NBA Summer League Report Cards for Top 25 Participants
The NBA Summer League has already come and gone, but it was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?
What's not to like about rookies, sophomores, D-Leaguers and collegiate stars of yesteryear coming together to play 40-minute games while trying to open some eyes in the process?
Granted, it's all meaningless, but for basketball fanatics everywhere, it's certainly better than nothing.
In honor of those who put their talents on display in Las Vegas, Orlando or both, let's have a look at 25 of the most noteworthy performances of the summer (good, bad or otherwise), in no particular order.
Note: You won't see Anthony Davis (who's been with Team USA) or any of his injured draft mates (i.e. Austin Rivers, Perry Jones III, Maurice Harkless), if only because there were other guys who played more extensively and deserve some attention for what they did on the court.
Any discussion of 2012 summer league standouts must begin with Damian Lillard. The rookie guard for the Portland Trail Blazers did remarkably well to uphold the honor of the 2012 NBA draft class, which saw Anthony Davis riding the pine with Team USA while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Austin Rivers sat out with injuries.
The sixth pick in the 2012 draft led all players with 26.3 points to go along with 4.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. He showed an uncanny understanding of how to change speeds and utilize his athleticism to fool defenders and get to the basket at will.
More impressively, he was able to do so without forcing the issue and also keeping his teammates involved.
It's all too easy to overvalue an outstanding performance in the summer league, wherein the competition is substandard, especially when compared to what participants who make it to the NBA will face.
But to Lillard's credit, he surpassed expectations and played his game against better talent than he ever came up against during his tenure at Weber State. All told, Lillard did more than enough to earn co-MVP honors and lend hope to tortured Blazers fans that better days are on the horizon in PDX.
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Lillard would've been the sole MVP if not for the outsized efforts of co-MVP Josh Selby. The second-year guard out of Kansas racked up 24.2 points, 3.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game across five contests with the Memphis Grizzlies. Moreover, Selby hit an impressive 55.7 percent of his shots from the field, including nearly 60 percent from three.
Few have ever doubted Selby's basketball talent ever since his days as a blue-chip high school recruit in Baltimore. His athleticism and breathtaking ability to attack the basket made him a player on whom to keep tabs for the future.
But perceived attitude problems and the lack of a concrete position (too small to play shooting guard, not enough of a distributor to play the point) have since rendered him an afterthought at the tender age of 21.
A strong showing in the summer league won't necessarily change that, though it may lead to a more extensive audition for Selby as O.J. Mayo's replacement off the bench for Lionel Hollins' squad.
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The Orlando Summer League didn't dish out any MVP awards, though if it had, Andrew Nicholson would've been a worthy recipient.
The 19th overall pick out of St. Bonaventure showed off a David West-like repertoire of mid-range shooting in the pick-and-pop game and the ability to operate in the low post. Nicholson had some difficulty sustaining his efforts as the week went on, particularly on defense.
But his combination of size and skill will be a welcome addition for the Orlando Magic, who figure to bid farewell to Dwight Howard before training camp begins in the fall.
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The Boston Celtics were the only squad to play in both summer leagues, with Jared Sullinger standing out in each.
The Ohio State product with the bad back and the tight hamstrings didn't just play in all 10 of the C's summer league games; he performed prominently, racking up numbers in Las Vegas (13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds) that were remarkably similar to the ones (13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds) he posted in Orlando.
All the while, Sullinger—"too short" and "not athletic enough" to play power forward—was reminiscent of a Poor Man's Kevin Love, showing off a solid outside shot to complement his skilled post game.
Sullinger may not be a world-beater, but for a late first-round pick, the C's will love his ability to throw his weight around effectively down low.
Sullinger's performance is made all the more impressive when considering how younger, fitter players—like Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards—saw their level of play fade over the course of just five games.
Beal, in particular, often had trouble finding the range on his shot (41.8 percent from the field, 30 percent from three) and was somewhat sloppy with the ball (2.2 turnovers per game).
But to his credit, Beal comported himself well for a first-time pro. He never got too high or low, and he demonstrated an understanding of how to play in the screen game that is well beyond his years.
And, frankly, his 17.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game weren't too shabby, either.
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This much is clear after the Milwaukee Bucks' summer league season: John Henson is more than just some skinny kid who blocks shot.
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year poured in 18.3 points per game while displaying a surprisingly effective hook shot and a proficient perimeter jumper.
Still, Henson's calling card will be on the defensive end, where he ripped down 6.8 rebounds and blocked 1.5 shots per game. His height and length will both be tremendous assets until he can pack some meat onto his bony body, at which point he just might be an all-around impact player for the Bucks.
If NBA basketball were played entirely in transition, Harrison Barnes would be an All-Star from the get-go. The highly-touted wing out of North Carolina was graceful and athletic on the fast break for the Golden State Warriors.
The half-court, though, was a different story. He was too often content to float around the perimeter and struggled to create shots for himself and others when the team wasn't running full-speed ahead. His 39.5 percent shooting from the field is largely reflective of that shortfall, which was an issue during his days in Chapel Hill.
Overall, though, Barnes was solid, scoring 16.8 points and pulling down 5.6 rebounds while converting an eye-popping 57.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
The Houston Rockets' quartet of rookie first-rounders all acquitted themselves well in Las Vegas. Jeremy Lamb led them in scoring at 20 points per game, thanks to a shooting stroke that was among the smoothest on display this summer.
Lamb has solid size for a shooting guard and seems to understand how to use screens to his advantage. If Lamb's shot translates to the actual NBA, he may well develop into a consistent starter at the next level, be it in Houston or elsewhere (pending Dwight Howard's situation).
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The Rockets' roster is full of holes, and Royce White might just be able to fill them all.
Or try, anyway.
White put his tremendous combination of size, skill and athleticism to good use in Vegas, to the tune of 8.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
He's still somewhat soft around the edges, so to speak, and he might have some trouble adjusting to the pro game, given his lack of a clear position.
But with the proper support, Houston could help turn White into a versatile star whose game is perfectly suited for the next generation of basketball.
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Houston has to be most excited, though, about the arrival of Donatas Motiejunas. A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Motiejunas spent last season overseas before joining the Rockets this summer.
And in rather impressive fashion, I might add. The Lithuanian big man put up 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, with a mature inside-out game that's becoming of a kid who's prepared to be a successful pro.
The Rockets should have no trouble overlooking Motiejunas' slightness of frame in the interim, so long as his post game and perimeter shot work even half as well during his rookie season in the NBA as they did in Las Vegas.
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Jimmy Butler didn't see much time off the bench as a rookie for the Chicago Bulls last season, though he may well have done enough in Las Vegas to earn some more playing time while Derrick Rose is recovering.
Butler was the fourth-leading scorer in Sin City, pouring in points at a clip of 20.8 per game, along with 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He handled his role as the focal point of the Bulls offense beautifully, hitting shots from the perimeter and attacking the basket with equal efficiency. The fact that he took 39 free throws (and hit 35 of them) speaks to his fearlessness as a go-to scorer and slasher off the wing.
If the Bulls are smart, they'll give him an opportunity next season to prove that he can be the team's long-term solution at the off-guard spot.
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If Malcolm Thomas wasn't on the respective radars of NBA scouts and player personnel folks before, he certainly is now. The San Diego State product and former forward for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League paced the Summer League with 12.4 rebounds, along with 11.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting from the field.
His energy and hustle showed up on both ends of the floor, picking up 4.6 offensive rebounds per game and blocking 1.4 shots per game on defense.
With Omer Asik all but gone, the Bulls could do worse than extend a training-camp invitation to Thomas and let him compete for a regular-season roster spot.
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Who said the Dallas Mavericks have had a bad offseason? Sure, they struck out on Deron Williams and Steve Nash, but they still saw two of their young players earn spots on the NBA's All-Summer League team.
Dominique Jones led the way with averages of 16.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. His scoring dropped off considerably from his splashy 32-point opener, though he did well to devote his energy to other aspects of the game as the summer league went on.
He did particularly well to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio from game to game, to the point where he came up with five dimes (against one turnover) in just 11 minutes during the Mavs' summer league finale.
With Dallas' roster still somewhat in flux, Jones may well carve out a more substantial niche for himself this season.
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Joining Dominique Jones on the All-Summer League squad is Jae Crowder. The second-round pick out of Marquette defies positional definition, other than to say that he can and does impact just about every facet of the game.
Statistically speaking, Crowder's 16.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game only told a small part of a story that saw him working off the ball and distributing the ball effectively when he had it on offense.
Not to mention his overall understanding of time, place and situation on both ends of the floor.
The Mavs would do well to find a role for him on their ever-shifting roster heading into a season of even greater uncertainty in Big D.
There's nothing particularly outstanding about Tyler Zeller's game, other than to say he has the potential to be a solid big man in the NBA for years to come. His ability to run the floor, bang inside and shoot in the mid-range were on full display in Las Vegas, to the tune of 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
If Zeller can do those three things consistently in meaningful competition, he'll be able to carve out a respectable career as a frontcourt rotation player with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Might it be too early to give up on Kemba Walker as a starting-caliber point guard in the NBA?
That's tough to say, and no easier after seeing what Walker did in Las Vegas. On the one hand, the Charlotte Bobcats sophomore put up numbers strong enough to put himself on the All-Summer League team. His 5.8 assists per game were the second most of any player in Sin City, and were made even more impressive by the fact that he hardly ever turned the ball over (just 1.0 turnovers per game).
But while his 15.8 points per game would normally qualify as a bright spot, there's no ignoring his abysmal shooting percentages (35.2 percent from the field, 7.7 percent from three).
On the whole, though, Walker deserves something more than just a passing grade, albeit nothing worth writing home about.
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Before we forget about the Orlando Summer League entirely, let's give shout-outs to a pair of Detroit Pistons, beginning with Brandon Knight. The second-year guard out of Kentucky paced all of central Florida (and, in fact, both summer leagues) in assists with 7.3 per game to go along with 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals.
On the other hand, his aim wasn't always so true, be it as a shooter (34.7 percent from the field) or as a passer (4.0 turnovers per game).
Knight is clearly still a work-in-progress, though his ability to play and defend either guard position should serve him well as his NBA career progresses.
Speaking of incomplete projects in the Motor City, Andre Drummond has his size and his rookie status on his side for the time being.
The big man out of UConn didn't exactly move mountains statistically (7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds) for the Pistons, but he did show significant improvement along the way.
Particularly on defense, where he held down fellow rookie Jared Sullinger and notched 1.2 steals and 2.0 blocks per game.
It may be a few years before Drummond becomes a consistent impact player in the NBA, but if the Pistons are patient with him and lock up Greg Monroe with a lucrative extension, they could have one of the best young frontcourts in the league for years to come.
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Meyers Leonard will have a job waiting for him in the NBA so long as he remains 7'1" and doesn't forget how to play the game of basketball.
Of course, that's not to suggest that he didn't do plenty in Las Vegas to prove that he belongs anyway. Leonard, a lottery pick out of Illinois this year, showed off his size and athleticism (and a keen understanding of how to use them) while teaming with Damian Lillard to form a pick-and-roll duo that must have fans in Portland tingling with anticipation.
Leonard moves very well on both ends of the floor for a kid his size, and if he sticks to his strengths (i.e. rebounding, disrupting shots, leaping tall buildings in a single bound), he has the potential to be a starting center in the NBA for the foreseeable future.
Assuming, of course, that the Trail Blazers' big man curse doesn't get to him first.
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Kudos to Adam Morrison for putting in some serious work this summer, even if he still isn't likely to wind up on an NBA roster this fall.
After a lackluster showing in Orlando (5.2 points per game on 36 percent shooting with the Brooklyn Nets), Morrison made his way to Las Vegas, where he put up 20 points and 5.0 rebounds per game as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers' squad. He did so rather efficiently, as well, shooting 55.1 percent from the field and an astonishing 61.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Too bad he was the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NBA draft. Otherwise, he'd still be a dude with a funky mustache and the potential to be a half-decent NBA player.
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The funny thing about Adam Morrison is, he's still in the NBA.
Well, sort of—if you count Jimmer Fredette as Adam Morrison 2.0.
The story arc is familiar: Sharpshooter becomes a star in the collegiate ranks, is drafted too high and into a bad situation, promptly falls flat on his face as a volume shooter.
And, frankly, it looks like the ending might be the same, too, if failure in the summer league is any indication. The former BYU standout put up some gaudy numbers at times in Las Vegas (18 points per game, including a 30-point outburst against the Houston Rockets), but shot horrifically from the process.
By that, I mean he hit just 35.8 percent of his attempts from the field, including a woeful 21.9 percent from three.
Not good, especially for a guy whose whole reputation is based on his ability to shoot.
If there's a bright side to Jimmer's struggles, it's that Thomas Robinson, his Sacramento Kings teammate, looks much better by comparison.
The rookie out of Kansas was decent enough while doing work down low, to the tune of 13 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
But his shot was off, to say the least, as his 34.4 from the field and 53.8 percent from the line would strongly suggest. Neither was he particularly reliable with the ball, to which his 4.8 turnovers per game would attest.
Much of Robinson's production came from the way in which he dominated the ball for the Kings. If Robinson's going to succeed in the NBA, the Kings would be wise to encourage him to spend more of his time in the paint as he did at KU, rather than floating toward the perimeter like in Las Vegas.
As long as we're on the topic of top-five picks who left much to be desired in Las Vegas, it'd only be fair to devote some attention to Dion Waiters.
The former Syracuse sixth man showed off the ability to attack the basket that made him the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft.
And that was about it. Waiters proved to be prone to jacking up ill-advised shots off the dribble, on top of shooting woefully in spot-up situations and looking slow and disinterested on the defensive end.
On the whole, Waiters posted 12.3 points (on 30 percent shooting from the field and 16.7 percent from three), 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in three summer league games.
Suddenly, the Dwyane Wade comparisons seem a bit premature, as do the proclamations of Waiters fitting in seamlessly with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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It's not exactly fair to have high expectations for a late first-rounder like Fab Melo, and frankly, nobody did.
And yet, Melo, Waiters' college teammate at Syracuse, still managed to disappoint.
The big Brazilian got off to an abysmal start in Orlando, where he hit just four of his 14 shots from the field on the way to averaging 1.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. Not much changed in Las Vegas, other than a slight increase in his scoring (to 4.0 points) and similar decrease in his rebounding (to 3.2 boards).
Consistent throughout was Melo's perplexing penchant for attempting wild passes at the most unfortunate times, along with his size.
He'll always be seven feet tall. The Celtics can only hope he'll tack on a skill or two to make that height something other than a waste of space.
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Like T-Rob with the Kings, Draymond Green tried too hard to show off new "skills" with the Golden State Warriors and ultimately fell flat as a result. The Big Ten Player of the Year showed off some of the jack-of-all-trades game that made him such a success at Michigan State, putting up 6.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
But it was how Green went about putting up those numbers, particularly in the scoring column, that should be cause for some concern in the Bay Area. Shooting 27.8 percent from the field is one thing. Taking 15 three-pointers in five games when the player in question wasn't much of a marksman to begin with is another.
And hitting just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc—well, I suppose that's to be expected in a situation like Draymond's. Here's hoping he remembers all the other facets of his game—his rebounding, his passing, his heart and hustle, etc.—that made him the 35th pick in the draft to begin with, in time to show them off in meaningful NBA action.