By Aran Smith
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a heat wave going on across the country, making the Las Vegas desert even hotter than normal. The second day lacked the big names of day one (Oden and Durant) but had some great performances nonetheless. Marco Belinelli was the brightest star of the day with 37 points leading the Warriors to a comeback victory in the final period.
Golden State Warriors 110 – New Orleans Hornets 102
It was the Marco Belinelli show as the soon to be starting 2-guard for the Warriors went off for 24 first half points on his way to 37 total. Not only did Belinelli entertain and impress but this was the most entertaining game so far of the Summer League with a late Warriors comeback sparked by the tremendous play of Belinelli and Warriors guard Kelenna Azubuike.
It was more than enough to make up for the absense of Brandan Wright who missed the game due to injury. Wright was out of action due to a hip-flexor and is questionable for the rest of the summer league.
Marco Belinelli had 37 points on 14-20 shooting including 5-7 3 point shots. But it wasn’t just the points that was so impressive but his passing and overall court sense as well. He didn’t come out and start bombing away, in fact he passed the ball the first few times he touched it. But when he found openings, he drained shots. With the Warriors up tempo style, and his great level of experience in Europe, he’s an early sleeper for fantasy basketball. Belinelli was our 10th rated overall prospect going into the draft and looks like an absolute steal for the Warriors at 18.
Kelenna Azubuike was a free agent pick up last season and really began to come on at the end of the season in Don Nelson’s offensive attack. He looks vastly improved from a year ago and could be ready to give this team a big boost off the bench and platoon with Belinelli, filling the spot that has been vacated after the JRich trade. Using his tremendous strength and athleticism to score from the perimeter as well as drives to the basket, Azubuike finished with a very impressive 29 points on 10-20 shooting.
Patrick O’Bryant or POB as Warrior fans like to call him is beginning to look like a total bust. How a 7-footer with such great athletic ability can go out and be invisible in summer league is extremely perplexing. The game just seems to be too fast for him and his intensity and focus aren’t there. Look for the Warriors to try to deal him away before the season in a package deal. To make matters worse, not only is he uncomfortable on offense, but his shot blocking ability is just average as he lacks the foot speed, explosiveness and instincts to use his great length as a shot blocker. POB had some nice rebounds towards the end of the game, but it was another frustrating game for him getting outplayed by Hilton Armstrong. On the bright side, maybe his talents would be better utilized in a slower paced (Eastern Conference?) team.
Julian Wright was impressive knocking down two perimeter shots finishing with 10 points on 5-9 shooting. He ran the floor well and used his length defensively and so far is looking like a solid pick at 13.
Hilton Armstrong was impressive with 17 points knocking down 7-7 from the line. He is looking like the superior player to O’Bryant despite being taken 3 selections after him in 2006.
Anthony Roberson was a bright spot for the Hornets. He finished with 22 points on 8-15 shooting knocking down outside jumpers as well as getting to the rim using his quickness on a few occasions.
Pierre Pierce had 21 points for the Warriors on 7-15 shooting using his size and speed well against the New Orleans guards.
Detroit Pistons 91 – Philadelphia 76ers 89
Louis Williams proved that his performance in day one wasn’t a fluke coming out with a game high 32 points. He had a key steal on Rodney Stuckey taking the ball from him at the top of the key late in the game. Williams was extremely aggressive driving the ball getting to the line 17 times and hitting every one of them. His quickness makes it very tough for opponents to stay in front of him. Williams was visibly frustrated with his teammates on one occasion after not receiving the ball, but seeing that he shot just 6-15 and wasn’t giving the ball up himself, he should not have been so upset. Williams still struggles passing the ball, with 6 turnovers, as he seems to telegraph his passes and lacks great vision. He appears to be much more effective at the 2-guard position, although Afflalo did an excellent job on him defensively.
Arron Afflalo got off to a slow start, but really came on at the end of the game. His defensive pressure on Louis Williams caused him to miss at the end of regulation. And it was his 3 point shot and pass in overtime which put the Pistons over the top. Afflalo looked solid although he sometimes hesitates before shooting allowing his defender to get set, and usually has trouble creating shots in one on one situations against long athletic defenders.
Rodney Stuckey was solid with 14 points on 4-9 shooting knocking down 6-8 from the line. He hit two clutch free throws to tie the game and send the game into OT (which happens to be 2 minutes in summer league). He didn’t set up teammates well, but was able to knock down a few jumpers from the perimeter. His big turnover at the end of the game could have been costly but they ended up pulling the game out.
Jason Maxiell and Louis Amundson had a great battle going for a while until Amundson twisted his ankle and left the game. Maxiell was the best player on the court using his beastly strength and athleticism to overpower the Sixers frontcourt on his way to 22 points. He had one Shaq-like dunk early in the game which got the place buzzing.
Thaddeus Young had 11 points on 5-11 shooting and similar to Julian Wright hit some outside jumpers as well as dunks on the break. It will be interesting to see which of these two talents ends up better after the pair went back to back (12,13) in the draft.
Cleveland Cavaliers 67 – San Antonio Spurs 53
The Cavs and Spurs game was an absolute snoozer with only one draft pick (from 2007) playing between the two teams (Marcus Williams). The Spurs have such an experienced teams, that they don’t have many young guys to send to the summer league with much talent. This game featured maybe 2-3 players who figure to be in the league in 5 years.
Marcus Williams has looked absolutely dreadful and it won’t be a surprise to see him not make the 15 man roster despite being a high second round pick. The attributes he showed that made him so attractive early in his college career, composure, ball handling, length all seem to be lost on this level playing at the shooting guard position. His athleticism appears severely limited against stronger players, and it’s obvious his decision to leave early was one of the worst of any player this year.
For the Cavs the two bright spots were Darius Miles and Shannon Brown. Rice showed his excellent outside shooting ability knocking down a number of shots and finishing with 14 first half points on his way to 19. Shannon Brown flashed his tremendous transition game getting out on the break and finishing high above the rim with lay ins plus some sweet one on one moves and outside shots. He has what James White is missing, which is the body strength to absorb contact and finish.
Sacramento Kings 73 – Team China 47
This game quickly got out of hand in the second quarter with Team China’s struggles in the backcourt and inability to defend strong post players. As great as Yi Jianlian had looked the night before with 23 points on 7-15 shooting, he played terrible today. He really had problems with the Kings bigmen Spencer Hawes and Justin Williams. Their strength inside made it difficult for him to get easy shots around the basket, and he was off on his jumper. He had zero points on 0-7 shooting in the first half, and really didn’t make anything happen until the game was way out of reach, finishing with 9 points on 2-14 shooting. His first performance came against a weak Memphis frontline, so apparently he has a lot more work to do on his strength and NBA readiness than first appearance indicated.
Team China hung tight for the first quarter, but a big second quarter run quickly put them away and it was smooth sailing for Hawes and company the rest of the way.
Spencer Hawes looked sharp. He seems to be running the floor better than before and took advantage of the weak Chinese frontcout efensively dunking an umber of times and scoring on his excellent post moves and hook shots. He finished with 19 points on 9-14 shooting and 7 boards.
Francisco Garcia had a team high 20 points on 6-18 shooting while Justin Williams abused the Chinese interior players with a barrage of dunks on his way to 17 points.