TrueHoop: Jabari Parker
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, 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, 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 D.J. Foster
Ten notable performances from Day 3 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: C+
You can see how the narrative about the lack of a “killer instinct” got started. Wiggins seems to have a nasty habit of letting his defender off the hook after a lightning-quick first step or dribble move, opting to shoot his pet step-back jumper instead of really punishing weaker defenders. Even though he had some nice moments, the pedal wasn’t close to the floor.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: C
His debut provided some hope that he won’t kill floor spacing at the 4. Even though Randle seemed to be hovering around aimlessly on the perimeter, he did a nice job of waiting until the perfect moment to dive to the rim on a few occasions. It’s tough for post players to really work with their back to the basket in this setting, but Randle’s willingness to face up is a good sign, even if the overall results were pedestrian.
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: D
Dreadful shot selection, bad decision-making, mental lapses defensively and selfish play marred Parker’s night, as he seemed uncomfortable with the idea of letting anyone else make a play with the ball. There’s pretty much no reason for someone with Parker’s speed and strength to draw just one shooting foul, especially against this level of competition. This was a troubling performance for the second overall pick.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: B
His weight is down, but his appetite is up. Bennett looked more interested in hitting the boards (14 rebounds) and running the floor than he was during most of his rookie season, and those are two critical areas of concern for a player who projects to be a nonfactor defensively. Bennett loves the top of the key and playing as a pick-and-pop specialist, but it’s reasonable to expect this level of effort elsewhere on a consistent basis.
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: B+
You have to ding him a bit for coughing up the ball during double-overtime sudden-death basketball (yes, that’s a thing), but Schroder’s ability to get his man on his hip and force his way into the paint all game was awfully impressive for someone his size. There were lot of ambitious drives here (30 points, eight turnovers), but Schroder showed he’s a handful to guard when he’s in attack mode like this.
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls | Grade: A-
There he is. After a shaky debut, McDermott got back to the ridiculously efficient scoring he was known for in college, piling in 31 points on just 12 shots. Often matched up against a smaller defender, McDermott did a nice job of bumping his way into contact and getting to the line. Really, though, it’s his spot-up 3-point shooting that should put a smile (or at least less of a scowl) on head coach Tom Thibodeau’s face.
Seth Curry, Phoenix Suns | Grade: A
It runs in the family, right? Seth brought an NBA vibe to the proceedings, as there was something comforting about seeing a Curry wearing the No. 30 jersey bomb from deep and deliver daggers. Curry finished with 26 points on a tidy nine attempts, and with perimeter shooting at a premium around the league -- just look at what Stan Van Gundy’s paying in Detroit -- you have to think Curry helped his chances to land a roster spot this season with this barrage.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: B
A timed pump-and-go from the 3-point line to the rim should be the NBA’s version of the 40-yard dash. It sounds obvious, but it really is absurd how much ground he can cover in just a few short steps. Defensively, open shots become contested, and once he’s by you with his first step? He’s by you. There were mistakes and blown finishes, but he’s getting where he wants to be on the floor seemingly at will.
Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-
Another game, another really convincing performance. Rice’s stroke opens up the rest of his game so well, as defenders simply can’t stay pressed on him because of his athleticism going to the rim. If you had no idea of his draft position, you’d think for sure he was taken well before the more ground-bound Otto Porter, right? Keep an eye on this position battle.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: C+
After Houston’s offseason, Motiejunas is pretty important all of a sudden as the projected third big man. It doesn’t look as though he’s added a whole lot to his attack, but he’s still sneaky good in the post with his quirky movements around the rim. Ideally, you’d like to see Motiejunas lock in defensively with more regularity, but he's useful when he's an offensive focus.
July, 12, 2014
By Fred Katz
Ten notable performances from Day 1 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: C+
Wiggins found ways to score inside, but his aversion to dribbling was well on display Friday. The athleticism, defense and transition game are all there. One of the most exciting plays of the entire day was a half-court alley-oop that just barely went over the fingertips of the flying Wiggins. Yes, 18 points look good, but a 1-for-8 night from 3-point range looks a little worse, and the way he got those points still needs to improve.
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: A-
All we hear about Parker is his skills as a scorer, but on Friday we saw some of his distributing ability. The rookie might only have totaled one assist, but he moved the ball within the Bucks' offense and had a couple of beautiful interior passes to set up his teammates. Parker still scored at a commendable rate -- 17 points on 11 shots -- but in Las Vegas, between the facilitating and the nine boards, he showed exactly why he’s so much more than just a scorer.
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks | Grade: A-
Hardaway might never pass the ball in Vegas. Seriously, it could never happen, but that’s perfectly fine if he’s going to shoot like he did Friday. The Michigan alum dropped in 25 points on just 15 shots in chucking his way to becoming the day’s high scorer. There aren’t many guys out west with the arsenal Hardaway possesses, tallying points off the dribble and spotting up from long range. The Knicks should be excited about the prospects of yet another volume shooter.
Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers | Grade: B-
Bennett might have disappointed in his rookie season, but he looked notably slimmer in his first Summer League contest Friday evening, finishing with 15 points and even throwing down one of the dunks of the day, a vicious finish in transition. He still struggled a bit on the defensive end, but just imagine what the Cavs could be like with contributions from Bennett this season to add to their refreshed roster.
Ricky Ledo, Dallas Mavericks | Grade: B-
Ledo might have shot just 4-of-14 from the field, but his performance was more about grace and command than anything else. Sure, maybe he wasn’t that effective, but he surely looked the part, galloping to the hoop seemingly whenever he wanted to get there. Considering the 21-year-old is 6-foot-7 and is learning to play either guard spot, that’s a pretty useful skill moving forward.
Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: D-
Noah? More like NO-ah. Vonleh couldn’t have struggled more in his initial summer league game, clanking like he was playing the lead in "Stomp." Vonleh ended his first ever pro contest scoreless, finishing 0-for-13 from the field, 0-for-4 from long range and even missing his only two free throw attempts. Vonleh could easily come back and wow in his second match, but he set the bar extremely low in Game No. 1.
Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers | Grade: B+
Clarkson might not have been the biggest name entering summer league, but he was surely one of the most impressive performers on the first day, knocking in 21 points, including some nifty finishes around the basket. It wasn’t just about finishing at the rim, either. Clarkson was distributing off the bounce as well, finding teammates down low as he dribbled around screens. If the 6-foot-5 point guard can lock down his shooting form, the Lakers could end up very happy after selecting him with the 46th overall pick.
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B
It’s always encouraging to see a scorer who can shoot in a variety of ways. Stauskas showed off those exact skills in his first summer league performance. In college, he earned a reputation as more of a spot-up shooter, but he progressively learned how to hit shots off the dribble. Friday, we saw him dribbling around screens and accurately pulling up for controlled attempts off the bounce. He might have attempted just nine shots, but the way he got them was plenty encouraging.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks | Grade: B+
Last season’s rookie darling is starting to show off a more refined skill set in Vegas. He’s packed on some extra brawn to complement the two inches he’s grown since being drafted last summer, important if only because it gives his jersey a little extra room to spell out his surname. After playing with a more hesitant offensive mindset as a rookie, Giannis was assertive during his first summer league contest, dropping 17 points on 12 attempts and coming up with the block of the day in the process.
Kyle Anderson, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: B
Can Slow-Mo work in the NBA? Anderson enters summer league as one of the most intriguing prospects in Vegas. Watching him in his first game, you could see what you wanted to see. At times, he was a little slow to dribble by his man. At others, he found space and when he did that, he always seemed to find an open teammate. He made arguably his best play of the game driving baseline, pulling in a help defender and kicking to an unguarded Marcus Denmon for a corner 3. That’s Anderson: polarizing, but always fluid.
July, 11, 2014
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Any No. 1 overall pick works under a lot of scrutiny, but today’s events created a bizarre strain of scrutiny trained on Andrew Wiggins. His showdown with Jabari Parker at Las Vegas Summer League was sure to be hyped before Friday’s LeBron James news. After James’ epic announcement, the main Summer League event reached another level of intrigue.
LeBron’s entrance to Cleveland brought with it Kevin Love’s shadow. James did not mention Wiggins by name in his “I’m coming back to Cleveland” announcement letter, leading to questions about whether the Cavs might trade their 19-year-old rookie for the services of Minnesota’s available, unhappy star.
The Cavs have made pitches for Love, according to reports, but none so far that involve Wiggins. Given the struggles of Cleveland’s previous No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, it’s difficult to envision how the Cavs could get a Love deal done without surrendering Wiggins. For now, the Cavs seem unwilling to part with him.
All the LeBron and attached free-agency frenzy was enough to make you forget that Jabari Parker is Wiggins’ perceived rival as a rising young wing. This would be the first time we’ve seen the two measure up against each other since Kansas beat Duke at the United Center last November.
Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty ImagesAndrew Wiggins outscored Jabari Parker in their first matchup as pros.
The suspense in the cozy Cox Pavilion was palpable from the jump. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson took courtside seats to watch their Raptors play in the game before Bucks vs. Cavs. That’s not notable, but here’s what is: The Raptors players didn’t move after their team’s game ended, preferring to hold their seats as the crowd slowly entered the arena. That’s rarely seen in a Summer League setting where established veterans file in and out.
Wiggins’ athleticism was on display, even if his shot and handle were shaky (he finished with 18 points on 18 shots). Terms like “athleticism” can be too reductive when describing players because everyone moves in their own way. Wiggins’ way is so much lighter than commonly seen. He’s perpetually on the balls of his feet, bouncing softly around in a manner that feels more ballet than basketball. That is, until he uncoils those springs in his legs and attacks. He probably didn’t attack enough, electing to loft eight 3-point attempts, but the Cavs did win in the end 70-68.
Parker impressed in spurts, but might have to do something about his conditioning. He was noticeably winded throughout the contest, but he didn’t let that stop him from scoring 17 points on 11 shots. His strength was on display when he converted a late bucket by posting up Wiggins out of the picture.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Bennett actually generated the best highlights in this one. Bennett uncorked a monster two-handed slam in transition, and Antetokounmpo managed to easily dunk after dribbling twice from behind half court. It was a great game for yet-to-be-realized potential.
Maybe LeBron sees the talent on Cleveland’s side and believes in that potential. Maybe he believes in David Blatt’s ability to get something more out of this Cavs roster, even if he’s met Blatt only twice, as Cleveland’s new coach indicated in an interview.
James is approaching 30 years old, but betrays little fear of his own aging process. Despite not mentioning Wiggins upon arrival, he’s waxing patient. In his announcement letter, James specifically said, “I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic.”
If James is indeed willing to help rebuild the Cavs slowly, then Wiggins is more protégé than trade piece. It’s difficult to foresee if Wiggins will eventually fulfill his promise, but the future feels bright in Cleveland. The question is whether LeBron’s talents will last long enough for it to arrive.