Vegas Summer League 2012: Second-Year Players Who Will Continue Their Hot Starts

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

April 26, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) tries to dribble past San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw (33) in the third quarter at ORACLE Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 107-101. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE
Cary Emondson-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA's Summer League isn't just about the year's most exciting rookie talents. Second-year players are out to prove their worth too.

Maybe these players had a disappointing rookie season. Maybe they're out to prove their enlightening first year wasn't a fluke. Either way, NBA sophomores have as much to prove as anyone in Las Vegas' games.

Let's see which scorching hot second-year players will continue their torrid start until play in Vegas concludes.


Tobias Harris

All of the sudden, Milwaukee may have themselves a formidable frontcourt. Ersan Ilyasova is back, John Henson played well in his first NBA Summer League game (20 points, nine rebounds) and Harris has been nothing short of dynamic in his two games thus far.

Harris is the sixth leading scorer right now. He's putting up 21.5 points per contest, and he's hauling down 6.5 rebounds a night. Granted it's only two games, but you have to start somewhere. 

Last year as a rookie, Harris averaged only five points per game. He never adapted to the NBA's pace, and he struggled to bring the skills to the table that made him a first-round selection.

Now the story is different. Harris is playing aggressively on offense, and he's using his unique skill set to dominate opponents. He's too tall (6'8'') to be guarded by a guard, but he's too quick for most NBA forwards. 

Once he realizes how good he can be, Harris' production will take off. We are watching him mature as each game passes, and Milwaukee fans will love the finished product. 


Klay Thompson

If you haven't noticed by now, Thompson can shoot the rock. The rest of his game is still a work in progress, but man can he shoot.

We knew this when he came out of Washington State, and he's already proven it once at the NBA level. He averaged 12.5 points per game and shot 41 percent from three-point land with Golden State last season. Thompson really took off once Monta Ellis was shipped to Milwaukee. 

He's a born killer from the perimeter, and he hasn't slowed down this offseason. He's shooting 52 percent from the floor in Summer League and averaging 20.5 points per game. He's also grabbing six boards per game and dishing out 4.5 assists, adding to his game and making him an even more valuable commodity.

Thompson's elite shooting ability is no secret, but it's nice to see him contributing in other areas as well. If the rest of his game comes along, Thompson will make Golden State fans very happy.


Kawhi Leonard

Coming out of San Diego State, no one really knew what type of player Leonard would be in the NBA. Would his raw athleticism translate to NBA production? Could he shoot well enough to command a defense's respect?

The answers are yes and yes.

Leonard only averaged 7.9 points per game last season for San Antonio, but he was a threat at all times. He shot 38 percent from beyond the arc, and no one saw that coming. It gave his game an unanticipated additive. 

Leonard was one of my favorite players coming into last season. He fits the Spurs mentality, and he does many things well on both ends of the court. 

So far in Vegas he's averaging 25 points and six rebounds per game. He's also setting up three baskets per game. Defensively he averages one steal per night and has a motor that doesn't quit. 

As San Antonio gets older, players like Leonard become more important. He's making strides to improve his game, and the finished product will be very productive in this league for a long time.