1. Roundtable: Best, Worst In Vegas Thus Far
Our panel of experts down in Las Vegas offer their takes on the highs and lows of summer league just past the midway point of the 10-day schedule.
1. Who has been the MVP of Vegas Summer League thus far?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Grizzlies second-year guard Josh Selby owns summer league. He has been thieving every ball in sight and turning those steals into breakaway jams. He's also 12-for-15 from beyond the arc in his two games. Selby was probably miscast as a point guard coming out of Kansas, but he has always had the ability to shred defenders from either backcourt position -- a skill he has shown off here in Las Vegas.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: I'm at a disadvantage, because I just got here on Tuesday and I've only seen about seven games (under ordinary circumstances, that'd be an obscene amount of basketball to watch in 24 hours). But one standout was Kawhi Leonard, who had 27 points and eight rebounds against the Lakers. It was the Kawhi show.
Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is one of those players who should probably be beyond playing here, but it's good to see him working on ways to improve his game in real time. He played only two games, but in those two games you saw a greater understanding on the floor than just about everybody. He used his strength and quickness to show an improved scoring ability and dominated when he was out there.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: I don't have one MVP, rather a group of guys who have played well. Terrence Ross has competed hard and shot well for the most part. Jeremy Lamb, too. Donatas Motiejunas killed almost every defender he saw. So has Dominique Jones. I could go on.
Justin Verrier, ESPN.com: Damian Lillard. The point guard came out of nowhere -- unless, of course, you daycation in Ogden, Utah -- but he has already made his presence felt in summer ball. He showed up Austin Rivers in his debut, then displayed a mature and efficient game, both on and off the ball, in his encore. Lillard also leads all rookies in scoring.
2. Who has been the biggest disappointment of Vegas Summer League thus far?
Arnovitz: I'm not all that concerned about Dion Waiters -- he's going to be just fine in Cleveland -- but it was disappointing not to be treated to a more creative dose of basketball. Waiters shot first, second and third, while doing very little to make the game easier for himself or anyone else in a maroon jersey. The acrobatics, body control and defensive intensity have been in short supply.
Coon: Again, I'm at a disadvantage from a small sample size. Washington-Milwaukee just finished up, and I would have been tempted to name Shelvin Mack, who seemed a half step slow and wasn't delivering passes to guys in good spots, but he had a better second half.
Harper: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's knee. I got a taste for MKG's play in the first game, when he was a buzzsaw cutting through the Sacramento Kings. I've been hooked ever since and unable to see him in action. The good news is Charlotte is being smart about not pushing him to play in meaningless games. They know they have a gem and a legitimate building block in MKG for the years to come. I just wish I could have seen him smother teams in the 2-2-1 a couple more times.
Thorpe: Jimmer Fredette. With a few exceptions, he has been exactly what he always has been, and that is why he projects to be their third-string guy next season. I'd guess he leads summer league in total time dribbling and making teammates angry.
Verrier: Thomas Robinson. A large swath of NBA types felt the Charlotte Bobcats were foolish to pass up Robinson, who flashed an NBA-ready game as a junior at Kansas, for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a hard-nosed player with a presumed lower ceiling. But Robinson has been pretty average through four games: 12.5 points on 32 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds per game.
3. Who has been the biggest surprise of Vegas Summer League thus far?
Arnovitz: It shouldn't come as a surprise to see a No. 6 overall pick flourish in summer league, but Damian Lillard has been even better than advertised. He has been the one must-see rookie at the ball. He's the best pick-and-roll practitioner, the most exciting finisher in traffic, terrific on the break and engaged defensively.
Coon: Knicks owner James Dolan, who was here to take in New York's game on Tuesday, shortly before the deadline to match Jeremy Lin's contract offer. During the game, word circulated that the Knicks weren't going to match, and Lin became a Rocket shortly afterward.
Harper: Markieff Morris. Kieff went from a pseudo perimeter-oriented role player to being a force inside during his summer league stint. He looks a lot stronger than we saw a few months ago, as he's throwing interior players around and dominating on the boards. He's playing like a man among ragdolls when he's doing whatever he wants in the post. Could be encouraging for next season's campaign.
Thorpe: I am most surprised with Charlotte's decision to press and focus on winning. It sounds great to be concerned about changing the culture, but in reality it has no effect on regular-season wins. Competing hard puts winning these games ahead of evaluating all their guys, which is uncommon. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe not.
Verrier: Michael Kidd-Gilchirst. He has been sidelined since the nightcap of opening day, but his debut left a lasting impression. This guy plays hard, and that energy has already spread among his teammates -- a good bulk of whom will still be on the team come the regular season. It showed why drafting "winners" can be important, in the right situation.
Summer league correspondents Kevin Arnovitz, Larry Coon, Zach Harper, David Thorpe and Justin Verrier cover the NBA for ESPN.com.
2. Henson Reaches High In Summer Debut
LAS VEGAS -- Combining the agility and sideshow length of John Henson makes for an ideal defensive weapon that can shade any and all corners of an offensive set. It's not just his wingspan that makes you push your shot higher than may be within your comfort zone; his movement from side to side and front to back allows your pick-and-roll defense to hedge, recover and rotate to any shooter attempting to sneak into open space.
The question regarding Henson is where his offensive game resides within the NBA confines. If Henson can be an adequate offensive option, he becomes a major minutes-holder for the Milwaukee Bucks. But if he can be an actual weapon to balance out an attack featuring Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis on the perimeter, the Bucks may have received the steal of the lottery.
In an age of wingspan and nimble feet, Henson showed us he possesses the future in his limbs and athleticism. Even though the Bucks fell to the Wizards 78-75 in his summer league debut, Henson used quick feet and impossible reach to step through on post moves, attack the offensive glass, and show a high release on his shots in route to 20 points and nine rebounds.
He looked fatigued at times, causing him to drop his arms on defense and appear timid around the boards. However, whenever he caught his breath and was ablt to recharge on his energy, his ability to stalk the ball while being mindful of where his man was repositioning allowed him to swarm the half court defensively. Henson combined with second-year player Tobias Harris to push the Wizards around, as the Buck built a 16-point lead in the third quarter.
Before the Wizards chipped away at the deficit and eventually took control of the score, Henson and Harris seemingly took turns dismantling the Wizards' interior. On the second-to-last offensive possession of the game, the rookie out of North Carolina caught an inbound pass from the sideline, turned against his defender and dropped a perfect lob pass into Harris before his teammate missed the tying attempt.
It was another offensive skill Henson flashed the crowd in an eye- opening display of a player who could end up making a handful of GMs look foolish for passing on his unlimited reach.
Zach Harper is the host of ESPN.com's Daily Dime Live. Follow him on Twitter.
3. Marshall Dishing, Not Swishing, In Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- It'd be tough for any player to help ease the pain of Steve Nash's departure from the desert, but Phoenix Suns rookie Kendall Marshall will be one of those asked, along with free-agent signee Goran Dragic.
The 20-year-old former Tar Heel is just getting acclimated to the NBA game through his first two summer league games in a Suns uniform. While working through the jitters of his first pro action, one part of his game appears to be ready to translate -- his passing.
Assists are rare in the summer league, as young players generally look to get theirs and showcase their talents. Marshall hasn't subscribed to that style of play though.
"He's an old-school point guard who wants to get everyone involved," summer league head coach Dan Majerle saif. "Really good court awareness."
Marshall has dished out five assists in each of his first two contests, after officially signing his rookie deal with Phoenix earlier this week. He has also had more than a handful of great dishes that gave teammates open looks but went unfinished by a lackluster offensive supporting cast surrounding him on the Suns' summer league roster.
Replace names like DeShawn Sims and Charles Garcia with players like Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat and you can start to see the promise of a point guard built such as Marshall who excels as a distributor.
Despite his well-advertised passing ability, the 6-foot-4 guard is far from a finished product. Marshall averaged just eight points per game last season at UNC and has hit just 1-of-11 attempts in his first two games in Las Vegas, passing up plenty of additional good looks along the way. Majerle and his staff have pressed Marshall to be more aggressive with his shot.
"They were pretty adamant about that," Marshall said, "telling me to shoot the ball. It's a little different for me. It's something I got to get used to."
It will be a tough learning curve for Marshall but Majerle remains confident in his young point guard.
"He's got to figure it out," Majerle said, "but he'll get it done. He's a good player. You can see he knows what he's doing."
4. Coach's Corner
ESPN.com's head coach, David Thorpe, gives his impressions on Wizards rookie Bradley Beal, who averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 in five summer league games.
It's standard talk at draft time that for a player to be a lottery pick, he has to be great at one thing. That has been, and always will be, absurd in theory and in practice.
Thankfully, the Washington Wizards ignored this silly notion and drafted Bradley Beal -- a player who wasn't special at any one thing as a freshman at Florida except for the fact that he was a special basketball player. And that is more than enough.
Beal's presence will help John Wall play at his best, and then some. The 19-year-old shooting guard has an incredibly high basketball IQ and a natural's feel for where and when to flow on the court. This will help create scoring and assist opportunities for Wall without forcing the offense through set after set. He is an adept ball handler and a capable driver, so when defenses are focused on slowing Wall or Wall's primary passing target, Beal becomes a strong third threat to punish an extended defense. Powerful and long, Beal looks like someone who will get to the free-throw line a good amount.
Beal hasn't been as good a shooter as he was in high school, which is troubling, because his form is often pure and that was once his MO. (When good form nets average results, a red flag goes up in my mind.) Given his youth and work ethic, I'd expect him to improve to become at least a solid shooter.
Beal can play the point, which allows Wall to get some rest, and each guy can guard the other position, which gives the Wizards some defensive flexibility. And as a natural shooting guard, it seems likely that Beal will get a lot of "single-double" looks in their half-court sets. This may be problematic at first, as his lack of height and his slow release allow chasing defenders to contest his shots in these situations. At least they did this week, and it's significant to note that his opponents were typically a few inches shorter than what he'll face in the real NBA.
Good at everything, great at nothing. Yet.
David Thorpe is an analyst for Scouts Inc. Follow him on Twitter.
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6. Best Of The Night
Adam Morrison, Clippers: He's alive! Two years removed from an NBA game, Morrison looked timid and almost shell-shocked at times against the San Antonio Spurs. But he can still stroke it. Morrison, now 28, finished with 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting with 5 rebounds in a 86-80 win.
7. Worst Of The Night
Draymond Green, Warriors: We know he won't play much defense. So 0-for-9 nights are especially tough for Green, the Warriors' second-round pick out of Michigan State. The 22-year-old big man also had almost as many fouls (five) as rebounds (six) in Golden State win.
8. Oozing With Machado
9. Quote Of The Night
"Somebody said, 'I think Blake messed up his knee,' and I was like, 'What!'" "
-- Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, about when he first heard about Blake Griffin's torn medial meniscus in his left knee, as told to Justin Verrier.
10. Tweet Of The Night
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