NBA

Early Concerns for NBA Rookies at Las Vegas Summer League

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

Early Concerns for NBA Rookies at Las Vegas Summer League

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Although the 2014 NBA Las Vegas Summer League is only a few days old, we're already seeing some unsettling developments from several rookies.

    Even the most hyped and most talented prospects are displaying weaknesses and deficiencies.

    These high-profile rookies may be putting on a show, but they're simultaneously revealing bad habits or unprepared skill sets. What shortcomings have we exposed during their first couple games in Vegas?

    Find out as we break down notable concerns for rookies during the early-week action.

Andrew Wiggins Needs to Hit the Weights Hard

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    We knew he was slender coming out of Kansas, but early Vegas outings confirmed that Cleveland Cavaliers mega-prospect Andrew Wiggins still needs to bulk up considerably.

    Not only did he weigh in at 194 pounds entering summer league, but he's been pushed around and bullied several times within his first couple games. He's struggling to drive deep into the paint for finishes, and his forays are often thwarted from the start by stronger defenders.

    And when he's on defense, bulkier forwards can get the best of him when they attack. For example, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker bulldozed him on the baseline en route to a bucket.

    Having a strong frame helps slashers and wing defenders in so many ways, and it would certainly enhance Wiggins' attack. He can't smoothly absorb contact yet, so his offensive creativity isn't nearly as effective as it will be in the future. His possession-by-possession approach would be much different if he were 225-230 pounds instead of flirting with 200.

    Physically, his tasks are simple: Lift and eat like crazy.

Charlotte Hornets' Foul-Happy Duo

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    Through their first two games in Las Vegas, Charlotte Hornets newcomers P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh combined for 24 fouls.

    That's not a typo, and it's possible because there's no personal-foul limit during summer league play.

    Both rookies have to improve their defensive discipline, and they also must work on eliminating scenarios in which they need to foul.

    "I know this is summer league," Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, "but you know our philosophy is defend without fouling, limit layups and run people off the three-point line. We're not doing that right now."

    For Vonleh, it's a matter of learning where to be at all times and then understanding when to pull the trigger on aggressive swats. He's 18 years old and is still acclimating to playing interior defense.

    Meanwhile, Hairston's lack of foot speed and inconsistent motor have resulted in a lot of hacking and reaching in. Can he clean things up before he hits the big stage this autumn?

    Let's remember, Hairston has enough non-summer league problems to deal with after his involvement in an altercation at a pickup game in Durham. The least he can do to supplement his scoring prowess is play fundamental defense.

Can Kyle Anderson Consistently Counteract Athleticism?

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    As Kyle Anderson plodded through his two-year career at UCLA, it was tough to determine how his game would translate to the NBA.

    Leading up to the draft, Anderson was widely compared to San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw, an unathletic role player whose craftiness and vision fuel success. However, judging by the eye test, Anderson's feet don't move as quickly as Diaw's, which is saying a whole lot.

    If his first handful of summer league sequences are any indication, the rookie is going to have some real trouble generating separation off the bounce.

    In his opening game against the Sacramento Kings, he put up a respectable six points while dishing six assists quite cleanly. But when he matched up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, including Andrew Wiggins, he was almost completely stifled: Anderson posted two points on 1-of-7 shooting and zero assists in 25 minutes.

    One dismal performance shouldn't sound off alarm bells, and he'll do his best to adjust to the explosiveness of the league. But it is something to monitor, because I don't foresee his foot speed improving over the course of his career.

Russ Smith Racking Up Turnovers

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    Jack Arent/Getty Images

    From his collegiate career and early summer league exploits, you can tell Russ Smith will turn on the jets, create opportunities and play pesky defense in the NBA.

    However, the New Orleans Pelicans rookie may also be one of those erratic players who gives the ball away too much. For every time he makes a brilliant attack for an assist or bucket, he'll turn around and cough the ball up.

    Smith had back-to-back games with six turnovers to start his Las Vegas slate. It's partially due to the chaotic nature of summer league play and the lack of chemistry on his squad. But it's largely caused by his crazy pace, diminutive stature and tendency to force plays.

    In the long run, he's a worthwhile investment: an energetic player who is not afraid to take command of the offense or spearhead the defense. It's impossible not to enjoy watching him play.

    However, he may go through some growing pains that include rashes of inefficient passing and scoring. 

Jabari Parker Settling for/Forcing Jumpers

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    The Milwaukee Bucks will ask Jabari Parker to shoulder a huge portion of the club's offense in 2013-14. As such, they're giving him the green light to aggressively look for his shot during summer league.

    It's one thing to assertively attack the rim (which Parker has done several times), but the Duke product has also tried a superfluous number of off-balance, contested jumpers during the Bucks' first couple of games in Las Vegas.

    After Milwaukee's loss to the Phoenix Suns, ESPN.com and B/R NBA Lead Writer D.J. Foster didn't mince words about Parker's display: "Dreadful shot selection, bad decision-making...and selfish play marred Parker's night, as he seemed uncomfortable with the idea of letting anyone else make a play with the ball."

    Consequently, he's hitting just 35 percent from the field so far in Vegas, going 2-of-9 (22 percent) from long range. He's fading away on many of his attempts, and B/R NBA Draft Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman noted that Parker's shooting is "short on almost everything."

    His footwork, shot-creating skills and confidence give him more perimeter opportunities than most rookies, but that doesn't mean he should take all of them.

    Shot selection wasn't one of his strongest suits at Duke, and it looks like he'll need some grooming in that department moving forward.

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