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Summer League Notes

August 3, 2012

With the Summer League in Vegas ending about a month ago I know this story is far past relevant but I was bored at the time and watched quite a few summer league games so I thought I’d share my notes. Almost all of these players are of the average starter/good bench player variety yet they also all are young and could someday develop into the next Danny Granger or Jeremy Lin. If you’re not a hardcore basketball fan I’d skip this article but if you’re jonesing for some in depth analysis of some of the newer players in the league then it should be worth a read.

Veterans who are in trouble

Kemba Walker: Yes he had a nice game winner on a floater in the lane in one game and his team was 4-1 in Vegas but the reality is that 2nd year lottery picks like Walker should be dominating the summer league and he didn’t. He shot 35% from the field and for a guy who is severely undersized at 6’1 184 lbs he still has no 3 point shot (1-13). He’s undersized so he struggles defensively, can’t finish in traffic, and is a non-existent rebounder which makes his lack of an outside shot even more apparent. Last year he shot 37% FG 30% 3pt with too many analysts wanting to give him a pass as he was on the worst team in the league. Yet when a player’s numbers are the exact same in summer league when the competition is a HUGE step below the NBA level then it proves that it isn’t the roster he’s on it’s him. Walker is a bust who will never amount to anything more than possibly becoming a quality backup PG down the road. Another terrible pick by Michael Jordan who right now has to be classified as the worst GM in the league.

Bismack Biyombo: Going into the summer league Bismack was a 19 year old who was coming off an atrocious season offensively (5.2 pts in 23 mpg) including a god awful shooting stroke that looked beyond repair (48% FT). The goal was to put him in summer league against lesser competition and with one year under his belt and to at least see some progress yet that clearly wasn’t the case. He showed no ability to dribble, hit a 15 footer, or make a smooth move in the post and appears to be as backwards offensively as he was last year. At 6’9 he can’t just be a rebounder and shot blocker yet I see no developing skills and think it’s time we call him a bust. His only ray of hope is his age which should give him another 2-3 years in the league before every GM in the league comes to the same conclusion I came to during summer league.

Derrick Williams: After game 1 in which he was called out by his coaching staff for not giving optimum effort he seemed to actually try and that is why his poor showing in Vegas is so disconcerting. A year 2 player who was taken #2 Overall should either not come to the summer league because he’s already too good for it or should come and dominate. Unfortunately for Timberwolves fans Williams scored 15.4 ppg at an extremely inefficient clip (35% FG) while being a mediocre rebounder (5.2 rpg) who has trouble holding onto the ball (3.4 turnovers). I liked Derrick coming out of Arizona as I thought he would be a stretch 4 with good rebounding and shot blocking ability yet at this point in his career he’s an undersized 4 without a jump shot or dribble who has no real value on offense and isn’t as intimidating of a help side shot blocker on defense as I expected him to be. Right now he’s not a legit starter in the NBA and considering he was taken #2 Overall in last year’s draft, he’s on the verge of bust status.

David Harrison: I don’t want people to think this is hyperbole so I’m stating it before hand: I am 100% serious about this. David Harrison has the worst body language of any athlete in any sport I’ve ever seen. He aggravated me so much during the Mavericks 5 summer league games that I will forever remember him despite only playing 11 mpg. He loafed on defense, complained incessantly at the officials, tried to start numerous fights, and showed no discernable skill other than being big at 7’0 250. The fact that he averaged more fouls per game (3.6) than points (3.4) while playing against people 5-10 years younger than him (he is 30 years old) makes it a moot point as the Mavericks just signed him so they could have some size on their frontline. He won’t make the team and I’m thankful for that as he was one of the most annoying athletes to watch that I’ve ever encountered in any sport.

Veterans who might be turning the corner

Dominique Jones: Jones has been an afterthought on the Mavs the past two seasons averaging 7.5 and 8.1 minutes per game and being sent down to the D League numerous times. I personally see some talent in him as he’s an undersized 2 guard who is a great slasher with enough upper body strength to finish at the rim and enough quickness to make plays for others in a combo guard role. I continued to see those talents in Vegas where he averaged 20.2 ppg in his first 4 games (his averages were skewed by leaving the 5th game early with back spasms). His assist to turnover ratio was around 2 (5.0 ast vs. 2.8 turnovers) which is a decent mark in the pick style that is the summer league and he has noticeably improved on his step back 18 foot jump shot which kept the defense honest. I still wonder if he’ll get minutes next year as he’ll be battling Darren Collison, Roddy B., Vince Carter, Dahntay Jones, and this year’s 1st round pick Jared Cunningham for minutes at the guard spots yet I see some talent there. The problem is he’s at his best with the ball in his hands and the best skill a bench guard can have, a great 3 point shot, he lacks as seen by his 27% 3 point percentage in Vegas. I like Dominique but think he will once again ride the bench for the Mavs and he’ll eventually have to be on another team before he’s able to prove himself as a quality NBA player.

Jordan Hamilton: First off I have to say that Hamilton is a selfish a-hole. It was extremely evident in this summer league as he was clapping his hands and demanding the ball quite often and was a bit of a black hole on offense. It also doesn’t help that he had an average assist to turnover (A/T) ratio at 1.5 and his team went 1-4. So why was I so impressed by him? At 6’7 220 Hamilton has an NBA body that fits perfectly at the 3 spot and he can score efficiently from anywhere on the floor as he is just as adept attacking the rim (48% FG) as he is shooting from long range (38% 3pt). The almost Maverick (the Mavericks drafted him and then traded him to the Nuggets a few minutes later during the draft last year) looks like a very solid starter who could average 12-15 ppg next year. Considering last year he only averaged 4.4 ppg, his noticeable improvement should help the Nuggets next season and make them an even deeper team.

Rookies who caught my eye

Jeremy Lamb: If he doesn’t already have the nickname “smooth” then he must have some of the least creative teammates of all time as Jeremy has a game that is effortless. He was one of my favorite players going into the draft (ranked #5 on my board while most had him in the 10-15 range) and my excitement about him has only increased as he has legit 3 point range, an outstanding two dribble step back when going left, NBA height for a 2 guard at 6’5, and an impressive floater he can use when caught in no man’s land. The scouting report on him should already read “force him to drive right and if he drives left expect a pull up after 2 dribbles” as he isn’t very creative in how he attacks a defense yet when a player is as efficient as he is (has shot 48% FG and 93% FT in his first 4 games) then I can overlook a little lack of creativity. Lamb looks like a Day 1 starter who should be an 18-20 pt a game scorer by year 2 or 3.

Royce White: Another Houston draft pick yet one who could struggle as a rookie due to his unique skill set and lack of polish. While his free throw shooting (50%) and high turnover rate (3.2 TO in only 25 minutes) are cause for concern there is just too much to like about his bulk (260 lbs and loves to throw it around), passing ability (3.6 apg), and elite ball handling skills. The only two players I can even remotely compare his game to are Anthony Mason and Charles Barkley as you just don’t see guys that big shake and bake and make plays like he does. The same thing I said before the draft is the same thing I think now so I might as well just copy and paste it from my NBA Draft coverage a month ago, “Big time boom bust player but he has All-Star potential if a coach creates a system specifically for his unique talents. His ceiling is as an 18 pt 10 reb 6 ast power forward.” Will Houston create that system for him or will they try and pigeonhole him into a generic PF role that could cause him to struggle. Only time will tell but I found White to be the most enjoyable player in Vegas to watch and hope Houston uses him correctly as there is a lot of talent there.

Jae Crowder: After the draft I said that the Mavs third pick was my favorite “He’s a top notch defender and while his oversized frame makes it unlikely he can ever be a create his own shot type of SF he has a good blend of shooting touch (35% 3pt, 74% FT), basketball IQ, and peripheral skills (8.4 reb, 1 blk, 2 stl) that makes me really love this selection.” In Vegas he showed those “peripheral” skills off averaging 5.4 reb, 1.6 ast, 2.0 stl, and 0.8 blocks. It excited me how fundamentally sound he was in his play as he was always setting screens, cutting to the basket, spacing the floor for drivers, and helping out his teammates defensively. Tara, my wife, also noticed how he was the first guy over to pick up a teammate that was on the ground, “showing that he’s a really nice guy.” So I guess he has that going for him. I’ve mentioned a few times this past few weeks that I could see Shawn Marion being traded as the Mavs probably could get a 1st round pick for him and would increase their cap space next offseason. With the way Crowder has played in Vegas I think that move is even more likely to happen as he was one of the 10 best players in the summer league and plays the game in a way that even an old curmudgeon like Carlisle would appreciate. Expect him to be a contributor for the Mavs this year.

John Jenkins: He was known as the best shooter in this draft and he definitely hasn’t disappointed as he not only is the best shooter in the summer leagues but should immediately be one of the 10 best shooters in the NBA when he joins. While his ability to defend and rebound are somewhat questionable I am a little surprised he lasted till the 23rd Overall Pick as at 6’4 he has legit NBA size and should be capable enough in other areas to warrant a team starting him. His shot is smooth, fundamentally sound, and he has a quick release so expect Jenkins to very soon be regarded as one of the elite shooters in the NBA.

Rookie who might be in trouble

Evan Fournier: He shot 40% FG and didn’t impress me that much athletically. At 19 years old he has a chance to be a player down the road but I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t send him over to Europe to play for a year or two as he’s not NBA ready. Expect him to be a bench warmer this year.

D-Leaguer who caught my eye

Andre Emmett: The Dallas native and former Texas Tech star was always an undersized SF who lacked the skills to convert to a true SG. Well he’s 29 years old now and the conversion is complete as he showed a very nice 3 point shot and an outstanding handle to go along with his elite strength for the position. He caught my eye as a player who can create his own shot and space the floor for others so it wouldn’t surprise me to see his name on the call up list sometime in 2012 as at worst I think he’d be a capable scorer off the bench.

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