The prospects have gone home, the lights are turned off and the court's been rolled up. Summer League in Vegas is over. Here's a look at the week that was at Las Vegas Summer League.
Bright Light: John freaking Wall. Wall was pretty much everything fans, scouts, and media expected. There were downsides, don't get me wrong. After a strong debut, shooting wise, he returned to the clank fest he showed in college, finishing with a 38% mark from the field. He had some turnovers, which is pretty normal for a rook. But the rest? Ye Gods. One of the more surprising elements of Wall's game was his change of direction. Wall's reverse, pull-up leaner, and floater were all on-target. The combination of his vision and speed, which were the most hyped parts of Wall's game, were brutally efficient. Perhaps most surprising of Wall's week was his development in intangibles. Even with a Summer League roster of fringe players, this was Wall's team. When Wall exploded to the rack and hammered home a dunk in traffic, JaVale McGee acted like he'd just posterized Dwight Howard . There are things to work on, but Wall was the biggest winner from Summer League.
Black Hole: Xavier Henry . He's more of a non-existent star. Henry was held out of Summer League play due to a contract dispute, despite the existence of the rookie pay scale, specifically meant to prevent this. Part of the blame is certainly on the Grizzlies , but Vasquez was playing without contract, so you have to wonder: Did Henry hurt his learning curve by not joining his teammates in Vegas?
Bright Light: DeMarcus Cousins ' first three games. Cousins was the player who looked like he simply couldn't be handled physically. He was dominant on the glass, finished off of offensive rebounds, and showed the most versatile set of post moves of any big in the SL. He had his emotions in check and played to his potential. He managed this against good young bigs, including Greg Monroe (who was a bright light in his own right). It would have been a great week for Cousins if it weren't for...
Black Hole: DeMarcus Cousins' last two games . And then everything came crashing back down. Cousins' final two games were a combination of emotional implosion and inefficient play. He got into it with the refs, pouted, moped, and could not buy a bucket. It certainly seemed like Cousins' hit the wall. Which is not a good sign after a handful of games, with the grind of the NBA regular season coming. Cousins may end up becoming one of those polarizing players in the league if this trend continues.
Bright Light: Larry Sanders . The Bucks are going to have a fleet of capable, talented power forwards this season. Sanders was one of the most impressive rookies in Vegas, playing solid defense, showing off a well-balanced frame, and looking very much like a versatile offensive option. Sanders' mid-range game was considerably better than expected. He showed nice tough with the ball and again, is a mountain in terms of size. He needs to work on his spacing and defensive awareness, but it was a very impressive showing.
Winner: JaVale McGee. McGee is a Summer League star, which says a lot about his career. But with John Wall? It was entirely different. Wall and McGee had obvious on-court chemistry, with McGee acting as his enforcer and the Tyson Chandler to wall's Chris Paul. That's an exaggeration. It's also not that much of an exaggeration. McGee wasn't entirely reliant on Wall, though, and had an array of hook shots going. He also played better defense than he's shown in previous years. Throw in the level of excitement he played with and it was a great summer league for Epic Vale.
Loser: Blake Griffin. How do you lose if you don't even play? You're a Clipper. That's how. Griffin was held out of Summer League play despite playing last year prior to his season-ending injury. There's something to be said for holding Griffin out to make sure he's completely healthy. There's also a concern that the knee may still not be right, which has to absolutely terrify Clipper fans.
Winner: DeMar DeRozan. Paired with Sonny Weems, the Raptors had a full highwire act going with DeRozan. DeRozan looked like he was primed for a signicant jump in productivity this season, especially with Chris Bosh you-know-where. He has such great length and his explosion was in the elite class. Averaging 21 points and 4.5 rebounds during Summer League, he and Weems had a plethora of highlight reels and looked like possibly the most impressive sophomore of the bunch.
Loser: Jordan Hill. Hill turned around his rookie season when he was traded to Houston from New York. He looked like a solid low-post player for limited minutes. But in Vegas he returned to the completely lost youngster he was with Mike D'Antoni. His numbers were good, but he had difficulty in getting position against bigger players. with the addition of Brad Miller and the re-signing of Luis Scola, his spot on the Rockets became even smaller during the week.
Winner: Reggie Williams. Williams got buckets. Period.
Loser: Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet did not. He did play defense well, both man and weakside. He blocked shots and had better screens. But the points? They are many, many miles away.
There are tons of NBA fringe players at NBA Summer League that when you watch them, you find yourself asking "Why isn't this guy on an NBA roster?" Some of them are held back by size limitations. Others are offensive Wizards that would be liabilities on defense. Some have off-court or personality problems. And some really are just mystifying, they're so good. Here's a quick insight on who had a great week.
Gary Neal: 50% from the arc. That's a pretty ridiculous shooting clip for anyone. Neal averaged 1 made three for every two attempted at Summer League, including a 6-9 performance in the first half against Memphis Sunday alone. Neal, a 6-4 guard out of Towson University, was a candidate for Summer League MVP, averaging 15 points a game and consistently hitting from all over the floor. Most impressive, though, was his perimeter speed. Neal was able to go from baseline to corner for the pop-out three in nearly no time at all. Combine that with hyper-efficient shooting and it makes for an amazing week of work in Vegas.
Jeff Adrien: Zach Harper kept turning to me throughout every Grizzlies game and screaming "He's a man!" And that was about right. Adrien was "beasting," I believe is the term. For teams looking for a role player that can rebound attack on defense, Adrien's a great fit and only 24. Then again, I'm not entirely convinced he won't physically harm everyone in a ten mile radius with his biceps. In closing, he's a man.
Pooh Jeter: Jeter averaged 14.4 points and 5.4 assists for Cleveland, which is pretty impressive considering the Cleveland roster outside of J.J. Hickson may or may not have been pulled off a craps table at the Mirage. Jeter's played in nearly every league you can think of and never stuck. It was a good week for Jeter, but his defense may not have been good enough to get him over the hump.
With nearly every NBA coach, executive, and agent in Vegas, along with nearly every top rookie, there was a lot to take in. Here are four observations from the week at Thomas and Mack.
1. All the lonely people. The coaches and executives who are considered at the top of their games were surrounded by assistants and scouts. They examined the games and players, even if there was little of consequence to take in. They had notes, were on the phone, and gave instructions post-game. Conversely, those who you may list as not the best in their field sat alone, playing with their phone, reading the paper, and generally looking bored. There's a lot that goes into being a GM, but you can tell those who are professional in all aspects.
2. Wall Mania. The crowds were good for most of the games, but nothing compared to the Wall mania. The guy could sit around twiddling his thumbs and still get a ton of people watching him. Wall was easily the biggest star in the SL, but DeMarcus Cousins was a close second.
3. Pace, pace, pace. All the SL teams played the easiest type of offense. Get up and run. Almost all the teams employed a fast pace with quick shots. It wasn't a Warriors scrimmage, but it was close, That's part of the reason any great performance is looked upon skeptically. Not only is it against inferior opponents, but the style is often the exact polar opposite of what the regular club is running.
4. Dress code. The best thing about Summer League? Seeing coaches and executives in cargo shorts and flip flops. It's such a striking difference between the suits they usually wear during the summer. Seriously, if you haven't seen Scott Skiles in cargo shorts laughing and having a good time, you haven't lived. It's like Batman in a Hawaiian shirt.