NBA summer league in Las Vegas has wrapped up for the Golden State Warriors, and GSoM sent three of their most gambling-obsessed writers to take in all the action. Brady Klopfer, Thomas “Dr. Tom” Bevilacqua and yours truly endured a scary earthquake, triple-digit temperatures, and several days worth of mediocre basketball just to give you the inside scoop!
I made some new friends on the trip from our fellow SB Nation team sites and they were kind enough to tell us some of their favorite moments from the week that was. Check out the video and make sure to like and subscribe to our GSoM channel!
After you do that, check out this roundtable from the three GSoM amigos recapping summer league.
Where were you when that big ol’ earthquake impacted the Strip?
Daniel: I was at my grandad’s house 15 minutes away from the Strip, sitting on the edge of a bed and unpacking luggage. Next thing I know, I’m rag-dolling left-to-right uncontrollably, like I’m Nene trying to keep up with a red-hot Stephen Curry iso 28 feet from the basket.
Brady: I was at home, in my apartment in Los Angeles. And let me tell you something: that apartment shook like Steph Curry does while shimmying down the court after making a big three. Perhaps more accurately, the walls and house plants waved around like a helpless defender trying to stay alive on Steph Island.
The funniest part of the earthquake, from my perspective, was that I’d been monitoring my iPhone like a hawk for a week, jumping every time I got a tweet notification, hoping it would be Kawhi Leonard news, but instead receiving the latest on the Frank Kaminskys and Jeremy Lambs of the world. After the quake, with my heart rate accelerated, I decided I needed a break. I turned my phone off, cracked open a beer, and put on a movie. I turned my phone back on a few hours later, only to find that during my sliver of solitude the NBA had shook even more than my furniture had a few hours prior.
Dr. Tom: I was taking in the Washington Mystics-Las Vegas Aces WNBA game at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. It was almost halftime when I felt my seat move back-and-forth and thought, at first, it was someone who was rocking the seats by pushing on them with their feet or something. When I quickly realized there wasn’t anyone doing that, I figured out what was going on, got on Twitter, and saw everyone else tweeting about it.
Hey, I didn’t watch Summer League at all. Which Warrior(s) did a good enough job in Vegas to warrant my golden allegiance?
Daniel: Live in person, Jordan Poole looks to me like a guy who wants to take souls. He was completely fearless with his shot while remaining patient enough to wait for it; a feisty creative who comfortably weaved his way through traffic. He did have a few blown layups from getting knocked around in the paint, but it didn’t deter him from attacking again.
Jacob Evans III sometimes resembled a young man whose brain has been so packed full of veteran wisdom that he suffers paralysis by analysis: spending too much time thinking over variables without actualizing fluid reactions. But by the end of the game, he would prove why the Warriors salivate over his potential. He’s a budding defensive pest, with the maturing floor generalship to toggle between running offensive sets and freewheeling. I’m rooting for him!
Brady: I’ll be the first to admit that I was critical of the Poole selection, but seeing the Poole Experience in person changed my mind a little bit. Will he end up being a poor defender with a quick trigger and bad efficiency, as I once feared? Still quite possible. But what was displayed in the Thomas and Mack center was an adventurous and swagger-filled player, who still had a lot of maturity and selflessness.
He won’t be scared to take a shot, which is a very welcome change given the role players who have donned Dubs jerseys over the last few years. That alone should endear him to the fanbase, even if it risks alienating him if they don’t fall.
But where he really impressed me was in talking with him after the games. He was the first to admit that his shot selection needed to be worked on. He was clearly loved in the locker room, and Summer League coach Aaron Miles had lots of praise for him. I think he’ll be a fan favorite.
Dr. Tom: Poole probably had the best and most complete summer. He definitely looks like someone who can at the very least get baskets with the team once the regular season begins. Evans III has looked better but is still developing into all that he can be and Smailagic had some nice flashes though he was somewhat inconsistent/there were some rough stretches mixed in there. Two players that really caught my eye (though I don’t know if they’re “play in the NBA” good) were Davon Reed and Juan Toscano-Anderson. Reed’s defense and Tocano-Anderson’s motor really set them apart from many of their Summer League peers. I hope that the Warriors keep them on their G-League roster because they work hard and do many of the right things on the court so there’s room for development there.
Were you impressed with the play of the Warriors SL squad compared to the rest of the teams?
Daniel: Not gonna lie, there was some relatively trash basketball being played by several teams. It can’t be helped when you’ve got guys coming from all over, meeting on the same day they have to go into battle, so I get it. But, the Warriors seemed one of the more practiced and familiar teams, showing glimpses of the passing synergy that defines the franchise. The Dubs worked hard on defense as well for the most part.
There were a few times the other team would spring out a half-court trap or zone that would grind the Warriors offense into the mud, but not for long.
Brady: For the most part, yes. The team did look like it had had a few more practices, and they certainly benefited from not having key players join halfway through Summer League. Many teams weren’t allowed to play their rookies until July 6, due to trades, and many rookies were shut down altogether. The Warriors didn’t face those issues, and it showed.
But the style of play from the Warriors also made them a little more polished than some teams. There were four Warriors being prioritized: Jacob Evans III, Jordan Poole, Alen Smailagic, and Eric Paschall. The former two developed good chemistry, with set roles for each (playmaking lead ballhandler for Evans, off-ball moving shooting for Poole), while the latter two made their mark with defense (even if Paschall missed most of the games). Those stylistic fits made for better basketball than the average team.
Dr. Tom: The Warriors did seem to be a little bit more… together than a lot of the other squads out there in Las Vegas Summer League. One thing that really stood out was that they were able to make comebacks in quite a few of their games. Playing in the Summer League, it would be very easy to just write off a game if you were to fall behind by too much. But the Warriors played hard throughout their games and never gave in when it might have been easy to do so. The way their defensive intensity ramped up in the fourth quarter of the game against the Denver Nuggets was appreciable. It showed a mental toughness in the players, which is something that one needs if they’re going to play in the NBA.
Which player/coach/NBA personality were you most pumped to see in person?
Daniel: Former Miami Heat legend Steve Smith! My college buddy Julian was a huge Heat fan from childhood who always referred to “Smitty” as “Miami’s Real #3”. Plus, Smith’s commentary on NBA 2K usually cracks me up.
Brady: Pumped probably isn’t the right word, but I enjoyed seeing Quinn Cook. I saw Cook at Summer League last year, hanging out on the concourse, schmoozing with fans and fellow players, taking pictures and seemingly having a grand time.
This year he was in the exact same place, doing the exact same thing. Cook is generally viewed as one of the more liked players in the NBA, despite his small on-court role. LeBron James personally vouched for Cook before he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and I’ve never heard a person speak poorly of him.
His popularity was on display. He got as much attention as any player when on the concourse, then took in the Lakers-Warriors games, first with new teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and then with old teammate Damion Lee. He wandered through the media tunnel, and hung out with the Warriors beat reporters.
He’s just a respected, loved, social dude, and that’s what Summer League is all about. It’s fun to watch.
Dr. Tom: Running into Wanda Durant in the lobby of my hotel was pretty cool.