NBA Summer League 2012: Damian Lillard and 6 Rookies Who Will Immediately Star

Carl BermanContributor IIIJuly 24, 2012

NBA Summer League 2012: Damian Lillard and 6 Rookies Who Will Immediately Star

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    NetScouts Basketball attended the full 10 days of NBA Summer League 2012 in Las Vegas. While the level of play wasn't great (the play reminded us of a high-quality summer pro-am league) there were many rookies and second-year players that stood out.

    Some of the players impressed us, and the play of others raised some questions concerning their NBA abilities and future success. We'll be reviewing our thoughts in a series of articles.

    In this article we'll review the top six rookies that impressed us the most over the 10-day stretch of games.

    In most cases we were able to live-scout these players at least four or five times. So we are pretty confident in our analyses.

    Let's start!

6. Jae Crowder (Dallas Mavericks)

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    Crowder, who was picked with the No. 34 selection in the 2012 NBA draft by Cleveland and subsequently traded to Dallas, was a pleasant surprise at the 2012 NBA Summer League.

    The 6'6" 225-pounder from Marquette figures to be projected as a small forward but may see some time at the 2.

    Crowder is similar to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the intensity with which he plays. He can defend, rebound, pass and is strong enough to play solid defense, and his shot is improving.

    Crowder played all five 2012 NBA Summer League games and averaged over 30 minutes per game. He scored 16.6 points, grabbed 5.4 rebounds and came up with 2.0 steals per game.

    He should be in the Mavericks rotation when the season starts.

5. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

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    We had Beal rated lower than most NBA draft boards in our 2012 NBA mock draft. Considering the player's ability only, we had Beal rated No. 13.

    We thought Beal would be a solid pro—and still do—but were not so enamored of him, as Washington was, to select him with the third pick.

    Our opinion of Beal hasn't changed much after watching him all week. He doesn't have NBA point-guard skills yet and is a bit of an undersized 2.

    However, Beal does do certain things very well, such as play defense and rebound. He's also a scorer, although he still needs to improve from long range.

    Beal averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his five NBA Summer League games. He shot only 30 percent on three-pointers.

    Beal will likely start from day one in Washington and will do a lot of good things, but he needs to improve his shooting before we anoint him as the next Ray Allen.

4. Jeremy Lamb (Houston Rockets)

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    We like the Houston Rockets rookie crop the best, with Lamb, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Royce White and Scott Machado.

    Lamb, a very long, 6'5" shooting guard was a solid selection for Houston at No. 12 in the first round.

    Lamb will come up with steals on defense because of his length and will be excellent in a fast offensive system. He can get to his spot on the floor and shoot from distance, and he will excel in transition.

    In the 2012 NBA Summer League, Lamb averaged 20 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Like Beal, Lamb can improve his long-range consistency (30 percent in Las Vegas), but we like what Lamb brings to the table as a pure shooting guard.

    He'll get a lot of time immediately for Houston.

3. Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets)

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    With his physical profile, Jones, a muscular 6'9" and 252 pounds, is the prototypical power forward.

    However that's not all you get with him.

    Jones brings ball skills: He can take defenders off the dribble and can score inside and out.

    Currently only 20 years old, there's no telling how much more skilled he'll get over the years. The Rockets got a steal when they took Jones with the No. 18 pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Jones may have had an inconsistent year with the national-champion Kentucky Wildcats, but he is built for the NBA game. He'll overpower opponents with his strength and confuse them with his skills.

    Jones was named as a NetScouts Basketball first-team All-Star for the 2012 NBA Summer League.

    He'll be an NBA All-Star soon enough.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)

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    Kidd-Gilchrist only played one game at the 2012 NBA Summer League but that was enough to see what he will bring to the table for Charlotte. You can start with relentless intensity, which is something that team was sorely lacking last season.

    While Kidd-Gilchrist may have some issues scoring from outside in his first NBA season, he'll have no issues playing defense, pushing himself past defenders, rebounding and willing his team to win.

    It might take a season or two before Kidd-Gilchrist is an All-Star, but Bobcat fans won't have to wait too long.

    Other than what Anthony Davis might have been, Kidd-Gilchrist will be the perfect player to help Charlotte improve over the next several seasons.

    In his one game in Las Vegas, Kidd-Gilchrist scored 18 points in 22 minutes and added eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

    He'll be fun to watch for Charlotte fans.

1. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

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    Some fans and analysts thought that it was a stretch for the Portland Trail Blazers to pick Lillard, from mid-major Weber State, at No. 6.

    Those people were clearly wrong.

    Lillard wowed the crowd with a few highlight dunks while leading the 2012 NBA Summer League in scoring at 26.5 points per game, He added four rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for good measure. He was named our co-MVP at the event (along with Josh Selby of Memphis).

    The 6'2" Lillard is quick and seems to be able to get by his man at will. He can score off penetration and from mid and long range. He's a good passer with quick hands on defense.

    Lillard will likely start at point guard for Portland but will play some minutes at the 2 when Nolan Smith or another point guard is on the floor.

    Lillard will be an All-Star in his first season and, next to Anthony Davis, will likely make the largest impact for his team. He'll be a 20-point scorer from the start of the season.