Time to finish up the review of the Las Vegas Summer League with a look at the West Coast teams and John Wall’s Wizards – was his week as good as everyone expected?
If you haven’t checked out Parts 1 through 4 – Go here. If not, check out Part V after the jump……
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (4-1)
PPG – Luke Babbitt and Patty Mills – 14.2
RPG Jeff Pendergraph – 9.5
APG – Patty Mills – 4.6
Most Valuable Player – Patty Mills
Most Improved Player – Dante Cunningham
Biggest Surprise – Armon Johnson
Summer League Review – The Trail Blazers came in with high expectations for their Summer League squad and, for the most part, they did not disappoint. The three second year players – Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph, and Patrick Mills – all had good moments during the week, though they all still have some work to do to take their game to the next level. Cunningham has done a good job starting to move his game outside of the lane. While he still needs to improve his face-up game and become more consistent with his shot, his rebounding and defense continue to get better. Pendergraph should have shown more improvement on the offensive end as well, though he also did a great job rebounding and guarding the lane. Mills has shown a lot of improvement since last year, though his challenge is to cut down on his turnovers. Luke Babbitt played better as the week went on, and his size can be a great advantage at small forward. He has a nice perimeter shot, though his footwork on defense is a bit slow. Babbitt’s Nevada teammate Armon Johnson had a very impressive week at point guard. Johnson showed good poise while running the offense and did a good job getting to the basket. Reyshawn Terry and Ekene Ibekwe played well off the bench.
Who to Look For This Season – Cunningham and Pendergraph can provide support again in the middle, especially if Greg Oden has injury problems again. Mills may make a run at being Jerryd Bayless’ backup this season and Johnson may follow the Mills plan and spend time in the D-League getting court time. Babbitt will compete for playing time immediately and should provide scoring off the bench.
PHOENIX SUNS (1-4)
PPG – Gani Lawal – 15.4
RPG Gani Lawal – 7.4
APG – Scottie Reynolds – 4.7
Most Valuable Player – Gani Lawal
Most Improved Player – Earl Clark
Biggest Surprise – Scottie Reynolds
Summer League Review – While the Suns’ veterans did not show the kind of improvement I was hoping to see, the rookies and free agents played quite well.
Gani Lawal showed why he shouldn’t have been overshadowed by Derrick Favors at Georgia Tech. He still needs to work on improving his range out to 15 feet, but he is tough and will battle on the boards. Defensively, he plays the post well, but he needs to work on guarding out on the perimeter. Matt Janning had a second impressive week for NBA scouts. In Orlando, he showcased his ballhandling and passing skills; in Vegas it was his scoring. He has shown enough to get invites from any number of teams this fall for camp. Don’t be surprised if you see him make a team soon. Scottie Reynolds was out to prove that he could do all of things his critics said he couldn’t – most importantly, his lack of ability to be a true point guard. After watching him play 3 games, I think he answered those criticisms quite well. The only issue I had was that he seemed to go too far to the extreme and at times stopped shooting altogether. The two 2nd year players – Earl Clark and Taylor Griffin – had some good moments, but should have been more dominant against these players, especially on the boards. Clark will have a bigger role with the departure of Amare Stoudamire, so he better step it up. Griffin will need to show something soon if he wants to stick in the league. Zabian Dowdell took another step towards showing he could play in the NBA, making smart decisions and showing nice explosiveness in the open court.
Who to Look For This Season – Lawal will help fill in down low with the departure of Amare. Word around Vegas was that the Suns had already offered Reynolds an invite to pre-season camp, and that Janning would hear soon. Dowdell will probably get an invite with another team who is looking at backup point guards.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (3-2)
PPG – Reggie Williams – 22.6
RPG Kim Tillie & Andre Brown – 7.8
APG – Brian Chase – 4.6
Most Valuable Player – Reggie Williams
Most Improved Player – Reggie Williams
Biggest Surprise – Kim Tillie
Summer League Review – The Summer did not get off to a good start for the Warriors as word came out that #6 pick, Ekpe Udoh, would need knee surgery. Two players stood out for the team, and the names were not familiar to most people watching. Reggie Williams, who has been a prolific scorer since his time at VMI, is showing that he can do the same at the NBA level. He has great range on his jumper, can get to the basket with ease and is very good at drawing contact and getting to the foul line. Defense is not his strong suit, but he will be great scoring off the bench. Kim Tillie, the French center from Utah, showed up at Summer League and played a lot tougher than he looks. I counted 3 or 4 times where the 6’11 center took a charge or dove on the floor for a loose ball. He has a very raw offensive game, but his hustle is impressive. Brian Chase, one of the oldest players here at 28, showed that his experience gave him a bit of an edge over the younger kids. He knew where to get his teammates the ball in order for them to score, and he did a good job harassing the other teams guards on defense. Brandan Wright looked like he has gotten over his injury problems, which good with the loss of Udoh for up to 6 months. Andre Brown worked with Tillie in the middle and did a good job getting position on both offense and defense, though he still needs to work on his footwork.
Who to Look For This Season – Williams will do a great job as either a shooting guard or small forward. If he improves his defense, he has a legit shot at eventually cracking the starting lineup. Tillie and Brown should get looks from teams this fall, though I don’t see them ready for the NBA for another few years. Chase’s time as most likely passed and will probably end up back in Europe.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (4-1)
PPG – Al-Farouq Aminu – 14.8
RPG DeAndre Jordan – 7.0
APG – Eric Bledsoe – 3.6
Most Valuable Player – Al-Farouq Aminu
Most Improved Player – DeAndre Jordan
Biggest Surprise – Marqus Blakely
Summer League Review – The Clippers were a team I really wanted to catch in Vegas, especially to see their three recent draft picks. Al-Farouq Aminu had some very good moments, though his shot selection needs improvement. He is still working on finding his range, though a lot of the bad shots were not his fault. Eric Bledsoe was dreadful for most of the week. He was confused running the offense, over-dribbled much of the time, had trouble with pressure defense and missed open teammates. That being said, he still showed his scoring chops – he had nice range on his shot and a nice first step going to the basket. Willie Warren showed great control, worked well within the offense and did a lot to start the process of rehabilitating his image. He needs to improve his positioning on defense and start to bring back some of the swagger he had 2 seasons ago. DeAndre Jordan did a great job asserting himself in the lane, and he showed of a few new moves – including a great baseline drop step – that I don’t recall him using last season. He does need to become more aggressive on the defensive end and go stronger after rebounds. Summer League favorite Nik Caner-Medley had his usual good performance, showing the same hustle that makes him a crowd favorite. Marqus Blakely showed that he could make the adjustment to playing out on the perimeter, but the surprising thing was that he was still able to battle in the lane with much better guys. If he ever adds a consistent perimeter shot, he could be a good player. Sofoklis Schortsanitis is not and will never be a NBA player, though he is interesting to watch on the court.
Who to Look For This Season – Aminu should start from Day 1, and will be a nice compliment to Griffin and Kaman on the front line. Bledsoe will hopefully learn from Baron Davis what he needs to do to play point in the NBA. Warren should make the team this fall and provide a nice spark as part of the backcourt rotation. Jordan will do a nice job as a backup for Kaman. Blakely should be a dominant D-League player and would have a nice shot at being an in-season call-up.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (0-5)
PPG – Derrick Caracter – 15.4
RPG Derrick Caracter – 8.6
APG – Ibrahim Jaaber – 4.3
Most Valuable Player – Derrick Caracter
Most Improved Player – DJ Strawberry
Biggest Surprise – Derrick Caracter
Summer League Review – The expectations for the Lakers’ squad wasn’t that great, but there were some performances worth noting. Second round picks Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks were both very impressive. Caracter was a beast down low, getting great position on the blocks and showing nice touch on his shots. He also looked in better shape than he had been last season and played long stretches of minutes without seeming to tire. Ebanks not only played great defense all week, he showed a lot of the scoring that seemed to be missing last season – even hitting a few deep threes. DJ Strawberry was very efficient running the point, and showed some scoring ability which seemed to be missing during his last stint in the league. Gerald Green did not have the kind of performance during the week that would help lead to a comeback and it may be safe to say that his chances of a NBA career are up. Courtney Sims was effective as a backup big man and showed some good moves on the offensive end. Ibrahim Jaaber showed that he has the makings of a NBA level point guard, making clear decisions and playing tough defense.
Who to Look For This Season – Ebanks and Caracter will just add depth to the defending champions, letting the regulars get some extra rest during the season. Strawberry may be an option as a 3rd PG if they decide to carry one.
SACRAMENTO KINGS (4-2)
PPG – DeMarcus Cousins – 14.5
RPG DeMarcus Cousins – 9.8
APG – Devan Downey – 3.0
Most Valuable Player – DeMarcus Cousins
Most Improved Player – Omri Casspi
Biggest Surprise – Donte Greene
Summer League Review – The Kings were one of the more impressive teams to play last week – including strong performances by both second year and rookie players. DeMarcus Cousins started off Summer League with a couple of dominant performances. Then he ran into Joey Dorsey and Dorsey beat him until he wanted to stop playing. Point being, Cousins has a lot of talent, but he is the bully who doesn’t like getting hit himself. And what we saw, was the pouting Cousins which we were treated to at Kentucky a lot of last season. If he ever matures, he can dominate this game, I just don’t know if it will happen. Omri Casspi looks like he is ready to take the next step in his development. He was a team leader and was the go-to guy when the team needed a score. His defense still came in spurts, but he looks like he is prepared to improve more as the year goes on. Donte Greene also played well, especially showing some increased range and consistency on his jumper. Hassan Whiteside has about 3 or 4 years minimum before he is ready for a NBA game. There were numerous times every game where he didn’t even know where to stand on either offense or defense. He showed decent instincts on defense, but his offensive skill set is very raw. Dionte Christmas, Wayne Chism, and Devan Downey all contributed during the week, and Christmas especially worked well within the Kings’ offense. I expected Donald Sloan and Sylven Landesberg to play a bit better, especially on the offensive end, though Sloan did a good job showing he is capable of playing the point position.
Who to Look For This Season – Cousins will be a major part of the offense from Day 1. Casspi and Green will be an effective tandem from the small forward position. Whiteside should go to the D-League where he can play everyday and contribute. Landesberg, Sloan and Christmas may battle for a backup spot in the Kings’ backcourt this fall.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS (4-1)
PPG – John Wall – 23.5
RPG JaVale McGee – 9.3
APG – John Wall – 7.8
Most Valuable Player – John Wall
Most Improved Player – JaVale McGee
Biggest Surprise – Cartier Martin
Summer League Review – This was set-up to be all about John Wall, and it almost was. Wall showed that he was everything that people expected, though he will need to learn that he can’t do everything himself. JaVale McGee showed that he can be an effective force in the middle – especially in an up-tempo offense run by John Wall. Trevor Booker added some nice toughness to the team, though he needs to adjust to the speed of the game. Nick Young looked good in one game, setting up on the perimeter as Wall drew the defense. Cartier Martin was impressive as a running mate for Wall in transition, and he added in some nice perimeter shooting.
Who to Look For This Season – All 5 players listed above will be substantial parts of the new look Wizards. It is safe to say that with them and Gilbert Arenas and Andrae Blatche, things will get better sooner rather than later.
That wraps up the look at the Vegas teams – it was a spectacular week and the NBA put on a great event and the UNLV staff was as pleasant as any group I have ever met. This officially wraps up the 2010 season – and I will now start the focus on the 2011 draft. Make sure to check back Monday as we start the march towards June 2011