Vegas baby, Vegas. There is no place on Earth like it, and it’s the only place you can catch 55 games of NBA action over 10 days in the middle of July.
With 22 teams participating in the 2009 NBA Summer League, NBA fans got their first glimpse at a majority of this year's rookies including Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn, and Steph Curry.
The mix of rookies, sophomores, vets, and hopefuls created an interesting dynamic where everyone trying to show teams how they can contribute to a winning ballclub, while displaying their individual talents. Some flourished in this setting, while others could not rise to the occasion.
MVP, MVP... MVP?
Before Sunday's battle between brothers Blake and Taylor Griffin, the Summer League's Most Outstanding Player award was handed to the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.
Blake and the Clippers went on to lose the game to the Phoenix Suns 87-70, finishing with a 2-3 record in Las Vegas. The game was Griffin's worst of the league, shooting 6-16 from the field for 16 points, eight rebounds, fours assists, and one steal.
I'm not outraged Griffin was handed the award, he was the top pick, he's "the future" of the NBA, and he had a very good showing in Las Vegas. His 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game gave him one of three double-double averages of all the participants.
While Griffin does look amazing, and he is the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award, he wasn't the most outstanding player of the league.
That distinction goes to Anthony Randolph.
In four games Randolph led all Summer Leaguers with a 26.8 points per game average in addition to his 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 2.2 steals, and 3.0 blocks per game. The Warriors were 3-1 in games he played and he tied the Summer League scoring record of 42 points one game before his teammate Anthony Morrow broke that record by scoring 47.
The voting for the award should have been Randolph one, and Griffin two, not the other way around.
Randolph had a better field goal percentage by 10.9 points (60.9 to 50.0) and a better free throw percentage by 28.5 points (74.4 to 45.9).
But hey, Shaq won the NBA MVP award shooting a better field goal than free throw percentage, so I guess anything’s possible.
Point Guards Galore
The 2009 NBA Draft will go down as the year of the point guard. There were 12 point guards selected in the first round alone, and eight of them participated in Las Vegas.
Strike that, they did more than "participate"—they ran the show for their respective clubs.
Tyreke Evans and Steph Curry showed they are not just shooting guards playing out of position. Both of them used their crafty dribbling skills to create opportunities for their teammates, using their court-vision to finish the plays.
Flynn can shoot, and shoot well. Flynn's percentages were 48.0 from the field, 58.3 from three-point range, and 90.9 from the stripe. He also dished out 7.4 assists per game.
Brandon Jennings and Toney Douglass established themselves as pass-first point guards by registering 8.2 assists (Summer League high) and 7.0 assists per game respectively.
Ty Lawson and Darren Collison proved they are big enough to score interior buckets against NBA athletes.
Finally, Rodrigue Beaubois may not be the reach pick that some thought he was on draft night. His best line of the league was 34 points (7-12 from three), five rebounds, and eight assists with only two turnovers against Houston.
Is The Second Pick Cursed?
With Darko Milicic, Jay Williams, and Stromile Swift all having the distinction of being the second overall player selected, there have been talks that number two is the toughest positions to pick from in the entire draft.
This year Memphis tried to play it safe when they drafted 7'3" Hasheem Thabeet from UConn.
The Grizzlies have to be wondering if they played it too safe after watching Thabeet in Las Vegas, where he averaged 8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 25 minutes per game.
Jeff Adrien, Thabeet's teammate at UConn, and teammate on the Memphis Summer League roster averaged 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes of play.
Thabeet didn't look hungry. He hardly worked to get post positioning, he stood high when rebounding while others used their legs to rise above him, and he was aloof with the ball.
What's most disappointing was the lack of blocked shots from the back-to-back winner of the NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
All wasn't lost for Thabeet. He did a good job of playing his man in the post displayed by holding second-year pros Robin Lopez and DeAndre Jordan to three combined points.
His ability to stop opposing bigs helped lead the talented Memphis squad to a 5-0 record, joining Houston as the only perfect teams.
Thabeet may not have a statistically impressive rookie season but his presence of the court should be enough to help Memphis attain a few more wins.
Second Round Gems
As the 2008-09 season wrapped-up people were calling this the weakest draft class in over a decade.
While this class may not be laden with Hall of Famers, it is one of the deepest classes we’ve seen in a while and that depth was exhibited by the play of second-round picks in the Summer League.
For DeJuan Blair, falling to the Spurs in the second round was a blessing in disguise.
Now Blair is playing with a boulder on his shoulder and he is determined to make it in the NBA. He knows he needs to stay in shape to compete athletically and no player hustled more on the glass than Blair.
Scoring in the most, off the drive, and with jumpers—Blair averaged 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds over three games.
Blair’s college teammate, Sam Young, was another guy who slid out of the first round. There were plenty of playoff caliber teams who could use Young’s production as he pumped in 13.6 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting.
Another Grizzly to shine was DeMarre Carroll, who played his college ball for Missouri. Carroll’s 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game in addition to stellar defense and hustle were much appreciated.
Marcus Thornton and Jodie Meeks were the highest scoring second rounders with 20.7 and 19.0 points per game respectively.
The Blazers found a couple second diamonds in the rough with forwards Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph. Cunningham is a 3/4 and the athletic Pendergraph is a 4/5.
DaJuan Summers is ready for the NBA and he should be a key contributor for Detroit this season. Summers averaged 18.0 points per game, leading the Pistons to a 4-1 record. The only game Summers didn't score double-digits was the one Big D lost, proving how important his production was.
Finally, the Rockets winged duo of Chase Budinger and Jermaine Taylor were pumping in a combinded 28.8 points per game. Budinger was exceptionally comfortable in the setting, displayed by his efficient 68.1 percent from the field, 72.7 percent from three, and 94.4 percent from the stripe. That’s some great shooting.
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