TrueHoop: 2014 Summer League
July, 24, 2014
By Seerat Sohi
Special to ESPN.com
Special to ESPN.com
Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty ImagesWho is Andrew Wiggins as a pro? Who knows? But his promise is driving NBA-shaping trade talks.It’s Thursday night at summer league in Las Vegas, the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Houston Rockets and for a brief moment, Andrew Wiggins appears to be in control of his destiny.
Wiggins catches the ball, sizes up Nick Johnson and begins to back him down. In a matter of seconds, the whistle blows. The 6-foot-9 Maarty Leunen, who came over to help and ended up fouling Wiggins’ jumper, is visibly exasperated. For an undersized power forward just trying to make it in the NBA, ticky-tack fouls like this one may be a death blow. Wiggins, who is about to line up for his 19th and 20th free throw attempts, has been dealing them all game.
The Cavaliers' reported willingness to include Wiggins in a deal for Minnesota's Kevin Love has been met with mixed reviews. From a pure basketball standpoint, Love is the obvious choice. He is coming off a 26-point, 12-rebound season. His best skills -- shooting, court vision and fundamentally superior rebounding -- are the kind that age like good scotch. At 25, he’s still young enough to take over the team once LeBron James wears down. Any defensive upgrade Wiggins could provide is offset by the fact that young players almost always take years to translate their defensive chops onto the court. A trade for the disgruntled big man would pair two of the league's most efficient superstars with one the best young point guards. So, yes, Love is by all means the better basketball player. But there is no one who is better than what Wiggins represents.
Wiggins carries unprecedented star power, even for a No. 1 pick. He doesn’t just inspire belief in his future, he inspires us to prioritize it over a sure thing. Think of how many players have been able to do that before stepping on an NBA court. It’s a short list.
But in about 25 minutes, Wiggins will be shuttled away under some guise or another -- perhaps a photo shoot or an autograph session -- from reporters trying to unearth how he feels about the prospect of being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Underneath all those layers of potential and hope through which we’ve come to understand Wiggins is a guy who is just as clueless as everyone else. He doesn’t even know where he’s going to play, let alone how he’ll perform.
A San Antonio Spurs, David Robinson-to-Tim Duncan-esque scenario, where Wiggins eases LeBron’s load until eventually taking over, is tantalizing. It’s funny, when you think about it: The same “built vs. bought” and “right vs. wrong” paradigm that infiltrated the Spurs vs. Miami Heat NBA Finals just a month ago is back again, except this time, LeBron and the Cavs have a choice between the two.
A tendency to side toward keeping Wiggins -- and the route of unhurried team-building -- has little if anything to do with winning the ever-so-preachy “right” way, but with how some prefer to experience their favorite teams. The biggest draw the NBA has against the NCAA is that the former gives you the chance to watch something grow. The zenith of fandom, of course, is winning the last game of the season. But before that, there’s an entire process of imagining and contemplating a team’s trajectory. There are little joys along the way, like watching the result of a veteran player teaching a young player old tricks, and seeing tiny improvements -- as well as their ripple effects -- laid bare on the court.
To be a fan of an up-and-comer is to hope that things go right. To be a fan of a contender is to pray nothing goes wrong. In essence, optimism is more fun than anxiety.
Of course, trading Love for Wiggins isn’t as extreme. Any team featuring LeBron is bound to be a contender, but a trade for Love shifts the team’s focus from salivating over the sheer possibilities to figuring out how to fix the pipes. It’s already prominent in most trade discussions. The questions that skew heavy in a LeBron-Love-Kyrie Irving scenario -- How will they defend? How will they shore up their frontcourt depth? -- are surprisingly absent when you replace Love with Wiggins.
Such is the world of dreaming: fun, inconsequential and limitless. Everyone has to wake up at some point though, and when they do, the world around them won’t be likely to conform to those dreams. The reality in Cleveland is replete with “ifs," even outside of how Wiggins will pan out. No one knows what to make of Anthony Bennett, who showed up to summer league slender and invigorated. Whether Dion Waiters will smarten up under LeBron’s influence is another if. The verdict, to a lesser extent, is out on Tristan Thompson. Throw in injury-prone Anderson Varejao’s health concerns, too. On the other hand, there is concrete evidence that Love is a top-10 player.
There’s nothing wrong with nosediving in the possibilities of what isn’t yet known -- it’s a lot of fun! That's the entire point of the draft. But curiosity needs to be measured with an eye toward reality. Combine too many unknowns and the ground underneath them starts to get shaky. Trading Wiggins for Love wouldn’t sell the future for the present; it would stabilize both.
Seerat Sohi writes for the TrueHoop Network. Follow her, @DamianTrillard.
July, 21, 2014
By Fred Katz
Here are eight notable performances from the Sacramento Kings' 77-68 win over the Houston Rockets in the championship game on Day 11 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings | Grade: A-plus-plus-plus
Anytime you can actually pull off the Jordan shrug in summer league, something is going right for you. McCallum did exactly that, reining in MVP of the summer league championship game by scoring 29 points on just 15 shots. He made his open jumpers. He dribbled around screens like a legitimate NBA, offense-controlling point guard -- a rarity at summer league. By the end, the Kings point guard was so hot, he was pulling up from 30 feet. Controlled willpower with the ability to capitalize when you got for it all; that's not exactly common to find in Vegas.
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-minus
With only seconds remaining in the second quarter, Isaiah Canaan barreled down the court, heading straight to the hoop. Figuring he could get by a flat-footed and backpedaling Stauskas, he dribbled right and tried to turn the corner. But Stauskas bodied him up, used his help-defender and forced a wild shot from Canaan. That’s a learned play from the offensive-minded Kings rookie, who failed to score in the second half against the Rockets. Discovering defense is the next step, and slowly but surely he’s starting to do that.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C-minus
Summer league hasn’t been kind to McLemore. Another game, another day without any assists. Three turnovers in the LVSL championship game gave the former first-rounder a 9-to-26 assist-to-turnover ratio in his second summer league. For a kid who is supposed to be working on his facilitating, that’s not necessarily the most encouraging performance, especially considering how many open shots he missed Monday.
MarShon Brooks, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C
If Brooks’ best shot to make a roster -- and then earn playing time next season -- has to do with his decision-making, he should hope NBA teams weren’t tuned in to Monday’s championship game. He always seems to be looking for his shot, which is a fine attribute, but not when it yields indiscriminate irresponsibility. He’s shooting no matter what, like on a third-quarter play when two defenders came in his area and he attempted a step-back jumper with time left on the shot clock instead of kicking to a wide-open, red-hot McCallum in the corner. If you’re going to try to play like Jamal Crawford, you'd better hope you can actually play like Jamal Crawford.
Quincy Acy, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-plus
No one pulls off the intimidation walk quite like the Baylor alum: chest out, thighs fighting through the air like they're in a workout pool, and eyes glaring enough to make anyone dive out of the way of their sight line. "Squints" Acy matched Monday's game style with that walk. He might have totaled just six points, but his defense was fierce and physical. He bullied anyone with a pulse on the way to eight boards. The beard is scraggly. So is his game. But it works.
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets | Grade: B-plus
It’s incredibly possible that Canaan has never passed up a shot when his defender fails to fight through a screen. Go under a pick when you’re guarding him, and the ball is going up every time. Every single time -- and he makes his shots, too. Canaan finished summer league averaging just fewer than six 3-point attempts per 36 minutes. Isaiah’s not even a gunner. He’s something bigger. He’s a Canaan.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: B
Motiejunas is potentially going to provide an interesting case study for the Rockets this season. If he plays anything like he did in summer league, we’ll see a decent amount of midrange jumpers and post-ups. That’s not Houston’s style, but in Vegas those moves worked, and he finished with 16 points in the championship game.
Nick Johnson, Houston Rockets | Grade: B
Johnson’s reputation pegs him as shooter, but he’s shown off many more skills at both the Las Vegas and Orlando summer leagues. He can handle and has the athleticism to attack the rim; now all he needs to do is finish in the paint consistently. Johnson missed a couple of layups that could’ve put his grade over the top, but his activity on the boards and on the defensive end still completes a solid final game for him.
July, 20, 2014
By Fred Katz
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesDonatas Motiejunas' moves helped lift Houston into Monday's LVSL final against the Kings.
Here are seven notable performances from Day 10 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: C
Vonleh finished his time in Vegas on a down note, shooting just 2-for-12 from the field. Sunday, he was bricking from all over, rimming out a few looks in the paint and finding metal on his 12-footers, the shots he’s supposed to make. But it wasn’t all bad for the rookie forward. Nine offensive boards helped keep his team far closer than it should’ve been in a game during which the Hornets shot less than 36 percent from the field.
P.J. Hairston, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: C-plus
When Hairston wants to shoot, you’re not stopping him from doing it. That goes for the defenses he faces on a per-game basis. It also goes for his teammates. The rookie chucked it up 24 times Sunday, some good shots, some bad shots, some OK shots. But really, that’s all he provided: shots. Creating offense for yourself is clearly a valuable skill, and Hairston’s gaudy 27 points look good to the naked eye, but an inefficient scoring game without much else to complement it didn’t help the Hornets in their loss to Houston.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: A-minus
Sunday didn’t exactly turn Donatas into Dunkin’ Donuts, but we did see the craftier side of his game: postups, right-handed hook shots, smooth jumpers. The offensive arsenal looked totally clean. In a way, Donuts looks too good even to be participating in summer league. The 13 boards he added only helped him on the way to one of his best Vegas performances.
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets | Grade: B
The Rockets love their undersized, gunner point guards, and Canaan fits perfectly into that category. He always has had the ability and confidence to dribble down the court and pull up from anywhere -- and that’s still completely true, as Canaan showed multiple times against the Hornets. He’s still the guy who hit seven straight 3-pointers against Austin Peay. Sunday, though, he commanded the floor impressively, even while totaling just one assist. Canaan used to look to pull up when dribbling around screens. Against Charlotte, he split pick-and-rolls and made the defense move effectively.
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C-minus
Stauskas has hit a bit of a wall over his past few games, struggling to create off the dribble and generally missing opportunities to facilitate for his teammates. Sunday he had his worst shooting night in Vegas, generally settling for jumpers, which tended to fall short of the rim. A kid who excelled off the dribble at Michigan, though, should consider this type of performance more flukish than anything else.
Eric Moreland, Sacramento Kings | Grade: A-minus
Moreland does not stop rebounding. Seriously, he is absolutely relentless. After 12 more boards against the Kings, the Oregon State alum upped his average to 16.5 rebounds per 36 minutes at summer league. The big man plays some defense, too. Three more blocks Sunday gave him 13 during five games in Vegas, and the guy is not even averaging 20 minutes a night.
Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: B-minus
You can’t perfect your Michael Jordan impersonation every day. Apparently, Rice now realizes that. He may have followed up his 36-point thrashing of the Spurs with another 24-point performance (extending his 20-point-games streak to six), but Rice was missing from all over the floor, chucking and clanking enough to total eight missed shots from long range. The Wizards won on the backs of Rice and Otto Porter on Saturday. They lost their first and only summer league game Sunday because they couldn’t replicate the dominant production from the previous evening.
July, 20, 2014
By Andrew Han and Fred Katz
Here are 11 notable performances from Day 9 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A
Rice continued his scoring spurt at summer league in dropping a game-high 36 points, including six 3-pointers, in the Wizards’ triple-overtime win over the Spurs. The league’s leading scorer still hasn’t dropped fewer than 22 in any game while in Vegas. Add 11 boards to Saturday’s effort, and Rice is truly making his case for summer league MVP. -- Katz
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B-plus
Summer league is hard for a big man. Teammates consistently looked off Vonleh’s rim rolls, settling for breaking down the defense or taking contested shots. When the first-round pick did get the ball, the passes were poor or dumped off in awkward spaces on the floor. Vonleh crashed the boards, though, and collected 10 rebounds (five offensive) in the first three quarters. He also shot 3-for-4 in the fourth quarter to help secure the Hornets' advancement, with 15 total points. --Han
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C-plus
Stauskas' making shots shouldn’t be news, so his hitting both of his 3-point attempts in a win over the Bulls isn’t particularly shocking, but the rookie struggled in other aspects of the game, mainly in court awareness on the offensive end. He struggled to create for teammates when dribbling around screens (usually a strength of his) and even passed up a late three to take one dribble in and sink a heel-on-the-line 2-pointer instead. It wasn’t a bad shot, per se; he just wasn’t playing to his strengths, a theme throughout Saturday’s contest. -- Katz
Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-minus
Porter and Rice are like the Jordan and Pippen of Las Vegas Summer League; the two of them worked so intuitively together in the Wizards’ close victory over the Spurs. Porter, specifically, handled the ball as he did in college, with him bringing the rock up the court, often leading the break and finding Rice for a go-ahead transition 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. As well as he played, though, scoring 27 points of his own, the question remains whether the former No. 3 overall pick can find comfort in a more off-the-ball role in Washington, something he’ll have to adapt to as he plays with John Wall and Bradley Beal. -- Katz
Vander Blue, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: A-minus
Former Marquette coach Buzz Williams is like the NBA’s version of Red Bull. His players provide the league with energy, he gives it wings, and he always looks like he has condensation on him. Blue is one of those wings, and he showed off his pesky defensive skills against the Wizards -- literally taking the ball away from opposing guards on a couple possessions Saturday night. But where Blue stood out from his usual self was in his ability to create for others, distribute on dribble-drives and make a couple perfect bounce passes to set his buddies up for scores. -- Katz
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks | Grade: B-plus
Hardaway showed the complete arsenal of shot-chucking. The Knicks guard largely stayed clear of driving the lane until the final frame and shot 20 field goal attempts in 29 total minutes -- 15 of which came in 20 minutes over the first three quarters. To offer some context on how shot-happy Hardaway was, he had two fewer 3-point attempts than the rest of the Knicks combined. Still, he ended with an impressive 27 points in the Knicks’ 82-79 loss. --Han
P.J. Hairston, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B-minus
Hairston was suckered into a chucker's duel with his Knicks counterpart, Hardaway. It was like a neutron star had imploded as Hairston and Hardaway both swallowed possessions in their head-to-head duel. The rookie burned too intensely, though, as the matchup instigated a taunting technical after a Hardaway offensive foul. --Han
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: A-minus
Another game with issues taking care of the ball -- four assists to four turnovers -- but the second-year point guard again exhibited calm in the chaos of summer league. Schroder consistently probed the lane and cycled through the paint with intentions to observe how the defense reacted. Although his shot wasn't falling, Schroder finished with two steals and 10 free throw attempts to go with seven rebounds. --Han
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: A
The Rockets' big led all players with 19 points, rarely forcing the issue around the basket. Motiejunas focused most of his efforts on offense off secondary action -- after the dribble hand-off on the perimeter and quick leakouts to take advantage of the Hawks' more plodding bigs. D-Mo's continued increase in effort on the glass -- 13 rebounds in the Rockets’ win -- offers optimism for the third-year player’s ability to handle an elevated role next season. --Han
Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B
For someone who struggled as a long-range shooter in his rookie season, Snell has become a 3-point threat at summer league. The body control and release simply look more consistent, and they were fluid enough for the rising sophomore to pull off a four-point play in the third quarter of the Bulls’ “playoff” loss to the Kings. Pair the shooting with the ability to get to the rim, and Snell was really the only Bull able to create his own offense Saturday evening. –- Katz
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-minus
McLemore had a 0-to-18 assist-to-turnover ratio in Vegas last year. This season, it didn’t start out much better, as he gave the ball away 16 times in his first three summer league games while failing to record an assist. But over his past two contests, McLemore has been a little more controlled and totaled seven assists, compared to just five turnovers. The points total might have been down a little Saturday, but at the very least, it’s encouraging to see McLemore control the floor in non-scoring ways a little more competently. -- Katz
July, 19, 2014
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
Nine notable performances from Day 8 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: A-
He exercised a level of control that we hadn’t seen from him in this setting yet. Because Parker is so strong off the bounce, sometimes he loses sight of when it’s appropriate to change speeds. When you see the mix of a few balanced, smooth pull-up jumpers combined with those power moves in the lane, you begin to understand how much potential as a scorer Parker really has when he assesses the defense properly. --Foster
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: C-plus
Defenders don’t respect Randle’s jumper, but that can actually play to his advantage in a weird Rajon Rondo sort of way. With the provided space vacated by his defender when he faces up and isolates, Randle can build momentum, put it on the deck and get his man on his heels before lowering a shoulder. After the game, opposing forward Jerrelle Benimon called Randle "a train.” He had some issues finishing at the rim once he got there (5-for-14), but you care more about the process than the results. --Foster
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: B-minus
Here’s Exum’s night in a nutshell. On a late fourth-quarter possession, he attempted to turn the corner going left and was turned away easily at the rim by the big man in waiting. The very next possession, in nearly the exact same situation, Exum effectively froze the help defense with a side-step dribble before tossing up a soft floater over the top. It’s always nice to see a young guard decide not to keep banging his head against the wall. --Foster
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: B-plus
When we say someone is a project, it usually implies that a player has the body and athleticism to succeed in the NBA, but he’s yet to develop the necessary skill set. LaVine, in that sense, is a project who deserves some clarification. He has the body and athleticism. He also has a handle along with the ability to shoot and finish in traffic. He just doesn’t always make the right decision. Friday, though, he looked impressively aggressive in spurts, getting to the line 10 times in the game and turning the ball over just once in the first half. If he were as careful with the rock in the second half as he was in the first, he would’ve earned himself a perfect grade. -- Katz
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz | Grade: B-plus
A lot of Gobert’s shot-blocking ability has to do with his length, naturally, but he also could be the next big benefactor of the “verticality” rule that has allowed Roy Hibbert to anchor one of the league’s best defenses over the last few years. Defending without fouling is always a challenge for young shot-blockers, but Gobert displayed some good lateral mobility along with the patience to stay down and keep himself in rebounding position. --Foster
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: C
Warren finally had a subpar offensive performance, shooting 3-for-11 and failing to hit the 20-point mark for only the second time in Las Vegas. Still, he used his impressive length well, cutting off passing lanes and contributing in help defense. He’s long enough that we could start calling him “Warren Peace.” --Katz
Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors | Grade: B
Caboclo continued his inconsistency, this time trending upward. What we’ve learned about the 18-year-old rookie on defense remained true in the Raptors’ win over the Clippers: He may get caught looking in the wrong direction often, but his 7-foot-7 wingspan can make up for it. Though he often hangs around in the right corner on offense, he looked a little more active against the Clips, tipping a few boards to teammates and getting to the hoop from distances where “normal” players wouldn’t be able to reach the rim. -- Katz
Kevin Jones, D-League Selects | Grade: B-plus
If you haven’t watched Jones since his collegiate days at West Virginia, you might be shocked to see how broad the formerly scrawny forward’s shoulders have become. Jones has size, and he uses it now to his advantage, especially as a screen setter. The former Mountaineer is adamant about bodying guys up on his picks. He’ll set a ball-screen, then re-screen, and then screen again just for the heck of it until he finally pins a guy so he can pop open. Friday, his physicality worked to the tune of 21 points and nine boards. -- Katz
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: A
Another day, another scoring outburst from McCollum, who dropped 21 points on the Jazz in his final summer league contest. The former first-round selection picked apart the Utah defense with his jumper, sinking attempts from all over the floor, mostly away from the rim. McCollum now leaves Vegas without scoring fewer than 16 points in any game, pretty consistent for a guy who spent too much of his rookie season banged up and on the sidelines. -- Katz
July, 18, 2014
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
Thirteen notable performances from Day 7 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: B+
The good: Wiggins went to the line a whopping 20 times, drawing contact against smaller defenders and getting fouled on step-back jumpers and swing-through moves. The bad: Down three with the game on the line, Wiggins allowed a blow-by in an isolation situation, then turned it over the very next possession. The ugly: All the quiet time spent at the free throw line was interrupted by a fan yelling “You’re going to get traded!” -- Foster
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: D
If this was your first time seeing him, you’d probably wonder what all the fuss is about. This was Exum’s worst performance in summer league by a long margin, as he mostly floated in the background and deferred to a fault. Even when he’s stuck in the mud of a 1-for-8 shooting night, though, you can still catch a little glimmer: Exum attempted a two-footed, Derrick Rose-style dunk from outside the paint that he was fouled on. You just wish there was more of that, though. -- Foster
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: C+
After briefly making the city of Philadelphia nervous by leaving the game with injury, Noel returned to the floor. Even though there weren’t many flashy moves or insane athletic displays, Noel planted himself right in front of the action at the front of the rim and used his superior length to his advantage quite nicely. He’s capable of much more, but it’s nice to see that he knows where he’s needed. -- Foster
Jordan McRae, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: A
He was almost perfect. McRae scored 25 points and didn’t miss a single shot all night until, ironically enough, he air-balled an open 3-pointer late. You hear a lot about length leading up to events like this, but McRae puts his crazy 7-foot wingspan to real use offensively on the wings, as his ability to get shots off in traffic and finish over the top of defenders bodes well for the next level. -- Foster
Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B
A lot of the rookie hesitation in Snell’s decision-making has gone by the wayside, as he pulled the trigger a few times with little breathing room to spare. That willingness to fire up shots coming off screens is a nice development, as Tom Thibodeau runs a pretty structured offense that largely revolves around his ability to get shooters open looks from off-ball action. There aren’t many potential contributors for championship contenders here, but Snell is one of them. --Foster
Shabazz Muhammad, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: B
It happened. Muhammad finally had his first eye-opening summer league performance, dropping 24 points in a “playoff” loss to the Kings. It’s not that Muhammad hadn’t scored at all before Thursday; he just hadn’t done so efficiently. Against the Kings, he got to the hoop, made a few moves out of the post and attempted 11 free throws, a high for him at summer league, while also making more than half his shots in a contest for the first time in Vegas. -- Katz
Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat | Grade: C-
Apparently, Shabazzes offset. The man with two z’s in his name looked like he was catching some z’s throughout the game, appearing lethargic getting back on defense and while guarding in the half court. Napier wasn’t impressive on the other end, either, settling for jumpers (he was 5-for-18 on field goals) and failing to create for his teammates off the dribble just one night after his appearance at the ESPYs. -- Katz
Austin Daye, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: C-
It’s simple: Daye has to make 3s to warrant playing time again at the next level. His 2-for-9 showing from behind the arc is a bad sign for his stretch 4 aspirations, as it’s incredibly unlikely he’ll be able to get into the paint at the next level due to his lack of speed and molasses first step. The silver lining here, though? Daye isn’t passing up open looks when they come his way. Play for the job you want, right? -- Foster
Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets | Grade: A
The Rockets are a fun summer league team to watch, if only because you can clearly identify who has previous experience on their 3-happy D-League affiliate team in Rio Grande. Canaan is one of those players, and his unabashed love for pull-up 3s (4-for-8) and hard drives right to the rim (28 points) tips it off. It’s fitting that Canaan’s trademark moment -- a lefty drive against Wiggins with a strong finish to ice the game -- came in such a manner. Keep his name in your back pocket. -- Foster
Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz | Grade: B
He’s a no-frills player. Hood has a really good sense of when to beat off-balance defenders with strong straight line drives to the rim, and his intelligence cutting to open spaces on the floor at the right time would make former Utah coach and Flex enthusiast Jerry Sloan proud. On nights like this when nothing is coming easy for the young backcourt of Exum and Trey Burke, Hood can act as a low-risk safety valve. -- Foster
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: C
Everyone likes to make the Rajon Rondo comparisons with Schroder, but at this point, the greatest similarities between the two point guards probably come on defense. Rondo may not drain 3s, but he has a killer midrange game. Schroder, who started Thursday’s game off with a couple of turnovers in the opening minutes, is still learning how to shoot, clanking a few 16-footers off the bounce after dribbling around screens. Per usual, the German was a pesky on-ball defender, but if the shots aren’t falling, he can’t afford to toss careless passes in the wrong direction. -- Katz
P.J. Hairston, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B+
After a pretty rough stay in Vegas thus far, Hairston showed why he’s considered such a natural scorer. Other than a few impressive feats of athleticism on dunks at the rim, the thing that stood out most was the quick, high-arcing release on his jumper that he’s certainly not bashful about letting fly. Even though he’s a high-usage player, Hairston’s penchant for shooting a high percentage of his shots from behind the arc (4-for-9) is a good sign for a Hornets team that desperately needs that type of production. -- Foster
Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings | Grade: A-
Just because he was in relative basketball obscurity at Detroit Mercy, we all forget that McCallum was a highly coveted recruit coming out of high school -- and even at summer league, playing on a floor conducive to chaos, he looks like a coach’s son. At least against guys who are still learning how to play the game, McCallum has turned “making the right play” into his M.O. Now, he’s even added some moves, including a nice step-back off the dribble, to his arsenal. -- Katz
July, 17, 2014
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
Ten notable performances from Day 6 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: B-minus
Give him credit for recognizing what he was largely failing to do in previous appearances. Parker had a few really aggressive moves in tight spaces where he used that considerable derriere of his to create contact and separation. What’s more important than the few blown finishes or the mistakes with the ball is that his physical gifts were actually utilized properly, as his drives were quick and purposeful. When you get to the line 13 times, it’s an admission from defenders that you’re too much to handle. -- Foster
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: A-minus
This is not the Kentucky version of Julius Randle. No longer bound to the low block, Randle has been painting way outside the lines in Vegas by facing up and building the head of steam he needs to score over bigger defenders. It would be one thing if Randle was doing it recklessly, but his vision, ballhandling and selflessness finding open teammates off the bounce has been awfully impressive. There’s more than meets the eye here. -- Foster
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: A-minus
No one -- coaches, defenders, teammates -- really knows what to make of him. He won the tip to begin the game, then immediately served as de-facto point guard, then ran both parts of the pick-and-roll like that’s a normal thing to do. Defenders played off him (because he’s 6-foot-11, after all), and he calmly knocked down open 3-pointers. With about 95 percent of the players in Las Vegas, you think about what they can do at the next level. But with Antetokounmpo, you wonder if there’s anything that he can’t do. -- Foster
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B-minus
Vonleh has one of the highest floors of any prospect in this draft class, simply because he just needs to exist on the court. He certainly isn’t a traditional rim protector because he lacks burst and quickness with his movements, but those crazy long arms and massive mitts tend to find the ball in spite of it. Basically, it’s all about positioning for him on both ends. That’s typically one of the more difficult aspects to master for young players learning the NBA game, but if Vonleh makes it his focus, good things can’t help but happen. -- Foster
Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: B-minus
LaVine is getting the chance to show how he can run an offense, mainly playing the point, but his shoddy decision-making is on display in the process. LaVine will make incredible jumpers, but so many of them are a product of high-risk basketball. And when he makes those shots, he’s only giving himself incentive to keep taking them. At the end of the third quarter, LaVine missed another fadeaway jumper off the dribble, this time when he had an open lane to the hoop at the buzzer. He’s showing off the skills needed to play in the NBA. Now, it’s just about figuring out how to implement them. -- Katz
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: A
Warren is showing everyone in Vegas why he believes he was the steal of the lottery. Dropping 26 points Wednesday gave him 22-plus in three of his four summer league games. He has been efficient too, as Warren has gotten into the lane with ease, showing off an array of floaters and funky finishes around the rim. It seems like every time he puts the ball on the floor, Warren either gets to the hoop or sinks one of those smooth pull-ups. That’s how he has hit more than half his shots in each of his first four games in Vegas. The next step: developing a 3-point shot. -- Katz
Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: B
Anderson’s drives have a horror-film sense of impending doom to them, as they’re so slow that you actually have time to imagine all the ways it could go horribly wrong. The thing is, Anderson is the rare intelligent protagonist, as he often steps or fakes his way out of danger at the last moment to make defenders look foolish. Of course you wish he could speed up the form on his jumper so he could unfurl it quicker against closing defenders, but what can you say? He plays to his own beat. -- Foster
Mike Muscala, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: B+
Remember back in the first round of the playoffs when the Hawks gave the Pacers all that trouble because of their ability to stretch the floor? Well, that was because guys such as Pero Antic could play center and still drain open 3-pointers. Muscala is looking like he’s going to fit into that philosophy beautifully. He hit two 3s on four attempts Wednesday, knocking in a couple more shots and pulling down six boards. -- Katz
Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: A-minus
Most people like to wear a bathing suit around the pool at Vegas. Dieng brought his board shorts. How’s 19 rebounds sound for you? Dieng added on 13 points, hanging around the high post effectively, as he often does. Still, he walked away from that game just one rebound short of hitting the glorious 20-rebound mark, not bad for a guy who had a couple of 20-board games near the end of the regular season. -- Katz
Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets | Grade: C
Harris started his night with a steal that led to a fast-break score, but it was all downhill from there. The rookie found enough metal to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday, missing 13 of his 18 attempts, struggling to get to the hole and settling for jumpers throughout. He was active on the defensive end, totaling four steals and disturbing passing lanes, but the shot was off and, with that, he lost his offensive rhythm. -- Katz
July, 16, 2014
By Kevin Arnovitz
July, 16, 2014
By Adam Reisinger
Now this is a story all about how the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers had some fun on social media at the Las Vegas Summer League on Tuesday.
The two teams met in one of the final games of the day, with Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel sitting out as a precaution. But the Suns Twitter account was more focused on another Philly prospect who had his life turned upside down.
.@Sixers The city of Philly lost in the trade when his mom sent him to Bel Air.— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 16, 2014
Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince, is a 76ers minority owner, though he no longer sports the high-top fade and we don't expect to see him shootin' some b-ball outside of the school any time soon.
While the Suns won the game 97-88, it's safe to say both teams won Twitter for the day.
July, 16, 2014
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images While NBA superstars mulled their decisions, free agents like Kent Bazemore had to sit and wait.You’d think NBA players would get stressed about free agency. So many decisions, the potential of living in disparate locations, and a constant stream of social media information with updates on the movements of potential co-workers.
When I sat down with Kent Bazemore a few days before he signed with the Atlanta Hawks for two years, $4 million, I assumed he’d be caught up in the frenzy like so many of us NBA news addicts. I figured Bazemore’s fingerprints would be callused from keeping up with news on Twitter all week. He’s no LeBron James, but I’d seen Bazemore mentioned in so many free-agency rumors that I’d just believed his entire existence had been reduced to a swirl of confusing speculation. The rangy, athletic guard probably couldn’t get his arms around all the rumors, even with a 6-foot-11 wingspan.
Not quite. Bazemore wasn’t checking Twitter -- he says he glances at it roughly once a day, usually in the afternoon. “You can’t control it,” was his succinct answer for why he doesn’t obsess over the transaction game. Also, he has people to do that for him.
"We got a group chat, me and my roommate, my little brother, my agent, financial advisor, two of my other best friends,” Bazemore said. “They just rant on about that stuff all day. I just watch the Tour de France, I play 'FIFA' downstairs. I actually won the Scottish Premier Cup with my team just now right before you got here."
It’s easy to forget athletes are more than skill sets on the court. They get approached by fans who know them only from their games, so even the redundancy of idle compliments can get annoying. Though a bench player for most of his career, Bazemore gets recognized. Sadly, that recognition doesn’t come with praise of his stellar FIFA play, his golf game, or his recent painting of an eye-shaped sun setting itself over an ocean.
Paintings aside, Bazemore’s Bay Area apartment was something more spartan than you’d expect from an NBA player, which makes sense when you consider his transient lifestyle. After getting traded to Los Angeles, he’d been living out of a hotel near the Lakers practice facility. Though he maintains strong ties with the Warriors organization, he wasn’t expecting the kind of offer from Golden State that would keep him in this Oakland-area apartment.
Bazemore had gotten back from Atlanta the night before, where he’d met with Danny Ferry, Darvin Ham and others in the Hawks organization. It was more like a classic job interview than anything we associate with the NBA, but he enjoyed what can be a nerve-wracking process for others. Unlike what happens on Twitter, there’s a degree of control in a face-to-face meeting. “A lot of guys can’t hold a conversation,” Bazemore said. He knows he can, and appreciates the chance to set himself apart.
What becomes apparent with Bazemore is that he has more energy than you. It’s not a coincidence that his sideline celebrations were known as the league’s most elaborate. Though he’s coming off foot surgery, his days include 20-mile bike rides. On weekends, he tends to go over 40 miles when biking with his girlfriend in the East Bay Hills.
He’s drawn to the fatigue, addicted to the point at which a body no longer functions. "You'll be in the middle of a bike ride and you're just like, man, I don't know if I can turn another rep."
"Do you like that, though?" I ask. A Tour de France race is on TV, and it looks like torture with consent.
The response is fast and unambiguous. "I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it.”
His attention turns to the cyclists suffering at the craggy hands of a French mountain. He’s updating me, filling me in on which guys are running on fumes, which guys are about to fall from the pack. He’s keyed in on the process of exhaustion, interested in how effort takes you to a place where even effort ultimately lets you down.
He might be a little jealous. Bazemore said he wished he’d gotten to run in even more unglamorous D-League games last season. He just wanted to play. He always wants to play.
Bazemore believes it's what carried him to the NBA. In the beginning, his skills didn’t seem to presage an NBA career. "I sucked,” he said. “I was terrible all the way up until eighth grade. When it was time to go to AAU camps, I would score, like, six points in a weekend."
But his mom kept bringing him, and he kept improving. "I've been a pretty optimistic guy my entire life,” he said. “Especially where I come from, optimism really helps you." Bazemore grew up in Kelford, North Carolina, a tiny town where the per capita income is less than $10,000 per year. His family struggled. "No heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, food gets scarce. Four people in the house and my dad got laid off and my mom was the only one making any money."
The desperation of that situation was integral to getting him here, to a point where multiple NBA teams call for his services. "That's why I applaud people like Steph [Curry],” Bazemore explains. He doesn’t understand how anyone gets here without the hunger of poverty. So in some ways his good friend Stephen Curry, a man from comfortable means, is a mystery.
Bazemore used that hunger to get here, but there’s a downside to the trait he trusts. All that gnawing energy took him to a place where energy couldn’t help him: the bench. At times, he was miserable riding pine. People loved his sideline celebrations, but those were as much expressions of frustration as they were of joy. He was antsy in his seat. “I went to a dark place,” Bazemore recalled of all his DNPs. “You only can contain the tiger in the cage for so long.”
There’s a cruelty to how a lifetime of physical preparation can lead to hours and hours of spectating, eons of interminable waiting. It’s the plight of the many players we don’t see in commercials or All-Star Games. Bazemore has an intense desire to use what got him to the top of his profession. Maybe he'll get that opportunity with a fun, floor-spacing Hawks team. His success would be as much about achieving a dream as it would be quelling what made the achievement possible.
July, 15, 2014
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
LAS VEGAS -- At the NBA Board of Governors meeting here, Adam Silver sang praises of the city as a location for NBA events. He was quick to add, “I don't gamble as the commissioner of the NBA, for the record, not because there's anything wrong with it, I just don't think I should be gambling as the commissioner.”
He might not roll dice away from the boardroom, but Silver seems more inclined toward a faster, looser NBA ecosystem. His predecessor preached the virtues of players staying with one team over time. David Stern favored a relative lack of player movement, as reflected in years of collective bargaining agreements that give incumbent teams large advantages in re-signing players. Silver represented a contrast in that approach days after LeBron James shocked the sporting universe by spurning the Miami Heat for a Cavs organization he spurned in the past.
On the question of whether this free-agent activity is “good for the league,” Silver began by saying, “I support a player's right to become a free agent,” which hews closely to Sternisms on the topic that sound more like resignation than ringing endorsement. Silver continued, though, with a broader view of how player movement benefits basketball: “I think, from a macro standpoint, I think all the movement was very positive for the league. The coverage has been fantastic.”
Yes, the coverage. Off-court intrigue has grown so colossally since the advent of Twitter that interest in the transaction might have overtaken interest in the on-court action. It’s unclear if the upside of this was lost on Stern, or if he was merely miming the interests of owners who despised groveling before empowered athletes. In any event, it represents a difference to see Silver wax so positively on the free-agent circus.
Despite the owners’ best efforts to keep players from controlling their own fates, the NBA’s hot stove has been cooking of late. Fans certainly love a loyal athlete, and there is value in one who stays with a team for the duration of his career. But in the increasingly short-attention-span theater of modern sports, incredible interest is gained through the possibility of players moving to new situations.
The NBA might never equal the NFL’s gigantic TV ratings, but the league is threatening to dominate the news cycle with all these free-agent possibilities. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a younger commissioner sees the value in the way sports consumption is changing.
LeBron James threw his lot with Cleveland while hanging out in Las Vegas, and it’s kicked off what should be a highly exciting basketball season. What happened in Vegas didn’t stay there; it enveloped the news cycle and put the spotlight on Silver’s league. It remains to be seen if owners are to see the good side of superstar movement, but what happened in Vegas showed how their sport can be helped by changes.
July, 15, 2014
By D.J. Foster
Nine notable performances from Day 5 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: C
An average outing in the second part of a back-to-back? He’s got this NBA thing down already. The level of aggression offensively wasn’t quite the same as it had been in previous games, as Exum willingly deferred to others instead of really forcing the issue and creating offense. The limited minutes probably didn’t help him stand out much, but most of the decision-making was fine. This was just a scaled-back effort.
Will Barton, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: B
Remember those “my fast is faster than your fast” commercial spots? It really feels that way when Barton takes the floor, as he flies up and down the court at a breakneck pace. Don’t mistake his energy as a cover-up for a lack of skill, though, because Will “The Thrill” displayed great shake off the dribble to get into the paint early and often, gashing the interior defense. The between-the-legs alley-oop to Thomas Robinson wasn’t half bad, either.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: A-
McCollum is a really sneaky athlete, mainly because it factors into situations you don’t normally pay much attention to. For example, McCollum gets a ridiculous amount of elevation on his jumper, which allows him to pull up off his own dribble or shoot right over the top of a closing defender. After hitting six 3-pointers and tallying 28 points, McCollum is making it clear he’s a spot-up threat defenses are going to have a whale of a time with going forward.
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls | Grade: A
There’s a lot of legwork that goes into getting an open look when you’re a shooter with his reputation, but McDermott has the rare ability to read a defense while he’s on the move. Multiple times after manipulating his man into a screen, McDermott burned the overcompensating help defense with a picture-perfect pocket pass. He gets it.
Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-
Could a sophomore second-round pick end up stealing the summer league MVP award? Rice may not bring the hype that accompanies the fresher faces, but he once again looked a cut above his competition. Rice’s game is all about explosiveness.
Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns | Grade: B+
We were robbed of seeing the only two projected starting centers in Vegas go up against one another when Nerlens Noel sat out, but Plumlee put on a nice show against the Sixers regardless. Given his production last year and his role going forward, it’s a bit surprising to see Plumlee here, but it’s evident he’s working hard on becoming a better rim protector and defensive presence. In order to take the next step, Phoenix will need that from him.
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: A
He didn’t earn the bandage over his eye by accident. Warren was a human wrecking ball offensively, smashing his way to whatever spot on the floor he desired before simply overpowering his defender for easy buckets. It’s not very often you see a perimeter player rack up 28 points with no threes, but Warren seems to get the best of every physical exchange he gladly partakes in. If he ever develops 3-point range, watch out.
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: D-
Muhammad once again elicited groans from his hometown crowd for his selfish play, as he chucked his way to a 3-for-15 night while providing almost nothing across the board. At this point you have to begin to wonder if Muhammad, whose lone strength is his ability to bully smaller defenders, really belongs in a league in which he’s regularly outworked. On the bright side, he did register his first assist in three games, so at least there’s that.
Cameron Bairstow, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B+
It’s unfortunate for Bairstow that Chicago’s frontcourt is so loaded, because it sure looks like he’s an NBA quality big man. On defense he’s physical and doesn’t give up ground, but on offense he’s more of a finesse guy who can step away from the rim, pass from the elbow and really knock in midrange jumpers at a high clip. He’s the best player in Vegas that looks like "Karate Kid" villain William Zabka, by far.
July, 15, 2014
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
Eleven notable performances from Day 4 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: A-
All we’re going to talk about is that dynamic dunk off Wiggins’ dreidel move in the second quarter of the Cavs’ game against the 76ers, and maybe that’s deserving. That was maybe the smoothest offensive move he’s made at summer league, but all that being said, it may not have even been his best play of the game. That belonged to a Mutombo-like swat he had on Nerlens Noel, coming over in help defense and skying as high as the rim to slap away a potential layup. All he was missing was the finger wag. --Katz
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers | Grade: B
Watching the 76ers' summer league team is entertaining if only because this could end up being their actual regular-season roster –- and Noel only helps with that entertainment factor. There aren’t many guys who can re-jump quite like him. That’s part of what makes him so successful on the court -- his ability to leave the ground quicker than everyone else after the initial leap. Monday, he showed that off as a defender, blocking four shots. He also ran the floor as well as any big man in Vegas, finishing on a couple dunks in transition. --Katz
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: B
Randle’s got handles? Monday, he showed off exactly how skilled he is on the perimeter. There were possessions in the fourth quarter when the Kentucky product was actually running point forward -- taking the ball up the floor, penetrating and facilitating for teammates, even kicking out for a corner 3 off a drive once. Grant Hill compared his dribbling ability to Anthony Mason’s. It was a little Blake Griffin-like, as well, exuding a sort of controlled chaos. He did struggle a bit on the boards and his screen-setting was ineffective at times, but the offensive production with the ball was solid enough to make for a quality performance. --Katz
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: C+
The comparisons to Carmelo Anthony are apt, at least in the sense that Parker is similarly high-maintenance when it comes to space to operate. When Parker’s defender was on an island, his moves were brutally effective. But when there was weakside help or a crowded lane? Parker’s attempts were essentially sets for Rudy Gobert to spike. Is Milwaukee going to be able to provide Parker with the space he needs to thrive? --Foster
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: B
Don’t let the uninspiring stat line 6-and-2 fool you. Exum was quick and decisive in the pick-and-roll, looking more like a veteran practitioner than the “unknown entity” he was labeled as leading up to the draft. While there weren’t nearly as many flashy displays as there were in his debut, Exum showed tonight that there’s some steak with his sizzle. --Foster
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz | Grade: A
This was fearless rim protection at its finest. Gobert seemingly contested every Buck bold enough to venture into the paint, and even when Giannis Antetokounmpo caught him on a dunk, he came right back down the floor and returned the favor. Jazz-Bucks was one of the best Summer League games I’ve seen in four years from an individual performance standpoint, and the presence of a shot-blocker and athlete of Gobert’s quality only made it feel more legitimate. --Foster
Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz | Grade: A
This might have been the best shooting performance we’ll see this year at Summer League, but there was more to it than just knocking down 7-of-10 from deep. There was a lot of nuance present here as well, as Hood put it on the ground and found open teammates, and when he was off the ball, his ability to float to open spaces and relocate was downright superb. Having a corner shooter like this with a point guard who can penetrate (think John Wall-Trevor Ariza) can lead to some beautiful jazz. --Foster
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B
He may have deferred a tad too much when it came to creating offense, but Stauskas made good on nearly every open chance he received on the perimeter by letting loose with that picture-perfect release. It’s not often you see a high draft pick readily accept a lesser role offensively and be patient for the ball to find him, but considering the makeup of Sacramento’s roster, that tendency might not be the worst thing. --Foster
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B+
There’s something to be said for looking comfortable out there, and Vonleh seemed so fluid, even as his team got rocked by the summer Knicks. He may have finished with a tame 13 points and five rebounds, but Vonleh did a little more than advertised in his third summer league contest, including dishing out some crafty big-to-big passes from the high post. He was a bit hesitant to shoot at times, but what we saw Monday was someone who was more physical and versatile than just a pick-and-pop big. --Katz
Austin Daye, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: B+
I’m filing a motion to approve the nickname “slow-mo-bros” for Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw and Austin Daye. There’s a high degree of difficulty with this particular Gregg Popovich reclamation project, simply because Daye is incapable of bending his knees and moving laterally. Even with that being the case, it’s just so hard to quit on a 6-foot-10 guy who can display all the traits of the modern stretch 4, no matter the speed at which it all happens. --Foster
Bruno Caboclo, Toronto Raptors | Grade: C
At the draft, Fran Fraschilla described Caboclo as “two years away from being two years away.” We saw some of that Monday, especially on the defensive end, where his 7-foot-7 wingspan stayed mostly dangling by his hips (or knees) rather than stretched out. He didn’t dribble much, but when he did, it was usually a panic move. Bruno’s microcosmic end to the third quarter was all you needed to see from his disappointing day: sitting on the bench, towel over his head, after following up getting dunked on with a technical foul. --Katz
July, 14, 2014
By Kevin Pelton
LAS VEGAS -- It was only the second quarter, but Andrew Wiggins won Monday's NBA Summer League game pitting his Cleveland Cavaliers against the Philadelphia 76ers with his incredible dunk. Dribbling toward the baseline, Wiggins spun free and rose above the defense to dunk powerfully yet gracefully.
The crowd in the intimate Cox Pavilion went wild. Writers declared Wiggins a superstar, too good to trade for Kevin Love. Fans chanted for a replay, and booed when it failed to materialize on the video board.
The dunk was breathtaking. It was athletic. It showcased Wiggins' potential. It was also his only basket of the first half. Consider that a microcosm of the disconnect between the excitement generated in Las Vegas by Wiggins and his fellow No. 1 pick (and Canadian), Cavaliers teammate Anthony Bennett, and their production on the court.
Wiggins has delivered multiple flashes of the talent that made him the top pick in this talented draft. Shortly after his dunk, he rose to reject a Nerlens Noel attempt from behind, the kind of defensively play few wings can make. And he's been a consistent presence at the defensive end of the floor, racking up deflections with his long arms.
As at Kansas, however, Wiggins' offensive contributions have come and gone. His scoring totals have gone down each game, from 18 in Friday's debut to 13 on Sunday to just 10 points Monday. Philadelphia rookie K.J. McDaniels, the No. 32 pick, took defending the No. 1 pick as a personal challenge, keeping him from seeing any airspace in the half-court offense. (When Wiggins shook free for the dunk, McDaniels was on the bench.)
Something similar is true of Bennett, who's enjoying the soft bigotry of low expectations. Bennett was so bad as a rookie that any positive contributions are met by huge excitement. Consider the positive response to Bennett getting in shape, something that's usually a bare minimum for NBA players.
Bennett too has offered momentary reminders of why he was considered a consensus top-five pick a year ago, if a surprise at No. 1. He's been aggressive in attempting to dunk any opportunity around the rim, and his rebounding (26 in 94 minutes, a cool 10.0 per 36) has been impressive.
The concern remains Bennett's shot selection. If Wiggins can occasionally get too passive on offense, that's never been an issue for Bennett, who's happy to lob off-balance 3-pointers at the rim if given the slightest opening. Bennett has shot 2-of-11 from 3-point range (18.2 percent), a step back from the 24.5 percent he made during his rookie season.
Still, there's plenty of time for such skepticism during the long regular season. Summer league is all about dreaming on players, and Wiggins' dunk and Bennett's explosiveness have given Cleveland fans reason to keep dreaming.