TrueHoop: Donte Greene
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Memphis lost to a team that has always been more aggressive about developing young talent.
Of all the things coaches hate, globally televised boneheaded mistakes surely top the list.
Not even the most veteran are immune. Derek Fisher inbounded a crunch-time ball to the other team in these playoffs. Manu Ginobili shot an early-clock covered long 3-pointer that almost cost the San Antonio Spurs a game.
But, by and large, the spectacularly mindless moments, the ones that get Shaquille O'Neal mocking you in custom video from an Atlanta studio, are the province of the young.
Think JaVale McGee.
That's why so many teams keep young players stapled to the bench in big moments.
But there's an oddity: Those very same McGees tend to have valuable things like superactivity and bodies from basketball heaven.
In the final analysis, who's better for your team: an active and mistake-prone dude, or a fundamentally but athletically compromised guy?
The old guys keep everyone from looking stupid. But sophisticated numbers suggest that even with all their missed rotations and biting-on-fakes, the youngsters like McGee are very often better at, you know, winning.
Remember Zach Lowe's insight into the Toronto Raptors from Grantland earlier this season? The Raptors have their own young, mistake-prone guy, Jonas Valanciunas:
Valanciunas, like most rookies, misses rotations, overhelps, and commits other sins of positioning on defense. Coaches hate that stuff, and they've often nailed Valanciunas to the bench in crunch time in favor of Aaron Gray -- a fundamentally sound player who lacks NBA athleticism.
The numbers in large part disagree with that tactic, at least as it relates to Valanciunas's defense. The Raptors' defense has been better with Valanciunas on the floor. More importantly, the visualization data shows that Valanciunas is active and athletic enough to make up for all his defensive mistakes, Rucker and his team say.
"With Jonas -- yeah, he's making mistakes," Boyarsky says. "But who cares?"
Casey said he hasn't had deep discussions with the analytics team about Valanciunas, but Sterner has, and he agreed it's sometimes a thorny issue of valuing culture over results. "You want your defense to be sound," Sterner says. "Even though the production might be better, you still want [Valanciunas] doing the right thing.
This is a trend
Coaches are playing "correct" Grays over "still learning" Valanciunases all over the league. It satisfies a coach's sense of order and control. Every coach wants his team to play the right way -- which is not so different from following coach's orders. Without that, what's the point of having a coach?
Meanwhile, the guy who plays the "wrong" way often helps his team more, thanks to the many advantages of youth.
It's a dilemma that trips up many NBA head men. But not Gregg Popovich.
The story is that the Spurs' front office keeps feeding Popovich NBA-ready role players, and by the time his team's in the Western Conference finals, he can confidently trot out Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Cory Joseph and the like, who are all both young enough to be in their athletic primes and schooled and experienced enough to do things the right way.
Nice. Decisive, even. Lucky.
Young Spurs play, produce
Only it's not luck at all!
Popovich gets the same unproven players every team gets -- in fact, he gets worse ones. The Spurs haven't had a lottery pick since Tim Duncan in 1997. Nevertheless, he plays young players relentlessly and aggressively all season long. He plays young unproven players when his team is ahead. He plays them when his team is behind. He plays them when his team is in first place and when they're in last. He plays them in all four quarters and in overtime. And, most importantly, he does it season after season.
Splitter was once the Spurs' Valanciunas, if you will -- only the kind you draft 28th overall instead of fifth. Splitter has started 66 games for an elite team and has played close to 4,000 NBA minutes. Popovich has had plenty of time to make clear what he wants from his big man. By crunch time of a conference finals elimination game, coach and player had built so much trust that Splitter was not just on the court, but was the linchpin of the Spurs' successful campaign to thwart the pound-it-into-Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies.
Splitter was much bigger and gave Randolph fits.
"The irony of Zach," David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst and executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., said, "is that while he's not athletic, he is better against very athletic defenders. He's all fakes, feel, pins. Get him against an athlete like Blake Griffin, and he'll murder him. Really long guys like Splitter, though, who don't have to jump Randolph can't counter that. And his impulse was to take Splitter closer to the hoop, but that close Splitter's length becomes even more useful, and there was help almost every time. Zach just had a little tiny bit of space to operate. It was a huge factor in deciding the series."
That's the kind of advantage Popovich develops for himself, and this is hardly a one-off.
In 2001-02, the Spurs were a 58-win contender with an unconventional 19-year-old rookie French point guard who couldn't really shoot, didn't rack up a lot of assists, was undersized and didn't play great defense. Any coach would have benched Tony Parker while he was learning, and it's no secret why. I'm not sure I can recall a coach more openly exasperated with Parker than Popovich was that season.
But you know what Popovich did? He played Parker more minutes that season than Parker played this season -- when he was an MVP candidate -- saying all along that he wanted to see if Parker could develop into the kind of player he knew he could become.
If you believe Thorpe's talk of "royal jelly," Popovich's minutes and belief played starring roles in the development of all the Spurs' talented young players. In other words, it's likely Parker would not have turned out as fantastic now without all that learning on the job back then.
This season, Green led the Spurs in minutes played. Splitter, Leonard and Neal all logged more minutes than Ginobili. It's about keeping the stars fresh, which is crucial. And it's about developing the young corps. The right way to distribute minutes is up and down the roster. When you get it right, you can end up with fresh veterans and trusted young players, both of whom can work wonders.
Grizzlies timid with young role players
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, meanwhile, does things like most NBA coaches and has come to trust few of the Grizzlies youngsters. Darrell Arthur and Quincy Pondexter have developed into rotation players on the job. Ed Davis, Donte Greene, Austin Daye, Tony Wroten, Jon Leuer and Company, however, well, we'll never know if they could have helped against the Spurs.
When they got to play together, the Grizzlies starters with Davis in place of Randolph comprised one of the most effective units in the NBA, by plus/minus. Davis is long and athletic and offers help defense and rim protection that Randolph does not. Although the Grizzlies weren't good in Davis' almost 11 minutes in the conference finals, to the naked eye, Davis is far better than Randolph at containing Parker in the pick-and-roll, which turned out to be a key Randolph shortcoming in the series. Davis also has a track record, born in Toronto, where he played regularly, of finishing around the rim at an even more efficient rate than Randolph.
That doesn't make him a better player, but it does make it a shame Hollins couldn't deploy him confidently to mix things up as the series fell apart. Different looks were precisely what the Grizzlies needed. Hollins only had Davis for 36 games after he arrived via the Rudy Gay trade, however, and he only played him an average of about 15 minutes per game. When push came to shove, Hollins didn't know what to expect.
And the conference finals is no time to experiment. Although Did you happen to catch Leuer in Game 3? It was like seeing an antelope wander onto a Hollywood movie set. Where did he come from? He plays for the Grizzlies, by the way. Or, more accurately, he has been on the Grizzlies roster since January. Does 96 minutes over 41 regular-season games -- or 11 minutes over 15 playoff games -- count as "playing?" That's a tad south of two minutes per contest, all told. The Grizzlies got him to shoot 3s -- something he didn't play long enough to do in these playoffs.
Hollins just coached the Grizzlies to the best season in team history. His team was well prepared for every game and, in an important measure of any coaching staff, has played gritty defense every minute of every game for years. Nothing is broken in Memphis.
But when it comes to the fine art of turning prospects into producers, Popovich's aggressive youth-friendly approach is the standard. Popovich has missed with some young players, but he has also hit the bull's-eye more than once, and it's made all the difference.
- The Bulls could use an additional long-range shooter for their wing rotation and, on the surface, Rudy Fernandez seems like a nice fit. So let's say the Bulls are able to acquire Fernandez from Portland in a deal. Could Fernandez reasonably expect more minutes in Chicago than he received in Portland? Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns: "Look at Chicago’s roster: Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Luol Deng, James Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Kurt Thomas and Omer Asik. That’s a pretty deep team. How many minutes would Fernandez get in a backcourt that includes Rose, Watson, Brewer and (probably at times) Korver? Last season, Rudy became 'disgruntled' playing 23 minutes a game (down from 25 the previous season). How many minutes would he see on the Bulls?"
- Playing an all-out zone defense doesn't translate into much success at the NBA level. As Sebastian Pruiti demonstrates at NBA Playbook, many of the bedrock principles of the zone simply aren't available to NBA defenses because of the defensive 3-second rule.
- Assuming Kendrick Perkins isn't suited up on opening night, which O'Neal should start for the Celtics?
- Yesterday, Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell wrote that it's just a matter of time before NBA teams will be examining the DNA of potential signees. Today, economist Tyler Cowen looks at a paper that suggests some populations are more genetically predisposed to collectivism and mutual cooperation than others. The researchers say, "Genetic association studies suggest that variation within the genes of central neurotransmitter systems, particularly the serotonin ... and opioid ..., are associated with individual differences in social sensitivity, which reflects the degree of emotional responsivity to social events and experiences." Cowen is rightly skeptical, but you can imagine how a credulous NBA organization might want to examine a point guard's serotonin level before entrusting him with running a team for five years.
- PistonPowered features a graph you don't see every day: Percentage of minutes played in 2009-10 by players acquired the previous summer.
- Deuce Bello is a freaky shooting guard out of High Point, North Carolina's Westchester Country Day. Count Kevin Durant among his admirers: "Do me a favor, when u get a chance go look at this high school kid Deuce Bello on youtube...most bounce i ever seen in high school..wowww."
- Yi Jianlian gets a fresh start in Washington this fall. David Thorpe, who has been training with Yi, offers Truth About It's Kyle Weidie this prescription for Yi's game: "I think he should play a game like Rashard Lewis ... Shoot the three, play a shot fake and attack game and spread the floor. He should be really, really effective in transition with John Wall because Yi is unbelievably fast."
- Sactown Royalty is tracking support in the Kings' small forward battle between Donte Greene and Omri Casspi. No word yet on Nate Silver's prognosis.
- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis once pitched a reality series he described as “The Apprentice meets Touched by an Angel.” A couple of years later he was asked to be a judge on "Shark Tank," but declined.
- Oh, you just knew it was coming. Gold's -- not the chain of gyms but the makers of horseradish found at most North American Passover seders -- is challenging Amare Stoudemire to ingest large amounts of the stuff on a piece of matzo to test his Jewish roots. Pun intended.
- Jerry Reinsdorf on the Bulls' six championships: "Michael couldn’t have done it by himself. The rest of the players and Michael would not have been enough. It took Scottie to put us over the top those six times.”
- SLAM recently published a piece on Steve Francis titled, "Where is the love?" A Vancouver Grizzlies fan weighs in with his answer at Daily Thunder.
- Rasual Butler is getting his reps in. He tweets that he went 500 for 598 from mid-range today.
- Want a quick video primer on each of the national teams competing in Turkey next month? Check out FIBA TV's video page.
Greg Monroe: A full toolbox
True to form, Monroe had a shaky start in Las Vegas. In his first three summer league games, he converted only 11 of his 26 shots from the field. Many of those smart passes that were Monroe's hallmark at Georgetown were flubbed by unfamiliar teammates which, in turn, made Monroe a more tentative, less decisive player.
Monroe got on track in his fourth game against Miami on Wednesday. Rather than try to conform his deferential style to the ragtag play of summer league, he looked to score, and did so efficiently -- 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field and 8-for-10 from the stripe.
On Friday against New York, Monroe unfurled his complete range of skills for his most complete performance of the week. He finished with 27 points (8-for-10 from the field) and 14 rebounds. Monroe was both playmaker and scorer, facilitator and dominator. He showcased some strong post-and-seal sequences, a nifty soft hook and threw an outlet pass the length of the floor to Marquez Hayes for an easy transition finish.
"As the week progressed, I got a lot more comfortable," Monroe said. "I got into a groove today."
No big man in the 2010 draft class has a more aesthetically pleasing offensive repertoire, something that was captured on a single play in the first half when he delivered a no-look interior pass in the paint, through traffic, to his baseline cutter. When the ball clanked out, Monroe -- a prolific collegiate rebounder -- grabbed it, then muscled his way to the rim through a scrum of Knick defenders for a basket-and-one. It was an assertive possession for a guy sometimes unfairly tagged with the soft label.
For young, versatile bigs, balancing the instincts to create opportunities for others with a need to establish yourself as a scorer can be an enormous burden. With the ball in your hands, it's often paralyzing to weigh all those choices as the defense swarms toward you. Encountering NBA double-teams is one of the hardest lessons for centers and power forwards, which makes Monroe's capacity to deal with defensive pressure vital to his success. On several occasions, Monroe eluded traps along the sideline by merely putting the ball on the deck, dribbling out of trouble, then making a sharp pass to a teammate up top to ignite a ball reversal.
"It's about accepting the double-team, but also attacking it," Monroe said. "I was very comfortable when they came with double-teams trying to make plays."
Monroe reads defenses inordinately well. Unlike so many young centers and power forwards, he's able to keep the ball moving. For a Detroit team that finished 21st in offensive efficiency and 23rd in assist rate, those gifts will help unclog the morass in the Pistons' half court.
- Toney Douglas' evolution continues to progress nicely. At Florida State, Douglas was primarily a scoring, slashing guard who performed Ronnie Brewerish work off the ball and served as the Seminoles' lockdown defender. Under the tutelage of the Seminoles' staff, he began the process of refining his pure point skills. On Friday, Douglas was a willing and capable distributor. Early, he skidded a pass across the baseline from the right corner to the left to a diving Bill Walker. Douglas also ran some nice two-man sets with rookie Jerome Jordan. Douglas' development is ongoing, but he increasingly looks like a guard capable of running a competent offensive unit.
- On Friday, John Wall has his best decision-making outing of summer league. He made it simple for himself in the half court. Start with a high pick-and-roll with JaVale McGee. If an opening materialized for either himself or his big man, Wall capitalized on it. If the defense contained the action, Wall swung it weak side. The streamlined approach paid off. After coughing the ball up 19 times over his first three games, Wall limited his turnovers to two.
- Will Jonas Jerebko ever be more than the quintessential energy guy off the bench? The Detroit second-year forward moves with more resolve than anyone on the court, but his limited skill set away from the glass translates into more chaos than production. That's not to say Jerebko's activity doesn't have a place on the floor, but it's probably more useful in Detroit's less structured second unit.
- Ed Davis showed off his big bag of tricks against Sacramento: 17 points, seven rebounds and five swats in 29 minutes. Comfort (or lack thereof) is a condition so often used to describe young big men in summer league, and Davis was as settled and poised as any of the lottery bigs on Friday. He exhibited timing, a soft touch and fluidness on both sides of the ball and, above all, patience. Davis rarely takes an ill-advised shot and stays grounded defensively until a shot-blocking opportunity presents itself.
- There aren't two guys in Las Vegas who love playing together more than DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems. On every break, each knows what the other's intentions are. At times, they make beautiful music together.
- The best descriptor for Larry Sanders? Grown-up. Sanders knows his way around a basketball court. He's a vocal, standout team defender who knows where and, more important, when his help is needed. Offensively, he sets up low on the block -- primed for the deep catch -- and wins every race to the rim in transition. When he steps out to 17 feet, Sanders launches a face-up jumper with an air-tight rotation on the ball. Sanders may never be a Top 5 power forward in the league, but his fundamentals suggest he's going to be a pretty effective player for a very long time.
- Joe Borgia, vice president of referee operations and George Tolliver, the NBA director of D-League officials, sit courtside directly in front of press row where they evaluate game officials. A half hour prior to the Wizards-Hornets game, Washington summer league coach Sam Cassell came over to emphatically protest a call from the Wizards' last game. Cassell felt that the official who whistled the play was out of position. His monologue went on for a good three minutes, as Borgia and Tolliver politely listened, then offered an explanation. Cassell was only marginally satisfied as he walked away, after which Borgia, with a deadpan smile, said, "He has absolutely no idea what he's talking about."
- David Thorpe on Donte Greene: "The good: He has all the spirit you want a player on your team to have. He cares about his teammates and it's obvious. He's selfless in his play and he competes hard -- he cares about winning. He's also capable of having good shooting and scoring games, like he had today (20 points). The bad: He had 40 points in his first ever summer league game two years ago for Houston. So we've always known he's capable of having big games. Most players develop naturally, meaning they improve incrementally as their bodies get stronger and they learn the game better. What we're looking for are players who need to make big jumps, but that hasn't happened for Donte. He's in his third year now. At what point are the Kings going to get tired of waiting? That's a fair question."
- Aside from hitting the glass and the occasionally effective defensive stand one-on-one in the post, it's hard to find a sphere of the game where Joey Dorsey helps his team win basketball games. He's more likely to trap himself too far beneath the backboard than he is to get off a quality shot at close range.
- The monstrous stylings of JaVale McGee were on full display. In the first quarter, McGee got loose on a dribble drive. As he romped into the paint and elevated toward the rim, McGee went behind his back while airborne, then dropped the ball through the hoop. Then in the fourth quarter, McGee ignited the crowd in Cox Pavilion with a transition posterization of fan favorite Kyle Hines.
- Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns on Earl Clark: "In summer league Clark has yet to show bona-fide NBA skills. He settles for contested jumpers that he misses far too often (both in summer league and the NBA), he has been no better than a mediocre rebounder and even on a team in which he could be the star he hasn’t exactly been a playmaker."
- What's in Blake Griffin's knapsack?
- Summer league fan uni watch: A Timberwolves J.R. Rider jersey and a Bullets Gheorghe Muresan jersey.
Wesley Johnson's first summer league game did not feel like the professional debut of a top-five overall pick. The Thomas and Mack center was nearly empty, with only a few hundred people there to populate the full-sized home of the Running Rebels. The starting lineups were listlessly announced to little fanfare. The pregame song was the theme music from Space Jam. To put it plainly, nothing about the start of Wes Johnson's pro debut felt like the start of something big.
Wesley Johnson didn't dominate, but he showed off his skills.
When one watches Johnson play, it becomes clear why he doesn't have the kind of hype surrounding him that most top-five players do when they come into the league. Johnson is a perimeter player, but he doesn't seem to have the mentality of a go-to scorer. The Syracuse product only scored 16.5 points per game during his final year with the squad, and he wasn't looking to take over his first summer league game. After the contest, Johnson said that he's still "trying to find his spots" in an offense he's still trying to learn, and "wasn't going out there trying to over-exert himself."
Johnson was all but invisible during his first stint on the court for the Timberwolves, and his first basket of the game didn't come until he crashed the offensive boards for a tip-in. For most of the first half, Johnson waited around for a ball that wasn't coming to him. While Jeremy Pargo and Wayne Ellington were busy dominating the ball, missing 14 of their 20 field goal attempts, and committing a combined 10 turnovers, the No. 4 overall pick waited patiently for his turn to get a shot or make a play. The sparse crowd in the Thomas and Mack Center didn't come expecting to see a show, and Johnson wasn't looking to provide one.
Johnson didn't dominate the game by any stretch of the imagination. But he also didn't waste possessions, which is a bad habit most summer-league guards and wings have a hard time kicking. When Johnson did get a chance to make a play, it became apparent why the Wolves think he was worthy of a top-five pick. There was the time Johnson came off a pick and smoothly drained a 33. Then there was the moment in the second half where Johnson made a perfect cut, caught a Patrick O'Bryant bounce pass without breaking stride, and easily dropped in an and-1. Then there was the resounding tip-slam that drew audible gasps and finally got the stadium buzzing, even after the dunk was disallowed.
Johnson isn't a No. 1 option, but he has every skill you could ask for in a wing player. He's a smooth but explosive athlete, and can get to the basket with one or two long steps. He calls himself a slasher, but he can punish teams if they leave him open from beyond the arc. With his athleticism, length, and defensive instincts, Johnson will be a plus defender from day one; the Spurs' Alonzo Gee was the first NBA player to get shut down by Johnson in the half-court, but he won't be the last.
Johnson is the rare summer league player who will look better playing with and against the best players in the world rather than trying to dominate the rookies and fringe prospects that populate NBA Summer League rosters. When Johnson's teammates start looking for him and setting him up with opportunities to finish plays, he'll shine as an offensive player while making an impact on the defensive end. Johnson probably won't be a superstar in the NBA, but he has a very good chance of being an above-average starter in this league for a very long time. Teams can, and have, done much worse things with a top-five pick.
- There's a lot to like about Knicks second-round draft pick Landry Fields. Fields isn't the most athletic guy in the world, but he uses every ounce of athleticism he has. He knows where the ball is going to be, wants to make plays, and does a great job using his body to keep defenders at bay when he puts the ball on the floor or goes up for a layup. There's no telling whether or not Fields' tricks will work against NBA defenders, but he certainly looked good today.
- Devin Ebanks knows how to set himself up for his jump shot -- his footwork is good, he's usually squared up when he shoots, and he can get his shot off from a variety of spots on the floor. At one point, Ebanks turned down a 3, took two hard dribbles, and pulled up for an easy mid-range jumper. It's surprising how few slashers have that move in their bag. The problem with Ebanks is that he's much better at setting up his jumper than he is at making it. Ebanks flicks his shot up there, and his release leaves a lot to be desired. If Ebanks can fix some of the mechanical issues with his jumper, he could become a surprisingly complete offensive player.
- Derrick Caracter played an extremely sloppy game, and ended up committed eight turnovers and eight fouls. On the other hand, his ability to finish in traffic continues to be impressive.
- Toney Douglas had a sloppy game as well, and he spent more time forcing shots than trying to be a real point guard. Maybe he's trying to prepare himself for his new role as a bench scorer, which the Raymond Felton acquisition will almost certainly relegate him to.
- Gerald Green had one stretch where he made a smart swing pass, hit an open 3 and swished a tough pull-up jumper. For a second, everyone in the arena wondered why somebody that talented didn't make it in the NBA. Then Green got picked clean in transition and got stripped going to the basket on consecutive possessions.
- Alonzo Gee looked amazing in full-court situations. He's a great rebounder for a guard, can start the break after grabbing a rebound, is a wonderful passer on the break, and is more than capable of finishing the break with a resounding slam. In the half-court, Gee was completely shut down by Wes Johnson, who might be the best perimeter defender I've seen at Summer League thus far.
- Patrick O'Bryant has bounced around the league since he was a top-1o pick, but he looked like a serviceable pro on Monday. He's still a legit 7-footer, showed some nice touch around the basket, made a nice low-post seal and bucket at one point, and was telling his teammates where to be on defense. He'll never live up to his top-10 billing, but there could be a spot for him on the end of somebody's bench.
- Dwayne Mitchell turned some heads when he scored 12 points in 12.5 minutes against the Wolves without missing a shot, with five of those points coming on a 3 3and a resounding alley-oop dunk.
- Rob Mahoney on Donté Greene: "It's entirely possible that Donté Greene was put on this planet purely to thrive in Summer League games. His ball-handling skills and decision-making aren't exposed against the inferior competition, and he essentially has license to fire at will. As a result, Greene reveals the flashes that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Syracuse. Yet that's part of the problem. Greene is so athletic and so talented for a 6-foot-11 player, but he's more or less the same talent he was a year ago or the year before that. Donté manages to catch lightning in a bottle in Vegas, but in the big leagues? He still has a fair way to go."
- Rodrigue Beaubois is really trying to add a more consistent jumper to his game, and has turned down some opportunities to drive in order to set up that jumper. The results have been mixed in Summer League, but he'll be scary if he can add that dimension to his game.
- Harvard graduate Jeremy Lin might be the most fearless driver in Summer League. He goes straight to the rim, and isn't afraid to take contact when he does. His and-1 while being taken down by Larry Sanders was one of the best plays of the week.
- Jeremy Schmidt on Jeff Teague: "He was the name many Hawks fans were calling for last season when Mike Bibby was showing his age. Teague gave a sampling of what he's able to do on Monday night. The Hawks second year point guard took advantage of Memphis' lack of a true point guard and was able to use his terrific quickness to repeatedly beat them off the dribble. Teague shot 5-7 from the free throw line, often drawing contact in the lane after getting by his first man. Teague controlled the game better than his three assists and four turnovers would indicate and, even with O.J. Mayo out there, often looked like the best player on the floor. Hawks fans will surely hope to see more of him next season.
- Michael Schwartz on Scottie Reynolds: "The Suns were not sure if Reynolds was supposed to play at all because of a strained Achilles he suffered last week, but Reynolds surprised even his coach Dan Majerle by coming in ready to play today. He then sparked the Suns with 16 points in 19 minutes in their 96-88 win over D-League Select. Reynolds led Phoenix at a Suns-like pace by pushing the ball up the court and his shooting touch was on target in a 4-for-6 outing that that included a pair of 3s. 'He brought a lot of spark pushing the ball,' Majerle said. 'It was good to see.'"
- Nick Young looks like a new man when he can take catch-and-shoot 3s off of John Wall passes. Between Young and JaVale McGee, Wall is already showing his ability to make his new teammates better.
- John Wall isn't just a leaper, he goes to the basket with force, and he can finish after taking a hit. Eric Bledsoe bounced off of Wall before he converted an and-1 in transition. Something else to feel good about: Wall looked much happier after throwing a successfully converted alley-oop pass than he did after making the aforementioned and-1.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Five days down, five to go at Las Vegas Summer League. Some teams are nearly through with their schedule, while others are just rolling into town. Since we're halfway through, it's a good moment to take inventory of what we've seen so far, and hand out some early awards.
Keep in mind that some teams have played only a single game and some stellar performances might not be acknowledged (read: Jerryd Bayless):
- Tyreke Evans (SAC): Evans' one-on-one power game has produced a sick line. In three games, Evans has averaged 24.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Most impressively, Evans has attempted 41 free throws in three games. His transition to point guard is a work in progress, but he'll be a scoring machine no matter where he plays on the floor.
Tyreke Evans has shown the ability to score points at will.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)
- Blake Griffin (LAC): Griffin followed up his momentous 27-point, 12-rebound debut Monday night with a hum-drum 16-point, 9-rebound, 5-assist performance. Griffin directs traffic on both ends of the floor, and has been a pleasant surprise on pick-and-roll defense -- something he didn't encounter a whole lot at the college level.
- Darren Collison (NOH): The Hornets' first-round pick has brought the discipline and patience of his UCLA pedigree to the pro game. He matched George Hill mano-a-mano in his first game, then came back Tuesday night with 23 points. He's also a perfect 16-for-16 from the stripe in his two games.
- Roddy Beaubois (DAL): Before the Mavericks' rookie point guard took a scary spill Monday night in his third outing, he was electrifying crowds in Cox Pavilion with his combination of speed and range. He ran up 34 points against the Rockets Saturday night, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc.
- Jodie Meeks (MIL): The second-round pick out of Kentucky might not be one of the more athletic two-guards here, but he has lit it up from midrange, averaging 16.7 points per game on 60 percent shooting. The Bucks' brass is said to be very, very pleased.
- Anthony Randolph (GSW): Quite simply, the most dominant, skilled, devastating player in town. On Tuesday, his 42 points tied a Summer League record. His current averages through four games: 26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks on 60.9 percent shooting from the field.
- George Hill (SAS): Hill has demonstrated a complete command of the Spurs offense. He has picked his spots offensively, and finished -- unlike last year, when he shot eight percent from the field in Summer League action. He's averaging 20.5 points per game and getting to the line at will.
- Eric Gordon (LAC): In his two games, the Clippers' second-year guard has muscled his way to the hole for 21 and 22 points, respectively. His 21-for-22 totals from the free-throw line demonstrate that strategy is working well.
- Robin Lopez (PHX): The question surrounding Lopez has been one of resolve, but Lopez looked fierce in his first Summer League game, racking up 24 points, 16 boards, and a couple of blocks.
- DeAndre Jordan (LAC): Jordan's athletic attributes have never been in question. Whether he could package it all together into a coherent low-post game was another matter. So far, Jordan has dominated the interior for the Clippers. He's shooting 15-for-19 from the field. He's shown sharp recognition in the post and is winning every race to the basket.
All-Vets & Journeymen Team
- Quincy Douby (TOR): Douby has been working hard on his game, and his effort is paying off in Las Vegas. He's shooting the ball efficiently from distance, racking up assists, and keeping turnovers to a minimum. Toronto may not have room for him in their backcourt, but his 19 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting should catch someone's attention.
- Nick Young (WAS): The Wizards haven't even unpacked, but Nick Young's first game Tuesday night was a revelation. The third-year guard went insane, running up 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting, against the Cavs' hapless perimeter defenders.
- Adam Morrison (LAL): It might not be the most efficient stat line of the week, but Morrison has put together a nice series of games. He's scored from distance, off cuts, and by putting the ball on the deck. It's a long road back for Morrison, but this week has served as a solid stepping stone back to respectability.
- David Monds (LAL): The forward spent last summer in the D-League, and has been a solid contributor to the Lakers' 3-1 Summer League record thus far. He's averaging 14 points and five rebounds, and only 0.5 turnovers per game. He's also shooting an efficient 64.1 percent from the field.
- Walker Russell, Jr. (D-League Select): A sentimental choice off the D-League Select roster, Russell is a creative, pass-first point guard. He sees the floor with an uncanny awareness of exactly where his teammates are, and where they want the ball. His pinpoint passes were the highlight of the Select team's victory over the Timberwolves.
David Thorpe shares his thoughts about who's had a disappointing week in Vegas:
Curry has struggled with his shooting touch, while Randolph can't seem to miss.
(Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)
- Donte Greene (SAC): Greene is a bit of collateral damage playing next to Tyreke Evans. He needs the ball in the right spots, and Evans can't deliver those passes yet. So Greene is struggling to score efficiently, shooting only 8-for-27 over three games.
- Mike Taylor (LAC): Taylor can shoot, is lightning quick, and plays with spirit. But he's not been able to put it together and doesn't look like a rotation point guard.
- Bobby Brown (MIN): Sorry to break fellow Titan Marc Stein's heart, but for a team that just drafted two rookie PGs, Brown hoped to show this week that he could be part of the Timberwolves' backcourt rotation. That's looking unlikely. He's shooting 35.7 percent from the field, and not giving the 'Wolves much else.
- Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL): Mbah a Moute has already proved he's a rotation player in this league. He was hoping to show that he can be more than just a tough defender. Thus far, that hasn't happen