By Yahoo! Sports
July 16, 2007
VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE MVP
Nate Robinson, New York Knicks – Robinson played in Vegas for the third consecutive year and, just like previous years, had some dazzling performances. He is so strong with the ball that he can penetrate at will in summer league, getting into the lane and either passing the ball to open teammates or finishing strong around the basket. Summer-league ball fits his up-and-down, attack-the-basket style, which is a big reason he put up such impressive stats (19.6 points and 6.0 assists a game). But unfortunately for Robinson, the regular season is not like summer league. Even though he is a solid NBA player, Robinson will still come off the bench and be an energy guy for the Knicks next season.
LAS VEGAS – Here is who shined and struggled the most at the NBA summer league, according to front-office personnel and league scouts.
1. Marco Belinelli, Golden State Warriors – Belinelli can really shoot and will fit in nicely at Golden State. He had some big games, including a 37-point effort, and he shot over 44 percent from three-point range. He also proved he can take it to the hole in averaging 22.8 points per game. He looks like he'll be ready to contribute immediately for the Warriors.
2. Jason Maxiell, Detroit Pistons – Maxiell came to Vegas in great shape and played great. He looked comfortable both with his back to the basket and stepping out to shoot jumpers, averaging 15 points and five rebounds while shooting over 54 percent. Detroit's young players should help the team's depth and chances to win the East next season.
3. Javaris Crittenton, Los Angeles Lakers – Crittenton might have the biggest upside out of all the point guards at summer league mostly due to his size (6-foot-5) and athleticism. He showed the ability to get into the lane and finish near the basket. Crittenton averaged 17 points and three assists and, for the most part, outplayed Jordan Farmar.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers – Aldridge played extremely well in his two games, averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds. He hit turnaround baseline jumpers and showed good range with his shot. He looked comfortable on offense and certainly will improve on his rookie season. He and Greg Oden should give Portland a solid one-two punch inside.
5. Al Thornton, Los Angeles Clippers – Thornton is extremely athletic but often plays out of control. His shot selection needs drastic improvement, but he plays very hard and goes to the glass on every possession. The 2007 No. 14 pick will definitely contribute next season for the Clippers, but he needs to shoot better than the 37.7 percent he shot in summer league. Thornton averaged 17.6 points and 6.2 rebounds.
6. Rodney Stuckey, Detroit Pistons – Stuckey was terrific and should really help the Pistons as a rookie. He is very strong, enabling him to either post up or drive, and he has a good feel for the game. He's also very unselfish. Stuckey averaged a team-best 19 points a game, but his numbers this season will not be great because he'll play behind Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. Still, down the road, he should end up being one of the top five players in the 2007 draft.
7. Louis Williams, Philadelphia 76ers – Williams is not a true point guard; he is a scorer. He averaged 25.2 points and produced several high-scoring games because his quickness makes him so difficult to guard. He gets into the lane and dishes to teammates (5 assists per game) and gets to the free-throw line (13.6 attempts a game), which makes him very efficient. He does, however, tend to pound the ball instead of finding open teammates, which is not ideal when you have Andre Iguodala running out in front.
8. Craig Smith, Minnesota Timberwolves – Smith is big and strong, but more importantly, he is tough. He loves to bang inside and is a blue-collar player. Having raised his offensive game, Smith showed the ability to hit the open jump shot and averaged 21.8 points and 6 rebounds on 63-percent shooting. His improvement should help give Minnesota a chance to be a playoff team.
9. Kevin Durant, Seattle SuperSonics – For a while, it seemed Durant would join Oden on the losers list. He did not shoot the ball well (33 percent from the field), nor rebound well (only averaged 2.0), nor pass the ball well (only two assists all week), but during his last game and a half, he was unbelievable.
Durant scored from deep and in the post, and used his jab step and length to perfection. He averaged 24 points and showed with his size, length and skill why he has a chance to be one of the best ever. As he gets stronger, he will finish better and improve his field-goal percentage. Durant has more upside than any player in the 2007 draft.
10. Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets – Brooks is super quick and although he is more of a scoring guard than a point guard, he averaged 5.2 assists a game. Brooks also made 42 percent of his three-pointers. Add his speed with that range and it is easy to see why he averaged 21.4 points a game. Brooks should help the Rockets by taking some of the scoring burden off Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
11. Randy Foye, Minnesota Timberwolves – Foye's jumper looked fluid and he played with a lot of confidence. A scoring guard in the mold of Gilbert Arenas, Foye averaged 18.4 points a game and shot the ball extremely well from behind the arc (54 percent). He should be a star in the near future.
12. Mike Conley Jr., Memphis Grizzlies – Conley did not have a great summer league but he was definitely solid. His numbers demonstrate his sturdiness: 11.4 points and 5.2 assists in about 27 minutes a game. He ran the offense well and got the ball to the open man. Conley will make everyone around him better and will help improve the Grizzlies next season.
13. Von Wafer, Denver Nuggets – Wafer finished with a league record-tying 42 points and a 24.2-point average. He shot the ball well throughout summer league, and proved that he can hit consistently from beyond the arc (hitting at a 44-percent clip). Wafer will be in the NBA next year, especially in light of his ability to extend the defense with his shooting.
1. Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers – Oden's biggest problem is that he could not live up to the hype. He was supposed to be one of the top players in Vegas, but he was only the third best player on his team (behind Aldridge and Martell Webster). Oden only played two games and had as many fouls as points (19). Even though he struggled offensively and with turnovers, there is no denying his potential. By the end of the regular season, he will be a force.
2. Yi Jianlian, Milwaukee Bucks – Besides a few stretches here and there, Yi struggled. He had difficulty being guarded by athletic players, and that was evident by his 26-percent shooting from the floor. Yi did average 12.4 points, but was hardly impressive. He also averaged 4.6 turnovers, which was a weakness in his game coming into the draft. Yi does have a great deal of talent, as he has a good-looking jump shot and he is athletic. Hopefully for the Bucks' sake, he fulfills his potential.
3. Patrick O'Bryant, Golden State Warriors – O'Bryant had a disappointing summer league and it looks like he will never pan out in Golden State. The ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft is lethargic and seems to not enjoy playing. He averaged almost as many fouls (four) as points (5.6). O'Bryant has a lot of work to do before he ever sees the court for the Warriors, especially considering their run-and-gun system.
4. Julian Wright, New Orleans Hornets – Wright never had a breakout game like several of the players from the 2007 draft. The 13th pick was very passive and only got to the free-throw line 11 times in five games. He averaged 8.6 points and shot a pedestrian 39 percent. Wright did not really do anything to distinguish himself and needs to improve his overall game.
5. Corey Brewer, Minnesota Timberwolves – Brewer struggled shooting, making just 28 percent of his field-goal attempts. He is a good, all-around player but disappointed in Vegas.
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Updated on Monday, Jul 16, 2007 2:49 pm, EDT
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