NBA Summer League

Las Vegas Summer League 2014: Breaking Down Top Performers from the Tournament

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12: T.J. Warren #12 of the Phoenix Suns goes up for a shot against the Golden State Warriors at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 12, 2014 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Nate LoopFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2014

The NBA Las Vegas Summer League is a tournament-style event that brings together a varied collection of roundball talent, often making it difficult to discern which players are the real deal or simply a desert mirage.

It's a remarkable hodgepodge of cast-offs, rookies and foreign phenomenons. There are veteran players looking for a stateside return following stints overseas, such as Delonte West.

Several teams are just getting ingratiated with their new coaches and schemes. The New York Knicks have the unenviable task of learning team president Phil Jackson's triangle offense. Hey, one team still doesn't have a head coach in place (take your time, Lakers).

This makes it difficult to pass judgement on each and every player's performances, but there are some standouts who have truly made it obvious that they could have a very bright future in the league.

The summer showcase isn't quite over yet, but let's take a look at some of the top performers so far

 

T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns

BROOKLYN - JUNE 26: TJ Warren of the Phoenix Suns, the Number 14th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft speaks with the media on June 26, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
Steve Freeman/Getty Images

Who needs analytics when all you do is get buckets seemingly every trip down the court?

T.J. Warren has taken the summer league by storm with his unique barrage of floaters, dribble drives and hook shots. The former N.C. State standout has put up 17.8 points per game on 54.4 percent shooting from the field. 

The scoring output shouldn't be too much of a surprise, as Warren averaged 24.9 points per game as a sophomore with the Wolfpack. He's certainly impressed his superiors with his excellent all-around game.

"He’s got (scoring) down, that midrange (jumper),” said Suns summer league coach Mike Longabardi, via NBC Sports' Kurt Helin. “He’s got a good instinct for the ball, he got a couple rebounds. And he really does well in transition, we get the rebound...and advance it to him and he’s great."

He won't make too many friends in the advanced statistics field thanks to his notable aversion to three-pointers, but the Suns will be all too happy to have Warren coming off the bench and getting passes from Goran Dragic and (probably) Eric Bledsoe.

Warren's all-around scoring game could have him challenging for a starting role in the desert, but he will have to work on a semblance of an outside shot to keep NBA defenders honest.

 

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Chris Carlson/Associated Press

Yes, Rudy Gobert stands 7'2", sets up a timeshare on the low block and muscles his way through packs of defenders, but it is still unbelievably impressive how rarely this guy's shots don't rip through the net.

Gobert's field-goal percentage through four games is 73.1 percent, easily the highest among players averaging double figures, per NBA.com. The 11.8 points per game shields him from criticism that he hasn't taken enough shots, although he doesn't have the likes of Joakim Noah or Roy Hibbert between him and the basket.

The fantastic Frenchman has also done more than his fair share of work on the defensive end, pulling down 9.8 rebounds and notching 2.5 blocks per game in the tournament.

Gobert spent the 2013-14 season bouncing between the Utah Jazz and the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League, but his performances this summer show that he might be ready for a permanent move up to the big squad in Salt Lake City.

Jazz radio announcer David Locke believes Gobert has earned a rotation spot on the team:

He's still a bit slow at times and, plenty of his shots have come from right around the rim, but the Jazz brass should be happy about the progression of Utah's project player.

 

Russ Smith, New Orleans Pelicans

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: Russ Smith #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans moves the ball up-court against the D-League Select at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 11, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
Jack Arent/Getty Images

Few players in the Las Vegas tournament have shown off the all-around ability of Russ Smith.

The former Louisville star averaged 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game in five contests. His passing acumen has truly set him apart, as he tops the Las Vegas tournament in this category.

It shows that hard work pays off. Second-round picks aren't always guaranteed a roster spot, but the Pelicans signed him up quickly on July 15.

Smith will take some time to develop into a complete floor general; he's shooting just 43.4 percent from the floor so far. However, he seems happy to have veteran players around him to make good on his sizzling passes.

"The floor is more spaced and I'm playing with a great group of guys," Smith said, via WDRB.com's Rick Bozich. "They're veterans. They're knocking down shots. I see everybody so of course I try to get my teammates the ball."

New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter John Reid noted Smith's ability to drive into the lane during the tournament:

Smith is a fiery competitor who will add plenty of pep and energy to a young Pelicans roster.

 

Note: All stats courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise noted.

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