of the team but act as mentors to the younger players in the squad for when their time comes to become team leaders.
On a purely organisational front the continually acquisition of young talent allows for greater versatility on a financial level. Young players on rookie contracts are hugely valued it's an aspect that makes me love OKC's and Indiana's front office so much. I'm of the mindset that greatness takes time. And building a championship team also takes time. The Heat didn't win their first year. The Lakers took 4 seasons after Shaq signed to win a title. Greatness takes time. So why shouldn't you take maybe and extra few seasons or so to make sure that your team is able to make a run a be a contender for the next 5-10 years instead of standing pat with what you have now because that's what's winning you championships. The idea that success is eternal should be completely removed from the NBA. Everything will eventually run out. As much as I hate to admit this the Lakers have built up such a reputation that they have basically become immune to this. But for teams like Dallas and Miami who are trying(in Miami's case they succeeded) to build super teams around 3 players with huge contracts it's lunacy. When the stars go away what's going to be these teams next move? I mean there's only so much money you can throw at players. Plus the recent trend in FA signings would indicate that some players are actually looking at they're career and going ''I want to win that chip at all costs''. Look at Howard and Iggy. Both turned down more money to go play for teams that had shown serious promise in terms of being able to be contenders. Of course they're will always be exceptions but it just shows the character of that player and what they truly value. Anyway mini rant aside let's more onto more important issues.
The All-Summer League 2013 Team.
Center: Andre Drummond, Detroit,15.5 PPG, 14.8 RPG, 2.5 SPG and 2.0 BPG
I know some of you are probably going ''BUT WHAT ABOUT JONAS?!?'' right now but for me anyone that puts up those kinds of numbers deserves whatever they god damm want. Not only is Drummond the best center at Summer League but he's also the winner of the inaugural Reggie Jackson Award for the Player who is too good to be at Summer League. I know it's a prestigious honour to bestow on one so young but from the first minute he stepped on the court it was obvious how far ahead of the competition he was. Supremely gifted athletically, terrific rebounder both on the offensive and defensive glass, knows his strengths when it comes to offense and has the potential to be perhaps one of the best defensive players in the NBA 3-5 years from now.
Power Forward: Thomas Robinson, Portland, 10.8 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG.
I can't speak highly enough of the play of Thomas Robinson. This guys been through the meat grinder over the past few year. He was the(and I can't stress this enough) FIFTH OVERALL PICK IN A VERY GOOD DRAFT. Let that settle. It speaks volumes that after 2 teams he finally came out and played like everybody expected him to. Crash the boards, use his great athleticism on defense and use his phenomenal energy to basically become a giant pest for the defense. My hope for Robinson is that he does stick in Portland and replace J.J Hickson and live up to the immense talent he showed in college and here at Summer League.
Small Forward: Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte, 20.3 PPG, 1.2 SPG, 47 FG%, 36% 3FG.
What's so much fun about Jeffery Taylor is not that he's completely wreck less. He's also one of the main reason I like the Bobcats going forward. He's aggressive, attacks the paint and doesn't settle for ridiculous jumpers. Hard worker on defense and if he can continue his offensive output into the regular season and he could be a real asset for the Bobcats in the future.
Shooting Guard: Ian Clark, Warriors/Heat, 12.4 PPG, 47 FG%, 48% 3FG, 1.1 SPG
Oh man this was a tough choice. Bazemore was phenonmenal, Oladipo was incredible, Jeremy Lamb pretty much won the Orlando Summer League for OKC, Ben McLemore was solid and Will Barton was under rated. But over the entire Summer league period Ian Clark spontaneously combusted. He was instant offense. For the Heat he was their go to scorer who garnered the attention of the other teams best defender and for the Warriors he was the bench scorer who's ball handling and off the dribble creativness gave Golden State an instant boost whenever their offense stagnated. And that is before we get to his 33 point performance in the Vegas Summer League Final against Phoenix where he literally could not miss a shot. It's also why he' my 2013 NBA Summer League MVP.
Point Guard: Dwight Buycks, Toronto/OKC, 23.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 54.8% FG
I'll be honest if Ian Clark hadn't played for GSW then Buycks would have been my first choice for MVP. In these games it's usually about getting buckets and nothing but buckets. But Buycks just played like every point guard should. Looking for his team mates when he should and attack and try to score when he was given the chance. He completely ran the pick and roll. His passing ability was especially fun to watch seeing as he played with Valanciunas, Daniel Orton and Steven Adams who are all talented big's. He was a fantastic finisher when he got into the lane and never settled for ridiculous jumpers. He was a game manager and a floor general who went out onto the field specifically to make his team better. Any player that does that during Summer League deserves a contract.
- Let's talk about a few other players that impressed during Summer League. Cody Zeller came into a situation where people were still PO'd that they'd passed on Noel and Alex Len who were considered better prospects. A little fact that nobody considers with Zeller is that he is the best player. Those guys are not as good as Cody Zeller. They can get better but right now Cody Zeller is the best player. He's talented offensively, solid rebounder, solid defender and phenomenal athlete. He can put the ball on the floor. Has a semi decent jumper. Good enough handle so he doesn't get flustered when the defense attempts to trap him on the perimeter. What's so appealing to me about him is that his skill set really does compliment Al ''The Black Hole'' Jefferson. He's not a ball hog. He can play off the ball and get his own scores via his work on the offensive boards. I don't know why everybody is ragging on the pick. I mean Len may have great potential but not only is the guy injured he wasn't even that great a player in college. Go look back he wasn't winning that many awards. And Noel is coming back from a serious injury and has only one year of college play underneath is belt and is an extremely raw prospect. The chances of him working out are still rather slim. Zeller is the clear choice if you want a talented big man that can play right away and be productive.
- I let you in on who I've got for my ROY pick this year. It's CJ McCollum from Portland. However after this weeks performances it's rather hard to justify this selection. I mean this guy came out of college as a insane high percentage shooter but all week all he did was jack up shots. He took 16.2 shots per game and had a 36% FG rating not to mention a 31% 3FG ratings. And with the idea that he may have spent the time dishing passes to his team mates is incorrect also. Only 3.4 Assists per game. Any idea that this guy could be Steph Curry(Oh how stupid I was) or maybe even a pseudo Damian Lillard look really misplaced on my part. He's not the small school stud guard who everyone writes off. I mean he's more Rodney Stuckey then Lillard. Listen I still like the guy but he's got to assert himself more on the game.
- While we are talking about Portland let's talk about two different players in Will Barton and Meyers Leonard. After watching all the uber talented bigs in Summer League Meyers Leonard appears like one of the most disappointing. Let's look at the tale of the tape. He's a 7'1 250lbs center that didn't show any real willingness to establish himself down low. He's incredibly annoying because you feel he could and should be doing so much more then what he's currently doing. But sometimes you're not even sure if he's on the floor. He's even suffering from what Andre Drummond used to do which was do things that he wasn't good at. I mean he was trying pick and pop jump shots and poor hook shots. I really like him due to his size and the fact the potential of him and Aldridge is actually awesome to think about. But someone needs to get a hold of him and tell him he needs to do. Which is hit the boards, become a defensive anchor and when needed use his size to score down low. The other player who I was looking forward to talk about was Will Barton who established himself as a real talent. He's an uber athletic wingman with a solid handle and good range on his shot and he's fantastic on the perimeter that's to his length and athleticism. He's a great at penetrating and a solid finisher at the rim. He's a good ball handler too. He offers a great off the bounce versatility and creativity. He was the one bright spark from an otherwise disappointing week of watching the Trailblazers play. Hopefully he starts to get's some minutes this season behind Wesley Matthews at the 2 or at the 3 in a small ball lineup.
- Jack Cooley is someone who i'm rather interested to see where he lands. A 6'9 PF out of Notre Dame reminds me a little bit of David Lee in that he's a high energy rebounder and scorer who loves to work in the paint. He's also shown a better ability on defense especially in the shoot blocking department.
- On the Kings duo of Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore it was an interesting back court to watch. I still love McLemore's game but for someone who compared himself to Ray Allen during the pre-draft process shooting less than 20% from the 3 point line and only 33% from the field. The promising part came from his continued improvement as the week progressed, one which culminated with a 18 point quarter against Atlanta. One slightly alarming thing I did noticed is that he had no assists at all over his 5 games. Either everyone he was passing to missed or once the ball go to him it didn't get into anyone else's hands until he got a shot off. Ray McCallum on the other hand had a rather impressive week. McCallum impressed with his terrific off ball defense coming up with multiple steals showed a great ability to read a defense and make correct decisions. He didn't settle for many jump shots choosing instead to drive and dish and when proved more then a few times he was a capable finisher. Considering the complete and utter mess that is the Sacramento Kings back court it isn't crazy to think McCallum might actually see some time at point guard this season.
- Torrid weak for Tony Wroten. The second year Memphis guard couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat. That accurately describes his phenomenally un-accurate shooting. 25% from the field and 16% from 3FG. Apart from being a horrific shooter(I feel like I can't stress this enough) Wroten acquitted himself rather well over the week. He showed good potential an offensive instigator that acts as a secondary ball handler to Mike Conley and provides an offense spark for a bench that was in desperate need of some help last season
Honourable Mentions for Players who had good weeks in Vegas:
The Morris Twins(Old Schooled PF and SF combo who can do it all), Archie Goodwin(Crazy Shooter), John Henson(MY DRAFT CRUSH! He showed improved touch around the rim and dominated the boards. He and Larry Sanders should make a scary partnership. So expect him to be out of Milwaukee for an expiring contract by the new year.), Dennis Schroeder and Lucas Nogeria(Rondo doppleganger and insanely productive big man that could become the new anchor for the Hawks in a few years), Reggie Bullock(It's beyond scary how good a 3pt shooting team the Clippers are now. This guy may be the pick of the bunch), Tony Mitchell(The Detroit Tony Mitchell made a devastating defensive combo with Andre Drummond. Think smaller version of Perry Jones), Tim Hardaway Jr(Really impressive wing who showed a little bit of everything
Hoped you enjoyed the post. I'm sure I'll find something to aimlessly talk about during the season or over the next few weeks. Later.