Hey, 2013 NBA rookies: Nobody said it was going to be easy.
Second-year pros with something to prove stole the show over the first two days of action at the 2013 NBA Las Vegas Summer League, with several notable rookies in attendance struggling to assert themselves in their first taste of NBA action.
Which injured rookie not playing in Las Vegas will have the best 2013-14 season?
That being said, there were other rookies who won't have any regrets with the way they played the first time their shoes hit the hardwood at the professional level.
All 21 participating NBA teams and the NBA D-League Select Team have played one game in Las Vegas so far, with a full slate of action expected to commence again on Sunday. It's terribly early to start judging the 2013 NBA draft class, but you can bet that general managers, owners and coaches everywhere took notes on who had a strong start and who didn't.
Then again, in the NBA, it's really how you finish.
There's plenty of time for those who missed an early chance to shine (see Otto Porter and Ben McLemore) to rewrite the script, but in the meantime, here's a look at a few guys who have showed strong promise so far in Sin City.
*For a closer look at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, click here (via NBA.com).
Portland Trail Blazers PG/SG C.J. McCollum
McCollum was hands-down the best rookie in Las Vegas over the first two days of competition, pouring in 22 points for the Blazers in his first action since injuring himself as a senior at Lehigh.
Adding four assists and three rebounds, McCollum was strong on both ends of the court. His ability to run the offense and get his shot off at any time were bright spots for the coaching staff on Saturday, even if the Phoenix Suns managed to slow him down late in the game by attacking the pick-and-roll.
As Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy said on Twitter during the ballgame, McCollum and current NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard are excited to form one of the league's most exciting young backcourt duos with Portland next season:
Damian Lillard loved the C.J. McCollum pick. They've been good friends for a long time. He can't wait to play alongside him next season.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 14, 2013
Portland raised some eyebrows when they drafted a player similar in size and skill set to its new franchise star, but clearly general manager Neil Olshey's "If one is good, two is better" draft strategy didn't come up in postgame interviews on Saturday.
McCollum shot the ball well (9-of-19 from the field, 2-of-5 from the three-point line) and added a steal and a block against the Suns. It's still early, but NBA teams could have their hands full with a Lillard-McCollum lineup when the 2013-14 season begins.
San Antonio Spurs SF Deshaun Thomas
Fifty-seven picks came and went in the 2013 NBA draft before Adam Silver called Deshaun Thomas' name, but with the pick, the San Antonio Spurs once again look like they're playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers in the draft.
Drafted by San Antonio with the 58th overall selection, Thomas will still have to really impress Spurs brass to earn a spot in Gregg Popovich's rotation next season.
Based on his start to summer league, he might just have the chops to accomplish that.
Thomas poured in 18 points, grabbed three rebounds and had two steals in San Antonio's win over Charlotte on Saturday night, and was a hot topic amongst Spurs commentators on Twitter during the game.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News made a comparison during the game to one of the NBA's better small forwards:
Maybe it's just me, but Deshaun Thomas is built a little like Shawn Marion, I think.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) July 13, 2013
ESPN's Kevin Pelton noted that even though Thomas was chastised for being a ball hog at times at Ohio State, he's trying to expand his game with the Spurs:
Phrase I've never uttered before now: "That's a nice pass by Deshaun Thomas."— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) July 13, 2013
Thomas won't ever be a big-time distributor, but if he gets his head straight on defense, there's a good chance he could nab minutes for the Western Conference champs next season behind Kawhi Leonard.
His ability to score in bunches is clearly his best asset right now, and with a strong summer leading into training camp in September, there's no reason Thomas can't be a spark plug off the bench in the early part of his career.
Los Angeles Clippers SF Reggie Bullock
The Clippers are in win-now mode, and that fact likely made Reggie Bullock's opening game in Vegas all the more enjoyable for team brass to watch on Friday.
Bullock led the Clippers with 18 points in his team's win over the Atlanta Hawks, shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 2-of-6 from the three-point line while flashing some of the all-around potential scouts saw during his final year at North Carolina.
L.A. added Bullock with the No. 25 pick in the draft, and it likely envisions the small forward as a backup candidate in the mix with Matt Barnes at the small forward spot in Doc Rivers' rotation.
With three blocks, a steal and just one turnover in his NBA debut, Bullock made a strong case to be considered for early playing time on a team looking to win now if he can duplicate Friday's success for the duration of his time in Vegas.
Flashing some ability to come off screens and hit the jump shot, Bullock would be a nice complementary bench piece for Rivers during his first season if his defensive effort is strong and he can find a way to shoot the ball well from the three-point line.
Dallas Mavericks PG Gal Mekel—14 points, four rebounds, four assists vs. Sacramento
Dallas Mavericks SG Ricky Ledo—nine points on 4-of-5 shooting vs. Sacramento
Atlanta Hawks PG Dennis Schroeder—six points, seven assists vs. Clippers
Atlanta Hawks C Lucas Nogueira—10 points, eight rebounds, one block vs. Clippers
Cleveland Cavaliers SG Carrick Felix—14 points, six rebounds, two blocks vs. L.A. Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers SG Michael Snaer—12 points, six rebounds vs. Cleveland
Phoenix Suns SG Archie Goodwin—13 points on 4-of-8 shooting vs. Portland
New York Knicks SG Tim Hardaway Jr.—13 points, five rebounds, three assists vs. New Orleans
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.