Welcome back to Bright Side's Las Vegas summer league coverage! I'll be bringing you my daily analysis like last year straight from Vegas. At least three games a day from Sunday to Wednesday is what you can expect. Let's get into it.
Game 1: Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets
The start of this game would be the story of this game. The Rockets were engaged right out of the gate. They were communicating on everything defensively and consistently moving the ball defensively. They were missing Nick Johnson, Sam Dekker, and Clint Capela, but they still had enough team basketball to beat the Suns.
The main outlook here from a Suns perspective is what the plan is with Alec Brown. He only played 10 minutes on Saturday and had only 14 minutes today. He was consistently getting out-manned down low by Alan Williams and others, but that's his main weakness. The Suns coaching staff thought this was too much of a detriment and rolled with Josh Harrellson and Luke Harangody through most of the game, despite neither having a chance at a roster spot in the future, unlike Brown.
It became clear what they were doing with Brown when he checked into the game with 0.5 seconds left in the second quarter to box out. It was still nice to see him chatting with Mark West on the bench throughout the game.
- Alex Len did not play. He is going to play every other game in Vegas.
- Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren continue to look like players that shouldn't be here. Warren did Warren things with his supreme touch off the bounce while Goodwin did a little bit of everything. It looks like he's not really prioritizing playmaking and that's fine. A corner three by Archie in the second half was one of the best moments of the game. His refined shooting stroke looks great.
- Devin Booker is having shooting struggles, which is obviously not a good thing for a player of his type. He was 2-12 in this game, particularly trying to find his shooting stroke late in the game when it was over. I'd be on the lookout for an explosion out of him in the third or fourth game.
- Justin Harper saw his first playing time in Vegas. The former first-round pick showed off one of the reasons he got drafted that high with the range on his jumper. He had a rough time off the dribble and off the ball though, which is why he isn't in the NBA anymore. It's sort of been a draw between him, Harangody, and Harrelson at power forward.
- There's an interesting three-way battle happening at point guard. Mickey McConnell was the best point guard on Saturday and Jerel McNeal struggled in both games. We got our first look at Mike James today, who had a nice stop-and-go pace to his play. He's deceptively quick and used that to get to the basket multiple times on Sunday.
- Montrezl Harrell did a ton of Montrezl Harrell things in this game for the Rockets. Sean Sullivan and I are big fans of what he does, as he rebounded, battled by the basket, and chased down multiple loose balls. 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 fouls seems about right. He's the best.
Game 2: Toronto Raptors vs. Chicago Bulls
This one had a fascinating matchup at SF between Bruno Caboclo and Doug McDermott. The two of them couldn't be more different. Caboclo is an incredibly young and raw prospect while McDermott already knows what he is at a seasoned 23 years old.
Caboclo presents what McDermott should struggle with at the next level. He's tremendously long and athletic, potentially causing problems for McDermott on both ends. McDermott made up for it by always being in the right place at the right time and really working hard the entire time he was on the floor. He never gets credit for his motor or how agile he is despite being an average athlete for the NBA.
Caboclo looked so much better than last year. The fabled "two years away from being two years away" 2014 first-round pick looks like he really benefited from practices with the Raptors last season. He doesn't look lost on the floor anymore and has figured out the rhythm of the game. Now it comes down to his skills developing and continuing to get smarter, which is something I could definitely see happening with how he handles and shoots the ball for his size.
As Dougie McBuckets does, he got going in the second half with all 11 of his points coming in that half. Watch out for him to get some serious playing time under Fred Hoiberg.
- I'm going to take a long shot here and say these are two of the best teams here. Chicago has McDermott and Cameron Bairstow who both spent most of the year with the Bulls along with rookie Bobby Portis, while the Raptors have the raw Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira combined with a savvy duo of former Pac-12 seniors in Delon Wright and Norman Powell.
- The Raptors bench is the most hype I've ever seen here. Everyone on that bench is constantly making noise and stands up whenever there is a big play. Powell had a defensive play at the top of the key where he just refused to let his man get by him for eight seconds and the Raptors bench went ballistic. Sports are a lot of fun this way.
- Portis struggled much more in his second day. He was a beast on Saturday, scoring 23 points and hitting three threes. Today was still impressive though, as his post moves look really fluid and his engine meets the high expectations. Along with Bairstow and McDermott, Portis understands the ball movement and spacing of being anywhere from midrange to the three-point line as a shooting small/power forward. It was cool to see the ball move when those three were on the floor together.
- Powell and Wright are going to be good NBA players. Powell's a great defender who uses that lateral quickness on the other end to create his shot off the bounce. He turns the ball over still, but he's improving. He gotten much better offensively through his four years at UCLA. Powell fluttered between 28% and 32% in his last three years from deep, so that's where the concern is for him. Wright just does everything right as a point guard. He can shoot, run the offense, penetrate, defend, and pass. He needs to find one thing he does great, but I think he will figure that out in the next year or so.
- Lucas Nogueira gained a bit of courage in the last year. It might have had to do with the Bulls not really having a center, but he was more active around the basket and was looking to get involved more with where the ball was. His finishing was good at the rim and he's put on some muscle. It still took him about five seconds to recover from a shoulder bump courtesy of Portis, but it's progress! He's still only 22 years old and is a long-term investment.
- The Bachynski brothers were here and on the same team! Jordan is a year out of his time at ASU while Dallin just got out of Utah. Jordan looks like a professional basketball player, I'm just not sure what level that's at. He has a lot of things you want out of a center. Dallin didn't play, but was the most vocal player on the bench I saw all day.
Game 3: Denver Nuggets vs. Sacramento Kings
Coming to Summer League is a joy because of games like this. Seeing Emmanuel Mudiay and Willie Trill Cauley-Stein in person was a treat.
Mudiay's court vision is sensational. His main appeal is his pick-and-roll play and that was on full display Sunday. He makes the right play almost every time when he has the ball. He creates angles for passes on his own by the way he moves with the ball. I'm not sure how many guys at his age can do that. It's going to be interesting to see how he handles teams going under screens because his jumper did not look ready still. There's still a lot to worry about on defense as well. Regardless, the Nuggets should be thrilled he fell to No. 7. He is so large for a point guard by the way.
Cauley-Stein was here and there because of the type of player he is. He had some fantastic defensive plays that only he could make. Nobody is exaggerating when they talk about the way he moves for a guy his size. He is so fast, agile, and mobile for a big. There was a good post move or two there as well. He's going to be great next to Boogie.
- Nikola Jokic and Joffrey Lauvergne both started for the Nuggets. They are both really big bodies down low with some real width to them. Sacramento really struggled to keep a body on both of them consistently. They both also have range on their jumper, most notably Lauvergne. Not sure what either of them can do defensively, but Mike Malone will have some creativity in his big rotation.
- Gary Harris looked good for the second straight year except for his jumper. That was the major concern on him coming out of the draft, but he shot well in his last season before declaring. He was 1-8 from deep in this game.
- David Stockton played!
- Boogie was courtside with Vlade and Peja (!). He dapped up and hugged Mike Malone when he came over, which made me really sad.
- That was pretty much it. Both of these teams are super thin when it comes to talent.