Summer League Summary: Part 2

Mike Gallagher
Matt Stroup breaks down a late-season run from Jonas Valanciunas along with some other trends in this week's Roundball Stew

Valanciunas Validation

Matt Stroup breaks down a late-season run from Jonas Valanciunas along with some other trends in this week's Roundball Stew

We're back with the second installment of Summer League Summary. In case you missed the first part, bang it here. As I was writing this, I realized that the second half of the teams in alphabetical order seemed to have some bigger storylines. Even the casual fan should have had some interest in Trey Burke and also seeing how a bigger Jonas Valanciunas looked for Toronto. It turns out that those two were on complete opposite ends of the performance spectrum.

There were also some relative unknowns that got a lot of attention. As a reminder, chances are that if a guy enters summer league with no street cred, then blows up with some big games, he's still going to be hard pressed to get significant minutes right off the bat with his NBA team. That means the real purpose of monitoring those guys is to have that information in your mental catalog in the event of a significant injury. It'll also be interesting to see if any of these suddenly hot players can keep up the pace in preseason. In other words, am I going to draft Dwight Buycks in a 10-team league? No, of course not. However, the minute Kyle Lowry goes down, Buycks could become a hot free agent considering the massive summer league numbers. 

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Grizzlies-Tony Wroten was attacking the rim quite a bit in his six games, but his 25.3 percent was the lowest among the top 125 scorers in Vegas. Add that number to an assists: turnover ratio of 3.8: 3.5, and Wroten had one of the worst summer leagues of all players -- statistically speaking. He’ll need Jerryd Bayless and Mike Conley to miss time to be a factor.

One of the coolest names in the NBA had a decent showing. Vander Blue was quiet in his first four games, but picked it up with 13 and 24 points in his last two. He hit five 3-pointers on July 18 and had some range at Marquette last year, making 1.2 per game. He’s still unlikely to make the NBA in October. Undrafted rookie Jack Cooley was the only player in the Vegas Summer League to average 15.0 points and over 1.0 blocks. He wasn’t dominant or anything, but he may have been the best big man that wasn’t drafted. He’s still probably not going to make the team.

Heat- The champs aren’t going to need much help from their young players, but they did play well and made it to the Summer League semifinals. During the season, Jarvis Varnado made about 200 trips to the D-League and back for Miami and in Vegas he had a strong presence in the paint with 2.5 blocks and 6.7 boards per game.  He’s not on worth your time in fantasy, though. James Ennis was dropping in his share of triples as he closed out his summer league with 10 in his last four games.  The Long Beach State product made 1.7 per game last season in college while he was able to keep his field goal shooting at 49.1 percent. Of course, Miami kinda has small forward covered.

Bucks- John Henson got himself a first-team distinction from his productive stats of 14.7 points, 13.7 boards and 3.0 blocks on 54.8 percent shooting. He pulled down a beast-like 5.0 offensive boards per game, too. Henson earned some minutes as a rookie in April, playing 21.1 per game with averages of 9.2 points, 8.9 boards and 1.8 blocks on 50.7 shooting in nine contests. The signing of Zaza Pachulia does put a little dent in Henson’s chances of a breakout, so it’ll be tough to target him in a standard league.

Timberwolves- Shabazz Muhammad was sporting some sweet all-white Jordan 11s in some of his action, but that might have been the highlight of his week. Hit converted just 36.5 of his field goal attempts and his overall averages were underwhelming at 8.5 points, 2.2 boards, 0.8 dimes, 0.0 steals, 0.2 blocks and 2.2 turnovers. Muhammad famously accounted for just 27 dimes in his last year in college -- good for one assist every 36.5 minutes of action. He doesn’t have any sort of Roto game and there’s very little reason to target him.

Pelicans- Austin Rivers might have been a lottery pick more on his name than his game. He really didn’t look like a guy that played 23.2 minutes per game last season during his summer league stint. Rivers did shoot the ball well at 48.6 percent from the field, but I was really discouraged with his lack of finishing around the rim. Last year, he shot 48.9 percent at the rim, which is well below the league average of 64.7 percent. The Pelicans have a ton of point guards and Rivers won’t be able to muster up enough fantasy value on scoring alone.

Speaking of Pelican point guards, Brian Roberts looked good in Vegas. He kept his turnovers down and averaged 14.2 points per game.  Even though Jrue Holiday was a nightmare in the second half, Jrue isn’t going to relinquish his minutes with his new team.  If he goes down, though, Roberts will be a must-add player.

Knicks- Tim Hardaway Jr. was a bit of a gym rat this week. He was sitting courtside with his dad on days in which he wasn’t playing and he wore a pretty sweet Sonics Mitchell & Ness hat, but I digress.  His stats weren’t really there and his peripheral stats at Michigan do not suggest he’ll be worth picking up. Jeremy Tyler was probably the most impressive Knick in summer league. He really showed some serious athleticism and had much better low-post game than what we've seen out of him in Atlanta and Golden State. He's going to get a camp invite, but set your expectations low.

Thunder- The Thunder cruised in Orlando for a championship thanks to Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Last season, Jackson went from Russell Westbrook’s understudy to a player that proved he’s worthy of being in the NBA in the postseason. So much so that Jackson figures to be the favorite for a sixth-man role. He led the Orlando Summer League in scoring and helped himself quite a bit in the process. Don’t forget about Jackson as draft season approaches.

Jeremy Lamb wasn’t too shabby either, but Jackson playing so well makes the point a bit moot. Lamb ranked third in scoring thanks to a 32-point explosion on July 10 and he showed a variety of ways to score in most of his action.  Don’t let the depth chart fool you with Lamb as a shooting guard and Jackson behind the usually indestructible Westbrook, Jackson is the guy you’ll want to target unless something changes.

Magic- Victor Oladipo came to play in his new home town of Orlando. The Magic still don’t know if he’s a one or a two, but it’s abundantly clear that the kid can be productive at either spot. He stole the show with his 3.0 steals while contributing 19.0 points, 4.3 boards, 5.0 assists and 1.8 triples. His stats last year at Indiana can make a diehard fantasy owner salivate: 13.6 points, 6.3 boards, 2.1 assists, 0.8 blocks, 2.2 steals and 0.8 triples on 59.9 percent from the field and 74.6 percent from the charity stripe. There’s going to be a high demand for him in drafts for his name and because everyone loves rookies, so we’ll need to see what his ADP looks like in a couple months.

Andrew Nicholson was expected to develop a 3-point shot, but yeah, that didn’t happen. He took just one attempt. Nicholson was basically booted out of the rotation with the emergence of Tobias Harris and won’t be worth drafting. Speaking of Harris, he suffered a minor knee injury and didn’t play in summer league. He’s fine and is probably already over the injury entirely.

It was business as usual for Moe Harkless. He played 32.0 minutes per game in four outings, averaging 13.0 points, 5.5 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks. He’s always been one of my favorite players, primarily due to his propensity for getting shots at the rim. Last season, 55.1 percent of his shot attempts came from within three feet. Considering that high number, his field goal shooting does need a bit of work at 46.1 percent, but that’s because he gets blocked a lot and made just 23.5 percent of his jumpers. He should be better and from the looks of summer league, he's been working on his shot. The Magic are a little crowded, so it’s going to be tough to target anyone outside of Nikola Vucevic. On the other hand, there are some big breakout candidates.

Sixers – The knock on Michael Carter-Williams is that he can’t shoot and that notion was supported in summer league. MCW shot 27.1 percent points on his way to averages of 13.6 points, 4.2 boards, 6.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.5 triples. What’s more, his 4.8 turnovers per game were alarmingly high. Bad news aside, there’s a huge opportunity for the Syracuse product.  He’s going to be an early pick and I wouldn’t have a problem with reaching a bit to nab him.

Arnett Moultrie isn’t a household name and we didn’t write any game recap blurbs on him until his 12-minute game on February 4. Conversely, the buzz has been building on him and there’s some belief that Doug Collins just wouldn’t give him a break. He made 40 of his last 60 shots to finish up his regular season. He could be a deep-league special with Nerlens Noel rehabbing his ACL tear and possibly being out until January.

Suns- Markieff Morris was the better Morris and led the Suns to the finals of Vegas Summer League. He had stat-stuffing averages of 13.6 points, 6.4 boards, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks and 0.6 treys.  Morris did pick it up in April to close out the season, scoring 11.8 points with 6.9 boards, 1.5 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.6 triples on stellar shooting of 46 percent from the field, 92 percent from the line and 65 percent from downtown. If he can get to 26 minutes per game, he’ll be a must-start player.

His brother from the same mother wasn’t too shabby, shooting 47.2 percent from the field for 14.3 points with 3.9 boards. Although, unlike his bro, Marcus’ minutes trended down and he’s not really someone worth monitoring at this point.

Archie Goodwin was one of the most impressive rookies in July. I loved seeing him get to the line 32 times over a three-game stretch, and he also hit 57.1 percent of his 3-point attempts as part of an eye-catching 50.0 percent from the field on the whole. The Suns have two great guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, but there really isn’t much behind them. Kendall Marshall is reportedly on the trade block for peanuts and Shannon Brown is a bit of a lame duck. Goodwin could be the kind of player that can fill it up with his legit range, so just remember his name in the event of a Dragic or Bledsoe injury. By the way, Kendall Marshall wasn't very impressive and Goodwin completely overshadowed him.

Blazers- The Blazers that will be in the rotation were out in force. C.J. McCollum was firing at will in Las Vegas for a league-high 20.2 attempts per game. Terry Stotts and company said they were going to let him loose on Vegas and they held up their end of the bargain. The Lehigh product sure knows how to get his own shot and he did get a lot of separation from the defender on his jumpers. The shots weren’t really falling for him at just 36.6 percent from the field. The Blazers had one of the worst benches ever in the NBA with their league-low 10.1 points per game as a unit, which suggests C.J. Mc could step up as a sixth-man, so keep an eye on him.

Thomas Robinson really took a step forward in Vegas. He was much more focused on his rebounding and it’s probably a good idea to focus more on second-chance points than working in the post and getting his own shot. For what it’s worth, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Zach Randolph all averaged more than 4.2 second-chance points per game last season, so it’s possible to make an impact in a stat like that one. Robinson isn’t even close to that class yet, but he looked in great shape and he was very involved in the transition game for Portland. I wouldn’t draft him in a standard league unless he goes off in the preseason.

Meyers Leonard was actually taking 3-pointers in Vegas. In fact, he took seven in five games, which is the exact total of his attempts from deep in last season. He’s behind Robin Lopez for now, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see Leonard outplay Ro-Lo.

Will Barton and Allen Crabbe both made some cases to get minutes. Barton suffered a minor knee injury, but was very aggressive in his two games following the injury with 18.5 points, 8.0 boards, 1.5 steals and 1.0 treys in 35 minutes. Last April, he got a lot of burn with the Blazers extremely banged up, but with the team healthy, there’s no reason to think he’ll hit the 18-minute mark. At 6’6”, Allen Crabbe can shoot a little bit. He pulled down 6.1 boards in his last year at Cal to go with 1.9 triples, so he’s got a little diversity to his game. The Blazers got a nice pick at 31, but he won’t be making a splash in his first year.

Kings- Ben McLemore was one of the biggest names to appear on the court last week, but his performance was uninspiring. If you look at his game without defenders on the floor, he has the look of a sharp-shooting star. He gets a lot of elevation off the ground, has sweet rotation on the ball and really stays on balance. Unfortunately, he really didn’t get a lot of good looks in summer league. It almost looked like some defenders had a good scouting report on him and he really struggled to get open. Hopefully, the Kings can coach him up because his value would be severally limited as just a floor-spacing shooter. He’s got a nice ceiling, but he’ll likely be off the board a little too soon for my liking.

Spurs- Deshaun Thomas was another guy that had the look of a star in a non-star setting. A quick little story: Thomas refused to give the Spurs the number to his cell phone and of course as fate would have it, the team selected him with the 58th pick. Maybe they facebooked him? As for his summer league, he had one really bad game, shooting 1-of-12, so his 41.4 percent from the field is thrown off a bit by that outlier. Thomas was responsible with the ball, turning it over just 1.4 times per game while really showing a litany of ways to score the ball. He’s behind Kawhi Leonard and he’ll probably be up and down with the Spurs and the D-League with Gregg Popovich’s resting of his players.

I really liked what I saw out of Marcus Denmon. He was a bit trigger happy in the last three games with 21 attempts from downtown, but he did make nine of them. He’s D-League bound, though. Aron Baynes is a large man. He’s listed at 6’10” and 260, but he’s kind of a lean 260. He was just overpowering guys in the paint to help him account for 10.5 boards and 1.2 blocks. If Tim Duncan breaks down, he could be worth monitoring.

Raptors- Jonas Valanciunas owned Las Vegas like Sam "Ace" Rothstein. Sure, that’s a little like taking on a team of five-year-old kids for JV, but it’s still impressive. He took home MVP honors for the Las Vegas Summer League and there won’t be any objection here. Valanciunas put everything on display: creative post moves, he wouldn’t budge on D and was in favorable position for rebounds. He has everything you’ll want in a fantasy center with terrific percentages, some blocks and of course the points and boards will be there. Anyone will have a tough time outbidding me on Valanciunas this year.

As far as personal favorites go, Dwight Buycks is my guy and I was blowing up some timelines with my obsession on Twitter. By the way, his name is pronounced “bikes.” He was such a treat to watch and he didn’t seem to care about anything like the Honey Badger. The 6’3” guard was going up for rebounds with the big bodies, he was putting moves on top of moves to get to the basket, had all sorts of nifty finishes around the rim, was hitting fadeaway stepback treys and playing some sticky perimeter D. On top of all that, he led Vegas in both points per game with 23.0 and assists per game at 7.0. The Raptors picked him up after the Marquette product had an encouraging outing in Orlando with the Thunder. He had a 12-assist, two-turnover game to start his Orlando stay and didn’t really cool off much. At the time of the signing, the Raptors were expected to make him their backup point guard, but the acquisition of D.J. Augustin may have changed that outlook. Of course, DJA is far from a stud and Buycks would probably get the first look at point guard should the oft-injured Lowry miss time. There's a small sample size on Buycks, but he looks to be a better facilitator than Augustin. We’ll be tracking him.

Terrence Ross was entertaining in warmups and he was doing some 360 dunks in layup lines. His numbers were solid at 12.6 points, 4.8 boards, 1.4 steals and 0.6 triples. He still had too many errors in his rookie season to be considered as a regular part of Toronto’s rotation.

Quincy Acy is going to move to small forward, which is really another negative to the high-flying Ross. Acy had a confident look about him and he was throwing his weight around in the paint while still taking his fair share of mid-range jumpers. He also took 11 attempts from beyond the arc, making just two of them. There won’t be enough support to draft him in almost any league, though.

Jazz- Ah, Trey Burke. On draft night, our entire Rotoworld team had Burke as the number one fantasy prospect while Bovada had him as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He had by far the most disappointing summer league, shooting 24.1 percent on his 54 attempts including 5.3 percent from downtown.  Burke had just 4.0 assists to go with his 8.8 points and he really looked undersized. He was able to get around some perimeter defense, but once he got within around 12 feet of the hoop, the D just ate him alive. This will bring his lack of size to the foreground. I’m not ready to completely soften my stance on the Naismith Award winner, but we’ll need to see a positive training camp and preseason out of him to get him back in our good graces.

Alec Burks was on the other end of the spectrum and had a nice couple games. He was hurt in his first game with a mild ankle sprain, so his averages are thrown off a bit. In his last two games, he averaged 16.0 points and was handling the ball alongside Burke. Burks’ jumper still hasn’t come around, but there might be some minutes for him. Furthermore, if Burke struggles, Burks could get some extra ball handling duties. Also, I may have mistyped Burke/Burks about four times in these two paragraphs.

Wizards- Otto Porter strained his hamstring a couple times, so we really didn’t get a good look at him. From what I saw, he played more of an outside-in game and didn’t really battle for short-range shots.  He’s got a little bit of everything in his game, so even 26 minutes per game could be enough for him to have value in standard leagues.

Glen Rice Jr. certainly looked like a kid that had a dad in the NBA. He was doing the pop-a-shot 3s in transition and had a noticeable amount of swagger. Rice did rip up the D-League last season, scoring 25.0 points per game with 9.5 boards. He’s got talent, but the Wizards have a player with more talent in Bradley Beal.

Jan Vesely was actually great in Vegas. Like, shockingly great. His shot selection was sublime and he shot 58.1 percent from the field. That said, if he shot 100.4 percent from the field, he still wouldn’t have enough fantasy value.

Well, nothing like ending an NBA Summer League recap quite like finishing with Jan Vesely. I hope you got something out of all this and that your watch list this season will be the biggest you've ever had. Moving forward, the Rotoworld team is working hard in getting our NBA Draft Guide completed. It's going to be loaded with info, so we'll be providing updates on when you can pick it up.

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