TrueHoop: Zach LaVine

Las Vegas Summer League: Day 8 grades

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
12:14
AM ET
By D.J. Foster and Fred Katz
ESPN.com

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

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



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