Takeaways from Sunday's NBA Summer League Action in Las Vegas
Sunday's Las Vegas Summer League action saw a number of intriguing storylines crop up that could have serious ramifications on the 2013-14 season.
On the positive side, it appears that Dion Waiters is ready to be a leader, and rookies Cody Zeller and Dennis Schroeder look like they're ready for prime time.
Not everything was encouraging on Sunday, though. Tony Wroten had a forgettable night, and Austin Rivers continued his efforts to deceive us all.
Consider this your handy review of the good, the bad and, most importantly, the fun parts of the day's revealing slate of summer league hoops.
Jan Vesely Is Kind of Fun
The Washington Wizards snagged Jan Vesely with the sixth pick in the 2011 draft largely because he was something of a workout dynamo. With no defenders around, the 6'11" big man's blazing speed and stunning athleticism shone.
In two years with the Wiz, though, Vesely has had trouble duplicating his workout success when there have been actual opponents trying to stop him.
But the opponents in Vegas often more closely resemble the folding chairs that Vesely dominated in his predraft workouts than they do real NBA defenders, which is a great thing for spectators.
Because Vesely is fun to watch.
The third-year pro rocketed up and down the floor, amassing 10 points and 10 rebounds against the New York Knicks. He even slipped a nifty bounce pass to Otto Porter on a backdoor cut. Good times were had by all.
Vesely still doesn't really have much of an idea about how to play basketball, but the Czech's natural athletic gifts make him a downright entertaining spectacle. Soak it up now, Wizards fans; when the competition heats up in the regular season, Vesely might have a little more trouble.
The D-League Will Not Be Ignored
Remember the name Elijah Millsap. He'll go down in history as the man who stood up and shouted to the heavens: "We are the D-League, and we will not be taken lightly!"
Well, maybe things weren't quite that dramatic on Sunday, but Paul Millsap's little brother did lead a squad of D-League players to an 81-77 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. And even though the Clips' roster hardly boasted more talent than their opponents, it was still pretty intriguing to watch the NBA's minor leaguers stand up for themselves.
Millsap was a beast, scoring 21 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 27 minutes. Best of all, he took just five shots from the field. How'd he manage all those points without so much as a half-dozen field-goal attempts?
He worked his way to the line for a whopping 20 attempts. Apparently, gritty play runs in the Millsap family.
Elijah Millsap struck a blow for the D-League underdogs Sunday afternoon.
Cody Zeller Might Work Out
I'll go ahead and admit that I was among those who questioned whether Cody Zeller would be able to match up physically with the NBA's bigger, badder frontcourt players. There was never any doubt about his quickness, skill or athleticism at Indiana, though.
Based on what happened on Sunday, it appears that the talents Zeller does have are more than enough to become a dangerous NBA player.
The Charlotte Bobcats' lottery selection posted 21 points and 13 rebounds in his team's 86-80 win over the Dallas Mavericks. More importantly, the big man showed the deft touch around the rim and surprisingly quick first step that helped him dominate the college game.
With Al Jefferson in the fold and Zeller looking like a viable NBA player, the Bobcats suddenly have a pair of highly skilled offensive bigs. And that's a very welcome change in Charlotte.
The Cavs Have What They Need
The rebuilding process in Cleveland is nearly complete. With Andrew Bynum in the mix on a low-risk contract, Kyrie Irving ready for true stardom, and a ton of young talent, the Cavs are poised to make a leap up the standings.
And Dion Waiters is going to be a big part of that jump.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, Waiters, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2012 draft, scored 23 points and displayed a remarkable ability to get into the lane at will. And when he made his way into the paint, he flashed some serious strength, finishing through contact repeatedly.
Perhaps just as importantly, Waiters looked like he didn't belong on the same court with the rest of the summer league participants. He was supremely confident. He was aggressive. And best of all, he looked like a real leader.
The Cavs are Irving's team, but if Waiters can take a step toward being a legitimate second option on the wing, it'll mean everything for Cleveland's potential success.
Summer League Needs Do-Overs
Not everybody gets to shine like Waiters. In fact, a few summer league players probably wish there had been some sort of power outage in the Cox Pavilion, so as to keep their atrocious performances in the dark.
It'd be nice if the summer league allowed do-overs. In fact, they could call it the "Tony Wroten Rule."
The Grizzlies second-year guard made just one of his 14 field-goal attempts, bricked all five of his triple tries, and even misfired on more than half of his 11 foul shots (5-of-11 from the stripe). In other words, the Washington product endured 36 minutes of some pretty embarrassing basketball.
Credit Wroten for staying aggressive and trying to get himself on track at the line. Some players in his position would have stopped shooting altogether.
But man, was he bad.
On the bright side, Wroten's spot with Memphis is probably secure. He's still young and has enough athleticism and promise to justify a roster spot. But he'd better make sure he sharpens up his game. Because, unfortunately, the Tony Wroten Rule has not yet been instituted and there are no do-overs in Vegas.
Austin Rivers is Trying to Trick You
Don't buy into the numbers Austin Rivers is putting up in Las Vegas. Just don't.
The New Orleans Pelicans guard scored 16 points on Sunday, following up the 24-point effort he posted on Friday. And after one of the worst rookie seasons in NBA history, stat-sheet observers might conclude that Rivers was in the process of turning himself into a legitimate pro.
But don't let Rivers' stats fool you. Rivers' jumper is still a fundamental mess: His elbow splays out at a 45-degree angle and he has a windup that makes it impossible to get his shot off quickly.
Plus, he still lacks the innate instincts of a point guard on offense and doesn't possess the strength or speed to guard either backcourt position on the other end. He's scoring on difficult drives and short-range flip shots that simply aren't reliable against real competition.
Consider yourselves warned: Austin Rivers is trying to trick you.
The Hawks' Backcourt Rotation Just Got Complicated
With Jeff Teague's offer sheet matched and Lou Williams recovering from last year's torn ACL, the Atlanta Hawks' point-guard rotation seems pretty stable.
But rookie Dennis Schroeder is looking to shake things up.
The German import scored nine points, dished out eight assists and displayed remarkable poise for a 19-year-old rookie Sunday versus Miami. And thanks to his late-game surge, which included a made triple and three assists in the final six minutes, the Hawks pulled out the 75-71 win against the Heat.
Schroeder's handle was slick, his passes instinctive, and his confidence practically palpable. This is a guy who won't be content riding the pine for long.
In other words, the Hawks have a good problem on their hands.