By Aran Smith
23 Teams, 10 days, 55 games (27 of which are scheduled to be televised on NBATV). The NBA Summer League got underway on Friday night, and NBADraft.net is in Las Vegas to bring you all the inside scoops and scouting reports of players on hand. With Greg Oden and Kevin Durant here strutting their stuff on Friday night (including 11 of the 14 lottery picks and 7 of the top 8 picks), this year’s Summer League is easily the most exciting and talent laden event ever.
*Which undrafted players or free agents are making a name for themselves? Which top picks are struggling and may take more time than expected? Check back each day for a run down of the key performances of the day.
Philadelphia 76ers 65 – San Antonio Spurs 61
Louis Amundson went undrafted last season and spent most of the year bouncing around the NBDL with one 10 game stint with the Sixers. Amundson impresses with his great energy level and athleticism. He finished with 16 points and 11 boards, knocking down 8-10 fts but struggled from the field at 4-12. He had one cockback dunk over Donnell Harvey. His shooting is his biggest area of weakness, and though he’s likely to never be a big scorer, he could possibly find a spot with Philly as an energy guy.
Louis Williams, the former second round pick in 2005 (#45) who unfortunately chose to jump college and go pro was the game’s high scorer with 19 on 6-11 shooting. His scoring outburst was likely more of an indication of his opposition (CJ Watson) than anything. Williams impressed in the open floor with his tremendous speed and had one monster jam over a defender which hung on the rim for a second before going through. He had Overall a strong performance for Williams, but nothing to get too excited about yet, lets see how consistent he is the rest of the way.
Thaddeus Young had just 5 points but looked solid knocking down one impressive three point shot and running the floor well. He struggled shooting and looked a little nervous in his first game in an NBA uniform. But he seemed to have good energy and shows promise, he’s just a long ways away as a freshman early entrant.
As nervous as Young was, Jason Smith appeared even more shell shocked. With just 2 points on 1-6 shooting, Smith was off on a number of shots with defenders on him. He struggles with contact and it seemed to have an affect on his shooting around the basket. Smith has the feel of a guy who will struggle in his first NBA season, as he’ll need to adjust to the strength of inside players night in and night out.
Rodney Carney disappointed. He scores nearly all of his baskets using his athleticism and really struggles to create anything off the dribble. Carney faced off with James White for some of the game and the two looked very similar. Carney, who finished with 8 points on 3-12 shooting, has a little more natural body strength but didn’t show as much determination. Carney’s 3 point shot can be effective, but when it’s off it really seems to affet his contribution.
CJ Watson had solid numbers with 13 points on 5-11 shooting and 3-3 from the line, but his success is best attributed to the lack of opposition than anything. Watson might be the starting PG for the summer league squad, but making the Spurs 15 man roster will be another story. It’s early, so it’s best not to rush to judgment, but despite the solid numbers he wasn’t a player that jumped out.
James White was impressive. He’s playing with better focus and aggressiveness than he showed in the past. He’s attacking the basket and showing assertiveness. He had a solid effort with 13 pts on 5-9 shooting. But his lack of physical strength will always limit his ability to finish.
Dallas Mavericks 77 – Seattle Supersonics 66
Durant got off to a slow start getting one drive swatted by DeSagana Diop and having a number of others go long. He missed his first 4-5 shots before finding a groove and flashing the sensational skills that everyone saw at Texas last season. Durant had an off game and still had a game high 18 points, though he shot just 5-18. He had a number of shots rim out. Durant’s low combine results fail to take one big factor into consideration, length = athleticism, and Durant’s incredible length makes him much more athletic than the combine results show. Although Durant’s success came mostly against the defense of Eddie Basden and Reyshawn Terry. His assignments in the league next year are sure to be stiffer every single night.
Jeff Green had a rough start to his summer league. He looked a little hesitant to shoot and his perimeter shot appeared flat even when it was going down. After starting the game fast with the first 5 points out of the gate, Green hit a major wall and finished with just 7 points total on 2-6 shooting in 28 minutes. Green is a terrific passer, who fits in perfectly with Durant, but didn’t seem to be on his game today.
The biggest disappointment for Seattle was Saer Sene who is beginning to look like an absolute disaster of a tenth pick in the draft. One has to presume the decision to clean house in Seattle may have had something to do with the disappointing returns from last year’s tenth pick. In fairness though to Dave Pendergraph and company, there really wasn’t a lot available at the pick. Pendergraph is one of the most respected scouts in the business, so it likely won’t be long before he is hired somewhere.
Desagana Diop is about to enter his seventh season in the league, but Dallas figured summer league would be the perfect place for Diop to work on his shooting ability. No such luck, it’s not getting any better. He missed all six shots he took, two of which were within 2 feet of the basket. Diop can rebound and block shots, but shooting isn’t and never will be part of his repertoire.
Jose Juan Barea was worth the price of admission as he was extremely effective and entertaining. No player on the summer league roster is listed at under 6-feet, but Barea wouldn’t be 6-feet in a pair of high heels. He’s a bulldog, all hustle and heart and had a marvelous game with 14 points (5-8) and 9 assists. He scored over bigger players on numerous "how’d he do that" moves. He really shines in this type of setting with inexperienced competition.
Maurice Ager was very impressive finishing with 17 points. He’s a player to watch for in the future and it appears the Mavericks have pulled another late round sleeper. He knocked down some outside shots in rhythm as well as a very impressive dunk off the break with traffic closing in.
Nick Fazekas struggled for Dallas with just 4 points on 1-7 shooting. He really struggles in an up tempo setting but when the game moves into the half court he looks infinately more comfortable. He attempted a number of outside shots, including 2 three pointers without any success.
Brandon Bass was a real bright spot for Dallas. He’s a physical freak with great body strength and really gives great effort. He had 12 points and 8 boards but also had 8 fouls.
Undrafted forward Caleb Green had a nice first showing for Dallas with 8 points in 17 minutes on effective shooting.
Memphis Grizzlies 86 – Team China 77
This is the first year that another non-NBA team has been allowed to participate in the NBA summer league. This is a great opportunity for the Chinese players to test their skills against NBA level players leading up to the 2008 Olympics.
Coming off an embarrassing loss to the USA U19 squad in Dallas (including Mike Beasley and company), the Chinese National Team put up a valiant effort against Memphis. Memphis built a big first half lead, but behind the play of recent draftee Yi Jianlian and Wang ZhiZhi, Team China was able to put up a fight but were never able to get closer than 10 in the final period until the final minute.
Yi Jianlian had 23 points on 7-15 shooting scoring on a number of turnaround jumpers and dunks. He ran the floor very well and had one breakaway dunk that brought a big cheer from the crowd. Yi did an excellent job against physical Alexander Johnson, getting him in foul trouble and he eventually fouling him out with 10 fouls. His 9-12 from the free throw was a great sign, as he showed the willingness to take the ball up strong inside. Yi is looking like the real deal, it’s just too bad the team that drafted him may never see him suit up for them. When I asked if he would play for Milwaukee next season, his agent Dan Fegan replied "No way". So there is obviously a war brewing in the battle of Yi and Milwaukee.
Rudy Gay had an excellent performance. He looked focused for most of the game, and was much more aggressive finishing with 21 points. He has improved considerably in the past year. But this was the Chinese Team, so lets see some consistency from him throughout the summer league before getting too excited about him. He had one big baseline reverse jam over Yi, and got a technical for punctuating the dunk by letting Yi know about it. It was overboard, but actually a good sign from his normally reserved and overly polite on court personality. This is in fact the type of aggressiveness that Gay needs to harness to take his game to another level.
Tarrence Kinsey is turning into a real surprise for Memphis. His 20 points was no fluke as he’s got a developing offensive game and looks a lot more comfortable creating offense and shooting from the perimeter. He’s still on the thin side, but appears to have added some much needed definition. He still needs more, but looks like an excellent free agent pick up from a year ago.
Mike Conley Jr. started slow but got into the swing of things burning the overmatched Chinese guards at will towards the end and scoring on a number of runners and lay ins. He looked very solid in his debut.
Lowry started the game at the point and appears completely healed from the injury that took him out last season. he had one very athletic dunk on the break with Team China in hot pursuit. The Lowry-Conley combination was effective on the floor at the same time.
Boston Celtics 74 – Portland Trailblazers 66
Oden sleepwalked through his first summer league game. With just 6 points in 20 minutes, Oden got off to a rough start gathering 3 quick fouls as Leon Powe aggressively took the ball at Oden and got the benefit of some generous calls relegating ODen to the bench for much of the first quarter. Oden somehow found a way to draw 10 fouls (the limit in summer league) in just 20 minutes of action. He missed on his jump hook twice, and overall looked very rusty. It’s obvious the past couple weeks of with the draft preparation has been a distraction for some players, and Oden definitely looked off his game. He had a few sparks including one monster jam in traffic drawing a foul as well as one big rejection on Leon Powe. But Powe really took it to Oden, using his body strength and aggressiveness to neutralize Oden’s size and athleticism. Powe finished with a team high 19 points on 7-13 shooting.
As disappointing as Oden was, LaMarcus Aldridge was impressive. Aldridge checked in with 26 points on 10-17 shooting. He knocked down numerous shots from 18 feet and ran the floor with great energy, converting on one dunk off the break in traffic. Aldridge still must get stronger to deal with NBA bigs defensively, but his athleticism, length and outside shooting ability make him an excellent compliment to Oden.
Gerald Green displayed his upside with a number of dazzling open floor plays. He got frustrated in the second half after turning the ball over and still seems to have maturity question marks, but his game is definitely showing development, which is a great sign for Boston. Consistency and maturity are the keys for him.
Martell Webster had a very solid showing despite the loss with 18 points (5-12) and 8 boards. He looked athletic and strong and his fade away was falling.
Rajon Rondo’s one field goal was a prayer 70 footer to end the first quarter. His speed and quickness caused fits for Sergio Rodriguez, but Rondo still struggles to create for teammates and especially for himself. His drive and kick can be effective, but it can also be wild. Rondo’s inability to score consistently may ultimately keep him from making the jump into the games upper echelon of PGs.
Glen Davis went 35th, but there are still major question marks about whether he’s an NBA player. He struggled in his first game with just 3 points on 0-5 shooting.>He was blocked from behind by Josh McRoberts, a player amazingly taken two spots after him.
Gabe Pruitt is the anti-Rondo. Both players are long and athletic points, however Rondo has better vision and point guard skills, but struggles to shoot, while Pruitt excels in hitting the deep ball. Pruitt could turn out to be a steal for Boston at 32.
Brandon Wallace was a surprise bright spot for Boston, finishing with 8 points. He’s an extremely fluid 6’9 forward who had one tremendous putback dunk where he pulled the ball from the top of the square. Unfortunately he’s so skinny, he doesn’t really have a position so for now, his NBA chances are limited.