Vegas Summer League wrapped up today with the Warriors taking the title after they cut down the Morris twin led Suns juggernaut in the championship game. Despite the increased number of teams and depth of talent, Vegas offered less intrigue than Orlando from a big man perspective. Between Drummond, Adams, Gobert and the Plumlee brothers, there was a lot of athletic talent nearing 7 foot in the baby Summer League. Vegas was more typical guard driven fare, with one notable exception from Lithuania….
Jonas replicated the sort of dominance Andre Drummond displayed in Orlando, laying waste to any and all opposition in an entirely dominant display. In a setting usually known for allowing flashy, ball-dominant guards to flourish, Valanciunas made his mark with his trademark efficient offense and stellar boardwork.
In less than 30 minutes a game he averaged almost 19 points and 10 boards while shooting 56% from the floor and almost 88% from the line. He threw in a couple of assists and a block a game too, just for good measure. His dominance wasn’t confined to the offensive end either, as he anchored the Raptors Summer League defense well, looking stronger in the post than he did as a rookie and using his mobility well in pick and roll situations.
A sloppy 5 turnovers a game and almost 6 personal fouls were the only mark on his resume in Vegas, and these can be somewhat excused given the offensive load he shouldered and the prevalence of penetrating guards seen at this event, which leads to high foul rates for most centers. Overall, Valanciunas showed why he was worth the wait for the Raptors, looking every bit the star he was projected to be coming out of Europe.
Second year Spurs big man Aron Baynes is much older than most of the competition he saw in Vegas and it showed. Baynes was able to use his mature frame and experience to repeatedly take advantage of the young bigs matched up against him. His production was solid across the board but his work on the glass stood out, as he raked in 10.5 boards in only 26 minutes a game. The highlight of his week was a 19 point, 15 rebound outing against the Atlanta Hawks and their first year center Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira. As the video above shows, Baynes frequently rebounded over and scored through the talented Brazilian rook, taking advantage of a clear strength disparity.
Throughout the week, Baynes showed the type of versatility, mobility and smarts that could help him contribute solid minutes for the Spurs this season, should Duncan or Splitter miss time. He even might force his way into some minutes playing alongside those two, if his form in Vegas is anything to go by.
Despite the beating he took at the hands of Aron Baynes, it was a solid introduction to the NBA for the guy they call Bebe. Following in the footsteps of team mate Larry Sanders, Nogueira had himself a block party in Vegas, showing off his absurd defensive potential. While the results were mixed, with a tendency to gamble both inside and on the perimeter leading to some highlight plays against him, the 2.4 blocks in 22 minutes of game time and surprising agility for a 7 footer gave us a glimpse of the type of player he could be for the Bucks in the future.
His offensive play was less exciting, with offensive putbacks and finishing chances created by fellow foreigner and stand out rookie Dennis Schroeder constituting the bulk of his scoring. Nevertheless, he was one of the must see players in Vegas and out-performed many more experienced bigs while swatting his way through the week.
The talented but enigmatic Mr. Tyler showed NBA front offices he might be worth investing in at Summer League. After stringing together strong performances all week, Tyler finished it off by tuning up honour code violator Brandon Davies and the LA Clippers with an efficient 20 point, 2 block line.
His game seems to be maturing as he understands the importance of harnessing his athletic talents to help him produce in areas that will be attractive to NBA teams. His work in the paint for the Knicks Summer League team should have teams sitting up and taking notice. It should also put a return to Japan on hold for at least another year.
Meyers Leonard might be in the running for most perplexing Summer League performance, if that were a thing. For a 7 footer blessed with myriad athletic talents, that Leonard choose this week as the time to work on his three point shot confused fans and analysts alike. His FG% from 2 point range was solid at 56%, which is a good sign for the regular season when hucking up three pointers hopefully won’t be a priority. His touch inside and outside the paint as well as at the line is a strength and is the basis for his considerable upside at this end of the floor.
On the other end and on the boards, Leonard still looked raw and lacking in the type of instincts that make guys like Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas suck tantalising prospects. There were incremental improvements in his positioning in the post on D and finding someone to box out when a shot went up, but there is still a worrying avoidance of contact that makes his future effectiveness as an interior defender murky at best.
His final game – a 15 point, 13 rebound, 2 assist performance in which he looked more assertive and less hesitant – saved this from being a totally disappointing week for Leonard. Nevertheless, his improvement in terms of offensive decision making and versatility is matched by continued lack in those same areas at the other end of the court and it will be interesting to see if this continues to be the case when the season proper begins.
Tyler Zeller had a disappointing rookie season, coming in as a polished four year big man yet looking unprepared for the physicality of the NBA in an inefficient first year for the Cavs. He didn’t look markedly improved in Vegas, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers while still lacking the type of bankable skills necessary for him to be a solid rotation player in the future.
As a 23 year old sophmore slotting into the rotation behind two injury prone centers in Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao, Zeller will likely get some decent run this year but whether he’s ready to grasp that oppurtunity is still up in the air and his performance at Summer League did nothing to change that.
Entering his third year, Bismack Biyombo needs to take a leap forward on both ends to avoid being labelled a bust. His play in Vegas followed a similar formula for the Congolese big man, as he averaged more rebounds than points and displayed a worrying tendency to cough the ball up. He did add a new wrinkle though, as he finished his offensive opportunities well, shooting 70% for the week.
Whether Biyombo can stick in an NBA rotation or even in the league will depend on him becoming less of a negative presence on the offensive end. With that said, it’s on the defensive end that Bismack can really make his mark. Turning potential into production will be key in this regard, as his Bobcats have been abysmal defensively two straight season with him playing most of their center minutes. For Bismack Biyombo, the long climb to relevance continues.
The 2012 College DPOY got surprisingly little run for the Pelicans Summer League outfit, recording just 18 minutes a game. Nevertheless, he managed to produce some nice highlights while he was out there, chief among them the double rejection seen above. Other than putting his shot-blocking prowess on display, Withey had a run of the mill Summer League, producing solid but not particularly prolific numbers in the scoring and rebounding columns while missing over half his shots. On the plus side, Withey kept his turnover and fouling rates low, two qualities he displayed at Kansas that Pelicans fans will be hoping translate when the real games start.
Perhaps it was Withey’s late introduction to the Pelicans, being part of a post-draft trade from Portland, that limited his minutes in Vegas but in any case it is strange to see a player who will likely be part of an NBA rotation this coming season averaging under 20 minutes in Summer League. It’s hard to grade Withey’s performance given his limited playing time but in the end both the promising signs you’d expect from a four year collegian and the question marks that allowed him to drop to the 2nd round showed through.
After going undrafted out of USC, Dewayne Dedmon came to Vegas looking for a training camp invite and left after making somewhat of an impression, to both the good and the bad. Dedmon was strong on the glass all week and finished his Summer League with a nice efficient 13 point, 8 board line against the Bulls. Unfortunately he fouled like it was going out of fashion, racking up 4.5 a game in only 16 minutes of floor time. Even Roy Hibbert and Greg Oden’s rookie foul rates look good by comparison. Ultimately Dedmon probably flashed enough grit on the boards to justify a training camp invite but it will be an uphill battle to make it onto an NBA roster for a guy as raw as he is at his age.
After being bumped down to the 2nd best Canadian big man out of Gonzaga in the NBA after Kelly Olynyk’s Orlando Summer League takeover, Sacre had a lot to prove in Vegas. What he showed was that maybe he should stick to the sideline celebration antics that made him a legend (seriously). That might be a little harsh but he’s almost 24 and just averaged more fouls than points in Summer League, while shooting a scorching 46%. He had one nice game against the Bulls but the rest tended towards the forgettable, as his career likely will.
Overall, Vegas Summer League was a case of Jonas and the rest, with no overwhelmingly impressive performances coming from anyone but the Raptors franchise center. If Summer League is any indication, Valanciunas and Drummond will continue their rise into the upper echelon of NBA centers and may vie for All-Star berths before their rookie contracts are up. The rest fall into a far less certain realm where optimism over endearing strengths is tempered by worrisome lacks in vital areas.