Game 1: New York Knicks vs. Charlotte Hornets
Langston Galloway was the highlight of the day. The Knicks as a team have had some of the best energy here, which is mainly due to Thanasis Antetokounmpo who I talked about on Friday. Galloway has been his running mate in being loud on the bench and doing all the things you see the emphatic bench player do. He was ranked in the top 100 by a lot of sites for this upcoming draft so you look at that kind of guy to have a chance to make a roster. I don't really see that from this game, but he had a great moment to remember here in Vegas today.
Galloway only played 10 minutes on Friday missing all of his shots and did not play on Saturday. He responded today by scoring 17 points in the first half and the best part was the starters on the bench like Tim Hardaway Jr., Shane Larkin, and Cleanthony Early going bananas once Galloway got on a roll. It's always cool to see the best players on the team getting rowdy for some of the guys who don't get a chance to play much, and they were going insane after every make for Galloway. Kudos to Derek Fisher for keeping in Galloway for most of the second quarter. Bullets..
- Noah Vonleh flashed some more of his offensive game today. He had a very pretty play when he attacked the basket from outside, did a dream shake, and hit a double-clutched jumper off the glass. It looks like his handle and body are ready to be a weapon in attacking from the perimeter, he just needs to start hitting that three now. He did not hit one in the two games I saw.
- Cody Zeller played today after not doing so yesterday and he still looks to be a work in progress. The Hornets attempted to establish him early and he got out-manned and just looked very elementary in the way he was trying to work from the post. I'd take a guess and say that Vonleh is more likely to play alongside Big Al than Zeller, so that gives Zeller even more time to develop. I never saw any flashes for him today and considering the names on the Knicks side as far as bigs go that was not a good sign.
- Shane Larkin was much better today. He was not forcing his offensive game and instead he was just running the sets and taking the openings when they were there. He's very composed when he finishes with contact or takes a jumper, which is important because of how much bounce he has which can lead some players to be out of control.
- ASU alum Jordan Bachynski got some minutes, but it's important for bigs to have guards that will set them up and Bachynski lacked that in the Hornets second unit. I think he has a future as a backup center in this league but he was not granted many chances to show himself off.
Game 2: Toronto Raptors vs. Dallas Mavericks
Yawn. Our second straight blowout of the day was between two teams that have not been that interesting to watch. Bruno Caboclo is an interesting prospect, but he's most certainly not in the "can't miss" realm like others. He's proven that he's a reliable three-point shooter and can play defense, but he's lost on the floor a lot and that will just take time. I think he's a lot closer than he was evaluated, but there's no question he's still a project.
- I have yet to mention DeAndre Daniels and that's because he hasn't had much to show in Vegas. His shot hasn't been falling and he hasn't been having an impact all around the floor like he did at UConnn. To me it looks like the athleticism of this level might be too much for him. He needs to put on some muscle and then go from there.
- Eric Griffin has been a fan favorite. Griffin is a high flyer who had the dunk of the season so far in the first day. He's one of the most bouncy players here and he's surprised me with how much of an impact he has across the floor besides just creating highlight reels through the air.
- Bernard James has probably been the most impressive player from either team. He's a loooooong 6'10 center that has so much bulk and length that it makes up for the extra inch or two other centers have on him. He's a great rebounder and shot blocker who understands how to use his length without fouling. He's had opportunities in the post this weekend and I've seen enough to conclude that there is some potential there.
- The crossover and scoring machine Ricky Ledo was at it once again. Ledo's shot selection is questionable at times but when he uses his quick handle to draw fouls and get to the line like he did today he can have a big impact on games. 5 assists in the first half showed that he was reading the defense well and trying to play a more complete game from him. This Ricky Ledo could turn out to be a very good pro.
- C.J. Fair could never figure out the flow of the games this weekend. Fair was one of my favorite players in college who evolved into a very good player from his freshman season to his senior season at Syracuse. He did enough around the floor besides score and was versatile enough in scoring that you thought he had a future as an NBA player. He put Bruno Caboclo on a poster, but it didn't come together for him in Vegas so far. That obviously doesn't mean his career is over so keep an eye on him.
- Yuki Togashi was a fan favorite once again. Togashi is only 5'7" so he sticks out to the crowd obviously. This was by far the loudest the arena was so far today, as they were begging for him to shoot and he went 0-2 from three. I've never been a fan of this as it sort of emasculates the player in my opinion. As our own Geoff Allen pointed out in the comments on Friday, Togashi is probably the best player in Japan at only 19. I think it sort of disrespects him as a basketball player like a lot of previous bench heroes before (Scalabrine, Burke etc.) but it gives the crowd some fun so sure I guess. Togashi did a good job running the offense and set some players up through his three games but never did much more than that.
Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Nerlens Noel was superb. Noel is just about everything you could ever want out of a low post defender. He was the best one I saw in Vegas by a landslide and I think it will translate to his rookie year. Noel has spectacular instincts when it comes to poking for a strip, getting in the right position for a blocked shot, and blocking a passing lane. Noel had 4 blocks and 2 steals at the end of the third quarter and that's not counting all of the strips he had that didn't get taken and all of the shots that he altered significantly because of his closeouts. His agility and movement on the floor is great and that allows him to make these recoveries for himself or his teammates.
Offensively you can see where the potential is. It really is a question of "if" when it comes to him being a reliable post-up option, but he's got the feel for some of it so far. His bounce and length allows him to get a hook shot off, but it doesn't have that great of a success rate so far. His jumper is still a work in progress but it does look half decent in terms of both his misses and his makes. It's a KG like super high release that is pretty much unblockable. If he can bring consistency to it like KG did later in his career it would be a monster weapon. The area of his game that is both the most promising and the most troublesome is his work off the dribble. He has such a quick step that he can get by just about any center so when he faces up that's what he looks for. His ball handling is so sloppy and loose that it makes it really easy for other defenders to poke it away and it's something that has to be developed. He is such an athlete though that he can shake someone.
I'll mention this only once before I start a fire in the comments (this probably already will but that's the nature of the beast), I was all in on him over Len. The explosion and instincts of Noel defensively are so rare and I don't think Len will ever be able to touch him on that end. Len's face-up game is enticing and he shows some good instincts offensively, but I think Noel has shown enough offensively like I said so the difference is not as incredulous as it is on the other end. I wasn't a fan of it then and after seeing both in person my opinion hasn't changed. It's going to be really fun to see them over the next couple of years and of course I am rooting for Len to prove me wrong. I am more so hoping that both stay healthy enough so that we can have that legitimate discussion a couple of years down the road.
- Side note, I had to leave this one in the late third quarter. The arena has a policy that when the COX Pavilion is full if you leave your seat for any reason you lose it. For both food and bathroom reasons I had to call it quits then.
- Andrew Wiggins had two of the best plays in Vegas but wasn't the standout in this one. His spin move leading to a two-handed slam was incredible to see and his blocked shot after that showed off how ridiculous his vertical truly is. A pull-up jumper he had later in the game showed his ability to read the defense past his initial defender and the height on his jumper is so hard to recover on.
- Anthony Bennett looks to be a great scorer from the perimeter but I'm not sure where else his game can go. He is a lot quicker than I thought he would be both with the ball and making cuts back and forth. He really has a feel for how to react to a defender when he catches the ball on the outside, but he doesn't appear to recognize playmaking opportunities when he makes his moves for a pull-up jumper or to attack the rim. He's still forcing his jumpers too much but that appears to just be a summer league epidemic for numerous players. He's a great athlete as he has shown in transition the past couple of games, but I wonder how far this extends when he gets a true power forward on him. If he gets one that can keep up with him defensively and outmuscle him offensively (these guys are becoming more and more common) it's going to be a nightmare for him.
- K.J. McDaniels was decent. I was all in on him after Orlando with the way his game looks. He's much more composed and smooth in his slashing than I thought he would be and with his athleticism you know he can finish. His defending extends all the way to steals and blocks besides locking someone up, which he did well on Wiggins tonight. His three-point stroke looks ready to go for me and I would not be surprised if he was in the Sixers rotation.
- Jerami Grant was nowhere to be found. Grant was awful in the first two Orlando games before making a great recovery in the third one. He couldn't find a way into the game and failed to make an impact as a defender or an athlete like I thought he'd be able to do. He's going to take a while.
- Jordan McRae is a name to keep an eye on for tomorrow. McRae is a bouncy scorer who can score in bunches while making impact plays in transition and on defense. He had a couple of blocks two days ago and four steals with a block today. He, along with McDaniels and Casper Ware will probably be playing in the NBA this season for Philly.
- Casper Ware will be an interesting matchup for Tyler Ennis. Ware is a pesky and fast point. He really loses the flow of the offense sometimes but won't quit and is really tough on the floor. Ennis is going to have to keep a consistent effort on him defensively in order to win that battle.
- Sean Kilpatrick tore it up on Saturday but never found a way into the game today. He is a volume shooter who gives full effort on both ends so watch out for him tomorrow.
- One more thing I want to get out of the way, it's pretty ridiculous to use fouls as a barometer for anything from the summer league. The refs overcall just about everything in an effort I assume to "teach the players" but it just makes no sense. If you move well enough laterally to cut the offensive player off that's a foul, and so on and so forth. Aggressive defenders get mutilated like Gary Harris (7 on Saturday) and Thanasis Antetokounmpo (11 in two games). Noel had 7 today but that's because he embraces the contact inside.
Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Utah Jazz
The final game here was a treat and featured two of my favorite teams to watch throughout my stay in Vegas. Milwaukee has two can't miss guys in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, while the job that Dante Exum and Trey Burke do moving the ball for Utah is endlessly entertaining. Despite being a sloppy game like most, this one was fun to watch and featured a lot of these guys trading shots.
The one thing that stood out to me that almost made me explode in basketball nerdness was Antetokounmpo guarding Exum. It was fascinating to see Exum plot his attack against a guy who was long enough and quick enough to at least make it somewhat difficult for him to get to the rim. Antetokounmpo isn't a lockdown defender yet and still has some things to figure out there, but his athleticism and build get him so far already. We are very lucky as NBA fans to have these two ridiculously exciting players to watch on two very bad teams.
- Rodney Hood wasn't hitting threes again until the second half when he hit approximately 400. He looked better defensively and attacking the basket today but that's not why he got drafted. If he shoots like he did in the second half then all is well.
- Giannis had some great takes to the rim. The length for him is so unbelievable not only because of the way he can finish but it's also in how long his strides are. A defender can be in good position and then he just stretches his away around them somehow and gets inside. A powerful player like Jabari will help Giannis learn more about that aspect of offense as well as help improve his already pretty decent IQ.
- I would have taken any bet on Jabari Parker having an explosive scoring game in one of these three affairs, but it never happened. I'm pretty sure it's just summer league, but Jabari was forcing things way too much. Suns fans saw how frustrated he got by Miles Plumlee's block and that just furthered the drive to shoot. His great basketball IQ and court vision had us all thinking that he would be able to find the open man, but in some of these situations it's just him and a defender he can't get by. He's way too satisfied with pull-up jumpers and although they go in a lot he needs to find a better way to go about scoring.
- Johnny O' Bryant found his way into the starting lineup the past two games and he's been a force. He's a prototypical post player that has shown off some pretty decent range on his jumper as well. He was faced off against Rudy Gobert for some of this one and that did not stop him one bit in terms of going about his powerful inside game. I like.
- Dante Exum hit a couple of jumpers tonight and that's where you start to get excited. He has shown off how incredible his handle and agility are already and with that he's always going to be able to create space. The question is if he can hit the jumper now so defenders can't just back off of him and dare him to shoot. It's an incredibly short sample size but it looked good so far.
- Rudy Gobert keeps flirting between a big sequence of plays and just taking over a game. I already wrote about him before but he's among just about everyone here in that it'll be interesting to see if any of this translates to the regular season.
Phoenix Suns vs. Philadelphia 76ers Preview
Tomorrow the Suns play the Sixers at 5PM. For a preview of the Sixers you can check out what I wrote about them here. As far as the Suns go, I would love to see something like Warren at the 4 with a Curry and Ennis backcourt with the offense centered around those two. Noel did not play in any games the day after a previous one in Orlando so that's something to keep an eye on. K.J. McDaniels on Warren will be tremendous. There are only 3 games in each arena tomorrow so my post will be up around 7PM.