Rookie Watch: Best of summer
By David Thorpe
How players perform during summer league depends on many variables besides their own talent level. How much run do they get? Who are their teammates, and how good are they? How hard have they prepared?
The NBA is filled with players who struggled in previous summer leagues, including Stephen Curry, Omri Casspi and George Hill. Others have played well in July but have not done so when it counts. This is not to say that summer league is worthless. On the contrary, failures and successes can give the rookies a better glimpse into their future and help them plan their pre-training camp routine.
So after two-plus weeks of watching games in Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas, here's my take on the top-performing rookies of the summer.
1. John Wall, Wizards
Summer-league stats: 23.5 ppg, 7.8 apg, 4 rpg
Wall struggled as a shooter and was caught looking to score more often than I expected, but he was still nothing short of spectacular most of the week. He's just faster than everyone on the floor and is excited to share the ball (most of the time).
He's also totally OK with the idea of being a star and loves putting on a show. Don't read that the wrong way -- he's all about winning, he's a selfless player and he's a huge favorite to win rookie of the year.
2. Damion James, Nets
Summer-league stats: 18.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1 apg
James started off just OK in Orlando and then took off from there. His great energy combined with a solid outside stroke and lots of confidence makes him a scoring machine who just keeps coming at his opponent. It's fair to expect rotation minutes for him at the start of the season.
3. DeMarcus Cousins, Kings
Summer-league stats: 14.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg
In a league that values franchise centers so much, it's still hard to accept how Cousins fell to the fifth pick. We all know about his faults, but his hands, reach and feel will make him a dominant rebounder immediately, and his touch as a finisher is impressive. On top of that, his passing -- both out of the low block and in starting the fast break -- is what has me most excited about him.
4. Luke Harangody, Celtics
Summer-league stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 apg
He doesn't pass the eye test as far as NBA players are concerned, but he passes everything else. He shot the ball well, rebounded like a beast and played just about as well as any rookie could hope to. I'm not sure he'll play in the NBA at all this season, but he certainly showed that he has a future.
5. Derrick Caracter, Lakers
Summer-league stats: 15.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Here was my checklist when watching DC this week: Did he rebound ferociously? Did he compete hard on defense? Could he finish shots around the rim? Did his body look ready? Check, check, check and check. The Lakers have to be thrilled they found an NBA player so late in the draft. Now they have to keep him moving in the right direction.
6. Landry Fields, Knicks
Summer-league stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.6 spg
Like Harangody, Fields does not yet look the part of an NBA player, but his game is spot-on for the Knicks' style. He runs, shoots and finishes, and he has a great feel for the game overall. When considering talent plus fit, I think this may be the best overall draft selection of all 60 picks.
7. Ed Davis, Raptors
Summer-league stats: 12.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.8 bpg
Davis seemed to get better all week, which was not surprising considering he had not played since a midseason injury. He has a great feel around the basket, which we already knew, but he also showed a somewhat surprising ability to be a solid rim protector. Plus, Davis displayed a very nice pick-and-pop jumper, which will help him earn minutes in November.
8. Larry Sanders, Bucks
Summer-league stats: 14 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.2 bpg
Sanders helps prove a point I always like to make: In the NBA, the first guy to the ball normally wins. Sanders is still thin, but his bounce and energy get his hands to the ball first most of the time. Those two talents also earn him quality shots inside. Although he's not a finisher yet, that kind of upside is exciting to Bucks personnel.
9. Lance Stephenson, Pacers
Summer-league stats: 14.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
He might be young, but he showed better shot selection than anyone else I saw these past two weeks. He missed only eight shots in four games and still averaged almost 15 points per game (it would have been more had he played more than eight minutes in his last game). He did this all while playing a lot of minutes at the point guard spot, which was an experiment that turned out to be a successful one. I loved how competitive he was as well.
10. Dominique Jones, Mavericks
Summer-league stats: 16.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg
Jones is super competitive on both sides of the ball and capable of putting up points in bunches. Possessing a great frame for a combo guard, he has every chance to be this year's Marcus Thornton -- ready to play from day one and having the confidence to play in the fourth quarter.
11. Derrick Favors, Nets
Summer-league stats: 10.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 apg
In most cases, teams draft players because of what they'll be able to do in a year or two. Guys like Cousins and Wall, who can have an immediate impact, are exceptions, whereas Favors is more of the rule. He showed plenty of upside during summer league, both as an athlete and with his skills (specifically his face-up game). Did he get lost some, lose physical battles and generally zone out during games? Of course. He was the youngest guy on the court almost every time out. But the Nets have a lot to look forward to.
12. Greg Monroe, Pistons
Summer-league stats: 14.6 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.8 spg
Monroe continues to be a bit of an enigma for me. He is a fluid athlete, and I love his ball skills and size. In summer league, that combination is enough to put up some good numbers. But he was not a player that looked to have an impact on every possession the way guys like Wall and Cousins did. Until he grows into that guy, he will frustrate Pistons fans as much as he will make them smile.
13. Gani Lawal, Suns
Summer-league stats: 15.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1 bpg
Lawal represents the highest-ranked player here that is going to have the toughest transition to the real show. He's a back-to-the-basket banger, and those guys rarely make it as second-round picks. On the other hand, he locked in as a rebounder during summer league, and that is the best way he can assure himself opportunities to stick in the NBA.
14. Gordon Hayward, Jazz
Summer-league stats: 10.8 ppg, 3 rpg, 1.4 apg
Get used to lofty praise for Hayward, despite somewhat pedestrian numbers. He does all the little things that don't show up on stat sheets -- smart help on defense, toughness in digging out loose balls inside and great awareness of whom to move the ball to in their offense. He's really a 2 who can play the 3 and even some 4 within a few years. How many guys can we write that about?
15. Magnum Rolle, Pacers
Summer-league stats: 13.4 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 bpg
Rolle was a long, tall bundle of energy all week. He made countless plays above the rim and challenged shooters in the paint on seemingly every shot. I liked the way he got some of his dunks by running rapidly to the rim when a crease opened.
16. Patrick Patterson, Rockets
Summer-league stats: 9.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1 apg
After the first game, it looked as if Patterson would use the week as his personal showcase. However, his energy just disappeared after that. He's very talented, so he can put up decent numbers without much effort … in summer league. But playing for a team hoping to contend in 2010-11, Patterson will need far more focus and effort in order to earn minutes. He was the second-most disappointing rookie of summer action relative to my expectations for him.
17. Devin Ebanks, Lakers
Summer-league stats: 15.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 apg
Ebanks came into the week with something to prove, and he used that edge to separate himself from many of the other second-rounders. I liked how he slashed hard to the rim, but I was more impressed with his perimeter game, which showed signs of progress and included some long-range buckets. It's fair to say he could be a poor man's Trevor Ariza.
18. Jordan Crawford, Hawks
Summer-league stats: 16.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg
Crawford is viewed as a pure scorer, and he showed that in Vegas. Alhough he didn't shoot well overall, he displayed his ability to shoot from 3 and exhibited solid court vision and feel. I also liked the fact that he looked to make plays on D. I liked him better than I expected to.
19. Quincy Pondexter, Hornets
Summer-league stats: 15.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
As expected for a four-year player, Pondexter looked like a man among boys for much of the week. His shot looked smooth, and he slashed and dashed all week, even breaking down a few smaller players off the dribble. He looks to be an excellent defensive player as well.
20. Evan Turner, 76ers
Summer-league stats: 9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.8 apg
Turner was, at best, a poor player in Orlando compared to any reasonable expectation -- not locked in, bad body language and poor skills. But don't get too alarmed. It's a testament to his talent that he still made plays on the glass and had some good offensive moments. I suspect that while almost every other player spent three to eight weeks before July working on their games and working out for teams, Turner did little on-court stuff. No doubt he'll look better in preseason and beyond.
the nets got a steal in Damion james..he reminds me of a young shawn marion.....without the funky shot..lol
but he's gonna have a better rookie year then favors..but favors will have the better career...
and dont worry bout evan turner he'll gonna be fine....dude was too nervous and he wasnt use to playing with those players
favors is gonna struggle his first year becuz he is real raw and relys alot on his athletisism but the rebound and defemse should be solid
Which is all the Nets need him to do, so he should be OK.
LOL, If I told anyone that after the draft Landry Fields would be ranked top 10, let alone #6 among rookies for summer league, I would of gotten -100, lmao...idk, i find that funny
30 players drafted in the second round, and none of them got the negative reaction that landry fields did. You would have thought they announced they were redrafting frederick weis.
Watch out for Al Farouq I know his summer league performance wusnt all that but look who wus runnin tha team (bledsoe)..
Paul George is another player on my radar, his defense wus better than expected..he reminds me of rudy gay
Good college career at stanford but a role player at best in tha league..
Yea... I'm surprised Paul George and Jeremy Lin didn't make the list.
You make a great point about Bledsoe running the team. I also think that affected DeAndre Jordan's play as well. Bledsoe seemed to get worse and play more out of control every game.
lmao, when did i 'brag' about Landry Fields?
I'll be the first person to tell you he's a role player, Jared Dudley 2.0, but on draft night he was considered one of the worst draft picks on the night. But he played alot better than some of the top draft picks in summer league..
I wouldn't even give him jared dudley comparison..haahaha poor mans marvin williams
"I wouldn't even give him jared dudley comparison..haahaha poor mans marvin williams"
Regardless, if you ask me...thats a pretty good comparison for a 2nd rounder, that was suppose to go undrafted and was widely considered the worst pick on draft night
im guessing he was probably talking to me about braggin about fields since ive brought him up a few times. Regardless, you wouldnt compare him to jared dudley becasue he aint that good but then compare him to marvin willimas? okay
Not a good shooter like dudley and marvin williams at best on defense..yea he's a steal kus he wus a 2nd rounder but I don't see him gettin that much pt..at the end of tha day he will probably be floating around in tha d league..he's a tweener
They made 2 good choices Favors( i don't mind on waiting for him, I think he be a good player but can't stop imagining how a beast frontcourt Demarcus Cosuins and Brook Lopez would be) Damien James is looking like he can contribute this season so thats a plus. I personally think Aminu won't be that horrible jumpshot and scored most points on dunks at Wake.
Not many big man have his athleticism, and his motor. The facets he needs to work on (post game, and offensive awareness) can all be worked on. Favors really reminds me of a lot more of Al Jefferson was back when he was in High School. Look for him to continue to get better by leaps in bounds in year 2.
I'm really excited to see if Terrence Williams can carry over his spectacular summer league play into regular season. I'd doubt he'd be able to put up 20+ ppg, but what really stood out, is how well he was able to handle and distribute the ball. I honestly, didn't know he had the capability to play the lead guard position. I always knew him as being a high riser during his days in Louisville. It's good to know he's added another dimension to his game. I really love his upside!
Landry Fields, knew this kid since he played Lakewood Hoops in Lakewood, California. Kid was always great fundamentally. His time in college he continued to improve immensely, he's filled out quiet nicely, and plays within himself. What separates himself from others, is his high basketball IQ. Landry will be a serviceable player in the NBA.
What about babbit didnt he play well?
Other than his last game, I wasn't too impressed with Babbitt. Him not being on the list isn't a shocker to me.
Nothing about Babbitt's game translates to the NBA really as of now, except his mid-range game and free throw shooting lol. He looked horrible on D every Portland game I watched.
Patty Mills and (to a much lesser extent) Armon Johnson were the most impressive players on their team IMO
Everything I thought about Babbitt at Nevada looks to be true so far.
1. He doesn't play athletic and long. He doesn't play tough either.
2. He can't defend anybody. He's too slow on the perimeter, not strong enough in the post and just lacks general awareness.
McMillian is a defensive minded coach. If you can't defend, you won't play much. How's Babbitt going to get on the floor?