NBA Summer League 2013: 6 Takeaways from Tuesday's Las Vegas Action
NBA Summer League stats are best kept at arm's length.
Scorching play in the summer months often cools faster than the leaves can change color.
Still, the temptation that arises when players light up the scoreboard is befitting of the league's Las Vegas backdrop. Fans are eager to see just what jewels their teams uncovered on draft night or which ones went undiscovered as David Stern and Adam Silver gradually filled the 60-player draft board.
It's OK to celebrate these mini-accomplishments. Though there's no guarantee that the numbers ultimately mean anything, there's also no reason to completely dismiss them.
Read on to find out the best (and the worst) stories stemming from Tuesday's seven-game schedule.
Archie Gives Phoenix Another Good Win
Phoenix Suns rookie Archie Goodwin won't enjoy his 19th birthday for another month.
But the one-and-done Kentucky star has already discovered one important trait that some veterans take years to discover: a short-term memory.
After a frustrating showing on Monday (two points, 1-of-4 from the field, five turnovers), he treated Tuesday's tilt with the winless Memphis Grizzlies as just another chance to get his Vegas stay back on the right track.
He aggressively fought his way to a game-high 22 points in the Suns' 100-88 victory. He showed good patience with his shot selection (6-of-11 from the field, 3-of-3 from deep) and used his athleticism and handles to create clean trips to the tin or free looks from the charity stripe (7-of-11).
He's a gazelle in the open court and lightning-quick off his first step, both of which make him an intriguing prospect alongside Kendall Marshall's supreme court vision.
On Tuesday, though, a different sophomore Suns point guard handled most of the distributing duties. Diante Garrett, who was more of a scoring guard back at Iowa State, dished out a game-high 12 assists against just one turnover.
Then again, Garrett may have had good reason to play the role of facilitator; he misfired on seven of his nine attempts from the field.
Who Needs the Long Ball?
The Toronto Raptors haven't hidden their most potent offensive threat this summer.
Sophomore center Jonas Valanciunas has been a walking 20-point, 10-rebound threat. While his statistical outburst in Toronto's 81-70 win over the Sacramento Kings narrowly missed that mark (18 points, eight rebounds), he might not have been entirely to blame for that fact.
The best support a team can give a productive post player is a strong perimeter attack. Toronto's shooters (I have to use that term loosely here) did nothing to keep Sacramento's defense honest.
The Raptors fired off 12 shots from beyond the mark on Tuesday, hitting their target just once. There's probably some credit due for backing away from the long ball when it clearly wasn't falling, but that didn't make Valanciunas' night any easier.
In addition to those 18 points and eight boards, he also tallied nine personal fouls and turned the ball over seven times. But thanks to a plus-nine advantage on the glass (33-24) and a plus-11.0 edge in field-goal percentage (47.4-36.4), their dismal downtown display didn't derail the Raptors.
No one has ever been as excited to see Rudy Gay (career 34.3 three-point percentage) and Kyle Lowry (33.7) fire at will as Valanciunas must be right about now.
Most summer league participants haven't earned enough NBA paychecks to reel in the comps handed out to Vegas' high rollers.
All the same, the undefeated Chicago Bulls and winless Portland Trail Blazers were in a giving mood on Tuesday. Fans received a free extra period as the two teams needed overtime to settle their back-and-forth contest.
The Bulls ultimately prevailed by a count of 80-78, but not after Blazers rookie C.J. McCollum buried a deep three with 10.8 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime. He poured in 17 of his game-high 27 points in the second half, including 13 of Portland's final 14 points.
But it wasn't enough to stop Chicago's balanced attack.
Marquis Teague led the way with 25 points (on 7-of-14 shooting) and added three assists and a steal in his 34 minutes. Andrew Goudelock added 11 points (including all five of Chicago's points in overtime), while first-round pick Tony Snell chipped in with 14 points, six boards, four dimes and a pair of steals.
See, not everything in Vegas has a price tag.
Sin City Can't Hold Him
Whenever a player's shooting form is favorably compared with Ray Allen's, it's only a matter of time before that sniper finds his mark.
For Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore, his "aha" moment came on Tuesday night.
During his first two summer league outings, the former Kansas Jayhawk needed 35 field-goal attempts to register eight makes. In Sacramento's loss to Toronto, he buried eight shots on just 14 attempts.
The Kings' newest marksman also hit 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and 7-of-7 at the free-throw line. His 26 points topped the 25 he'd managed in his first two games.
He looked comfortable and confident when he squared up to the basket. He carved out paths to the rack and flashed the strength and skills to finish near the hoop.
He's selfish, even by summer league standards (zero assists, 11 turnovers through three games), but the Kings had scoring on their mind when they grabbed him with the No. 7 pick of the draft last month.
Pass-first point guard Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento's haul from the sign-and-trade deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the New Orleans Pelicans, will be the one in charge of balancing the Kings' offensive egos. Vasquez's job theoretically becomes infinitely easier with more performances like this from McLemore.
More Than a Hype Man
If Kent Bazemore's on your basketball radar and you're not an avid fan of Colonial Athletic Association hoops, there's a good chance he worked his way into your head (and your heart) with his wild sideline antics.
He's such a gifted hype man, in fact, that his over-the-top celebrations will be coming to life in NBA 2K14 this October.
What the casual fans fail to notice, though, is that underneath his boisterous exterior lies a gifted basketball player.
A tremendously talented defensive threat in his collegiate days—he won the Lefty Driesell Award in 2011—he's put his full offensive repertoire on display in Sin City. After a relatively quiet 11-point effort in the Golden State Warriors' 84-72 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, he's still pacing the team in both scoring (15.7 points per game) and assists (3.7).
His perimeter shot still needs work (25.0 three-point percentage), but he did shoot 2-of-4 from deep in the win. He also added seven rebounds to raise his average to 6.0 per game, second on the team behind 6'11" Michael Eric.
With Andre Iguodala bringing his talents to the already crowded Warriors' wings, it might be a while before fans get the chance to take in Bazemore's on-court talent. But trust me, there's plenty of it to digest.
Rough Start for Shabazz Muhammad
NBA scouts lauded Shabazz Muhammad's scoring ability, but they worried that he'd struggle to positively affect any other aspects of the game.
Through his first three appearances in Las Vegas, even points are coming at a premium for the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie.
A balanced attack keyed Minnesota's 80-71 win over the Miami Heat—Brandon Paul led the way with 13 points—but Muhammad had the greatest chance of any Timberwolves player to tip the box score in his favor. Despite hoisting a team-high 10 field-goal attempts in less than 20 minutes of action, Muhammad finished with just seven points.
Woeful shooting displays are quickly becoming a common theme for the start of the former UCLA Bruin's pro career. Through three games, he's shooting just 34.6 percent from the field.
What's worse is that he's proving those scouting reports right in other areas. He's nearly averaged twice as many turnovers and fouls combined (4.6 per game) as his combined average in rebounds and assists (2.7).
With Kevin Martin presumably blocking his path to major minutes, Muhammad's immediate role on the team remains murky at best. If he's struggling with the only weapon in his arsenal, he might be looking at some D-League seasoning in his near future.