I’ll be the first to admit summer league isn’t the most impactful two weeks of the season and our coverage this year was a bit superfluous. Still, it’s pretty cool to learn more about some of the esoteric players in the league and it should help us understand what each player brings to the table if they get an opportunity. We put up a ton of blurbs on our Player News page and this is the fifth column breaking it down. In case you missed them you can check out the first, second, third and fourth editions here. Parts three and four are probably the only ones worth checking out as they serve as a recap of the whole event.
Follow me on Twitter @MikeSGallagher for some occasional stats that I’ll be dropping in our upcoming draft guide.
Sixers - Can you name the top 10 76ers in minutes played after the break? If you said Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, Tony Wroten, Elliot Williams, Jarvis Varnado, Byron Mullens and Brandon Davies, you had too much time on your hands in April. Anyway, it’s pretty obvious we’ll have another season of random guys making contributions for Philly.
Nerlens Noel looked like a guy who should have been taken first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Sixers did keep his playing time in check with just five games, which was the plan all along. In other words, there shouldn’t be any concern about him sitting out six games. He showed remarkable consistency and looked extremely quick in the hips, getting the ball in the high post and shaking free for tons of uncontested buckets from within eight feet. Noel also kept his eyes open on the weak side for 2.6 blocks per game. His offensive game was a lot more polished than expected, so he could get in the low teens for scoring in his rookie season.
Noel is still a little too slim to bang around in the paint and is unlikely clear eight boards per game. That’s OK, though. Even guys like Marc Gasol, Taj Gibson, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Bosh didn’t get to eight boards per game. On top of that, the 76ers led the NBA in pace and coach Brett Brown is likely to alter his strategy of getting up and down the court, especially considering how young his team is. Noel is a risky pick in the middle rounds and I’d consider drafting him.
K.J. McDaniels was really in a groove in Orlando with averages of 13.0 points, 3.7 boards, 1.0 blocks and 1.5 triples on 48.5 percent from the field. The wind was taken out of his sails with an ankle sprain on July 9 and he never got his season on track. He returned back to the court for Vegas, but had just 9.0 points, 2.0 boards, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 triples in his two games. McDaniels is a wonderful fit for his affinity to get up and down the court and above-average perimeter defense. He’s certainly in the mix for the starting gig, but he’ll have heavy competition from Jason Richardson and Vegas star Jordan McRae. The Clemson product is also big enough to play at small forward since Thaddeus would make sense at power forward. Keep an eye on him.
As mentioned, Jordan McRae was fantastic at Vegas, earning a nod to the Samsung All-NBA Summer League Second Team. He ranked third in points per game at 21.0 to go with averages of 2.5 boards, 1.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.5 triples on 50.0 percent from the field and 86.5 percent from the line. Yep, six-category production.
As great as he was, it’s still a little hard to get on board based on how 57 players were selected before him in the 2014 NBA Draft. If he makes the team, who knows what could happen? To be clear, he’s not worth drafting in almost any league.
Casper Ware was also not a ghost (lame, I know) in Orlando, ranking second in scoring at 19.0 points per game. He was really aggressive and even ranked fifth in assists per game at 5.2 in Orlando. As you would expect, the 5’9” guard was counting on his floater and didn’t get all the way to the basket very often. That means he’s likely going to have plenty of inconsistencies as a scorer. Ware was actually 7-of-8 at the rim last season, which explains why he shot a decent 42.9 percent from the field. Why was he such a beast around the rim? Just about all of those shots were completely uncontested with three of those seven makes coming off a cut and a few missed defensive assignments on some PNR buckets. Basically, we can’t buy his eye-catching summer-league run.
Suns - The 2013 Suns summer league team had a noteworthy impact on the 2013-14 season. Markieff Morris put up terrific numbers down the stretch, P.J. Tucker’s offense turned the corner to go with his lock-down defense, Marcus Morris had a few bright spots last year and Miles Plumlee was a summer-league stud in Indiana before moving over to the Sun via trade.
They’re not likely going to have as big of an impact this time around, though. However, I loved what I saw out of T.J Warren in Vegas. He led the NCAA Division IA in field goals and ranked second in most scoring-based statistical categories behind Doug McDermott. It was pretty clear all of those reps at North Carolina State are going to help him get minutes sooner rather than later. Warren made more than 50 percent of his shots at NC State from 4-16 feet, which is rare air in the NBA. Plus, he was great around the rim and that continued in Vegas.
If you take out his one game with an eye injury, he averaged 21.3 points per game on his way to a 54.4 field goal percentage. The 6’8” forward also had his free throw attempts increase in each of his five Vegas games and also had a double-double vs. the Sixers on July 15. His size was viewed as a big asset by the team and the Suns used him at power forward quite a bit while even lining him up at center on a handful of possessions.
The Suns just gave P.J. Tucker a three-year deal, so Warren’s minutes are going to be capped while Tucker is healthy. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets some run at the four. Fantasy owners in standard leagues can ignore him for now, but deeper and keeper leagues should watch him closely. He has star potential especially if he can start knocking down triples.
As an aside, these columns about Warren from Grantland and ESPN (Insider) are worth a look.
Tyler Ennis may have been the worst first-round pick at Vegas. He shot a putrid 21.9 percent from the field and didn’t make any of his six attempts from beyond the arc. There are almost too many weaknesses to count, so I’m not even going to go there.
Archie Goodwin made an immediate splash last year in Vegas and he was another positive for the Suns this time around. Goodwin’s stats weren’t great at 12.8 points, 3.0 boards, 1.2 steals and 2.2 turnovers on 36.4 percent from the field, but his defense continues to be his best attribute. After one a game against Milwaukee, I heard Goodwin and P.J. Tucker just talking about defense and it was pretty cool. They both were talking about how Goodwin helped keep Jabari Parker in check at 4-of-15 shooting, which was by far his worst game. Goodwin is going to need a lot of help for minutes with the addition of Isaiah Thomas.
Miles Plumlee ranked third in rebounds per game in Vegas and ended his event with back-to-back double-doubles. He’s shaping up to be the starting center again, but his minutes trended down as the year went along. Unless he solves his issues at the line, he won’t be worth drafting.
Alex Len suffered yet another injury. This time he broke his hand and should be ready for training camp. Hopefully his fortunes turn around soon. Alec Brown also suffered a dislocated shoulder and is out indefinitely.
Blazers - For the second year in a row, it was the C.J. McCollum Show for the Blazers. This time around, his efficiency was way up. Last year, he shot 20.2 attempts per game at 36.6 percent from the field, but in 2014 he made 47.9 percent of his 14.6 shots per game. Plus, his 10 triples gave him an effective field goal percentage of 54.8. Basically, this is exactly what the Blazers were hoping for. McCollum is entering this upcoming season with some added responsibility now that Mo Williams is gone. He’s a good bet to take the overwhelming majority of Mo’s 24.8 minutes per game from last season. If he can stay in the mid-20s, he’ll have some low-end value in standard leagues.
Thomas Robinson had surgery on his hand this week and should be ready for training camp. Just like last summer, he was one of the more athletic big men in Vegas and he continued to crash the boards. Obviously, he would need LaMarcus Aldridge to miss time in order to see minutes over 20 per game.
Will Barton had another solid effort with 14.4 points per game on 37.8 minutes per game. If McCollum does need another year to be a regular contributor, it’ll likely be Barton getting minutes in the teens this season.
Kings - YOUR 2014 SAMSUNG LAS VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS! No good? Well, that’s exactly what the Kings are going to be with their horrific offseason letting Isaiah Thomas walk. But that’s an argument for another day.
Ray McCallum is your 2014 MVP of the championship game with his 29-point game in the win over the Rockets. While his previous games in Vegas were more of a whimper than anything else, he did have a 12-dime game.
The Kings rode him into the ground in his final 12 games of the regular season, playing 42.1 minutes per game with averages of 13.5 points, 3.1 boards, 6.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.9 triples on 37.9 percent from the field. He’s likely going to come off the bench behind Darren Collison. Although, McCallum is probably a better fit with the current team in place. This is likely going to be a timeshare and his upside isn't really high enough to warrant a pick in standard drafts.
Nik Stauskas started out great with three straight games in double-figure scoring, then he really started to slow down. Let’s start with the positives. He shot a pristine 47.8 percent from 3-point range and also kept his turnovers down at 1.9 per game. The U of M rookie was better off the dribble than I thought and he moved well without the ball.
On the downside, he doesn’t have a game that’s going to dominate at the NBA level. Stauskas isn’t quite as quick as some other shooting guards and he will really need to work on his defense. Considering he couldn’t even crack a double-digit scoring average in summer league, it would seem like an impossible feat to do that with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay next to him.
Ben McLemore started horribly in Vegas this year, but he actually turned it around. He finished up the event with averages of 12.6 points, 4.1 boards, 1.3 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.0 treys. Still, he was roasted on countless defensive possessions and didn’t move around much without the ball. The Kings are saying the selection of Stauskas wasn’t a knock on McLemore, but how can we not take it that way? At best, he’s only going to share time. There won’t be enough stats outside of points even in an ideal world.
Derrick Williams probably should have dominated in Vegas. He didn’t, posting averages of just 12.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 turnovers. There’s little reason to be excited about him for next season.
Sim Bhullar is a large man.
Spurs - Kyle Anderson was one of the bigger steals of the draft and landed in a near-perfect spot with the Spurs. Slo Mo didn’t steal the show or anything for the Spurs at Las Vegas with his 8.0 points per game, but he showed his multi-dimensional game with 3.0 boards, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.5 blocks, 0.7 triples and just 1.2 turnovers per game. I think we all know it’s going to be a few seasons before we see Anderson put up numbers.
One of the most energetic players at Vegas was Bryce Cotton. The 6’1” guard was attacking and was all over the floor on both ends. He probably won’t be making the team, but he’ll be fun to watch in the D-League, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
Austin Daye was pretty good for the Spurs. He could have averaged 50 points per game in summer league and we’d still dismiss him because we’ve seen this movie before.
Raptors - Bruno! Just about the entire NBA world, myself included, had no idea who Bruno Caboclo was when he was drafted at 20 last month. General manager Masai Ujiri reportedly promised Bruno that he was going to draft him and he kept true to his word. Not to sound creepy, but I watched Ujiri from the sidelines and you could see his eyes were glued on Bruno.
He really showed a lot of promise in his first showing. Of course, his 7’7” wingspan headlines his assets, but did have some skill. Caboclo was used as a corner trey guy, in the post and was putting the ball on the floor. The Brazilian probably won’t be given much opportunity off the bat with the Raptors expected to count on Terrence Ross a bit more and also have James Johnson in the mix. It’ll likely take a few years.
Dwight Buycks led the 2013 summer league in scoring and he ranked sixth this time around. He added 4.3 assists and 0.8 steals per game on 46.3 percent from the field. Unfortunately, Buycks has been waived by the Raptors. Sad face.
Jazz - The Jazz were probably my favorite team to watch. The obvious attraction was mystery man Dante Exum. Taking stats out of the equation, it was easy to see why. Exum is a freak. His length gives him the potential to be a plus defender, he beat plenty of guys off the dribble, he gets off the floor extremely quickly for rebounds and on shots/alley-oops, and his stroke isn’t as much of a project as you’d expect.
On paper, the Aussie didn’t wow anyone with his stats at 7.2 points, 2.6 boards, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.2 blocks, 3.0 turnovers and 0.6 triples. He was obviously surprised by the size, speed and skill of the NBA-type players, which we all knew was going to be a big huge hurdle for him. Based on some of the reports of his action before summer league, Exum was thrashing his opponents at the rim. That didn’t happen in summer league and the physicality hurt him in his first big appearance.
I love his potential and I really think he has the tools to be a superstar. Exum also said he likes to run the pick-and-roll more than any other play, which should help his chances considering the type of bigs around him. I’d rank him outside the top 10 among rookies in re-draft leagues.
A player I would put in the top 10 would be Rodney Hood. He has a tremendous basketball IQ and watching him float around the 3-point line was a lot of fun. Perhaps no game was more fun to watch while I was in Vegas than Hood’s 29-point, 11-of-16 shooting effort vs. the Bucks. In the early part of the event, it was almost all catch-and-shoot attempts from Hood, but he really added some diversity to his game as the week went along. He’s 6’8” and was getting plenty of shots closer to the rim with one- and two-dribble drives.
Thankfully, the Jazz let Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams walk. That means, Hood has a great chance to start at small forward. It’s still unclear if new coach Quin Snyder will want to start Alec Burks or not, which is huge for how the rotation will play out. If he does bring him off the bench, Hood is probably the favorite to start. Fantasy owners should be keeping an eye on him.
The Jazz had a lot of people nod in approval with their 27th pick of Rudy Gobert last summer. We all knew he wasn’t going to be ready off the bat with all those arms and legs, but he took a major leap this summer. Gobert ranked first in field goal percentage among players with double-digit total shots at 73.1 percent to go with averages of 11.8 points, 9.8 boards and 2.5 blocks in just 23.8 minutes. The rebounding numbers were probably his biggest area of improvement with his timing on blocks coming in at a close second.
He still has his work cut out for him on offense and a majority of his buckets came right at the rim. That’s OK, though. If he’s going to have a breakout, he’ll have to improve at the charity stripe. I think it’s pretty clear the Jazz are going to use him at center this season, which means it’s time to be bearish on Enes Kanter. If Gobert starts hot in October, he’ll be a worth a late-round flier, especially in leagues without free throw percentage.
Trey Burke didn’t have a positive showing in summer league yet again. He shot just 24 percent from the field last summer, and just marginally improved to 30.4 percent in 2014 summer league. Burke really can’t shake anyone from the outside and can’t shoot over anyone at basically an even six-feet tall. He’s still not even a great passer with just 4.0 dimes per game, Heck, even Tre Kelley of the D-League team had more assists per game at 5.2. Burke was the favorite for Rookie of the Year around this time of year in 2013 and he’s probably not even considered in the top 10 of 2013’s weak draft class. If Exum doesn’t take over at the point this season, it’ll likely be next year. No thanks.
Ian Clark had a decent showing and he could make the team as an emergency shooting guard. Clark said he’d like to play point guard, but that’s not going to happen with Burke and Exum ahead of him.
One disappointing item came on Tuesday evening with the Jazz trading away Malcolm Thomas to the Cavs. He was very good in Vegas and I really think he could have made the team. If/when he gets waived, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jazz give him a look again.
Wizards - Glen Rice Jr. was named the MVP of Las Vegas Summer League with his event-leading 25.0 points per game. On top of that, he had an effective field goal percentage of 53.6 to go with averages of 7.8 boards, 2.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 2.2 triples. Beast.
It was on, you guys. He was getting to the rim, hitting jumpers and getting clean looks from deep coming off screens and on catch-and-shoot chances. Rice was also very busy and productive in isolation in an effort to get his own shot. He obviously deserved the MVP award.
Rice put up that same 25.0 points per game in the D-League back in 2012-13, but he couldn’t parlay that with anything decent in his rookie season. In his 11 games, he shot just 29.7 percent from the field for 2.9 points, 1.8 boards, 0.6 assists and 0.5 triples. He did get one start, but that didn’t go too well with a 3-of-9 shooting line for seven points in 29 minutes.
Everything clicked for him in six games and we really can’t draw any positive conclusions yet. The Wizards are much more likely to give him minutes this time around with Trevor Ariza out of town and Martell Webster likely to miss time with a back injury. Don’t fall for the bait, though. He’s not worth a pick in most leagues.
However, Otto Porter has a legitimate chance to get minutes in the 20s this upcoming season. He really gained a lot of confidence on the offensive side, especially in the mid-range/jumper department. Porter shot just 23.8 percent on jumpers in his rookie season, which seems like a misprint after his summer league. The Georgetown product did almost all of his work with jumpers, making a total of 48.4 percent from the field on his way to averages of 19.0 points, 5.8 boards, 1.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks and 1.2 triples in 31.8 minutes.
Moving forward, the Wizards aren’t likely going to be counting on Paul Pierce for a heavy load. He’s a ball-dominant guy, which isn’t going work because that would require an overhaul of their John Wall-run O. Secondly, his minutes fell to 33.4 per game in 2012-13 to 28.0 last year, so he could drop to around 26 with the Wizards. Porter will really need to get his catch-and-shoot game at its peak to help his case for minutes. Considering Otto can fill it up almost everywhere based on his sophomore averages of 16.2 points, 7.5 boards, 2.7 dimes, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks and 1.4 triples as well as the aforementioned summer-league showing, he’s a possible target late in drafts.
Lastly, I just have to say what a great time I had in Vegas. Obviously, the NBA world getting to know more about the rookies was fantastic, but there were so many other cool things. I actually won some money gambling, enjoyed some great meals, got to spend a night on the town with my girlfriend, and even checked out a concert of one of my favorite groups when Jurassic 5 played at The Cosmopolitan.
The other cool part was just getting to know the other basketball writers. We got together a 5-on-5, full-court pickup game on Sunday night and Tony Jones, a few others and I ran the table at 5-0. I’ll admit that Chris Haynes, who played some college ball, can still tear it up and was probably the best players with a media credential. I also really enjoyed talking basketball with Tony, Chris, Jody Genessy, Mike Trudell, J. Michael, Michael Lee, Trey Kerby, J.E. Skeets, James Herbert, Holly McKenzie, Kurt Helin, Jason Jones, Sean Cunningham, James Ham, Jon Santiago, Matt Tynan, Keith Pompey, Gery Woelfel, Paul Coro, Brett Polakoff, Rick Fox, Kenny Ducey, Dane Young, Kyle McKeown, Kevin Ding and Dan Woike. All those guys (and the one gal) are worthwhile follows on Twitter (links attacked to their names).
Last but not least, I actually got to meet Aaron Bruski for the first time. He and I have spent literally thousands of hours on the phone and messaging each other, but we never met face to face until Vegas. I can’t even begin to tell you guys how awesome that was, so I’m not going to even try. Bru is the man.
Enjoy the offseason!