NBA Summer League: Grading Cleveland Cavaliers' Individual Performances

Eric FelkeyAnalyst IJuly 19, 2010

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 21:  J.J. Hickson #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers puts up a shot over Channing Frye #8 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 21, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cavaliers defeated the Suns 109-91.  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.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Vegas Summer League came to an end yesterday, with the Cleveland Cavaliers finishing the week at 3-2 after back-to-back losses to Miami and Milwaukee.

In the end, the summer league games are really just glorified exhibitions. But it's also an opportunity for rookies to get their feet wet, for D-Leaguers and borderline NBA players to make an impression on coaching staffs, and for younger players in general to harness their skills in game situations.

Rookies and second-year players like Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, and O.J. Mayo all got their starts in summer league.

Coaches and GMs want to see how a player develops (i.e. improved jump shots, ball-handling, etc.), how they respond in late-game moments, and whether or not they can fit in long term.

The Cavs were looking for all of those attributes in assessing their roster this week. Under Byron Scott's new up-tempo system, the coaching staff were not only looking for improved play from guys like J.J. Hickson and Danny Green, but possibly guys who could fill up the remaining roster spots.

Here's a look at a few Cavaliers that stood out in the last week and what potential influence it could have on next year's regular season:

J.J. Hickson

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He was the player every Cavs fan (coaches and front office personnel alike as well) wanted to see; his play next year will have a significant impact on what direction the team heads.

In his first few games, he didn't disappoint .

Hickson had 18 points and nine rebounds against the NBA D-League Select Team, 34 points and nine rebounds against Phoenix, and 24 points and four rebounds vs. Chicago. He played only 20 minutes against Miami, with just four points and three rebounds, before sitting out yesterday against Milwaukee.

Still, in the three games he saw substantial playing time, he averaged 24.3 points (on 62.2 percent shooting), 7.3 rebounds, and 1.0 assists.

But the most impressive part of his game was his balanced offensive attack. Last year, he wasn't an ideal one-on-one player and got most of his points on offensive rebounds and open layups and dunks set up by dribble-drives.

In Vegas, he was assertive with his drives, attacking off the dribble with more gusto than he had previously shown. He hit face-up jumpers, 15-footers off of pick-and-rolls, and even developed a few low-post spin moves as well. This was exactly the kind of progress the management wanted to see from Hickson.

Defensively, he still had lapses, forgetting to box out at times and often appearing lost in knowing when to help. But that's part of the learning curve for a player who is 21 and only entering his third season in the NBA.

Danny Green

Green was up-and-down in his four games (he sat out Sunday's game against Milwaukee).

Against Phoenix and Miami, Green averaged 15.5 points (41.9 FG percent, 33.3 3PT percent), 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, and just .5 turnovers.

Against Chicago and the DLS, he averaged 10.0 points (39.1 FG percent, 16.7 3PT percent), 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals, .5 blocks, and a whopping 6.5 turnovers.

The turnovers are the stat to focus on. Even with Pooh Jeter in the lineup, the Cavs relied on both guards to push the ball up the floor and get the team into offensive sets. In the Cavs opening game in particular, Green had the ball in his hands a majority of the time—he wound up finishing with eight turnovers.

Some of his turnovers were aggressive mistakes (trying to start fast breaks, looking to make an extra pass, etc.) and you can live with those.

Still, the coaching staff is looking to Green to turn the ball over less and play more consistently. He took a step in the right direction this week, but still has room to grow.

Christian Eyenga

It's unsure whether or not Eyenga will play in Cleveland next year. Odds are, he'll probably play overseas for one more season.

But his lack of playing time in Spain last year might have worried the coaching staff and they could monitor his progress more closely this year, meaning he'll be on roster or playing in the D-League.

The first thing that stood about Eyenga this week was his athleticism. He's listed at 6'5" but he seems much bigger than that on the floor (kind of like how Derrick Rose seems like he's taller than 6'3" when he's playing).

Quite simply, he was born to play in an up-tempo, fast-break offense. And that could be the reason the Cavs want to give him an opportunity to shine and develop in Bryon Scott's system.

His on-the-ball defense was impressive as well. He's got long arms, can challenge shots really well, and is quick enough to keep perimeter players in front of him.

He finished the week averaging 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game. He had some terrific help-side blocks and one jaw-dropping dunk as well.

His offensive game is still raw, but it's easy to see how he can be a part of Cleveland's future.

Pooh Jeter

Maybe the biggest surprise of the week was the play of point guard Pooh Jeter.

Jeter scored in double-figures every game, had five or more assists in four games, and had some great fourth quarter performances to lead the Cavs to wins over the DSL and Chicago.

Against the DSL, he hit a clutch floater in the lane, lobbed an alley-oop to Eyenga, and hit four free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.

Against Chicago, he buried a three-pointer with 6.9 seconds to go to give the Cavs their first lead of the second half and ultimately an 81-80 victory.

The Cavs are in the market for a backup point guard. They signed Kyle Lowry to an offer sheet last week before the Rockets quickly matched, and are rumored to be interested in Minnesota's Ramon Sessions and Memphis's Mike Conley, Jr.

Could they look to someone like Jeter to fill that roster spot if they continue to strike out in free agency?

It seems unlikely, but it's not improbable. Jeter had great command of the offense when on the floor—he knew when to push the ball and when to get the team into sets in the halfcourt. He can also hit the three-point ball when open and showed aggressiveness when attacking off the dribble.

He's only 5'11" and has no experience in the NBA (he's played overseas for the last four seasons, and one season with the Colorado 14ers, a D-League team). But he definitely showed enough for the front office to consider.

Tasmin Mitchell

A 6'7" rookie from LSU, Mitchell is your typical NBA tweener—someone who is too undersized to play his natural position (power forward), but probably isn't quick enough to chase small forwards out on the perimeter.

He had a terrific debut, going for 11 points and 11 rebounds against the DSL. He started Sunday against Milwaukee and put up six points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes of action.

In 20 minutes per game, he averaged 5.8 points and 5.4 boards.

While he's aggressive, tenacious, and an intelligent defensive player, his lack of size is what will ultimately cost him. The Cavs don't have tremendous size inside as of now, and they can't afford to add another undersized forward.

Still, it's not inconceivable to see Mitchell on an NBA roster someday or at least putting up some good numbers in the D-League.

David Monds

Monds only saw extended minutes in the two weekend games for Cleveland. Against Miami, he played 34 minutes but finished with just four points, four rebounds, and three turnovers.

But yesterday vs. Milwaukee, he broke out en route to a 14-point, 15-rebound performance in 31 minutes off the bench. He grabbed eight offensive rebounds and was extremely active in the paint.

He's got a bit more size than Mitchell (6'8", 240 lbs), but doesn't seem like someone who has a real shot of cracking the Cavs roster.

Jerome Dyson

Dyson got a majority of his playing time against Miami and Milwaukee, and struggled shooting the ball (8-of-28 FG, 5-of-16 3PT).

He averaged 16.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in 31 minutes per game this past weekend. The glaring number, though, was zero assists—not very impressive for a guard.

He's primarily a slash-and-kick player and fit in well with Jeter in the backcourt...he just couldn't knock down his shot consistently.

Manny Harris

An explosive scoring guard from Michigan, Harris sat out all five games with an ankle injury. It supposedly hurt his draft stock (he went undrafted) and unfortunately, the injury didn't help his chances of landing on NBA team.

Rashad McCants

McCants was a great scorer for North Carolina, but has struggled adapting to the pro game.

Known as a bit of a head case, he didn't help his case this week—he didn't show up for any of the Cavs games. He was out for personal reasons (taking care of his mother ) but he didn't take advantage of an opportunity to show that he can still contribute for an NBA team.