The first day of the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League tournament is over. We saw some incredible finishes (the Denver Nuggets' close victory over the New Orleans Pelicans and the overtime thriller between the Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trail Blazers), and we saw some big-time blowouts (Minnesota Timberwolves trounced the Sacramento Kings by 38 and the Miami Heat destroyed the New York Knicks by 47). With six teams advancing and the 10 first-round byes getting to gear back up after a day of rest, we have a full slate of eight games.
Here are the storylines for Thursday's action:
Is Deshaun Thomas the new Spurs' gem? With Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph, and Aron Baynes on their summer squad, the Spurs have plenty of NBA talent at their disposal as their turn in the Las Vegas Summer League tournament happens. With the 58th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Spurs might have just selected their latest draft-night diamond in the obscure with Thomas. So far in the summer league, he has shown an incredible understanding of spacing and when to go for his own shot. He already looks indoctrinated into the Spurs' way of playing basketball, and his skill set (17.0 ppg, 28.7 mpg, 54.1-percent FG, 50.0-percent 3FG) has proven to be a great weapon early on. How do these guys keep doing this?
John Henson is really good. The second-year Bucks player often had to deal with a crowded frontcourt during his rookie season. But in the summer league, where spacing is at a premium and often disastrous, he's having to deal with crowds around him in the paint. He has both flourished and suffered with the chaos closing in on him in the low block. But overall, you've seen the talent that makes so many scouts, fans, writers and front-office people so enamored with his game. In his two games with the Bucks, he scored 28 points, grabbed 28 rebounds (10 offensive), turned the ball over 11 times and blocked six shots. He has also made half of his shots. If they don't keep him out of action for the tournament, we'll get to see him fly around the court and eat up space of his own on defense.
6 p.m. ET -- Toronto Raptors vs. Denver Nuggets
Will Jonas Valanciunas dominate and foul out? Valanciunas has looked stellar in this summer-league stint, throwing his newly bulked-up body around as he learns to play a more physical brand of basketball. But in the process, his fouls have been increasing. Last time out, he was called for nine fouls and probably committed about 16 throughout the game. The Sacramento Kings bench was harassing the officials to call Valanciunas on the elbows that he was throwing around. With more and more complaints about his physicality, it could cause him to foul out with 10 fouls at some point soon.
Are the Bobcats finally the favorites for a postseason run? Granted, this isn't exactly the NBA playoffs, but a tournament is good enough at the moment. Jeff Taylor has been stellar and dominant in his time in Vegas. He has averaged 21 points in 31.0 minutes while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from downtown. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been working on his scoring efficiency while averaging 10.7 points on 54.2-percent shooting. Bismack Biyombo is averaging 9.7 rebounds in 26.3 minutes. And Cody Zeller has impressed in his debut summer league with 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. The Bobcats have more NBA talent on their roster than most other teams do; they just have to keep working toward making them have a big impact regardless of the setting.
8 p.m. ET -- Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Were the Blazers playing possum in the preliminary rounds? They have seven players from their NBA roster on their summer-league roster, making them appear to be the overwhelming favorites to win championship hats. However, that hasn't been the case. The Blazers have struggled to get their young guys on the same page and lost their first three games. With C.J. McCollum, Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard, Joel Freeland, Will Barton, Victor Claver and Allen Crabbe at their disposal, you'd think they'd dominate. They finally pulled out a victory on Wednesday, just in time for the tournament, when they outlasted the Hawks in overtime. Perhaps they were just lying in the weeds and waiting to pounce by becoming the first 19-seed in tournament history to win it all?
8:30 p.m. ET -- D-League Select vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Has Stefhon Hannah turned enough heads? The D-League Select team went undefeated in the preliminary round, and Hannah was a huge reason for that. He's not only turning heads with the fans and writers checking out the action, but you're starting to hear murmurs and first impressions from coaches whom you talk to about just how tough he is to deal with on the court. He's averaging 16.3 points on 55.6 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from downtown. He has been deadly with the basketball in his hands and is exactly what you'd want from a backup point guard running your second unit. It would be foolish for an executive to let this go unrewarded, even with his down year in 2012-13.
10 p.m. ET -- Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
Does Andrew Goudelock need to do more than score? We know Goudelock can score. We've seen it from him in the D-League. We even saw it from him in a couple of games against the Spurs during the first round of the NBA playoffs when the Los Angeles Lakers were desperate for some offense. But there is the question of "what else does Goudelock do for you?" It's a valid question, considering a guy off the bench who just fires up shot after shot is a valuable weapon, but you need the threat of the ball moving to other players as well. The scoring binge (68 points in three games) has been impressive from the summer league's scoring leader, but it might behoove him to start moving the ball a bit more (just six assists) to show executives that he can also be a team guy.
The Kent Bazemore point-guard experiment. The Warriors have a bit of a backup point-guard issue with the departure of Jarrett Jack to the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Andre Iguodala can handle some ball-handling duties for the Warriors, the idea of finding a role for backup guard Bazemore, in order to get his length and defense on the court, seems to be a priority. He has played some point guard for the Warriors' summer team so far, and the results are mixed but promising. He has shown an all-around game with 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. The assists and the defense in the backcourt have been encouraging to say the least. He still misses some passing opportunities on various plays, but you can see more of a comfort level with him running the point throughout the process.