TrueHoop: Luke Babbitt

Thursday Bullets

July, 22, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Day Nine Las Vegas summer league roundup

July, 18, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
Drafting for need vs. talent remains one of the more polarizing debates in late spring among basketball fans and insiders. Do you take the best player on the board or opt to fill a positional need? Fortunately for the Toronto Raptors, their desperation for an interior player with defensive chops and the potential to flourish in the low post matched Ed Davis' profile. Nabbing the North Carolina big man with the No. 13 overall pick made a whole lot of sense for the Raptors.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
Ed Davis: Back and on track

Things were progressing well enough for Davis during his sophomore season at North Carolina. Although he hadn't put up the gaudiest numbers over the first twelve weeks of the season, Davis was quickly establishing himself as one of the ACC's tougher inside defenders and toughest rebounders. The offensive game still needed some seasoning, but Davis was a highly coordinated big with a soft touch. After New Years, he began to more aggressively stake out his territory on the right block, something that didn't come naturally to him in his freshman season. Then, in February, Davis broke the lunate bone in his left wrist, an injury that kept him out of action until a couple of weeks ago.

"Basically until I got to Toronto for that mini-camp, that was the first time I really played five-on-five since," Davis said. "It was rough at first trying to get back into the feel of things. But I think it's all starting to come back together now."

Davis completed his first stretch of competitive basketball since the injury on Saturday when the Raptors wrapped up their summer league schedule with a win over New Orleans. In scoring 14 points and collecting six rebounds in 18 minutes, Davis continued his consistent, efficient week in Las Vegas. He's far from a finished product -- and still not much of a threat beyond 12 feet -- but there's a level of ease with which Davis operates down low. Take a possession in the second quarter when Davis went to work against fellow first-round draft pick Craig Brackins. Davis got the ball off the left block, then patiently backed Brackins inside before unfurling a quick baseline pivot with his right foot. After spinning off Brackins' frame, Davis gathered the ball, re-established his balance then drew contact as he flicked the ball gently off the glass. Count the basket and the foul.

The balance, agility and soft hands have always been there for Davis, but over the past eight days, he's displaying more assertiveness on the offensive end. Though he's still not a guy with a natural inclination to explode from the elbow like Amare Stoudemire, Davis looks much further along than the kid who finished almost exclusively in the basket area at Chapel Hill. On Saturday, Davis even buried a face-up jumper, a rare sight when he was wearing Carolina blue.

For a Toronto team that finished last in the league in defensive efficiency, though, it's Davis' presence on the opposite side of the ball that offers the most appeal. Davis moves exceptionally well against the pick-and-roll, has exquisite timing as a shot-blocker and can clean the glass. Those are important attributes for a Raptors' front line that was bludgeoned inside last season.

"Those are things I bring to the team," Davis said. "I can help the team every night just by blocking a shot here and there, rebounding the ball and just by being in the right position at the right time."

In the third quarter on Saturday, Davis swatted away Josh Carter's layup attempt, igniting a fast break punctuated by a Dee Brown alley-oop to Ronald Dupree. On the very next possession, Davis was on the receiving end of a transition bucket when he ran the length of the floor and finished down the gut of the lane with the slam.

Not so long ago, Davis was projected as a Top 5 pick for his unique collection of talent. He combines some of the finesse of a skilled big man (those soft hands, smart passes out of the double-team) with the assets usually associated with a more brutish power forward (strong rebounding and shot-blocking). When asked to classify his game, Davis demurred.

"We'll see," Davis said. "Right now, I just need to keep working, try to get stronger, quicker and more explosive."
  • I'm not sure what else there is for Alonzo Gee to accomplish here. He had another efficient outing, scoring 20 points on 15 true shots, spaced the floor for the Spurs, passed up contested shots along the perimeter, drained those that weren't, and collected six boards.
  • Michael Roll, a four-year guard out of UCLA, has an unspectacular but complete offensive game. He strokes the ball beautifully from distance, can hold his dribble in traffic, and pass the ball on the move. Unfortunately, he has trouble staying in front of opposing shooting guards -- both off the dribble and in post-up situations -- through no lack of effort.
  • The last weekend of summer league, when things get really messy, is tailor-made for a ball dominator like Quincy Pondexter, who unleashed a series of nasty incursions into the paint. Pondexter spent the afternoon bursting off side screens or attacking in isolation at the top of the floor, drawing a ton of contact. He finished with 26 points on 7-for-15 shooting from the floor, along with a 12-for-15 day at the stripe.
  • During a brief stint in the first half, Raptors' rookie center Solomon Alabi drained a right-handed jump hook in the lane over Craig Brackins, a face-up 18-footer, then picked up a loose ball and finished with his left hand in traffic with a little flip.
  • When you watch Cheikh Samb move around the floor, you get a sense of why he's lingered around the fringes of the NBA and continues to fascinate teams. Samb blocked a slew of Hornets' shots and worked a little magic of his own in the pivot with his little hook shot.
  • David Thorpe on Al-Farouq Aminu: "I love the draft pick at that spot, he has real value there going forward. He can be a terrific player. I just don't like him as a 3 for a year or two. That position plays into all of his bad habits. Far too much dribbling and settling for jumpers. Far too little offensive rebounding-three total in their last three games. If he was constantly battling around inside, he'd get three a game simply due to his reach, feel, and talent. I like building players from the inside-out, and from a base of confidence. He's shooting less than 25 percent from the field and has one assist to 13 turnovers. That's a scary foundation for such a young player. He'd kill this league as a 4."
  • John Krolik of Cavs the Blog on Patrick O'Bryant: "O'Bryant has shown a few good signs in Vegas. He's always had an NBA body, and he's showed off a few post moves during his time in Vegas. He's sealed his man off effectively, shown a nice little jump hook, and converted some plays around the rim. He hasn't been dominant, but one expects that at least one team will give the 24-year old 7-footer one more chance to crack their rotation."
  • John Krolik on Luke Babbitt: "If you leave Luke Babbitt open from three, he'll make you pay. It's a quick, natural release, and he can just ease the ball in from 25 feet. The rest of his scoring game needs work. He got lost in traffic a few times on Saturday, and went 2-for-11 on 2-point attempts."
  • Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom on Omri Casspi: "When Omri Casspi's halfcourt heave went in at the end of the third quarter, he turned to the Maloofs and flashed 3-point hand signals to celebrate. It was the highlight of an 18-point second half for Omri as the Kings came back to beat the Hawks."
  • Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm on Cartier Martin: "Martin may have made the most impressive case for minutes on the Wizards that he has since being called up from the D-League last season. Cartier had the whole range going today, including a turnaround three that was, to be honest, sick. He's complemented that by being the Wizards' best defender not named John Wall."
  • Matt Moore on Leo Lyons: "Missouri Tiger Leo Lyons had a rollercoaster of a day. His midrange started falling and he was able to create inside. Lyons' best performance was on defense, especially in pick-and-roll situations, and in drawing fouls. Unfortunately, he ended the day with his arm in a wrap, as Summer League frustrations continue for some, while others get the calls they've been waiting for."
  • Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball on Tiny Gallon: "Gallon's hands measured 10th longest and 4th widest at the Chicago combine. He uses both of those plus-sized paws to grab rebounds each time he attacks the glass and once the ball enters his grasp, it doesn't come out. Gallon was a very good rebounder in college and has demonstrated that skill throughout summer league."
  • The Clippers' Eric Bledsoe gives David Brody a tour of his Facebook page.
  • Summer league fan uni watch: A CSKA Moscow Ramunas Siskauskas jersey.

Day Three Las Vegas summer league roundup

July, 12, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
John Wall's professional debut began with a little throat-clearing, but once the Washington Wizards point guard got into the flow of the game, he commandeered the court. We asked some of those in attendance for their impressions of Wall's 24-point, 8-assist, 8-turnover performance:

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
John Wall: "A completely different kind of player."

Daniele Baiesi, former general manager Angelico Biella
When he picks up speed on the floor, he's unstoppable. He's a freak of nature for being 19-years-old. Today, there were a lot of expectations. The gym was packed, so everyone wanted to see the show. Whatever you see on the floor today won't be the exact truth. But whenever you see the kind of leadership skills he showed in his college year, you can expect him to lead an NBA franchise with no problem. He makes his teammates better because he puts them into a rhythm. He's a completely different kind of player. He also makes a huge defensive impact with his wingspan and athleticism.

David Blatt, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Russian national team head coach
Any player coming from college is going to have an adjustment period. Guys as talented as him will go through a shorter learning curve, even at his young age. I thought he did a pretty good job out here tonight, better than some of the first picks I've seen in the past. His future is very, very bright. For me as a coach, I like that he plays with his head up. He has a calm about him. He doesn't rush things. He makes mistakes but he doesn't allow the last play to bother the next play. I think that's very important, particularly for a player at his position. He has star quality. I think he's going to be a top-level player. It might take him longer than people think, but his talent is obvious.

Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks head coach
He has fantastic ability and tremendous upside. He's a different version of Derrick Rose, a little different kind of player, a little different body type and a little different style of play. They both have a great ability to defend. As they learn more, they'll both get better and better. Wall is a little longer athletically and maybe a little more of a scorer.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raports swingman
On the fast break, he's very effective. You see his speed, but you also see how strong he is. Once he gets more comfortable running an NBA team, I think he's going to be good. On defense, we haven't seen him guard anyone like Steve Nash or Chris Paul, so he's really going to get tested when the season starts.

Jimmy Goldstein, NBA superfan
It's pretty obvious he has such phenomenal speed. It's really exciting to see him dribble the ball down the court. His jump shot has a long way to go -- it's suspect at this point -- but he's such a phenomenal athlete, and I'm very excited about the prospect of watching him play.

Sam Hinkie, Houston Rockets vice president of basketball operations
So far, so good. You see the same kind of speed you saw in college. The advantage of that speed is only going to be amplified in the NBA with its spacing and his ability to get out in the open floor with even better finishers. Like any young player, there's a lot to work on, but you don't have to watch him very long to see how special he is for that position. Defensively, like most young players, he's better on the ball than off. There's no reason to believe he shouldn't be fine, and there's every reason to believe he should be very good.

Jarrett Jack, Toronto Raptors point guard
He started off a little shaky, but that's highly expected for his first NBA-style game. He played better as the game went on. He was able to be a little more aggressive and helped his team. He's best when he's in transition, so the best way to defend him is to try not to let him get a full head of steam and make him beat you from the perimeter.

Dean Oliver, Denver Nuggets director of quantitative analysis
The scouts were right. He's good. I thought it took him a little while to figure out the guys he was playing with, but that's not too much of a surprise. He's going to figure that out over the course of a season -- he figured it out over the course of a game. Defensively, I think he's going to be fine. He's got all the length and he can stay with guys. I'm not worried about any of that.

John Thompson, former Georgetown coach
I liked his attentiveness to the coaching staff. It goes without saying that he's faster than a speeding bullet. He's super-quick with the basketball, but he also showed poise. I think he's unlimited and a lot of it will depend on how much he continues to work and develop himself. But he's got special potential. This is the first time I've watched him this close. I was extremely impressed with how fast he was with the basketball. Also, a lot of players are offensively fast but defensively slow. But he's pretty quick defensively. There's something real special there.
  • Patty Mills brought a lot of life to the court for Portland. He filled up the box score with 12 points, nine assists, seven rebounds against only two turnovers. With a little space courtesy of a pair of early high screens, he was able to drain a couple of 3s in the first half. Throughout the game, he made smart decisions in transition, both finding seams for himself and directing traffic for his runners. In the third quarter, Mills sniffed out a pretty give-and-go with Dante Cunningham on the right side: perfect entry pass, perfect cut, perfect finis. The play earned a demonstrative fist pump by Cunningham on the return trip downcourt. Defensively, his quick hands wreaked havoc on the Rockets' ball handlers, as Mills racked up a bunch of deflections.
  • New Orleans first-round draft pick Craig Brackins struggled on Sunday, but the breadth of his game still holds appeal. He can do a little bit of everything which, judging from his indecisiveness on the floor, might be the problem here in Las Vegas. Because he was dealt from Oklahoma City -- a deal that wasn't official until last week -- Brackins had only one practice before taking the floor for the Hornets squad. "Craig has an NBA skill set as an offensive player: his ability to shoot the ball, his ability to face the basket and be effective, outstanding athletic ability, lateral mobility. These are all traits we think will allow him to be successful," Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. "The thing with young players is, the quicker they can find a source of confidence in one aspect of their game, the quicker they become a factor." According to Bower, scoring the ball from mid-range and working the offensive glass are where Brackins can begin to build that confidence. "In these first experiences, focus on your strengths, get them established, feel good about them, understand your environment, then we'll address areas of the game we feel can be expanded."
  • David Thorpe on Portland rookie Luke Babbitt: "He's very comfortable as a scorer. He knows he has many option to choose from to get the ball in the bucket. He plays the game with a great pace -- not unlike James Harden. That allows him to let plays develop. He's going to be very effective in his shot-fake attack game."
  • Rob Mahoney on Denver's Coby Karl: "There's no real reason why Coby Karl wouldn't be able to compete on an NBA level, yet somehow, under guise of flawed skills and limited athleticism, he's doomed to the horrid middle ground between D-League stud and NBA role player. It's not a fun place to be, but there are so many capable wings that can technically do what Karl does. They just don't. Coby has the right skills and makes the right plays, with the perfect package for a complementary player. He doesn't step outside of himself and makes excellent decisions. For a guy vying for a spot on the back end of an NBA roster, that's huge."
  • Sebastian Pruiti offers up some video of Austin Daye's increasing confidence as a playmaker and scorer. Fearlessness is a trait developed over time for a young player, particularly one as slight of build as Daye was when he entered the league last season. Daye has bulked up -- both physically and mentally.
  • Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball catalogs the slew of Wisconsin Badgers present at summer league this year: "Those gritty Badgers with their swing offense and suffocating defense aren’t thought of as an NBA factory the way Kentucky or North Carolina are. But that didn’t serve as a deterrent to the franchises that added Marcus Landry (Knicks), Trevon Hughes (Rockets), Joe Krabbenhoft (Blazers), Brian Butch (Nuggets, though his summer league stint has ended prematurely due to injury) and Greg Stiemsma (T-Wolves) to their summer rosters."
  • Summer league fan uni watch: Jake Tsakalidis Grizzlies jersey (Hat Tip: Rob Mahoney)

Thursday Bullets

June, 24, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz