The 2013 NBA Summer League has officially concluded. The Oklahoma City Thunder have won the Orlando title, and the Golden State Warriors took home the Las Vegas gold. Perhaps most importantly, certain individuals stood out and created a brighter future for their respective professional careers.
So who were the most pleasant surprises from Las Vegas and Orlando?
Certain players entered the Summer League with minimal hype. Others had relatively strong name value but elevated their reputations to new heights with their performances.
One way or another, the Summer League provided us with too many thrills to forget.
Dwight Buycks, Oklahoma City Thunder (Orlando) and Toronto Raptors (Las Vegas)
Position: Point Guard
Orlando Summer League Averages: 21.0 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 6.0 APG, 2.5 RPG, 2.0 SPG
Las Vegas Summer League Averages: 35.5 MPG, 23.0 PPG, 7.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG
Dwight Buycks wasn't just the most pleasant surprise, but a case could be made that he was the best player at the 2013 Summer League. One could debate the talent for days, but in terms of what was put on the floor, Buycks was supreme.
According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Buycks was so strong that he earned the backup point guard job on the Toronto Raptors' main roster. Buycks confirmed the story via Twitter.
That's why every game counts in Summer League play.
Buycks spent two years with the Marquette Golden Eagles, posting career-best marks of 8.8 points and 3.4 assists on 41.1 percent shooting from three-point range in 2010-11. Since then, he's played in the D-League, Belgium and France.
Let this be a lesson for every aspiring NBA player—with a strong enough work ethic, anything is possible.
Buycks was sensational both in Orlando and Las Vegas, beginning his campaign by averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 21.0 minutes for Oklahoma City. In turn, he helped lead the Thunder to the Orlando Summer League championship.
In Las Vegas, Buycks made a last-minute switch from the Miami Heat to the Raptors when he signed on to their NBA roster. Buycks responded by putting up Las Vegas-best marks of 23.0 points and 7.0 assists for his new squad.
That's what you call a well-earned contract.
Ian Clark, Golden State Warriors (Las Vegas) and Miami Heat (Orlando)
Orlando Summer League Averages: 28.0 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.2 SPG
Las Vegas Summer League Averages: 21.6 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 48.5% 3PT
According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports, the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz have expressed interest in signing undrafted free agent Ian Clark. This comes after Clark spent time with the Warriors and Heat, respectively, at the Las Vegas and Orlando Summer League sessions.
It's also shortly removed from Clark winning the Summer League championship game MVP award.
Clark was very strong in Orlando, averaging 16.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals for the Heat. In Las Vegas, his numbers dropped, but his production remained steady at 12.4 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steal in 21.6 minutes.
And then the championship game happened.
Clark scored 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 from three-point range in the Warriors' 91-77 win over the Phoenix Suns. Not only was he automatic from three-point range, but Clark attacked in transition and came up big in the fourth quarter.
That was more than enough to turn heads.
This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as Clark was the OVC Co-Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. During his senior year at Belmont, he torched opposing defenses for 18.2 points and 1.6 steals on an absurd slash line of .543/.459/.833.
At a time in which the three-and-D role player is at a premium, Clark has undeniable value as an NBA prospect.
Jeff Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats
Las Vegas Summer League Averages: 31.3 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.8 SPG
The Charlotte Bobcats selected swingman Jeffery Taylor with the No. 31 overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft. For that reason, Taylor isn't quite the "surprise" that Buycks and Clark have proven to be as undrafted free agents.
With that being said, no one expected Taylor to dominate the way he did.
Taylor took over in Las Vegas, averaging 20.3 points and 1.8 steals in 31.3 minutes of action. He shot 47.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range, thus displaying the offensive progression that Charlotte had been hoping to see.
Unless this was a mirage, Taylor appears to be on the cusp of a breakthrough season in 2013-14.
It's no secret that the Bobcats struggle to shoot the basketball, and with Gerald Henderson still a free agent, that could open up additional minutes at the 2. Taylor may have the body of a small forward, but he's an explosive athlete that would have no trouble making the transition.
If he's able to come into his own, Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could form one of the better defensive tandems in the NBA.