TrueHoop: Noah Vonleh

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 9 grades

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
12:37
AM ET
By Andrew Han and Fred Katz
ESPN.com

Here are 11 notable performances from Day 9 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A
Rice continued his scoring spurt at summer league in dropping a game-high 36 points, including six 3-pointers, in the Wizards’ triple-overtime win over the Spurs. The league’s leading scorer still hasn’t dropped fewer than 22 in any game while in Vegas. Add 11 boards to Saturday’s effort, and Rice is truly making his case for summer league MVP. -- Katz

Noah Vonleh, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B-plus
Summer league is hard for a big man. Teammates consistently looked off Vonleh’s rim rolls, settling for breaking down the defense or taking contested shots. When the first-round pick did get the ball, the passes were poor or dumped off in awkward spaces on the floor. Vonleh crashed the boards, though, and collected 10 rebounds (five offensive) in the first three quarters. He also shot 3-for-4 in the fourth quarter to help secure the Hornets' advancement, with 15 total points. --Han

Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C-plus
Stauskas' making shots shouldn’t be news, so his hitting both of his 3-point attempts in a win over the Bulls isn’t particularly shocking, but the rookie struggled in other aspects of the game, mainly in court awareness on the offensive end. He struggled to create for teammates when dribbling around screens (usually a strength of his) and even passed up a late three to take one dribble in and sink a heel-on-the-line 2-pointer instead. It wasn’t a bad shot, per se; he just wasn’t playing to his strengths, a theme throughout Saturday’s contest. -- Katz

Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-minus
Porter and Rice are like the Jordan and Pippen of Las Vegas Summer League; the two of them worked so intuitively together in the Wizards’ close victory over the Spurs. Porter, specifically, handled the ball as he did in college, with him bringing the rock up the court, often leading the break and finding Rice for a go-ahead transition 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. As well as he played, though, scoring 27 points of his own, the question remains whether the former No. 3 overall pick can find comfort in a more off-the-ball role in Washington, something he’ll have to adapt to as he plays with John Wall and Bradley Beal. -- Katz

Vander Blue, San Antonio Spurs | Grade: A-minus
Former Marquette coach Buzz Williams is like the NBA’s version of Red Bull. His players provide the league with energy, he gives it wings, and he always looks like he has condensation on him. Blue is one of those wings, and he showed off his pesky defensive skills against the Wizards -- literally taking the ball away from opposing guards on a couple possessions Saturday night. But where Blue stood out from his usual self was in his ability to create for others, distribute on dribble-drives and make a couple perfect bounce passes to set his buddies up for scores. -- Katz

Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks | Grade: B-plus
Hardaway showed the complete arsenal of shot-chucking. The Knicks guard largely stayed clear of driving the lane until the final frame and shot 20 field goal attempts in 29 total minutes -- 15 of which came in 20 minutes over the first three quarters. To offer some context on how shot-happy Hardaway was, he had two fewer 3-point attempts than the rest of the Knicks combined. Still, he ended with an impressive 27 points in the Knicks’ 82-79 loss. --Han

P.J. Hairston, Charlotte Hornets | Grade: B-minus
Hairston was suckered into a chucker's duel with his Knicks counterpart, Hardaway. It was like a neutron star had imploded as Hairston and Hardaway both swallowed possessions in their head-to-head duel. The rookie burned too intensely, though, as the matchup instigated a taunting technical after a Hardaway offensive foul. --Han

Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks | Grade: A-minus
Another game with issues taking care of the ball -- four assists to four turnovers -- but the second-year point guard again exhibited calm in the chaos of summer league. Schroder consistently probed the lane and cycled through the paint with intentions to observe how the defense reacted. Although his shot wasn't falling, Schroder finished with two steals and 10 free throw attempts to go with seven rebounds. --Han

Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: A
The Rockets' big led all players with 19 points, rarely forcing the issue around the basket. Motiejunas focused most of his efforts on offense off secondary action -- after the dribble hand-off on the perimeter and quick leakouts to take advantage of the Hawks' more plodding bigs. D-Mo's continued increase in effort on the glass -- 13 rebounds in the Rockets’ win -- offers optimism for the third-year player’s ability to handle an elevated role next season. --Han

Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B
For someone who struggled as a long-range shooter in his rookie season, Snell has become a 3-point threat at summer league. The body control and release simply look more consistent, and they were fluid enough for the rising sophomore to pull off a four-point play in the third quarter of the Bulls’ “playoff” loss to the Kings. Pair the shooting with the ability to get to the rim, and Snell was really the only Bull able to create his own offense Saturday evening. –- Katz

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-minus
McLemore had a 0-to-18 assist-to-turnover ratio in Vegas last year. This season, it didn’t start out much better, as he gave the ball away 16 times in his first three summer league games while failing to record an assist. But over his past two contests, McLemore has been a little more controlled and totaled seven assists, compared to just five turnovers. The points total might have been down a little Saturday, but at the very least, it’s encouraging to see McLemore control the floor in non-scoring ways a little more competently. -- Katz

Las Vegas Summer League, Day 6 grades

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
12:31
AM ET
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
ESPN.com
video
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



Las Vegas Summer League, Day 4 grades

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
12:52
AM ET
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
ESPN.com
video
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

Getting a grip with Noah Vonleh

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
9:20
AM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
Noah VonlehNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images Whatever happens in the 2014 NBA draft, Noah Vonleh appears to have a great future in his hands.
Noah Vonleh is one of the draft's more intriguing prospects. Few saw much of him during his one season with a middling Indiana team, but he measured out impressively and has been rocketing up the draft boards. We caught up with the prospect who, ideally, becomes a prototypical stretch 4 for your favorite team.


Q: By now are you better at workouts or interviews?

A: I think I’ve been pretty comfortable with both.

Q: Do you plan on being a stretch 4? Do you plan on shooting the 3 a lot at the NBA level?

A: Yeah, that’s what I see myself starting off at at the next level, a stretch 4 being able to pick and pop, hit 3s, getting the pick, being able to drive the ball from different spots on the perimeter.

Q: How did you develop that shot of yours? Did you think you were going to be a little guy? Did you think you were going to be a guard growing up?

A: I always had pretty good touch. Worked a lot with my AAU coach Vin Pastore over the years. At Indiana my shot improved a lot working with Seth Cooper, one of the managers. And now I’m out in Long Island working with Jay Hernandez.

Q: What was it like for you to work out for the Celtics? I know you grew up in that area.

A: It was surreal, watching the Celtics play a lot when I was younger. Watching Paul Pierce when I was growing up. I was real happy to be working out for them.

Q: Were you a Celtics fan growing up, or did you like another team?

A: I liked certain players on the Celtics. No, the Celtics weren't my favorite team. My favorite teams are probably the Sixers and the Orlando Magic because of Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady.

Q: Was T-Mac the guy you wanted to play like growing up?

A: Yeah, I just liked the way he scored the ball. I tried to do some things like him. I’m not T-Mac, though.

Q: Why aren’t you T-Mac? (*chuckle*)

A: Umm, I can handle the ball, do certain things, but not like the way he scores the ball ...”

Q: That’s the first time today I’ve asked somebody, “Why aren’t you Tracy McGrady?” I’ve read about how you have larger hands than even Kawhi Leonard does. Is there any downside to that at all, or is it just awesome?

A: I don’t see no downsides to it. It helps a lot with ballhandling. I think I shoot the ball pretty well for a guy that has big hands. It helps on defense, too, steal the ball, block shots.

Q: You obviously have a lot of defensive potential. You’re really young, though. What do you think you’re going to get better at defensively going forward?

A: College and the NBA is real different, the physicality in the paint. I’m going to have to get used to guys covering me different because in the NBA you can use your forearms. In college, you can barely touch the guy when he’s on offense.

Q: How did you feel about college reffing? It seems like less organized than the NBA.

A: I watched a lot of college and NBA. I noticed in college they changed the rules, you can’t hand check or whatever. Whenever you put your hands on a guy or touched him, there were a lot of fouls.

Q: I’ve seen some different projections for you, as high as No. 2. Would you be shocked if that happens?

A: Oh really? (laughs) I haven’t heard that, but I’ll be real happy if that happens.

Q: As the youngest player in the draft, how do you feel about growing up in the NBA? Are you anxious at all?

A: Umm, I’m real anxious and excited. A little bit nervous, just watching those guys growing up. I’m very excited to make my dream come true in the next couple weeks.

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