Las Vegas Summer League Review
This is a LONG post so get out your popcorn and let's begin.
(Disclaimer: As a fervent student of statistics, I realize the folly of using small sample sizes to infer the outcome of future events, but it's all I have to work with. These are just my impressions from what I saw, with my focus more on strengths, weaknesses and abilities, rather than the statistics and won / loss.)
(All statistics per game)
Anthony Randolph - 26.8 pts, 8.5 rebs, 1.3 asts, 2.2 stls, 3 blks, 3 tos, 61% FG, 74% FT, 33 mins, 4 games total
After starting out slow and showing the Randolph of old in flashes of the first game, he played the rest of summer league like he had something to prove and finally put it all together for a stretch, culminating in his dominating 42 point performance to momentarily grab the summer league scoring record. To my golden-tinged eyes he was clearly the best player in summer league (definitely not Blake Griffin) and it was enough to impress the Team USA committee to get him an invite for the scrimmages taking place later on this week.
Offensively, he was hitting his 20 foot elbow jumper with a lot more consistency, but more impressively he was slashing to the hoop constantly and getting to the line at a tremendous rate. He needs to work on his balance a bit, but if he can keep up his aggressive attacks and continue to work on extending his range, he will definitely be a force to recon with in the coming seasons.
Defensively, AR was more active than I have ever seen him, blocking shots, coming up with steals on the perimeter and pulling down rebound after rebound (except for the last game.) He was aggressive throughout, but I was really impressed that over the course of the four games, he was able to control himself from falling for the pump fakes that caused him so much foul trouble in the regular season.
He started to show some flashes of leadership, as he kept encouraging Curry, despite his shooting woes. He worked with Curry on positioning and running sets together and over the course of the four games, they built up some synergy and started working well together (the fast break they ran when Curry threw the off the backboard alley-oop to Randolph was ridiculous.)
Projection: I think AR will be a major contributor this year and I see him as option #2 behind Monta on offense. He's more efficient than SJax and much more versatile than Biedrins. He needs to continue to play under control and he will need to retain his assertiveness when he's playing alongside the likes of Monta and SJax and not just defer to them and take a back seat. He really needs to make his mark on the team defensively and on the boards though. I'm not into projecting stats, so I'll leave that to someone else.
Anthony Morrow - 24.7 pts, 4.7 rebs, 0.3 asts, 0.7 stls, 3.33 tos, 61% FG, 50% 3PT, 100% FT, 36 mins, 3 games total
Morrow missed the first two games due a mild sprained ankle, but once he returned he was no worse for wear. He started off summer league the same way he ended the regular season, shooting the lights out. He ended the summer league with a record breaking 47 points and a standing ovation.
AM too was assertive, more so than I had ever seen him before. He was much more consistent with his step back jumper and pull up jumper off the dribble than he was during the regular season. He also took it to the hoop a little more than before and even showed a little bit of a post up game when he had smaller defenders like Collison on him. He still needs a lot of work on his ball handling and needs to make pass / shoot decisions quicker, as he tends to get trapped a lot and consequently turns the ball over.
Defensively, the effort was there, but his lateral quickness still isn't up to par, even against the lowly competition of summer league. He could stand to work on some agility drills to help cut off dribble penetration. He has added on some muscle, but he could use a little more to prevent the bigger SG's from posting him up.
Projection: I see Morrow being a 20 - 30 min / game guy coming off the bench and providing offense. His minutes will come at the expense of Bellinelli and Kaz, but he's making strides in his offensive game and he should continue to improve with more playing time.
Stephen Curry - 17.4 pts, 4.6 rebs, 4.2 asts, 2.4 stls, 0.4 blks, 3.6 tos, 33% FG, 35% 3PT, 89% FT, 34mins, 5 games total
The only really disappointing part about his game was the fact that he shot so poorly from the field. He's getting labeled by the MSM as a "gunner", but if you actually watched the games, you would see that he's not taking bad shots (I can count the number of bad shots he took on one hand.) The form on his shot is great, his release is quick and his history shows that he's a great shooter, so I'm not too worried about this 5 game stretch. He was really impressive with the ability to get himself and others open shots, now he just needs to knock them down with consistency.
He did a great deal to impress me with his ball handling, court vision, passing, on-ball defense, and transition defense. Admittedly, I didn't watch much of him this past year at Davidson (after watching him a ton during his sophomore season), so I was pleasantly surprised with his growth in all of those areas, transforming himself from a shooter to a playmaker. The majority of his turnovers were from miscommunications with his teammates, rather than careless turnovers.
Curry really impressed me with his transition game. He was relentlessly pushing the ball up court on both misses and dead balls and was spectacular at making outlet passes to get easy buckets for his teammates. Curry was even better defensively, always balancing the floor and sprinting back to stop fast breaks for the other team, often being the only defending the hoop.
The areas Steph needs to work on are hitting his jumper off the dribble and creating off isolation situations in the late quarter / late game situations. He needs to work on creating contact a little better off his drives and finishing the play while absorbing the contact. He was able to get into the lane surprisingly well, but he towards the last couple of games, he wasn't able to successfully finish off the drives.
I would have liked to see him be a little more assertive at times directing the team, but I understand that he was deferring to AR and Morrow, who were the defacto leaders of the team. If he wants to get significant burn at the PG position this coming season, he's got to work on being assertive even though he'll be playing with veterans and guys that have all been in the league longer than he has. As a point guard, he's going to have to get the ball in the right spot for the team and sometimes that means SJax doesn't get the ball on the break to put up a three that makes us all groan. He needs to be assertive enough that he's not intimidated by the other veterans and is able to do the right thing at the right time.
The reasons I'm so high on Steph are because of his high basketball IQ and his great work ethic. He went from being a kid who only received one D-1 scholarship offer (from tiny Davidson), and worked himself into a lottery pick in three years time. He improved his game significantly over those three years, adding more and more skills to his repertoire. Now that basketball is his full time job, he should improve his game even more and hopefully he will continue working out with AR and AM and grow the chemistry that was budding during the summer league.
Projection: Don't be surprised if Curry gets the starting nod sooner rather than later. I'm guessing that Nelson brings him along slowly and works him into the rotation, with Curry getting a chance start somewhere around December / January (more on this in a future post.)
Acie Law - 5.2 pts, 1 rebs, 2.8 asts, 0.6 stls, 1.4 tos, 46% FG, 89% FT, 17 mins, 5 games total
He was utterly unimpressive to both the coaching staff and myself, as after getting 32 minutes in the first game, he only sniffed the court when Curry was getting his breather. He has decent court vision and above average ball handling, but his lack of confidence caused him to disappear from games completely.
One of my main complaints with Acie Law is that he seems to dribble without a purpose or a clear plan of attack. Dribbling the ball is a means to an end, getting yourself an open shot or creating an open shot for your teammate. Too many times I saw Acie Law dribble the ball around aimlessly and do neither. You don't get points for dribbling the basketball. If you did, Jamal Crawford would lead the league in scoring and would be an All-Star.
Projection: I don't see Law cracking the rotation with the return of Ellis and the emergence / growth of Curry. Expect him to either get traded (if the Dubs are in the playoff hunt) to add another weapon before the trade deadline or just let his contract expire at the end of the year.
Jermareo Davidson - 2 pts, 2.2 rebs, 0.4 asts, 33% FG, 50% FT, 10 mins, 5 games total
It was really hard to gauge his game because he was totally out of shape and had no lift at all when he jumped. He looked awful, but I'm going to attribute a lot of it to the injury.
Projection: He has a partially guaranteed contract for the coming year, but I'll be surprised if he makes the final roster cut. Riley has been saying he wants veteran beef and just about any veteran will probably be ahead of JD.
Cartier Martin - 19.7 pts, 4.3 rebs, 0 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.7 blks, 2 tos, 44% FG, 25% 3PT, 80% FT, 29 mins, 3 games total
Martin started off the summer league season strong and was only slowed down by a shoulder injury that held him out of the final two games. He played tenacious and scrappy defense and drew his fair share of charges. He did a good job driving the ball to the hoop and getting to the line when he struggled with his outside shot. One area he really needs to work on is his rebounding, as it's subpar if he wants to play the 3 in the NBA.
Projection: He has the best shot of any of the undrafted players to make camp, but with the Warriors already with 13 players on the roster (not including JD's partially guaranteed contract) and Riley looking for his beef guy, I don't see it being with the Dubs. I think he did enough during summer league to warrant a team taking a shot on him, I just don't think there's enough room for him on the Warriors unless they do make a 4 - 1 type trade like the one bandied about for Stoudamire.
Joe Ingles - 3.2 pts, 4.2 rebs, 1.2 asts, 0.2 stls, 1.6 tos, 20% FG, 25% 3PT, 0% FT, 26 mins, 5 games total
I applaud his effort, but his production just didn't cut it. I was expecting a lot from him based on what I had heard of him and came away really disappointed with his play. His offensive game is like Troy Murphy, but with bad three point shooting and no rebounding (so draw your own conclusions.)
Projection: I don't think he caught the eye of anyone here in Vegas and I doubt he gets a camp invite anywhere. He'll probably end up playing somewhere in Europe or back in his home of Australia.
I'll be beyond shocked if anyone else on the summer league roster gets a camp invite.
The Golden Dubbies
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Golden Dubbies in which I discuss what I felt like were the best and worst of summer league. Outside of the Dubs, I really only got to see guys perform 2 -3 times, so this part is more for fun than anything else. I've named the awards after past / present Dubs for the sake of posterity (it being a GSW blog and all.) I'm focusing on the rookies, since most know what the second year guys have to offer.
The Monta Ellis award (Most surprising / biggest steal of the draft)
Rodrigue Beaubois - 17 pts, 3.4 rebs, 3.8 asts, 1.4 stls, 0.2 blks, 3.6 tos, 48% FG, 42% 3PT, 67% FT, 26 mins, 5 games total
I knew next to nothing of Beaubois coming into summer league, other than that he was from Guadalupe and was discovered by former Dub MP2. The best way I know how to describe his game is this: Imagine if Anthony Randolph had a mini-me. That would be Roddy. His game is so raw right now, but if he is able to put it all together, he could some day become an all-star.
He has a pretty decent three-point stroke, although he did put up way too many "heat check" shots for my liking. He was able to get to the rim quite a bit, with a striking amount of quickness and speed. Despite his size (he's barely 6 ft and 170ish lbs.) he was able to finish at the rim over much bigger players. He has quite a bit of length for his size and he has tremendous athleticism (showing off his dunking repertoire in warm-ups.)
One concern I have with him is my perception of his attitude. He seems to think he's much better than he actually is. If he can learn a little humility and learn the intricacies of being a point guard from one of the GOAT's, in Jason Kidd, he could be a star. If he doesn't, he could end up the next Gerald Green.
The Corey Maggette award (Best scorer / Black hole)
Tyreke Evans - 19.2 pts, 6.2 rebs, 4.2 asts, 1 stls, 0.2 blks, 4.2 tos, 40% FG, 29% 3PT, 78% FT, 30 mins, 5 games total
Tyreke was a beast at getting to the rim and either finishing with contact or going to the line. If you took DWade, took away his midrange / 3 pt game and added a few inches and pounds, then you'd have the 2009 version of Tyreke Evans. His jumpshot needs a lot of work, or you're going to see defenders sag off him and dare him to shoot (like how Joe Ingles attempted to defend him.)
His defense was nonexistent in the games that I watched (the first three they played.) He didn't show much effort at that end of the court. However, he is a great rebounder for his position (if you consider point guard his position.)
I'm still skeptical that he can be effective running a team, as he doesn't have a very high basketball IQ, nor does he have very good court vision. He still turns the ball over way too much, and his turnovers are more of the careless variety than some of the other PG's in this class. I don't think he's ready to start at PG just yet, I think he's more suited to the Jason Terry / JR Smith role of coming off the bench to put up points.
The Anthony Morrow award (Best shooter)
Chase Buddinger - 17.8 pts, 2 rebs, 0.8 asts, 1 stls, 1.4 tos, 68% FG, 73% 3PT, 94% FT, 22 mins, 5 games total
I'm a little surprised that Chase didn't get more playing time considering how well he was playing. His jump shot was the nicest shot in summer league, by anyone not named Anthony Morrow. He is so athletic and such a great leaper that the release point on his jumper is so high that it's nearly impossible to block and / or get a hand in his face to contest.
He's able to create his own shot and was great coming off of screens. He even showed off his ball handling in a few games when they played him at point forward. With all of the injuries / uncertainty surrounding Houston, I'm fairly confident he'll make the team and be able to contribute right away. He gives Houston some offense at the 2/3 position, because right now they have Shane Battier / Trevor Ariza, both of whom are top-notch defenders, but on offense they are mainly spot-up jumpshooters and can't create their own shot.
The Baron Davis award (Best playmaker)
Brandon Jennings - 14.6 pts, 2.6 rebs, 8.2 asts, 3.6 stls, 0.2 blks, 4.2 tos, 38% FG, 43% 3PT, 79% FT, 32 mins, 5 games total
I was excited to watch Jennings play, as I was on the draft Jennings bandwagon, up until Curry fell into our laps. He was definitely the flashiest player on the court, and he seemed to be the most interested in getting his teammates involved. His court vision is excellent and he seemed to build up a strong chemistry with their second round pick Jodie Meeks. He does tend to go for the spectacular over the simple play a little too much right now, which upped his turnovers.
His jumpshot isn't quite as awkward as Evan's jumpshot, but he does need a lot of work on his mechanics. From what I've seen, he needs to learn to jump straight up in air and square up his body to the basket to become more consistent. Right now he tends to fade left/right/back unnecessarily (although I did watch him drain a three in Evan's grill with under 5 secs left in their matchup to seal the game for the Bucks.)
Defensively, he was surprisingly good. Again, he goes a little too much for the spectacular play, which led to a high steal total (18), but also led to his man blowing by him and getting to the rim when he missed. If he can learn to be a little more sound and not gambling so much, he could actually be a decent defender.
He seems to be the antithesis of Scot Skiles though and I'm not sure how they'll get along. If he's able to absorb what Skiles is trying to teach him and stop gambling so much (both with his passes and his defense) he could be a solid performer in the league. His attitude is a huge concern though as he's already shown bouts of immaturity (tripping Jason Thompson in game, the Joe Budden youtube gaffes) which makes it hard to root for him.
The Stephen Jackson award (Best floor leader - I understand the mockworthiness of this naming, but I didn't want to give an award for most TO's or PUJIT 3's)
Jonny Flynn - 15 pts, 2.4 rebs, 7.4 asts, 0.8 stls, 5.2 tos, 48% FG, 59% 3PT, 91% FT, 28 mins, 5 games total
From the moment Jonny Flynn walks onto the court, you can tell this kid was born to be a leader. He was also the first player I've seen that not only shook hands with the players before tip-off but also every single ref. He was calling out plays, directing traffic and by far the most vocal player I saw during summer league.
He was able to find teammates in the right spot and generally did a fantastic job running the team. He did a surprisingly good job with his jumpshot as well. He did well getting to the line, but he could have done a slightly better job finishing in the lane.
His defense however, was a big disappointment, as he was touted as being one of the better defenders in the pre-draft workouts. In one of the games I watched, Darren Collison absolutely abused Flynn on defense, blowing by him at will and racking up 14 points in the first quarter. Had it not been for a foot injury that knocked Collison out of the game before halftime, Anthony Morrow may have had to sweat out his new record being broken. To compare, Stephen Curry held Collison to 14 points for the entire game (on 14 shots) all of it done with Atchley and Prowell backing him up and defending the paint. Flynn has the tools to be a good defender, he's strong and athletic and he seems to be trying, but it's just not there yet. He was also quite lax on floor balance, letting the Hornets leak out on fast breaks all game long.
I would be much higher on Flynn if not for the situation in Minnesota right now. With the whole Rubio deal still up in the air and the fact that they still don't have a coach, it's hard for me to say what kind of impact he'll have on the team. If Rubio does come over this year, I don't see how the two of them compliment each other. Flynn has a better outside shot, but both need the ball in their hands to be effective. Both are born leaders and that's one of their major selling points. Both of them on the court at the same time could have the same effect of having too many cooks in the kitchen. Only time will tell how everything plays out there, but Flynn has done a lot to impress me.
The Tim Hardaway award (Best ballhandler)
Ty Lawson - 17.2 pts, 4.0 rebs, 3.8 asts, 1.2 stls, 2.2 tos, 45% FG, 50% 3PT, 85% FT, 31 mins, 5 games total
Speed kills and Ty Lawson has plenty of it. He may not be the biggest, or the most athletic point guard out of this class, but he's a proven winner and he plays under control more than any other rookie PG I saw in summer league. You'd think with his propensity to push the ball in transition that he'd rack up more turnovers than the other point guards who walk the ball up the court, but he's such a good ball handler and plays with such good pace that he managed one of the lowest TO numbers for a PG.
He seemed to start off slow in summer league, but really came into his own in the last three games. He didn't have much to work with as far as teammates (although GSW's second rounder last year, Richard Hendrix was on the team) and that affected his assist numbers. I think after the first couple of games, he decided to take matters into his own hands and his scoring increased, while still maintaining his efficiency.
He's in a good situation playing behind Billups and being brought along slowly. He'll get to learn and still get decent playing time on a solid contender.
The Latrell Sprewell award (Best Perimeter / On-Ball defender)
(Homerism alert!) This one was a close call for me and the winner was a huge surprise for me. It came down to Steph and Toney Douglas. Steph comes out with a slight advantage for me based on his transition defense. They both played against three of the same teams, but those teams didn't really have many perimeter threats (outside of Tyreke who wasn't guarded by Curry.) Steph averaged slightly more steals and played the passing lane a little better. He did a good job of containing dribble penetration and fighting through screens. Curry held Darren Collison to his lowest output of the summer league and was the only one to really frustrate and slow down Collison, outside of a foot injury he suffered against the Wolves.
The Ronny Turiaf award (Best Interior defender - I know, I'm stretching things here)
Jeff Pendergraph - 10.8 pts, 7.6 rebs, 0.6 asts, 0.8 stls, 1.2 blks, 2 tos, 55% FG, 86% FT, 28 mins, 5 games total
This one might have been the toughest of all to pick, but not because of the reason that I struggled picking the perimeter defender award. This one was so difficult because none of the rookie bigs stood out defensively at all. I went with Pendgraph, because he did a fairly decent job manning the 5 spot for the Blazers summer league squad, even though he's a natural 4. He did an adequate job rebounding the ball and managed to get a little more than 1 block per game protecting the rim. He utilized his strength, balance and positioning to push people out of the paint and snag his fair share of rebounds.
The Andris Biedrins award (Best rebounder)
Blake Griffin - 19.2 pts, 10.8 rebs, 3.2 asts, 1.0 stl, 0.4 blks, 4.2 tos, 50% FG, 14% 3PT, 46% FT, 35 mins, 5 games total
Unlike the media and NBA big wigs that watched summer league, I'm not drinking the Blake Griffin kool-aid just yet. There are a number of things that he does very well and rebounding is one of them. He gets off the floor with extreme quickness and can bang with the best of the bigs. He's as strong as advertised (I watched him push Thabeet out of the lane on transition switches) and he seems to be making a concerted effort to be a more vocal leader on the court.
He runs the court superbly and scored the majority of his points (at least the games I watched) off of transition opportunities. There were even a few times where he would grab the board, outlet to a guard and sprint back down court to beat his man down and throw down an alley-oop.
His passing is also better than I expected, catching Mike Taylor a few times on the baseline under the hoop on back cuts. He passed out of the double team quite well when it came. He did tend to over dribble at times and since ball handling isn't exactly his strong suit, he ended up turning the ball over quite a few times trying to make moves off the dribble.
That being said, his half court game is in need of quite a bit of work. He really only has half of a post move (I say half because it's not very effective since everyone knows it's what he's gonna do) where he does a spin back jumper. Anyone that gets blocked three times in the same game by Greg Steimsma has a lot of work to do. Right now offensively he is fairly comparable to Dwight Howard, in that everything that isn't a dunk or two feet from the hoop doesn't have much of a chance of going in. I know he's been working on his jumper and adding range to his game (he did hit a three in one game) but he should concentrate on 10 - 12 ft and in for now and of course his free throw shooting, because right now Biedrins is better at both and that's not saying much.
Hasheem Thabeet - 8.2 pts, 4.6 rebs, 0.4 asts, 0.2 stls, 0.8 blks, 2 tos, 45% FG, 72% FT, 25 mins, 5 games total
The saying goes that "You can't teach height. " Well I have another saying that I like to use and that's "You can't teach passion." So while Thabeet has height in spades, the fact that he has no passion on the court has me believing that he will be joining the likes of Darko Milicic, Kwame Brown, Michael Olowakandi, etc. on the long list of bigs who have flamed out. It's my opinion that the reason a lot of big men bust out is precisely because they don't have a passion for the game. Because of their height, basketball chose them, not the other way around. They aren't in the gym every day trying to obsessively improve their game (like a Kobe Bryant), they aren't gym rats that live in the gym (like an Anthony Morrow), and they don't have a love and appreciation for the game. For them, it's a job. For kids like Steph Curry, it's their life.
Thabeet looked completely lost on both sides of the court and looked very disinterested in being there. He recorded the same number of rebounds as Curry did and only 2 more total blocks. He did it in 7 mins / game less, but he's got a foot on Curry easy. It was this total lack of effort that has me scratching my head as to why he was the second pick in the draft (until I remember that the franchise that drafted him is the one franchise that makes the Dubs FO look competent.)
Thabeet has some potential, but without the desire to be a great player (see: Randolph, Anthony) he will just be another in a long line of high draft pick bigs that are only known in trivia questions like "Who was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan?" or in Thabeet's case "Who was drafted ahead of Stephen Curry?" (no I'm not comparing Stephen Curry to Michael Jordan, but you get my drift.)
The Anthony Randolph award (Most likely to make your jaw drop, followed by a face palm)
Roddy earns a second award here and it's much deserved. There were times where he'd pull up in transition and bury a three, followed up on the next possession by putting up a thirty footer that catches nothing but air. He'd crossover his defender and drive it to the hoop and hit a reverse layup over a bigger defender, come down the next possession and throw the ball 4 rows into the stands without a teammate in sight. It took AR the better part of a season to play under control and it took until this summer to play with more consistency, so I'll give Roddy the same leeway to see if he can start putting it all together.
The Rob Kurz award (Summer League MVP)
This one came down to Flynn and Collison for me. Conveniently enough, they both played each other and took turns torching each other. Unfortunately, right before the first half came to a close Collison ended up driving to the hoop and injuring his foot. At this point in the battle Collison was ahead and could have possibly won this award, but he went down and wasn't able to come back, therefore only playing 3 and a half games. I could have been like the NBA guys and closed my eyes and said Blake Griffin, but I felt that Jonny had a much bigger impact on the games than did Griffin. Griffin had more spectacular moments, but Flynn was in my opinion the more effective player.
Congrats if you made it all the way to the end! I'll be back next weekend with a report on how Anthony Randolph does against the other young guns at the Team USA scrimmage.