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Saturday, July 20, 2013
Final Word: Summer league's top rookies

Shabazz Muhammad, CJ  McCollum, Ben McLemore
Are high-profile rookies CJ McCollum, Ben McLemore and Shabazz Muhammad ready for the season?

Four of the biggest names of the 2013 draft in Las Vegas officially bowed out for the summer, as their teams wrapped up consolation games as part of this year's event-ending tournament. Our TrueHoop team takes a look back at what we saw from each and what we expect to see moving forward.

CJ McCollum, Trail Blazers
21 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 36.6 FG%, 31 3P%


The good: McCollum proved that he has the skill set to fulfill the team's primary expectation for him, which is to score a ton of points. With one of the quickest triggers in the desert and refined instincts for finding points, McCollum is a genuine threat from most spots on the floor, and led summer league in scoring before hanging it up prior to Friday's game against Minnesota. In a backcourt sorely lacking punch behind starter Damian Lillard, those are qualities the Blazers will surely covet.

The bad: Those points that fans latched onto were the result of McCollum hoisting more shots than any other player in Vegas, making them at just a 36.6 percent rate. What's more, McCollum struggled to free teammates and orchestrate a coherent offense. Nobody really expected slick no-look passes or for McCollum to lead summer league in assists, but the Blazers sometimes hurt for points with the rookie at the helm.

Bottom line: We didn't learn all that much about McCollum. His credentials as a scoring talent remain unquestioned, but the questions about his other talents remain unanswered. In sum, McCollum was probably very much what the Blazers expected, and while fans have every reason to be excited, they should also be prepared for a rookie season that exposes a few current weaknesses.

-- Danny Nowell

Ben McLemore, Kings
15.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 0 APG, 33.3 FG%, 19.4 3P%


The good: McLemore had two strong games at summer league, most recently downing a talented Hawks squad with a 19-point third quarter. When he's on, he moves with uncommon grace and power, both on and off the ball. He's also been a terror in transition because of his ability to outpace defenders and throw down reverberating dunks.

When balanced, McLemore's shot can evoke Ray Allen memories, especially when he sweeps along the baseline, through screens, to get an open look. Because of his athletic prowess, not much room is needed for a clean jumper. The kid rises quickly off the floor, unfurling a rainbow arc that eludes closeouts. Even if his shot hasn't been going in this tournament, the form looks good.

The bad: He hasn't been good at that which he's supposedly good at. For a shooter, McLemore hasn't shot especially well, converting only 33 percent of his attempts. Though the form looks good, his balance appears to be off, to the point where he airballed consecutive jumpers against the Warriors. He's yet to demonstrate an ability to reset his legs and square up when shooting off the dribble.

Shaky as the shot's been, his handle is more concerning. McLemore's dribble is loose, and often stolen. He carries the ball with nearly every dribble, often losing the rock on the way up or down. He's especially bad at dribbling left, which teams have taken advantage in this chaotic setting. Defenses are shading McLemore leftward, daring him to attack open driving lanes.

Bottom line: Despite his glaring flaws, I certainly wouldn't give up on McLemore because his positive qualities are just as striking. He's probably the most powerful dunker in Vegas, and if the college stats are any indication, he'll grow into a sharpshooter from deep.

-- Ethan Sherwood Strauss

Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves
8.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 41 FG%, 38 3P%


The good: The fit is there. Muhammad has the build of your everyday athletic, break-you-off-dribble wing scorer, but he thrived at UCLA mostly in situations where he didn't have to dribble -- off the catch, running the break, posting up. And on a team like the Timberwolves, with a scorer/rebounder and ball handler as its two cornerstones, it's those "other" areas where Muhammad will need to do his work.

Despite the lure always present at summer league to isolate everything, Muhammad primarily stuck to that script, floating around the arc and running off screens, and looked right doing so. His rebound numbers in Vegas were ho-hum, but he can be a great wing rebounder with his size, if he puts in the effort. He also shot 41.1 percent from 3, better than his college average (38 percent).

The bad: The production was not there. The 20-year-old (we hope) Muhammad averaged just 8.5 points on 41 percent shooting. Which isn't awful. But when a player who lives off offense can't produce, particularly against inferior competition, the deficiencies in the rest of his game become more noticeable. And in Muhammad's case that's his ambivalence toward passing (five total assists) and mediocre defense despite the tools to be pretty good.

Bottom line: Muhammad has a lot to work with, and you're inclined to dismiss some of the disappointment to playing a defined and limited role, but it's hard to write all that off after a drama-filled freshman season. That age stuff doesn't matter anymore, but can he be happy with an even smaller role in snowy Minnesota than the one he griped about in Los Angeles?

-- Justin Verrier

Otto Porter, Wizards
6.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1 APG, 30 FG%, 0.0 3P%


The good: Porter has length and he can run. Despite knocks against his subpar athleticism, he will get out in transition, as his active arms create deflections. He should also be able to either push the ball himself off changes of possession, or fill the lanes running with John Wall.

Porter's height (6-foot-9) and ability to shoot could also spread the court and create openings for teammates, or the Wizards might run Porter off screening action for mid-range shots over smaller defenders, which they aimed to do in summer league. Sure, Porter will need to extend his range as an NBAer, and he might even need to tweak his form, but if he showed anything at Georgetown, it's the ability to soak knowledge like a sponge and convert that into quick improvement.

The bad: Porter will need to make up for a lack of athleticism by getting stronger -- a lot stronger. Too many times in Vegas he got bumped off course by steady defense, or the ball easily knocked away from his bear-cub paws.

"Assertive" has also been used so much to describe Porter that I had to look it up again. He's not bold, self-assured or confident. Aggressive? I've seen him try his hand at that in Vegas, but not at the right times. Most of the jumpers he took seemed to be forced off the dribble.

Bottom line: The Wizards didn't draft Porter with the idea of him needing to contribute immediately. So, disregard any preseason prognostications penciling him in as the starter at the 3-spot. That position belongs to Martell Webster, and if not him, Trevor Ariza. So, Porter will have the luxury of developing at a comfortable pace, but that doesn't mean expectations won't soon arise for the third overall pick, even if part of a weak draft class that didn't do much to change opinions in Las Vegas.

-- Kyle Weidie