The NBA's Las Vegas Summer League is officially underway, giving a chance for recently drafted prospects to get their rookie seasons off on the right foot, borderline players to work their way into consideration for roster spots and home to plenty of sloppy basketball. Teams are constructed in relatively rudimentary form, and yet the summer showcase does grant an opportunity—however conditional—for talent scouting.
With that in mind, here's a closer examination of the performance of a few of the standout players from Day 2 in Vegas.
Tony Wroten, Memphis Grizzlies - Wroten's pre-draft profile was defined by its flaws; rather than stand as a 6'6'' playmaker who can fill in the gaps across the court, Wroten was pegged as turnover-prone, lacking in range and unreliable in his decision-making.
His Summer League debut provided a very different picture, as Wroten provided one of the most versatile and impressive performances from the first two days in Vegas.
Concerns over his jumper were temporarily quieted by perimeter makes (including two three-pointers), and although Wroten's ball-handling was predictably left-hand-centric, he was nonetheless able to create off the dribble and manage against a defense geared to prevent him from going to his left.
He polished off his performance with fantastic work on the glass, and should Wroten eventually come to be matched up with opposing point guards, that's easily the aspect of his game that will translate most easily to every-night NBA success.
We're a long way from being able to say anything definitive about Wroten, but his first game at the Cox Pavilion catapulted him onto the Summer League must-watch list.
Chris Singleton, Washington Wizards - Singleton is a defensive asset and a useful offensive player in the right contexts, but too easily drifts into trying to do too much. It's a noble flaw, but a glaring one; whenever Singleton tries to floor the ball or manufacture offense on his own, the results are often disastrous, and yet you can tell that he isn't fully comfortable sliding into a purely complementary role.
Singleton's spot-up jumper would be the most natural point of transition for him on offense, and yet he still has a ways to go in terms of flaring, curling and working his way into looks as a result of standard offensive motion.
Not much can go wrong when parking Singleton—a decent spot-up threat as-is—in the corner, but in order to become a more productive perimeter threat, he needs to expand his capacity to get open, continue to work on his ball-handling and figure out how to best play off of the personnel on the floor.
Jerome Randle, Memphis Grizzlies - Randle has yet to make an NBA roster since graduating from California in 2010, but he's become a Summer League regular and a curious NBA exclusion—the latter of which was reinforced by Randle's tremendous showing for the Grizzlies' Summer League team on Saturday.
Randle officially stands at 5'10", but his slight stature doesn't preclude him from manipulating defenses with his dribble penetration or creating quality mid-range shots by dashing into open space. The defensive end is obviously another issue entirely, but Randle is quick and aggressive enough to get into opponents on the perimeter, in part off-setting some of what he surrenders by way of his height.
In a world where so many sub-six-foot ball-handlers have found NBA success, I have a hard time believing that Randle—who is both so quick and so patient—couldn't find his way in the big leagues if given the opportunity.
Jeremy Lamb, Houston Rockets - Lamb is a prime example of a natural scorer—he isn't the purest shooter or the safest ball-handler, but he works his way into good opportunities and converts them seemingly with ease. In a Summer League context, that's fantastic; Las Vegas is a frequent home for broken offensive sets, and Lamb is a fitting candidate to convert disorganization into efficient scoring.
Yet I'm curious to see just how he fits into a team with a more stable offensive function, even if Houston—which at the moment is seemingly composed of almost entirely young players—isn't likely to be an immediate home for such order. We know that Lamb can put up points in a loose context, and that his natural bent should make him a good late-option scorer at the NBA level.
But where does he fit in the initial phases of the offense's progression, and should he operate as a shot-creator, a supplementary shooter or the more likely combination thereof?
Matt Janning, Memphis Grizzlies - Janning has the uncanny capacity to make smart cuts appear to be parts of a structured offense, even when the on-court mayhem in Vegas clearly shows otherwise. Whether learned or strictly innate, Janning understands rather perfectly how to slide into a lineup as a complementary player, and his movement without the ball just begs to be used in a system built on flex principles.
The Northeastern product is so often overlooked for the sake of players with more promise, but I'm surprised that teams in need of more immediately usable pieces haven't looked his way over the past few seasons.
Janning shoots, he slashes, and he has no misconceptions about who he is or how he should play. That's a valuable asset to have around for teams in need of wings but lacking in resources, and yet thus far the only gigs Janning has been able to secure have been in the D-League and in Italy.
That may change if he continues to perform in the same capacity as he did on Saturday; NBA teams couldn't possibly ignore a consummate role player archetype in their midst forever, right?
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