Summer league isn’t just an opportunity for rookies to get their first taste of professional competition. It’s also a chance for young, up-and-coming stars to hone their skills and for journeyman veterans to possibly open some eyes and land an NBA or Euroleague contract. These 10 players truly took advantage of their Las Vegas Summer League experiences.
1) Jonas Valanciunas – 18.8 PPG, 10 RPG, 1.8 APG, 56% FG, 88% FT, 29 MPG
Valanciunas was simply too big and strong for this level of competition, as he was named MVP of of the Las Vegas Summer League. The Raptors’ big man easily established his position and showed a variety of moves to get his baskets. He has good fundamentals and converted an impressive 88 percent of his free throws.
Although his physicality did lead to several fouls and turnovers, he was unquestionably the best player in this year’s event. While he effectively used pass fakes to cutting teammates to create room to maneuver, Valanciunas will need to become a bit less predictable offensively (he seemed to shot-fake every time he faced up to the basket).
His body language wasn’t always positive, as he occasionally struggled to play through adversity, but he is still young with time to mature. Expect Valanciunas to replace Andreas Bargnani as a double-digit scorer for Toronto this season.
2) Kent Bazemore – 18.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 44% FG, 23% 3FG, 74% FT, 30.1 MPG
In seven games, Bazemore played consistent at both ends of the floor, leading his team to the first LVSL championship. The Warriors were high on Bazemore last summer, and his performance this year has somewhat vindicated the organization’s faith in him.
Bazemore was one of the more intense and energetic players in SL and played with much more confidence than last year. He possesses NBA size, length and athleticism; however, he is currently a streaky-at-best outside shooter and will need to improve his jumper to secure more regular-season action. His play over the week made him an MVP candidate, but he wasn’t as dominant as Valanciunas.
3) John Henson – 14.7 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 55% FG, 67% FT, 27 MPG
Henson effectively used his length and skill to be a force at both ends of the floor. Offensively, Henson makes use of good footwork and fakes to get his looks. His length and timing make him a dominant shot blocker and rebounder.
He could still use some work on his rail-thin body and his wonky outside shooting stroke to be more effective in the NBA, but he was easily one of the best players in Vegas this year, earning him a Summer League All-Star selection.
4) Jeff Taylor – 20.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 48% FG, 37% 3FG, 69% FT
Taylor brought one of the more polished all-around games to Las Vegas this year. Taylor played within himself, looking comfortable as a perimeter scorer, as well as showing his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
Taylor submitted an early entry for dunk of the 2013 SL, sending one down on Aron Baynes on Day 1. Despite being taken lower in last year’s draft, Taylor outplayed many that were selected above him, proving he was a first-round talent in 2012.
5) Jordan Hamilton – 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 40% FG, 44$3fg 86% FT
Much like Taylor, Hamilton is a dangerous scoring threat with the ability to hit from outside, mid range and at the rim. His 18-point first quarter against New Orleans was one of this summer’s more memorable performances. Along with Denver teammate Quincy Miller, Hamilton was professional in his approach and continues to improve. He looks ready to play more substantial minutes for the Nuggets this season.
6) Dwight Buycks – 23 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 7 APG, 1 SPG, 55% FG, 25% 3FG, 92% FT
Buycks didn’t see a great deal of action during the summer, but he was impressive when he was on the court. Buycks is quick the with ball in his hands and can score in a number of ways. He showed an ability to create off the dribble, break down his defender, and knock down outside shots. Buycks performance earned him a well-deserved contract from the Raptors.
7) Andrew Goudelock – 19 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 47% FG, 52% 3FG, 85% FT
Along with players such as James Nunnally and Demetri McCamey, this former second-round pick was one of the better shooters this year, having next to no problem creating space to get his shot off. With a year of experience, Goudelock looked much better, playing with composure and showing an improved shot selection.
He was a member of the Lakers’ summer league squad that was on the receiving end of some heavy defeats last summer, including a summer-record 50-point hammering from Miami. He redeemed himself this year, earning a one-year deal to play with BC UNICS Kazan in Russia.
8) Aron Baynes – 12 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 47% FG, 44% FT, 26 MPG
The Australian big man is a solid, if not spectacular, player. He isn’t about finesse or playing above the rim, but he provided solid frontcourt play for the Spurs, averaging a double double in his four games. Baynes was relentless on the boards at both ends of the court and is physical and strong enough to provide a good defensive presence in the post. He will be looking to earn more regular-season minutes with the Spurs.
9) Dion Waiters – 17.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 37% FG, 15% 3FG, 61% FT, 30 MPG
Waiters didn’t put up efficient shooting numbers, but he displayed a solid all-around game this year. Waiters has the speed and upper-body strength to be a force heading to the basket. He moves well off the ball and also made a number of plays defensively. Waiters was a vocal and animated teammate and possesses a great deal of confidence in his ability, as he always wants the ball late in close games. Should Waiters be able to improve his outside shooting and conditioning, he has a good chance of moving into the upper tier of NBA shooting guards.
10) Austin Rivers – 18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 49% FG, 20% 3FG, 72% FT, 33 MPG
After a forgettable rookie year, Rivers earned a spot on this list with his often-excellent play this summer. Rivers played with much more confidence and patience. He is at his best when he uses his quickness to get to the basket, but he isn’t much of an outside shooting threat quite yet. His jumper will need to improve, as his stroke currently resembles more of a two-handed push shot.
When he’s unable to get to the rim, he can’t quite create his own shot off the dribble against a good defender. While he played well this summer, Rivers still has a big mountain in front him if he is to secure minutes in that crowded New Orleans backcourt.