7 Takeaways from Day 3 of 2014 Las Vegas NBA Summer League
Who misses the NBA's Orlando Summer League?
Summertime in Orlando was fun, but the Las Vegas Summer League has been even better, as the action has unfolded while the free-agency pieces begin falling into place.
Day 3 in Sin City didn't stray from the early excitement.
Sixteen teams were in action. There was plenty to watch and even more to digest.
Some budding talents excelled, while others struggled. Then there were some noteworthy debuts.
There was just a lot to take in. And we drank, ate and breathed it in, processing enough to pass along to you, the avid reader, some valuable, can't-miss information.
Anthony Bennett has arrived—in Las Vegas, at least.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are hoping he decides to show up for the regular season, too.
Bennett put forth a solid effort in the Cavs' 82-70 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday, going for 13 points (5-of-8 shooting), 14 rebounds and two assists. He's now 11-of-24 from the floor overall through his first two summer league contests, which is huge considering he went 0-of-8 through his first two career NBA games last season.
There is no denying the change in Bennett's activity. He looks comfortable, more aggressive and, most importantly, lighter on his feet. He's hitting the boards aggressively, making quicker decisions and looking like an actual NBA player these days.
Defense is still an issue for the second-year forward, but as he adjusts to his new physique and figures out how to move laterally, he should be fine—better than fine, even.
“This is my playing weight, this is where I’ve been through high school and college,” he said Saturday, per the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd. “It feels good being back at my playing weight. But I just have to stay healthy. It’s a good feeling not coming off surgery. I’m excited about that.”
As are the Cavs, who are already witnessing a completely different Bennett than the one from last year.
Julius Randle Working out the Kinks
Julius Randle made his summer league debut Sunday, and it was—well, it just was.
In just over 21 minutes of action, Randle went 4-of-9 from the floor for 10 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 90-73 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. He looked off at the free-throw line (2-of-4) and wasn't able to battle for position down low with his usual fervor and effectiveness.
Blame the rust.
This was the first time Randle played five-on-five since Kentucky's national championship showdown against UConn, according to Rotoworld's Michael Gallagher. That he even played was something of a surprise.
And if we're judging him while using a little bit of a curve, the kid looked good. He remains sneaky athletic and nimble-footed, and though his touch around the basket was out of sorts, Randle seems ready to contribute on the offensive end right away.
Nine shots and four free-throw attempts in 21 minutes tells you all you need to know, really. He's aggressive, he's forceful.
He's not afraid to shoot.
Andrew Wiggins' first taste of NBA action has been difficult to gauge.
Against the San Antonio Spurs, he went a regrettable 3-of-11 from the field and grabbed only three rebounds. On the bright side, he made numerous trips to the free-throw line, where he went 6-of-8, scoring a large portion of his 13 points.
He was also extremely active on the defensive end (two blocks). Wiggins is already reading opposing offenses well, and his help defense near the rim has bordered on phenomenal.
Not every decision he makes is a smart one, to be sure. Screens tend to throw him off, putting him behind ball-handlers or slashers. Luckily for him, he's quick and capable of making up ground.
Sunday's performance can only be categorized as typical, knowing how early it is into into his NBA stint. Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports offered the following after Wiggins' first summer league bout on Friday, and much of it applies to his second go-around:
Wiggins’ game is still raw, and his shot admittedly needs some work. But his leaping ability is scary good, in that you’re scared he might hurt himself jumping over someone for a rebound, or by flying extra-hard to the basket. He finished with 18 points on just 7-of-18 shooting, but his talent level is undeniable, as is his drool-worthy potential.
Struggles are going to prevail on offense early on, but Wiggins does look like someone who can make an immediate defensive impact, if only because of his oh-my-god athleticism.
That should enough for the Cavs early on. They have these two other guys who can score the basketball some anyway: LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Perhaps you've heard of them.
Summer League Is Weird
Raise your hand if you knew double-overtime games in summer league were decided on a sudden-death basis.
Seeing no hands (no honest ones, anyway), let's proceed.
The Atlanta Hawks fell to the D-League Select team (which is another thing nobody knew existed), by a final score of 94-92 on Sunday, and the finish was one of the wildest you'll ever see.
Hawks guard Dennis Schroder scored a game-high 30 points, but what should have been his game-winning layup was goaltended at the start of double overtime. No whistle blew and the D-League squad pushed the pace the other way, only to lose the ball in a scrum.
As the rock squirted toward the baseline and bodies spilled all over the floor, Schroder, speedster that he is, raced all the way back up the court, saved the ball underneath his own basket and surrendered the decisive layup to Devin Ebanks.
It was pure chaos, and I don't think I'm alone in saying this is something we could see more of in summer league.
No, there's no place for arbitrary "next basket wins" formats when the games actually count. But if you want to drum up more interest in summertime hoops, why not make the first overtime a sudden-death affair? The league is already showing a willingness to tweak the settings in Vegas, as evidenced by the unusual point system that rewards teams for winning quarters.
Let's get creative, NBA!
I want four-point shots. I want hockey-style power plays. I want players who reach 10 fouls in a game to have to only shoot with their off hand.
Sudden death should be just the beginning.
The Bulls Have Some New Toys
Second-year stud Tony Snell and rookie sniper Doug McDermott combined to score 54 points and hit 10 triples in the Chicago Bulls' exceptionally comfortable 103-76 win over the Denver Nuggets, proving for the second straight game that Tom Thibodeau's defensively dominant squad might have a little firepower on the other end this season.
Derrick Rose's return and the addition of Pau Gasol have more to do with that than anything, but there's really a reason to believe the Bulls' younger talents will be ready to contribute as well.
Snell looked remarkably smooth in piling up 23 points, playing at a casual pace and even setting up McDermott for a couple of open looks in the flow of the game. If he can handle the ball a bit and remain a threat from the outside (Snell was 5-of-12 from long range), the Bulls could have a breakout talent on their hands.
McDermott didn't display the overall versatility Snell did, but his outside shooting brought serious gravity to Chicago's offense. His presence on the floor sucked defenders out of the middle and toward whichever side of the floor he occupied.
Despite extra attention, McDermott still buried seven of his 12 shots and made a dozen straight free throws to tally a game-high 31 points.
Toss in whatever summer league caveats you like, but don't discount the potential of Chicago's young forwards. The Bulls' 2014-15 prospects are getting brighter by the second.
Growing Pains Hurt
Seems obvious right?
Well, something else that should have been obvious to Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker was the inadvisability of challenging "Sky" Miles Plumlee, possessor of an elite nickname and hops, with what the kids often refer to as "that weak stuff."
In what was probably the instance of Duke-on-Duke crime committed at the highest elevation on record, Plumlee darted over from the weak side, inhaled Parker's running dunk attempt and informed the rookie in one ultra-athletic move that the NBA is a very different place than college—even during the summertime.
In other news, Seth Curry (remember him?) got loose for 26 points to lead the Suns, Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 16 for the Bucks and Phoenix ultimately took the contest by a final of 93-82.
But really, nobody cares about those things. The only real takeaway from this contest was the lesson Parker learned from Plumlee.
Don't worry, rookie; even can't-miss lottery picks get a rude awakening when they run into their first real NBA competition.
Paul Pierce Has Company
Right up front, let's get something clear: Neither Otto Porter nor Glen Rice Jr. are serious challengers for Paul Pierce's starting small forward gig with the Washington Wizards. But with the way those two summer league standouts have been playing so far, one or the other figures to see plenty of playing time in relief of the Wizards' big veteran acquisition.
On Sunday, Rice led the Wizards with 22 points, following up his 22-point effort (which included 14 made free throws) on July 12. His early scoring helped build Washington a big enough cushion to hold on for a 67-61 win as the Minnesota Timberwolves put on a late charge in the fourth quarter.
Porter had a better showing in Washington's July 12 win over Atlanta, hitting 11 of 16 shots for 25 points. But he maintained a similar assertiveness against the Wolves on Sunday, firing up a team-high 16 shots and finishing with 13 points.
Washington lost Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets, but its stable of wings is looking plenty strong nonetheless.
As a final note, there wasn't much to get excited about for Minnesota during the game. It shot 31.7 percent as a team and registered nearly three times as many turnovers (22) as assists (eight).
But rookie Zach LaVine put on a pregame dunking exhibition that got the crowd buzzing and worked his way to the line for 10 free-throw attempts, so it wasn't a total loss for the Wolves.