NBA Summer League: Day 6
A true Vegas vacation.
Another day in Vegas, another day of basketball. With six games going on simultaneously in two separate gyms, it’s pretty difficult to catch an entire game when you hear mumblings of a player dropping 20 in the first half in a different arena. Regardless, after running back and forth to catch glimpses of Jason Thompson’s monster game, Tyreke Evans’ awful game, and Andray Blatche’s 27-point, 15-rebound outing, it’s easy to wonder off from a turnover-infested game to catch a peak of something of interest.
Here are the two games I sat down and watched tip-to-finish:
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Chicago Bulls
– Brandon Jennings, though he plays at only one speed (100 miles per hour), is doing a very nice job early on of running the pick and roll.
– The Bulls long and athletic front line of James Augustine, James Johnson, and Taj Gibson is giving the Bucks problems inside. Amir Johnson can only do so much.
– Speaking of Amir Johnson, he has now officially finished his four years of “college” in the NBA. All of his class is in the league now, so let’s see where he’s at compared to his peers that took the more traditional route. There’s no denying the athleticism that he brings to the table, but let’s see how his feel and basketball IQ come along.
– Former NC State forward Brandon Costner has been turning some heads. He’s a skilled four man who can step out and shoot the three, yet also has enough skill to bang down low.
– Joe Alexander is playing more of a face the basket power forward role for the Bucks thus far. He’s showing off a nice first step and mid-range jumper. His size, strength, and athleticism allow him to slide down to the four spot and he actually looks more comfortable there.
– Juan Palacios sighting. Any of you remember when a certain NBA draft site had him projected as a lottery pick?
– Though James Johnson is very skilled, it’s clear that he’s not ready to play the small forward position full time yet. He’s still too heavy on his feet and not explosive enough to get by people off of the dribble.
– Taurean Green is shooting the lights out of it, which we’ve all already known that he can do. The question is: Can he run an NBA offense?
– Jodie Meeks just needs to stick to his game. He tries to do too much at times in terms of passing the ball and off of the dribble. He was drafted as a straight scorer and that’s what he needs to do.
– Apparently Meeks got the memo because he just had a really nice slash to the rim in transition, only taking a couple dribbles.
– “Dooby Doo” (Brandon Jennings HS nickname) brought his first piece of flare to the game, with a fake behind the back pass that he converted with a lay-up.
– Taj Gibson with 5 fouls in less then a quarter and a half. An NBA Summer League norm for rookie big men.
– Amir Johnson really has a chance. He’s got the size, length, athleticism, and raw skills to really be a player in the future. It’s wierd saying that about a guy who is going in to his fifth year in the league, but it’s true.
– Joe Alexander really starting to get it going here for the Bucks. He’s put 6 quick points on the board with a couple of mid-range jumpers and a strong take to the rim.
– Jennings with a ridiculously high alley-oop attempt to Alexander that would’ve brought the house down. Regardless, it was an excuse for us to see how high Jumpin’ Joe can really get up there.
– After a halftime, schmoozing, and brief bathroom break, I returned four minutes into the second half to ask two NBA scouts if I missed anything impressive since I had noticed that Alexander and Johnson had added some points to the board. My response: “No, nothing. It’s a typical summer league game.” Just another example of how easy it is to get burnt out down here.
– Former Tau Ceramica big man Will McDonald is showing a little out here for the Bucks. He’s got great size, toughness, and athleticism. If he keeps playing at this level, he should be able to secure an invite to veteran camp.
– Given his small stature, Brandon Jennings is going to have to work on his right hand if he hopes to be an elite finisher in this league. He just isn’t big or strong enough to get the ball up over the athletic bigs in the NBA with just one hand around the rim.
– After an impressive first half, Amir Johnson has been a basic non-factor for the majority of the second half.
– Brandon Jennings crashes to the floor yet again after a drive to the basket. He also still slings the ball on his jumper, which is going to have to change if he wants to develop a consistent jumpshot.
– Jodie Meeks is showing more and more that he has a chance of being a decent role player down the road. He’s going to have to tighten up his handle, but he’s a guy who knows the limitations of his game and rarely tries to do anything out of the realm.
– Taj Gibson picks up his 10th foul on Joe Alexander, after he is smoked off of the dribble.
– James Johnson is really struggling out here, even though he just hit a jumper. He needs to understand how good he can be as a face the basket power forward. Maturity, conditioning, basketball IQ, and understanding of the game will ultimately be what makes or breaks him. He’s got the talent though.
– Speaking of other guys that need to get stronger, Amir Johnson looks virtually the same physically as to when he was in high school. As one NBA coach said, “Some guys lift weights because they want to get bigger. Some guys lift weights because they want to stay in shape for the season. And then some guys lift weights simply because they don’t want to be fined.” It appears that Johnson falls into the latter category.
– Jennings was the player of the game, finishing with a crucial 14 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 4 turnovers. He’s taking his growing pains now, but is doing far better then most in attendance expected after his abysmal season in Italy. The Cali native is running the show well for Milwaukee, getting everyone involved and limiting the questionable shot selection that plagued him in the past. Jennings is making some serious strides and if his summer league play is any indicative factor of how he’ll be during his rookie year (though it usually is not), he should get some serious burn, due to the potentially impending departure of Ramon Sessions.
Toronto Raptors vs. Phoenix Suns
– DeMar DeRozan was the top player that this game had to offer and the stats backed it up, finishing with 20 points on 9-16 from the field. He did the majority of his work from mid-range and from coming off of screens, though there were a few glimpses of his aerial attack. It was clear that he’s not quite comfortable shooting the NBA three pointer yet, based off of his insistence to take a dribble in any time he got the ball beyond the arc. The ex-USC high flyer’s handle wasn’t all that, but it was solid enough to get him to the rim off of a couple of dribbles.
– The other high profile rookie in the game, Earl Clark, did not disappoint either to the tune of 13 points and 12 rebounds. He showed off really nice vision dropping off potential dimes to guys that were often botched for layups and/or dropped out of bounds. Clark didn’t step out too much with his jumper, but was the type of long, bouncy, athletic role player that every time in the league dreams of having. No one thinks he’s going to be the sure fire incumbent to Amar’e Stoudemire in 2010 if he decides to bolt, though he’s doing the right things to make a case for taking over the four spot if need be.
– Though Goran Dragic was drafted to be the potential replacement for Steve Nash, he’s light years away from taking the scoring part of that duty. He’s shooting a lowly 15.4percent from through the first two games, making you wonder if they should turn the AC down in his hotel room. Dragic has sick court vision, but is still a bit of an immature decision maker at times. The Valley of the Sun will be feeling the growing pains just like Dragic if he goes through the entire season as their backup point guard.
– Former summer league scoring machine Quincy Douby did exactly what he does: Get buckets and play little to no defense. Though he’s usually a bit of a chucker, he has been much better in terms of shot selection, as seen by his 49 percent field goal percentage thus far. The former Big East scoring machine is doing to have to keep playing like this and fighting for his paper, given the fact that his contract is non-guaranteed for ‘09-10.
– Robin Lopez followed up his straight dominant performance on Monday (24 points, 16 rebounds) with a much more pedestrian one on Wednesday. Dude did finish with 11 points, but he only had 3 rebounds and botched a number of easy passes and lay-ups around the rim. Those who caught his Summer League debut on Monday said he was making strides in the right direction offensively, but you certainly could not tell that based on his game Wednesday.
– Ekene Ibekwe deserves a mention because of his game saving swat of a Goran Dragic lay-up attempt at the buzzer with the Suns down 1. He and Dragic collided after the play though and both hit the ground with a sound that made everyone cringe. Dragic got up after a few minutes. Ibekwe did not. The former Maryland big man had to have his neck stabilized and was taken off of the court on a stretcher after finishing with 7 points and 11 rebounds. No word yet on his condition, but we definitely wish him the best in what was a horrible spill.
Rodger Bohn is a former director of prep scouting for DraftExpress.