The NBA Summer League isn’t exactly the main event on the NBA calendar and most of the time the analysis isn’t going to have a make-or-break impact on your season and/or draft strategy. However, last season’s leaders in the summer league turned out to have some big years in 2012-13.
Let’s take a look at the points-per-game leaders from the 2012 Las Vegas Summer League:
Damian Lillard 26.5
Kawhi Leonard 25.0
Josh Selby 24.2
Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris 20.8
Some pretty big names on there, right? Lillard had arguably the best rookie season ever, Leonard was a stud in the playoffs, Harris was one of the best players down the stretch last year and Butler was a 48-minute machine for the Bulls. Now, that type of impact isn’t expected to be the norm and those aforementioned players had some serious opportunity for minutes. In fact, I’d say there’s no way this 2013 crop of summer league studs has even half the impact of those four guys. It’s still something that deserves our attention.
This piece is going to cover each team on which players had noteworthy performances. Some of them will be positive -- like Jonas Valanciunas -- while guys like Trey Burke struggled mightily. We’ll also be focusing on guys that have high upside. If a player had a big week, but doesn’t shoot the 3 or provide much defense, he’s not going to be worth your time until there is tremendous opportunity due to injuries. These opportunities will be discussed in our draft guide, by the way.
Before we get down to business, I just wanted to say what a blast it was to go to Las Vegas and take in some games. The atmosphere was amazing with all the famous NBA players, coaches and GMs just having a good time. It was funny to see players out on the streets while seeing some of the front office guys putting down a few drinks at the bars around midnight. I loved going there. It is so choice. If you have the means, I’d highly recommend picking up some tickets.
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Hawks- Dennis Schröder is shaping up to be one of the better values of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Hawks scooped him up with the 17th pick and he didn’t disappoint in Vegas this week. He ranked second in assists with 5.6 per game, while adding 10.8 points, 1.4 threes and 1.6 steals. Schröder also played some tight defense with impressive lateral quickness at both ends. He's all but assured his spot on the team and the team reportedly feels he can be Tony Parkeresque. The German will need Jeff Teague to miss time, so he’s more of a high-upside backup.
Lucas Nogueira was another rookie that put up some stats. He’s a lengthy guy and his 2.4 blocks per game ranked fourth among the Vegas contingent. He has a 7’6” wingspan, but he really looked a bit lost as he put the ball on the floor in the post. The Brazilian might be stashed overseas this year.
Celtics- Kelly Olynyk was one of the most impressive big men in Orlando, averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 boards, 1.8 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.4 triples in his five games. The Celtics have a very thin frontcourt rotation and Olynyk has the inside track for the most minutes at center. The Gonzaga product has some range in shooting the rock, so the triples could give him a nice upside. Jared Sullinger is fully expected to be ready from his back surgery and the two could share minutes at center. Sully was too inconsistent and doesn’t really block shots, so Olynyk is worth drafting before the Ohio State product.
Nets-Tyshawn Taylor’s 16.8 points per game ranked fifth in scoring for the Orlando Summer League, shooting just 38.6 percent to go with 3.3 boards, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals in 30.0 minutes. The Nets have a little more confidence in Taylor this year and he’ll likely be able to improve on his 5.8 minutes per game. Of course, the Nets picking up Shaun Livingston moves Taylor one step down on the depth chart.
Bobcats- The Bobcats aren’t exactly the model of excellence in the NBA, but the team had a few interesting storylines last week. Jeffery Taylor was a pleasant surprise in Vegas, scoring 20.3 points per game with 1.8 steals and 1.8 triples. Taylor was getting to the rack a lot and took 7.0 free throw attempts per game. Last year, he saw 29 starts with most of his significant minutes coming in the 2012 section of the season, but his minutes dwindled down to 15.0 in April. The added aggression was nice to see from Taylor this week, but it’s not enough to warrant fantasy consideration.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put in some extra time with coach Mark Price, but he still didn’t quite work out the kinks in his shot. MKG has a little hitch on the way up and he still doesn’t release the ball at the apex of his jumper. Last year, he shot just 27.2 percent on his jumper and was exceptionally bad from 10-16 feet, making only 14.3 percent of his attempts. This week was a bit of a success as he made 54.2 percent of his attempts. I’m still not going to draft a guy that can’t shoot, especially since he didn’t really knock our socks off in the defensive categories.
The Bobcats surprised most people with their selection of Cody Zeller at four in the draft. He got his professional career off to a good start in Vegas with averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 boards and 0.8 blocks in 32.0 minutes per game. He stayed composed in the paint and got a lot of easy buckets in halfcourt sets. Zeller has a shot to get some minutes at power forward for the Bobcats even with Josh McRoberts signing a two-year deal to remain with the team. The Indiana product will be worth a look late in drafts.
Bulls-Andrew Goudelock came out hot to start the summer league with 26 and 31 points in his first two games. Mini Mamba has a D-League MVP on his résumé and he’s been able to put up some nice numbers against the weaker competition. He can be ignored for the most part.
Some of the Bulls writers are comparing first-round pick Tony Snell to Scottie Pippen and while it’s a little premature, the player comparisons make sense. Snell has a seven-foot wingspan with a height of 6’7” and he did a solid job of perimeter defense throughout the week. His offense wasn’t really there, though, shooting 36.7 percent from the field for 11.8 points. The Bulls picking up Mike Dunleavy will put a damper on the hype for the 20th pick in the draft in his first season.
Cavs- Dion Waiters was up to his Waiters-like ways for the Cavs. He was taking plenty of bad shots and was a bit of a ball hog against the Spurs on Thursday, shooting 12-of-23 from the field in what was his best outing. He had just seven assists compared to 11 turnovers in his final three summer league games and Waiters will no longer have any point guard duties under coach Mike Brown. If you’re thinking about taking Waiters, be prepared for some ugly field goal shooting and not much else besides points and triples.
Tyler Zeller wasn’t quite as impactful as his brother, but there was nothing wrong with his play. The Cavs have one of the deepest frontcourt rotations in recent years, which doesn’t bode well for Zeller to match his rookie numbers. I’m not planning on targeting him.
Carrick Felix isn’t going to have any fantasy value, but he was just an interesting player to watch this week. He really liked to get out on the break and tried to get as many dunks as he could. The ASU product filled the stat sheet in 2012-13 for the Sun Devils with averages of 14.6 points, 8.1 boards, 1.1 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.5 triples in 35.3 minutes, so there is some upside should a few breaks go his way. Mike Brown said Felix has a “good chance” to make the team, but there will have to be a slew of injuries on the Cavs for Felix to be a factor.
Mavs- One of the cool things about summer league is learning about guys that we’ve never really seen before. Gal Mekel is one of those guys and he was very exciting at point guard. He’s got a little bit of Steve Nash to his game really dissects the defense and understands how to get his players in favorable position. The Israeli guard’s turnovers were a little high with two games of at least five assists, but his eight-assist first half on July 16 was one of the most impressive stretches that I observed while in Vegas. Mekel does have a 3-point shot and made a respectable 46.3 percent in Italian league action back in 2011-12. All that said, he’s not on the fantasy radar yet.
Jackie Carmichael was one of the best rim protectors in summer league. He had a seven-block outing and he was always around the basket on both ends of the floor. Admittedly, I didn’t know too much about Carmichael before summer league, but I have to say I cannot believe he even attempted 0.3 triples per game in his last season at Illinois State. He does have skills as a big man, but he doesn’t look to have NBA-type range. The Mavs picked up Samuel Dalembert and brought back Bernard James after waiving him, so Carmichael will have to make the team first. Mark Cuban does like him, so there’s that.
Ricky Ledo was a fun player to watch and he’s got a little bit of a bull-in-a-china-shop style. He’s going to make some highlights as soon as he can get minutes with his dribbling skills. Unfortunately, he’s buried on the depth chart, so don’t expect to see him in the near future.
Nuggets- Jordan Hamilton started off horribly with a four-point dud, but finished strong with 25- and 23-point outbursts in his last two games. He’s going to be worth watching in very deep leagues with Danilo Gallinari still rehabbing his ACL tear. Plus, Wilson Chandler is a bit injury prone himself.
Pistons- Andre Drummond was a monster in his Orlando stint and there was really nothing left for him to prove. He was running all over the floor and he could be in for a big season. Although, it’s going to be really tough to take him in a Roto league with his woeful free throw shooting.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a green light in Orlando, attempting a whopping 7.8 shots from beyond the arc per game. He did only make 22.6 percent, but the confidence exhibited by the Pistons is the story here. The UGA product should get some chances from deep with his 37.3 percent from deep last season with the Bulldogs. He’ll need Rodney Stuckey or Brandon Knight to miss time to be a factor in his rookie year.
Warriors- Kent Bazemore was probably your MVP of Las Vegas Summer League, but Jonas Valanciunas got the nod. The Warriors mowed down the competition and Bazemore was their clear-cut best player on their championship run. He also had one of the biggest dunks of the event to help propel the Warriors to a win over Dallas on Thursday (link here), finishing on a 17-2 run. Even with the departure of Jarrett Jack, Bazemore still has to play behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson -- two guys that are going to get as many minutes as they can handle. I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Curry’s oft-injured ankles, so Bazemore could be viewed as a Curry handcuff in very deep leagues.
Draymond Green slimmed down a little and he was playing more like a small forward. He did have some shooting problems this week, which is nothing new for a guy that shot just 25.2 percent on his jumpers last year. While the Warriors have some depth at the guard spots, Green could see some playing time behind Andre Iguodala and David Lee.
Rockets- Patrick Beverley isn’t going to make any friends in Oklahoma City after his contact with Russell Westbrook cost the Thunder a chance to compete for a title, but he could have some fantasy value. Beverley outplayed Jeremy Lin for a large chunk of the season and saw 33 minutes per game in the postseason while Lin was banged up. He had a solid week in Orlando and did look quicker than his competition. At the end of the day, this could be a timeshare, so I’m not planning on targeting Lin or Beverley.
Terrence Jones put up some big numbers in Orlando with averages of 15.8 points, 7.0 boards, 2.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.0 triples in 27.5 minutes. He’s listed as a small forward, but at 6’9” and 252 pounds, TJ could be an up-tempo PF for the Rockets and their 2012-13 league-leading pace. He's probably not worth targeting, but a big preseason could change the tune on him.
Pacers- Solomon Hill had the look of a rookie in Orlando with his inconsistent play. He had a two-point game in his last performance, but his average line at the end of the event was solid: 12.0 points, 5.2 boards, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.2 triples on 48.9 percent shooting. If he wasn’t in such a bad spot with Paul George ahead of him, there’s a lot to like about Hill’s fantasy game. He shot 39 percent from downtown in his last two years at Arizona, he’s a good shooter from the charity stripe and he athletic enough for big minutes. The Pacers did a nice job picking him up with the 23rd pick, but we won’t be seeing much of him as long as Paul George is around.
Clippers-Reggie Bullock was another one of my favorite players from Las Vegas. He had a punishing style of play for the Clippers and he led the team to one of the most aggressive stretches in the fourth quarter that I saw over the week on Wednesday. In that frame, the Clippers were trying to get layups, dunks and short-range shots against the Mavs and Bullock’s usage rate was sky high. He has some range and certainly didn’t disappoint, taking a staggering 7.8 shots from downtown in his last five games. The fallout from Bullock’s outburst isn’t going to change the fantasy landscape, but it’s enough to make me a little apprehensive in considering Jared Dudley or Matt Barnes.
Lakers-Marcus Landry said that he’s a fan of Mike D’Antoni’s system and it was easy to see why with the way he pushed the ball in summer league. He scored at least 14 points in each of his five games to lead the team with his 15.2 per game. Obviously, with the Lakers trading away a ton of picks, there wasn’t much impact from their time in Las Vegas.
Thanks for reading and we'll be back tomorrow with Part 2.