NBA Summer League: Top 10 Rookies

Mon, 07/20/2009 - 10:26pm
The 2009 Las Vegas Summer League has finished up and it didn't disappoint. It was a mix of 1st rounders who were trying to prove they were worthy of their selection and 2nd rounders who were out to show that they slipped too far in the draft. Other rookies were just out to show they belonged on a team, or even impress some European team into signing them. Here's a look at the top 10 rookies in Vegas. Tomorrow we'll look at the top 10 non-rookies.

Top 10 Rookies

1. Blake Griffin - LA Clippers / 19.2ppg, 10.8rpg, 3.2apg, 1spg, 50fg%

Brandon JenningsBrandon Jennings Everyone showed up to see the 1st overall pick Griffin and he did not disappoint. At times he still looked like a man among boys, just like he did all season long at Oklahoma. He led all rookies in rebounding (10.8) and was 3rd in scoring (19.2) while taking every teams best shot. He showed the versatility of his game, over-powering players at some points and blowing by them at other times. On a consistent basis he was beating all big men down the court, usually ending up with a dunk. Next year should be electrifying for Blake Griffin fans. He will step right in and contribute at a high level.

2. Brandon Jennings - Milwaukee / 14.6ppg, 2.6rpg, 8.2apg, 3.6stl, 37.9fg%

Jennings didn't shoot particularly well (37.9 % fg) but every other part of his game was crisp. He led the summer league in steals (3.6) and was tied for the lead in assists (8.2). At times Jennings looked like he is ready to lead an NBA team now, or at least he is able to compete for minutes. The Bucks haven't re-signed point guard Ramon Sessions, and seeing Jennings perform in Vegas may sway the ownership to go in other directions and depend on Jennings getting some big minutes. Running the show for Milwaukee, Jennings best stat was 4-1 (win/loss record).

3. Chase Budinger - Houston / 17.8ppg, 2rpg, 0.8apg, 1stl, 68fg%

Budinger slipped in the draft all the way to the 44th pick overall after many projected him to fall somewhere in the 1st round. During the last ten days, Budinger played like should have gone in the 1st round by scoring at a better rate than anyone in Vegas. In just 22 minutes a game he averaged nearly 18 points. He rarely missed a shot, connecting on 68.1 % from the field, and a ridiculous 72.7% from beyond the arc. Houston coach Rick Adelman likes defensive type players, but Budinger can earn minutes on any roster if he continues to shoot like he did in Vegas.

4. Rodrigue Beaubois - Dallas / 17ppg, 3.4rpg, 3.8apg 1.4stl, 47.8fg%
Rodrigue BeauboisRodrigue Beaubois

The speedy point guard from France proved to be effective in the summer league with his overall game. He exploded for 34 points and 8 assists vs. Houston in a game where he connected on 7 three's. He was up and down, and the Mavs struggled winning only their last game. The young, electric PG (21 years old), who was the 25th overall pick in the draft, could be a great change of pace guard off the bench to back up the aging Jason Kidd. It's tough to draw conclusions from Summer League play, but Beaubois appears to be a guy who could end up a top 10 player from this draft class when all is said and done.
5. Austin Daye - Detroit / 17ppg, 8.8rpg, 1apg, 1.4stl, 47.1fg%

Daye's performance was a bit of a surprise. Although he was the 15th pick in the draft, many think that his skinny frame keeps him a few years away from contributing. Daye played like he wants to contribute now. He had some monster games. His biggest performance was a 27 point and 13 rebound game vs. the Knicks. Daye's rebounding wasn't expected either. He was the 3rd leading rebounder for all rookies, something that could earn him minutes for Detroit next year. All those armchair GMs might want to pump the brakes on running Joe Dumars out of town just yet.

6. Tyreke Evans - Sacramento / 19.2ppg, 6.2rpg, 4.2apg, 1stl, 40.3fg

The 4th pick in the draft didn't shoot the ball very well (40.3% fg), but his overall game was impressive. In 5 games, Evans averaged 19.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 4.2 apg (his stats were lowered due to playing one game with an injury). His ability to drive and force the refs to make calls often works in his favor, although he spends a lot of time crashing to the deck (explaining the finger injury). He showed his ability to make plays out of nothing, and that is something that the Kings will need him to do desperately next year. Reke is going to one of the worst teams in the league and they lack playmakers, which is exactly what Evans is. He should see big minutes his rookie year.

7. Darren Collison - New Orleans / 18.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.8apg, 1stl, 44.9fg%

New Orleans new back up PG was the steadiest point guard in the summer league. He looked every bit worthy of the 21st selection showing the composure to guide his team. Collison's quickness and ability to hit shots will make him an effective NBA player right away. Although Jennings was flashier and shows more potential, Collison was the top floor general in Vegas.

8. DaJuan Summers- Detroit / 18ppg, 5.4rpg, 1apg, 44.3fg%

DaJuan SummersDaJuan Summers Summers fell off in the final game shooting just 5-15 from the floor, but he still put up a monster week with a bevy of impressive performances. While teammate Austin Daye grabbed more boards and hit a higher percentage of shots, Summers scored a point more per game and was very impressive in his own right. At the 35th pick, Summers appears to be a steal based on his SL performance. Detorit's other draft choice, Jonas Jerebko, also deserves mention as he was very efficient as well (12 ppg), and likely would have been listed had he not been playing alongside Daye and Summers.

9. Jodie Meeks - Milwaukee / 19ppg, 2.2rpg, 0.8apg, 1stl, 55.7fg%

The Bucks quickly signed 2nd round draft pick Meeks, and his performance in Vegas showed us the reason. Meeks scored 19.0 ppg on 55.7% shooting. The Bucks traded away Richard Jefferson before the draft happened and opened up some minutes on the wing. If Meeks can continue to score at the pace he did in college and again in Vegas during the summer league, there may be an opportunity for Meeks to step right in and contribute.

10. DeJuan Blair - San Antonio / 16.3ppg, 8.7rpg, 52.9fg%

In just 3 games, Blair began his campaign to prove that he was the draft's biggest slip, falling all the way to the Spurs at 37th in the 2nd round. In Vegas he was productive as expected, averaging 16.3 ppg on 53% shooting and 8.7 rebounds a game. The Spurs acquired veteran big men Antonio McDyess and Marcus Haislip, but neither possesses the rebounding tenacity that Blair has proven to have, especially on the offensive end. The Spurs are getting old, and injecting Blair into the lineup could prove to reenergize them. Seeing him in Vegas only fuels that idea.


Marcus Thornton - 20.7ppg, 2.3stl, 3.3rpg, 44fg%

In just three games Thornton played very well, leading all rookies in scoring with a 20.7 average, despite shooting below 30% from 3. Last year's SEC player of the year is proving that he can get it done among the pros as well. Drafted 43rd overall, Thornton's physical style of play could earn him some minutes for New Orleans, who is desperately lacking playmakers on the perimeter besides Chris Paul.

Dante Cunningham - 18.3ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.5stl, 47.6fg%

The Blazers do not have much depth at the power forward position behind LaMarcus Aldridge. They could still sign a big free agent like David Lee or Glen ‘Big Baby' Davis to take up most of those minutes. But, either way, the Blazers may be able to rely on Cunningham for some minutes. The four-year player from Villanova had a very good stint in Vegas, averaging 18 points and nearly 6 rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan – 17ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.2apg, 49.3fg%

Played well all things considered. He's younger and less experienced than most of the guys in the summer league, yet had a very positive showing: 17 ppg, 49% fg.

James Johnson – 16.6ppg, 7rpg, 3.6ast, 1bpg, 39.7fg%

Seemed to finish games a lot better than he started them, which isn't such a bad thing. He took over the Knicks game in the fourth quarter with an eye opening performance.

James Harden – 14.5ppg, 3rpg 3.3apg, 1.2stl, 47.6fg%

Didn't put up eye popping numbers but he impressed with his maturity and composure. Having played 5 games in Orlando apparently left this team (0-5) gassed.

Stephen Curry – 17.4ppg, 4.6rpg, 4.2apg, 2.4stl, 32.5fg%

Stephen CurryStephen Curry Curry struggled some with his shooting numbers with two subpar games to end the SL, but he put on a show in the second half of the Sacramento game showing great competitiveness after being challenged. His passing and quickness were also better than advertised.

Johnny Flynn - 15ppg, 2.4rpg, 7.4apg, 48fg%

Had major turnover issues (5.2 pg) but improved as the week went along. Flynn has dynamic athleticism and the speed to get by opponents but he has a long ways to go defensively.

Ty Lawson – 17.2ppg, 4rpg, 3.8apg, 1.2stl, 45.3fg%

Shook off two early stinkers to finish strong with 3 excellent games. Although he went 12 spots lower, he looked every bit as effective as Jonny Flynn at the PG position.

Sam Young – 13.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 51.9fg%

Along with teammate DeMarre Carroll, Young played his role well helping the Grizzlies close out a perfect SL.

Wayne Ellington – 14.4ppg, 3.4rpg, 44.8fg%

Displayed his smooth shooting ability and mature floor game knocking down 52% from 3 after a rough 4 point (2-12 fg) opener.

Jordan Hill – 14.4ppg, 8.2rpg, 1bpg, 43.8fg%

Struggled early but improved as the SL went on. His 8.2 rpg was good enough for 5th among rookies. He still needs to get stronger but showed nice offensive polish in the post.

Taj Gibson – 13.0ppg, 10.0rpg, 55fg%

Used his condor (7-4) wingspan to finish second in rebounding among rookies 10.0 rpg. Also looked comfortable playing in the post with an efficient 55% fg.

Check back tomorrow as we'll take a look at the top 10 non-rookies.

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DeJuan Blair - Paul Milsap Saga Repeated

I keep pointing out that many NBA GMs are fixated on offense, which apparently makes them blind to the rewards that a great rebounder can bring to a team. I was in a state of disbelief several years ago when every team in the league passed on Paul Milsap who led the NCAA in rebounding 3 consecutive years.

I thought for sure NBA GMs learned their lesson and would not repeat the same mistake with DeJuan Blair, who's a better offensive player than Milsap. I really expected Blair to go in the top 15 and couldn't believe it when he went number 37 to San Antonio.

Can anybody state with true candor there were 36 players better than DeJuan Blair on the draft board? Does anyone believe NBA GMs deserve the huge amount of money they earn?

The Hoops Manifesto
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Saying that Jennings didn't shoot very well might be something we hear time and again. He shot under 40% in Europe last year also.

As for Blair, I was shocked he dropped as far as he did. Looks like the Spurs got themselves another steal with a late pick.

Jeff Fox

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Weak draft class?

I remember seeing everyone call this a bad draft class, but this looks more like a class that has a lot of rotation players. Bobby Knight on Draft night called it an extremely deep draft and I agree. The older draftees contributed early and the younger showed ability and potential. And Jennings being projected so low prior to the draft was unfounded. Prior to his Euro trip, this site had him pegged as a top 5 pick. The talent was, and still is there.

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Blair is a beast

rtbt - I totally agree! I was shocked and amazed as picks 11-37 happened. One thing was for sure - Popopovich & Co weren't going to pass on the Beast from the Big East.

No ACL's? - If I were a GM I would be wary about a top 10 pick, but after that how can you lose drafting this guy if there was a need at PF? Then when it went into picks 20- 30 - a mil a year for three years for the best rebounder in college with a 7'2" standing reach, 265 lbs and a mean yet skilled post game, and everyone passed - dumb!

DeJuan Blair will be in the company of Rashard Lewis, Boozer and Millsap, and Tony Parker as one of the biggest round 2 steals EVER!!!!

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This draft wasn't as weak as advertised

The 2009 Draft Class is better than expected.
The word was, that this is the worst since 2000 (look it up - it's gross), but I say that it's on par with 2006. The 2006 draft has only produced a handful of NBA starters and half the lottery was a bust - really go to Wikipedia and check it out.
Sure, there is only one franchise player (Griffin) and only 2 draft worthy centers that are both projects. There is this bumper crop of PG' s that should produce at least a couple All Stars and guys like Clark and Daye have so much upside they could both emerge as All Stars. Additionally, the Beast from Big East will be a force for the next 10 years.

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foxman2sly and the Top Ten Draft Choices

foxman2sly, I completely agree with your assessment of how a draft should work. If you're in the top ten, you should be looking for a future star, or at the very least, a definite starter. Using that criteria, I too would be concerned about the lack of ACLs. But once you get past the first 10 or 11 guys, then your priorities should change.

That's the point in the draft where you should be happy to get a solid role player who will add depth and consistency to your team. And if your'e lucky, a guy that falls past the top ten might actually turn into a star. For me personally, I thought Tyler Hansbrough was a great pick at 13 and then Blair should have been next. Or, it could have been reversed with Blair going just ahead of Hansbrough.

I'm still shaking my head at the number of guys who were picked before DeJuan Blair. I know that Popovich and company couldn't believe it when their turn came up and Blair was still on the board. San Antonio will be laughing all the way to the playoffs.

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Also didn't understand why this was labeled as a weak class

The only logical reason was that it followed a extremely talented draft the year before. The jury is still out there though, let's wait and see how the majority of these players play during the regular season where it actually matters.

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This is not a week class

I dont know why everyone was calling this a weak class i see a lot of potential in this draft especially the pg's and i like a lot of the 2nd round picks as well like Dejuan Blair,Chase Budinger,Jodie Meeks and Danny Green to name a few.

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This was a weak draft

But it was also a deep draft. This was a weak draft, not weaker then 2006 mind you but still weak. It was weak at the top with only 1-2 possible all-stars. But it was also deep with a lot of good rotational players.

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Blair is going to play with

Blair is going to play with a chip on his shoulder which makes him even better. Going to the Spurs is actually a blessing in disguise. He is going to an already good playoff team and will be getting immediate playing time. I can't believe teams would not at least take him as a late first rounder. I'm not surprised by Collison's play. I've always liked his game. He can shoot and defend. He will be a very good backup to Chris Paul. I can't believe Holliday went ahead of him. It should also be noted that Curry is an underrated defender. He averaged 2.4 steals in these games which was about the same as his average was in college this year. Van Gundy and Mark Jackson even complimented his defense when they covered his games.

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To all the Blair Fans

Blair dropped so low because of inury concerns. Hes had two ACL surgeries and now actually has no acl thanks to the way they healed. Its good because obviously he can't tear it again since he no longer has one but most GMs were worried that his knees would turn into wet chalk and due to his size he wouldn't hold out in the league that long. Same thing happened with leon powe a few years back which is why he was considered a steal for the celtics even after owning people back at cal. If blair has some freak shaun livingston accident than those other GMs will say told you so, but I'm hopin blair does his thing (even though I don't like the spurs)

As for the draft being weak, drafts are rated on superstar power. Thats why this draft is weak. Blake is the only sure thing. The rest of the draft was solid with role players but not many are listed as having superstar/all star potential down the road like other drafts. So this draft has good guys who can fill gaps but not many you build a franchise around like lebron,melo,wade,bosh, etc..year.

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