The 2012 NBA Summer League season has come to a close. The Cleveland Cavaliers representatives in Las Vegas had a pretty good run finishing 3-2 with one of those losses coming against the Charlotte Bobcats, who sent their actual NBA team.
But the lead story for the Cavs coming out of Vegas was more about the injuries and who wasn’t playing than what actually happened on the court. I was overly excited about these games but my dreams were dashed when Kyrie Irving was felled when his temper was overmatched against a poorly padded wall.
Tristan Thompson missed a lot of playing time after injuring his ankle in the first game and the Cavs' top pick in this year’s draft, Dion Waiters, missed the final two games with a sore knee after he was injured in fall in the third game and tried to play through it. His knee was NOT sore because he’s 10 pounds overweight as some people have surmised, which is about one of the dumbest and petty insults that can be thrown at a player. He was most likely just held out as a precautionary measure. And once again, he’s a little overweight…it’s nothing egregious like people are making out to be. It’s not like he’s Fat Albert running out there. (Hold on a second while I get down off my soap box.)
I really wanted to write a Summer League review but thought that could be pretty boring. Then I realized that somehow in the 120 articles that I’ve written I have never once done a Power Ranking. I’m not sure how it’s possible but it is. So without further adieu…the Cleveland Cavaliers 2012 Summer League Power Rankings…
THE BIGS BRINGING IT STRONG
1. Samardo Samuels
It was a tough choice for the top spot but Samuels gets it on the strength of consistency. Check out his point/rebound numbers in the five games: 10/4, 11/7, 17/5, 14/5, 9/13. It's best to not get wrapped up in numbers from Summer League games. After all, Dwayne Jones posted some great stats during Summer Leagues of past for the Cavs. What you do want to see is how they look, and there's no denying that Samardo Samuels looked great. He's slimmed down and looks much more athletic and quick. He made plays over the past week that I didn't know were possible for him to make. It's clear that the Cavs coaching staff got him his ear and let him to improve "or else." There may have also been the motivating factors of being in the last year of his contract and that he's lowest paid player on the team.
2. Tyler Zeller
The only reason that Zeller did not get the top spot is because of his two points on 1-for-7 shooting performance against Minnesota. He's still listed this high though in part because he brought down seven rebounds in that same game and found ways to help the team without scoring. He had two games where he picked up five and seven fouls, which he will need to improve. He also struggled defensively against more athletic bigs like Markieff Morris of the Suns. While that all is negative there were a lot of positives. He's very polished offensively and has a very good jump shot. He reminds me of a more athletic Zydrunas Ilgauskas in that way. Beyond that he's just a very good basketball player. It's obvious that he knows what he's doing on the court which is even more evident during Summer League games. I don't know if Zeller will be a long-term starter but make no doubt he will be a very productive player in the NBA for probably 10 years.
THE HIGH UPSIDE PLAYERS
3. Tristan Thompson
Offensively Tristan Thompson looks like a much improved player. He stuck with what he's best at and got himself into the paint instead of trying to shoot jumpers. He displayed post moves that we've never seen before from him. He played more under control and just looked like a better player. I would still like to see him rebound better but I'll take steps of improvement with Thompson. His best game was in the finale against the Knicks where he had 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting in only 12:13 of playing time. The only thing holding him back was an ankle injury he suffered in the first game that kept him out of the D-League game and limited to only 8:20 against the Suns. The progress that we saw out of Thompson was very encouraging and gives a lot of hope about how good he can be if he keeps up this level of improvement.
4. Dion Waiters
I've already written a lot about Waiters' three games in the Summer League. I'm not worried about him at all. He needs to shoot better and he needs to be in better shape. But I believe that during one of the broadcasts that Byron Scott himself said that Waiters poor shooting was probably a result of having tired legs after working too hard to get himself into better shape heading into Summer League. But there was plenty to like about Waiters first three games with the Cavs. He has great court vision and looks unstoppable driving to the basket. He's also fearless as evidenced by him knocking down the go-ahead shot in the first game with only 12.4 seconds left. It's too bad that he got hurt but there's a lot to like about Dion Waiters going forward.
A CHANCE TO MAKE THE TEAM
5. Donald Sloan
There was never a game in this Summer League season where Sloan was the best player in a Cavs uniform. But there was also never a game where he wasn't in the top five on the team. There are things to like about Sloan's game. He certainly looked like a player who had more NBA experience than the other players on the court. He played his best when Waiters was out there with him because he didn't have to have the defense focused on him. I still think that the Cavs could use an upgrade at backup PG, but they could also do a whole lot worse than Donald Sloan.
6. Justin Holiday
Holiday wins the award for "Best non-roster Summer League player" for the Cavs. He looks like a competent player and it wouldn't surprise me if he got an invite to training camp in Cleveland. He had his best game against the Knicks in the finale where he had 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting, with four rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes. Plus he had the coolest play of the summer for the Cavs which has to count for something.
7. Luke Harangody
[Sigh] What is there to say about the Gody? He looks like he's trimmed the fat and appears to be as solid as a rock. He scored points at times while putting up bad shots, and as I've told the players that I coach, "Just because it goes in doesn't make it a good shot." The bottom line is that as a two-year NBA veteran he should have been able to score. But he still plays out of control at times and I just don't think that he's an NBA player. He works hard so I can't hate on that but he should never be allowed to shoot in my opinion. And can I mention that he picked up a technical in Summer League?? Who does that?
POSSIBLE TRAINING CAMP INVITES
8. T.J. Campbell
As a fellow short person I hate to do this but Campbell, at 5'9", is probably too short but a significant NBA player. He's quick on both ends of the court and a feisty defender. But the height issue cannot be ignored. That's a pretty major inhibitor going forward. He'd be a serviceable fill-in player but his destiny is probably to be a good D-League player.
9. D.J. Kennedy
Kennedy had a cup of coffee last season with the Cavs and I was pretty excited to see him on the Summer League roster especially after liking him in college at St. John's. He played good defense and rebounded well throughout the five games but his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. He didn't shoot well on threes and doesn't have the explosion to attack the lane with the drive. The reason for the lack of explosion probably stems from the ACL tear he suffered in March of 2011. I would like to see him get an invite to training camp to see if he is any better after a full off-season of rehabbing that difficult injury. He was a very good player in college with a shot at going in the first round of the draft before the injury. I'll just say this, I'm rooting for D.J. Kennedy. I hope someone gives him a chance.
10. Micheal Eric
If we learned anything from the Ryan Hollins era in Cleveland it's that if God made you seven feet tall and athletic, you will get every chance in the world to be a professional basketball player. In the first game against the Bobcats, Eric looked pretty good in a six point, six rebound performance. The three games in the middle were very unspectacular until he had another decent showing in the finale with six points and six rebounds. (Noticing a trend? Just about everyone looked good against the Knicks.) I bet he'll get an invite to camp just on the basis that he has the size and body that you want in an NBA center. He's very raw skill-wise, so the D-League might be the best destination for him to get playing time and improve his game.
11. Garrett Temple
I really have nothing good or bad to say about Garrett Temple. He wasn't a stand-out player to me and he never made me hate him. Um, yeah...that's all I have on Temple.
IF YOU CAN'T SAY ANYTHING NICE DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL
12. Rob Jones
It was tough running for the bottom spot in the Power Rankings. Both of these two players were pretty bad throughout the five games. I mentioned earlier that "just about everyone looked good against the Knicks." In a game that the Cavs won by 24, Rob Jones had a +/- of plus-1 in 13 minutes of playing time.
13. Matt Pressey
Pressey only manage a plus-2 in 20 minutes against the Knicks. But he also shot 1-for-11, taking the most shots on the team. The best thing I can say about him that his lack of success didn't diminish his confidence.
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.