Summer League Standouts
The rookies who made the most noise in Vegas.
by Maurice Bobb / @reesereport
When it comes to the NBA Summer League, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. For some rookies, like John Wall, Larry Sanders and Jeremy Lin, that’s a good thing. For others, like this year’s No. 2 pick, Evan Turner, the hope is that all of the NBA brass and onlookers were on roofies like in the movie, The Hangover. Nevertheless, SLAMonline was on hand for the last weekend of summer league action to get a good read on the lottery picks, the nomads, the dreamers and, of course, the “Damn, that guy still plays?!” milk carton players. Truth be told, Google was a necessary evil on the sidelines because there were so many guys on the floor no one had ever heard of. Unknown scrubs notwithstanding, the quality of competition and play at COX Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV was very impressive. To many fans’ chagrin, there were no Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian sightings, but everyone still enjoyed Warren LeGarie’s “desert league.”
When the last buzzer sounded, 23 teams had played a total of 58 games over 10 days. And in that time, there were those players who dazzled the record crowds with their b-ball swag, promise and star potential and there were those who, let’s face it, should’ve left that weak shit at home. So here it is ladies and gents, the Summer Leaguers (rookies) who made the most noise:
OK. Are we really that surprised that this year’s No. 1 pick lived up to the John Wallian hype? The Kentucky standout is the real deal Holyfield. Wall dominated Sin City with league-best averages of 23.5 points and 7.8 assists over four games and took home the MVP award. The Wizards rookie’s jump shot wasn’t exactly “water,” especially from deep and he coughed up the ball for 5.2 turnovers a game, but the kid scored as easily as breathing and demonstrated from the outset that the Wiz is now his team. No shots at Gilbert Arenas.
No one questioned Cousins’ ability to ball. With averages of 16.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, there’s no question that the former Wildcat can play. He banged down low and got boards, showed great footwork and displayed a nice midrange game. But it was his attitude that still raised a few red flags. When things didn’t go his way, Cousins would check out mentally and commit foolish fouls. Who could forget his triple-double the hard way: 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 fouls? The T-Mobile Rookie of the Month also had a less than stellar grand finale with just 6 points and 6 rebounds , but even with the knocks, the Kings came out on top with their selection of Cousins.
I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about Sanders coming out of VCU. But the 15th overall pick made me and a lot of people believers. Long and athletic at 6-11, Sanders’ instincts on the defensive end were off the charts but it was his surprising ability on the offensive end that has Milwaukee looking like they know a thing or two when it comes to drafting players. He averaged 14 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game for the Bucks. Sanders ran the floor well and has a great attitude. Brandon Jennings has to be salivating at the prospect of dishing the rock to this rookie.
The No. 7 pick out of Georgetown wasn’t able to put it all together in his first three outings for the Pistons, but in the last two, it was like he just stepped out of a phone booth. The former Georgetown Hoya finished his time in Vegas with a 27-point, 14-rebound performance. The 6-11 center will have minor foot surgery this week, but will be ready for training camp. Look for him to add some offensive prowess to the frontline defense of Ben Wallace.
The 58th overall pick out of Texas El Paso averaged 15.4 points on 59.2 percent shooting and hauled in 8.6 rebounds per in five games. An undersized forward at 6-9, Caracter showed an array of moves in the post and practically played his way into serious consideration for a roster spot for the upcoming season with the Lakers.
The 43rd overall pick out of West Virginia averaged 15 points on 45.4 percent shooting from behind the arc and 3.6 rebounds. Ebanks stayed in the passing lanes and reminded many of a more offensively gifted Trevor Ariza.
The second-round pick out of Stanford turned some heads with the Knicks. He averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in five games. Most analysts wrote off the former Pac-10 leader in PPG, citing the weaker conference play, but as evidenced by his play in Vegas, he has more in the tank than he was given credit for.
As long as Toronto Raptors’ fans don’t expect the No. 13 pick to be Chris Bosh, they won’t be disappointed. The rookie out of North Carolina averaged 12.6 points, 6 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots in a very efficient summer league run. Charles Barkley said that the Raps would be bad for a long time, but this 6-10 power forward gives them reason to be optimistic.
It looks like the Dallas Mavericks used their 25th overall pick wisely with Jones. The 6-4 guard out of South Florida had an impressive showing with 16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per. His J needs work, but it’s his ability to take it to the hole and draw contact that separates him from the pack. The Mavs aren’t hurting for guards, but look for Jones to not only crack the rotation, but be very productive off the bench.
The undrafted guard out of Harvard gained a lot of fans with his summer league play. Words like intelligence were thrown around like candy when describing Lin and with a 4.2 GPA and his impressive basketball IQ, it’s easy to see why. When Lin went head-to-head with Wall, he showed no fear and even took it to him, finishing with 13 points while holding the rookie sensation to 4-13 shooting. The former Crimson standout averaged 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Mavs and has garnered a lot of interest based on his play, including the Lakers.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Gani Lawal, Luke Babbitt, Jordan Crawford and Quincy Pondexter.