Takeaways from Day 8 of 2014 NBA Summer League
It may have been consolation day at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 in Las Vegas, but—as always—most of the onlookers were more interested in process than results.
This is first and foremost an opportunity for rookies like Dante Exum, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle to show what they can do. All three were in action on Friday, along with lesser-known Summer League standouts like Ricky Ledo and this summer's surprise first-rounder Bruno Caboclo.
It isn't always the prettiest basketball we've ever seen, but it's the best-possible solution for those summertime NBA blues.
Here are 10 takeaways from the next-to-last day of Vegas hoops. It was a good one.
Ricky Ledo Will Give Dallas Some Options
Ricky Ledo's work with the Development League's Texas Legends appears to have paid off.
The question is whether it will earn him on a spot on the Dallas Mavericks.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has already fortified the backcourt by adding Raymond Felton via trade this summer and re-signing point guard Devin Harris with a mind that the two could form a platoon approach at the position. Dallas has also met with unrestricted free agent Mo Williams, but it's unclear if the club can really afford him with its $2.7 million cap exception.
Fortunately, Ledo is more of a shooting guard at 6'7" and could carve out some minutes behind Monta Ellis and new small forward Chandler Parsons.
In any event, Ledo can't control any of that—but he's certainly done his part. Through his first four Summer League games, the 2013 second-rounder averaged 15.5 points while making 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He continued the strong play on Friday against the Phoenix Suns, tallying 15 points, nine assists and two steals.
The Providence product has been streaky from the perimeter, but his playmaking ability might make up for it. With the Mavs clearly in a win-now mode, big minutes aren't realistic for Ledo—not yet, anyway. But he's one to keep an eye on down the road.
Jabari Parker Saves His Best for Last
After averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds through his first four Summer League games, Jabari Parker finally flashed some of the potential that made him the No. 2-overall pick in this summer's draft.
The 19-year-old scored 20 points and collected 15 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors on Friday, efficiently making 8-of-15 attempts from the field. It was a marked improvement over the 38.3 percent he shot from the field through those first four games.
Turnovers remain a problem for Parker (he had six after averaging 4.75 through his first four games), and his Summer League outings suggest that he'll need to adjust to the size of NBA defenders before he'll really thrive.
But to his credit, Parker has continued looking for touches and his shot alike.
He recently explained to ESPN Insider Bradford Doolittle (subscription required):
When you find yourself aggressive, you get other people involved because help-side (defenders) comes over strong. One of my strengths is finding the open man, and that's something I'm working on to improve as part of my overall game.
That kind of attitude will serve Parker well as he attempts to help the Milwaukee Bucks rebuild.
For the record, Milwaukee got off to an early lead against the Warriors in this consolation game. The Bucks led by a score of 45-21 at the half and managed to withstand late runs from Golden State to hold on for a 79-74 victory.
Bruno Caboclo Finishes Summer League Strong
Bruno Caboclo's Summer League hasn't been mind-blowing, but it's been steady.
The first-round mystery man who Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri took a gamble on doesn't look like a bust. That's the good news. The super long swingman from Brazil averaged 11.8 points through his first four games this summer and tacked on another 10 on Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
He put his length to use this time, adding seven rebounds, two steals and a block. If he's to earn minutes for a Raptors team trying to win now, those little things are a must.
Caboclo isn't yet a polished shooter, but he has the physical tools and instincts to become an impact player. The 18-year-old prospect is 6'9" and has the kind of work ethic that could yield dramatic improvement.
"He’s a very serious kid," Ujiri told Bleacher Report's Josh Martin. "He seems concentrated a lot. I watched him practice—very, very serious and worked really, really hard."
Good news for the Raptors—even if they have to wait on it for a while.
Julius Randle's Sticktoitiveness Applies to More Than Just the Boards
At Kentucky, Julius Randle established a reputation as a ferocious rebounder. He attacked just about every miss as if the game was on the line, and it led to his averaging 10.4 boards.
Friday, in the middle of an off night, Randle flipped a switch and attacked not just the boards, but the fourth quarter in general with that ferocity.
Nice sign for LAL: after going 0 for 8 through 3 Q's, Julius Randle completely took this game over. He's 5 for 6 in the 4th, up to 14 P.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 19, 2014
His energy in the fourth helped the Lakers seal the victory.
Randle finished the game with 14 points and five rebounds. Prior to Friday's game, he was averaging 12 points and four rebounds. So you certainly can't fault Randle for being inconsistent. He just hasn't been dominant, and that's fine.
He'll have plenty of time to develop in the Los Angeles Lakers' system after the team added power forwards Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis this summer. Minutes may initially be harder to come by for Randle, but he'll get his chances before long.
Gary Harris Isn't Bashful
Denver Nuggets rookie guard Gary Harris scored 33 points in his Summer League debut.
A game later, he was just 1-of-12 from the field.
He wasn't deterred. Harris shot a combined 11-for-38 over the next two games, showing the determination and short memory of a committed shooter. The 19-year-old wasn't about to let a little slump get in the way of trying.
Harris finished Summer League play with a 5-of-17 performance in which he also went 4-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc.
Suffice it to say, there's still some work to be done here. But as projects go, this one could be pretty scary once the stroke starts working on a consistent basis.
Devin Ebanks Still Got Game
Remember Devin Ebanks?
The former Los Angeles Lakers swingman has been making rounds in the Development League since 2010, and so far this summer, he's shown flashes that could put him on the NBA's radar. Playing for the D-League Select team, Ebanks opened his summer action with a 15-point, 13-rebound outing against the New Orleans Pelicans.
On Friday, he put the cherry on top of his strong League play, tallying 23 points and 15 rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers.
There were a couple of forgettable games in between, but the 24-year-old's exposure in Vegas was mostly promising.
That doesn't mean a return to the Lakers is in the offing, but Ebanks is making strides in the right direction—and he's still young enough to find the right fit in time.
Dante Exum Is a Point Guard
It's been a rough go for Dante Exum in Las Vegas, but he looked much smoother playing his natural position against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Prior to Friday's action, Exum was penciled in as a 2, mostly playing off the ball while Trey Burke ran the team and the offense.
As an off-guard, Exum often stood around, looking disconnected, almost aloof. Following a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Jody Genessy of The Deseret News shared what Exum had to say about not playing the point:
I think I’m still comfortable at the point. I still want to get the ball in my hands as much as possible. I didn’t get it a lot in my hands these last couple of games.
With Coach’s system, it’s open, but there’s been so many times I’ve just gone away from the ball and let Trey take it.
Well, Exum got his shot Friday. Burke sat out the game with an upper respiratory infection, and the young Aussie started at the point.
He struggled from the field, shooting just 3-of-11, but Exum looks wise beyond his years in terms of pick-and-roll decision making. He prods the defense with caution, never getting ahead of himself, never losing the dribble. And four times out of five (he's still a rookie after all) he makes the safe, smart pass.
Exum's presence at the point clearly impacted the game, as he posted a game-high plus-17. The next closest Jazz player was Malcolm Thomas at plus-8.
Utah Jazz's Patience Pays off
The Utah Jazz started off Friday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers with an unbelievably bad 1-of-19 performance from the field.
Rookie Rodney Hood scored the only bucket, and second-year man Rudy Gobert added two free throws.
Your grand total? Four points.
Fortunately, the Jazz played a little bit of defense and held Portland to just 11 in the opening frame. From there, Utah ground out a tight 75-73 victory despite a late run by the Trail Blazers. Gobert finished with 11 points and an impressive 15 rebounds.
Then again, there were plenty of rebounds to be had in that first half (when Gobert collected his first 11 boards).
Who Needs Andrew Wiggins Anyway?
In all likelihood, the Minnesota Timberwolves will continue pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins in trade talks centered around All-Star Kevin Love.
And in all likelihood, that's a very good idea.
All the same, Minnesota already has a pretty talented rookie swingman in Zach LaVine. The 19-year-old UCLA product has made an impression during Summer League. Perhaps it hasn't been enough to forget all about Wiggins, but it's certainly enough for the Timberwolves to start thinking about their next chapter.
LaVine averaged 14.4 points through his first five games this summer, including a 20-point outing Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns. He saved his best for last, though, tallying 22 points, four rebounds and four assists on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Timberwolves took the lopsided game by a final score of 97-78.
Russ Smith continued his breakout play for the Pelicans with a team-high 21 points, but Minnesota had more weapons, namely Glenn Robinson III (17 points) and big man Gorgui Dieng (12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks).
If the Timberwolves indeed part ways with Love, the younger prospects might see some extra playing time. Minnesota may be on its way to a rebuild before long.
Cleveland Does It Without Star Power
No Andrew Wiggins or Anthony Bennett? No problem.
Maybe new head coach David Blatt is pretty good at this stuff after all.
Granted, the Miami Heat went without their own top talent, electing to sit the likes of Shabazz Napier and James Ennis. But without either team's best players on the floor, the Cleveland Cavaliers prevailed by a final score of 95-90.
The guys who pulled off Friday's victory have a long road before calling the NBA home, but they proved they can win a game, too.
Up to this point, both Wiggins and Bennett—the 2014 and 2013 first-overall picks, respectively—had strong Summer League performances. Wiggins averaged 15.5 points through four games, and Bennett posted 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest during that same span.
Unless one or both of Wiggins and Bennett are first traded, they'll soon find themselves supporting the best player on the planet, LeBron James. If this summer's action is any indication, they're ready to do their parts.