Game 1: Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors
Monday had a rough first half of the schedule. None of the eight teams playing had a bunch of talent. The most intriguing game of the four was this one and that isn’t a compliment.
The one theme this game really presented was a whole load of "is he or isn’t he?" type of guys that are right on the borderline of making an NBA roster, meaning that a lot of these guys spend time in the D-League because they are so close to a spot.
For the Kings, DeAndre Liggins is an excellent defender who can move the ball and attack, David Wear is a stretch four who compensates for a lack of athleticism with basketball IQ and Eric Moreland and Alex Oriakhi are great interior players on the glass. For the Warriors, James Michael McAdoo has a ton of talent, Aaron Craft is a very good defender, and Stefan Nastic has legitimate NBA size and touch out of the post.
A perfect situation can see these guys not only make an NBA roster, but thrive in their respective role. They need that situation or chance though and most of the time they don’t get it.
- Willie Cauley-Stein and Kevon Looney are the primetime talents, but both of them have been on shorter minutes compared to other players of their level. Trill played only 42 minutes in his first two games and Looney comes off the bench for the Warriors, something almost unheard of for a first-round pick on a team without a lot of talent.
- Looney is a player I could see really benefitting from what I talked about Bruno Caboclo going through yesterday. A season of playing rarely any important minutes, but a season full of practices with the first-team would really help him. Looney struggles with the geometry of the floor on both ends. He can ruin spacing on offense and is out of position a lot on defense. A year of practicing with an NBA team, especially a really good one, will do a lot for him. He is a very good athlete who is long and is a tremendous offensive rebounder. He has a jumper and can put the ball on the floor. There's just a lot that needs to come together before he really starts playing.
- Cauley-Stein continues to be really impressive. His athleticism adds an additional bonus to what he does on the floor. He’s going to have a ton of offensive and defensive plays that are only going to be possible for him because of how mobile he is for a big. It was important to see him have a soft touch around the rim because you need a guy that limited to be money around the rim. He looks the part.
- David Stockton played again! He has the perfect set of skills for the summer league. He’s quick, understands how everyone moves on the floor, and is a really good finisher around the basket. He can’t create space for his jumper, he’s not that fast, and he's really small. If you put him around a team that lacks true team defense and/or a rim protector he can light you up, which is why you saw those crazy box scores from the D-League.
- Matt Stainbrook played! He got some nice fame from March Madness and everyone is obsessed with how he’s an Uber driver. I don’t think he’s an NBA player, but he’s still good at basketball. At a certain point where the athleticism line gets low enough he will be able to play well. He's a good passer and is efficient in the paint at a certain level.
Game 2: New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
This was the best game of the regular season lineup. There are at least six guys in this game who will play real NBA minutes next season, with plenty of intriguing pieces elsewhere.
Julius Randle stood out and not in a good way. There were concerns about him finishing against length and it’s more than that. He has a very elementary way of going about driving from the perimeter and even in the post. He has his set moves and he’s not consistently adjusting, which is vital when you can’t finish over length all the time.
Randle’s an intriguing combination of strength and speed. His ability to handle the ball on the outside, having a really quick first step, and the chance of him developing a jumper made him one of the most unique prospects we’ve seen in the draft because of his already established prowess down low. However, he either needs to play more under control, learn to react and read defenses more, or develop a jumper to survive. Maybe that jumper is already there, but we haven’t seen it in Vegas yet.
- Kristaps Porzinigs looked very good. His activity level on both ends and the ability to use verticality as a defender was impressive. He made smart cuts and passes throughout the game and also showed a great ability to get fouled. His movement is awkward with his size so that and being so tall has defenders making mistakes often on how to guard and recover on him. We already know about his offensive game and that’s not going to get much further until he puts on more weight (backing down in the post to create space). All he needs is little bits here and there to support that great offensive game though and he showed some of that Monday.
- D’Angelo Russell still looks like he’s thinking too much. Maybe it’s the record crowd of Laker fans in Vegas, but he’s not trusting his instincts. That and playing a little bit too unselfish has him failing to leave an impression. However, that’s the way he’s going to have to play with Jordan Clarkson, Nick Young, Lou Williams, and Kobe Bryant. He just needs to regain the touch on his shot.
- Tarik Black and Jordan Clarkson both look like NBA rotation players. Clarkson looks like the heir to Jamal Crawford’s throne and Black is great at what he does down low. He even showed a midrange jumper off today, which is something I did not know he had.
- The Knicks' carousel of potential role players in this game is fascinating...
- Jerian Grant did not look very good in the halfcourt, but showed off why he was a first-round pick on several different occasions. His vision moving at full speed is exceptional.
- Cleanthony Early needs to become a better shooter or defender to break through the wall.
- Maurice Ndour showed off some great length and activity defensively and included some nice touch on his jumper. I could see him getting a look.
- Ricky Ledo can score and penetrate. If he can keep getting better as a passer he’s an NBA player.
- Thanasis Antetokounmpo needs to figure out what he is past an energy guy. He’s not really great at shooting, penetrating, or passing, but his activity levels and athleticism are off the charts and he could become a great defender. He’s still raw though and the Knicks could have something nice here if they are patient and he grows.
Game 3: Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Utah Jazz
Rough break in this game with Dante Exum and Rodney Hood both sitting out (they play the Suns tomorrow). There was still Karl-Anthony Towns and that’s more than okay.
Towns does a lot of little things so well. The way he established post position in this game was terrific, particularly against these lower level defenders who wouldn’t establish contact early enough down the floor. That extra second or so he got of space he would take advantage. He also showed the ability to bully smaller guys, which is a great trait for him to have because of the swapping between power forward and center. Strong conclusions are usually a no-no in summer league, but I will say that I think he’s a top-5 passing big in the NBA right now. His vision of the floor is superb and he has the passing ability to make any sort of pass. Whether it's out of the double team, kicking it out, or hitting a cutter, he can do it.
Defensively it was a mixed bag. He’s really good on the ball from face-ups and stays active with his hands. He still needs more strength though and that became evident when a guy like Jack Cooley was winning battles with him for rebounds. That will come with time though as most things will at this age/level. We didn’t get to see much of his "excellent" shot blocking here. He looked a half-second late on a few and I think that’s just him getting used to the speed increase, despite this still being summer league. The positioning and timing still looks like it’s there and he picked up two blocks later on.
His offensive versatility was really great. He had quick movements in the post to face the basket or get his back down from the post going. That was having him get fouled a lot in his games here so far. We know he can get that jumper going and he can hit it with a hand in his face. Minnesota had him in the post nearly all game. That’s nice to see them not get too wrapped up in his potential three-point shooting in pick-and-pop and other things like that.
- BSOTS favorite Adreian Payne was on the Timberwolves and it looks like the Suns might have dodged a bullet. There just doesn’t look to be anything he does particularly well enough at an NBA level. His jumper wasn’t falling and he didn’t stand out around the rim. The Timberwolves paid a high price for him and they might regret it.
- Tyus Jones and Bryce Cotton facing each other at point guard was supposed to be the best part of this game. Jones is much more methodical and uses an all-around assault on offense while Cotton is much more in your face with his blistering speed. Jones hit a corner three, made a couple of good drives, and did all the point guard things you wanted him to do. Cotton used his speed to constantly create space. When his jumper is going down he can flat out score. However, they only combined for four field goals so this failed to live up to the expectations.
- Trey Lyles was playing for Utah and showed a real nice way of moving around the floor. The ball movement and understanding of spacing was there for him and that’s something great to see for such a raw prospect. His ball-handling and quickness for his size is really something. He just needs some polish and that will come with time.
The Suns play the Jazz tomorrow at 4:30.