NBA Summer League Day 1
I’ll be in Las Vegas for the entirety of the NBA Summer League, attending and writing about all of the Bulls’ games among others.
Game 1: New York Knicks vs. Dallas Mavericks
Eric Griffin on the Mavericks squad is a freak athlete who had a monster slam. He followed up with a nice game on Saturday vs. Timberwolves.
The Knicks had a few notable players in today’s game. Tim Hardaway Jr. had a game high 25 points shooting, but only scored 15 points on his 15 field goal attempts. Hardaway shot the ball nearly every time it touched his hands and took a ton of poor shots (3-10 from 3pt range). Shooters gon’ shoot! Cleanthony Early had a nice all around game from Early on both the offense and defense ends. Early drained three out of four three-pointers and finished off with 13 points and 2 blocks. If Early can shoot like he did on Friday, the Knicks got themselves a steal in the second round. In our staff mock draft, I had Early going 23rd to the Jazz. Check out the mock draft here. Finally, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who was easily the most emotional player I saw all day. He definitely left everything he had on the court and his passion for the game was evident. After picking up his 6th foul in just ten minutes of play, Thanasis had to be reminded by Cleanthony Early that he still had four more fouls left. If you are unfamiliar with the NBA Summer League rules, check them out here.
Outside of Eric Griffin taking flight for a jam over Shane Larkin, the Mavericks squad seemed unimpressive. However, they did bring in a little guy named Yuki Togashi, who stands just 5’5, for a 3-day camp tryout.
Game 2: Toronto Raptors vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Randle still hasn’t signed his contract, so he did not play. This left the Lakers with a boring sub-par team. Randle will likely make his NBA Summer League debut on Sunday versus the Pelicans. Jordan Clarkson had a nice game for the Lakers, leading the team in points with 21. He showed off some serious athleticism. Look for him to compete for a spot on the Lakers roster.
Bruno Caboclo was the most interesting player in this game and was unknown to most NBA fans just a couple of weeks ago, until the Raptors selected him with the 20th pick. The 18 year old elite athlete was termed “two years away from being two years away” during the NBA Draft, but was also compared to Kevin Durant. I could definitely see where the KD comparisons come from and he didn’t look all that far away from the league for someone who is just 18. Caboclo started at center, but had no problem bringing the ball down the court. His shot is smooth and he drained both of the three pointers he took in the game. With a 7’7 wingspan and a still growing body, the sky is the limit for Caboclo.
Northwestern Grad John Shurna played very well of the bench for the Raptors. He made five three pointers on 6-9 shooting and finished with a team high 21 points. Shurna also had three steals and two blocks and was a terrific two-way player in this game. Shurna came off the bench with a spring in his step. Keep an eye on him as a potential replacement for Steve Novak, who was traded to Utah on Thursday.
Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This was the matchup everyone was waiting for and the 3,500 seat Cox Pavilion was filled to capacity more than an hour before tipoff. Why they didn’t have the game at the neighboring Thomas & Mack Center, nobody knows. Wiggins vs. Jabari lived up to the hype in a primetime matchup that went down to the wire.
Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett lead the way for the Cavaliers. Number one picks in back to back years of Canadian decent, Wiggins and Bennett were the leading scorers for the Cavs and led them to a win. While Bennett looked very winded towards the end of the game, he is down 15 pounds, and appears to be in great shape. Wiggins had a solid all around game, but only shot 1-8 from deep. Anthony Bennett had a couple of big dunks.
Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo lead the way for the Bucks. Both had 17 points and played well. Giannis shot 2-5 from deep. There seemed to be a trend on day one of big men draining threes. Jabari and the Greek Freak should be a dominant combo for years to come. Whether or not the Bucks can surround the two of them with the right players is another question.
Game 4: Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs
There wasn’t much about this game that stood out in particular. Except that Demarcus Cousins was sitting courtside with Vivek Ranadive, the Sacramento Kings new owner. That stood out to me because Cousins was one of the biggest men in the building and Vivek was one of the smallest. They sat together and talked throughout the game. Vivek reminds me a bit of Mark Cuban, without the loud mouth. Notable players for the Kings included: Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas.
Kyle Anderson played alright for the Spurs, dishing out six of their twelve assists. However, he only had six points and four rebounds. Anderson has found himself in an ideal situation on the San Antonio Spurs and as long as he puts the work in, he’ll have a successful NBA career.
I can only be at one game at a time, which is why you may notice games are left out of my recaps. On to day two.
NBA Summer League Day 2
Game 1: Atlanta Hawks vs. Washington Wizards
On the day former Wizards SF Trevor Ariza signed a contract with the Houston Rockets, Otto Porter shined. Porter finished with a game high 25 points, while Glen Rice Jr. chipped in 22. The Hawks were the inferior team Saturday, partially due to poor performances from Dennis Schroder and Adreian Payne, who combined to shoot 7-28 from the field.
Walter Taveres, who was drafted 43rd overall in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Hawks, was interesting to watch. Taveres stands 7’3 with a 7’9 wingspan, which is the largest in the NBA. He played pretty well in just ten minutes of play and while he is definitely not NBA ready, it’s a nice 2nd round stash for the Hawks.
Former NBA players Sam Cassell and Al Harrington are both assistants on the Wizards summer league coaching staff.
Game #2: Dallas Mavericks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
The first play of the game was an alley-oop from Alexey Shved to Zach LaVine. On paper, the Timberwolves have one of the best starting fives in the summer league, which includes: Shabazz Muhammed, LaVine, Glen Robinson III, Shved, and Gorgui Dieng. With the exception of Robinson, all of them had very nice offensive nights. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they cannot play defense. It was embarrassing how the Mavericks were able to do whatever they wanted to on the court. This was much different from the Mavs/Knicks game yesterday. It should be interesting to see how the Timberwolves adjust to their defensive deficiencies as the summer league moves forward.
Muhammed had 27 points and 11 boards, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Mavericks. Ricky Ledo and Bernard James lead the way with 21 points apiece. Eric Griffin was not far behind with an efficient 17 points off the bench. For the second day in a row, Griffin showed off his elite athleticism. If Griffin keeps it up, he’ll be on a teams opening day roster.
Game #3: Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The writeup you all came here to see. For anyone watching the game, there was no doubt who the best player on the court was today. It was Tony Snell, who had a game high 27 points. He sunk 5-7 three point shots and had a very good all around game.
If Snell is able to come in and provide an offensive spark, in addition to his defense, its going to be icing on an already tasty cake. The defense is set and the Bulls will be one of the best defensive teams in the league. If Rose can get help from Snell in addition to Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott, and potentially Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are going to have some serious offensive firepower in addition to their stacked defense.
Doug McDermott played alright scoring 10 points, with 5 boards, and 4 dimes. I couldn’t help, but be impressed with the Bulls other draft pick – Cameron Bairstow. Bairstow has Chicago Bull written all over him. He’s tough and doesn’t ever back down on D. From what I’ve seen he has a very high basketball IQ on the defensive end and makes the right decisions. What he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in hustle.
With Pau Gasol now a member of the Chicago Bulls, Taj Gibson one or two on the PF depth chart, Mirotic potentially coming over from Europe, and it looking more and more likely that Boozer will remain on the roster, there doesn’t seem to be any room for Bairstow in the rotation. If there is a spot open, I see Bairstow grabbing it.
Barring injury or front office moves, no one on the Bulls Summer League roster have a chance to make the actual roster outside of Snell, McDermott, and Bairstow.
Reinsdorf is not giving up on a Carlos Boozer trade and will do anything he can to avoid paying Boozer to play for another team. Unfortunately for the stingy Chicago Bulls owner, time is running out. Reinsdorf has until Wednesday to amnesty Boozer and after that, keeping him or trading him are the only two options.
If Mirotic comes over, even without Boozer, there is a bit of a logjam at the power forward position. The Boozer signing was a mistake and sometimes you’ve got to know when to cut your losses. If the Bulls keep Boozer on their roster, they will almost certainly be in the luxury tax and that doesn’t even account for Nikola Mirotic and his potential contract. Even though they would not yet be eligible for the repeater tax, the Bulls would likely be spending between $1.75 and $2.50 for every dollar over the luxury tax they end up. I’ve explained much of this in my three part offseason thoughts series.
In Reinsdorf’s eyes, getting rid of Boozer will cost him more money than paying the tax next year, while not improving their championship chances. If they had already amnestied him, they could have signed a guy like Paul Pierce. They also could have traded away Taj Gibson, brought Mirotic over, and signed either Luol Deng, Evan Turner, Trevor Ariza, or some of the other free agent with their cap space. I have no doubt the Bulls Front Office is working tirelessly to figure out a solution to the logjam at PF and the Carlos Boozer situation, so I will let them handle it and move on to the last summer league game I attended on Saturday.
Game #4: Utah Jazz vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Jazz: Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, and Rodney Hood were the most notable players on the Jazz. Gobert, the player with the 2nd largest wingspan in the NBA, played well. While he shot poorly from the free throw line (3-9), he did just about everything else well. A first round draft pick in 2013, Gobert is a talented, lanky Frenchman who will likely see increased minutes this year, especially with the Jazz losing Marvin Williams to the Hornets.
Rodney Hood had his moments, but didn’t play to his strengths. He shot 1-10 from three point range, but nearly every time he drove to the basket, it resulted in points. Hood has upside, he just needs to figure out what works and what doesn’t. At this point, his range from the NBA three point line is not working.
While it didn’t show in the box score, I was impressed with Exum in my first time seeing him live. He is lightning fast and displayed solid court vision. However, Exum is skin and bones, and will need to bulk up in order to keep up with players in the NBA.
Sean Kilpatrick dropped 20 points on the Jazz very efficiently in just 24 minutes of play. There were plenty of times when Kilpatrick was the best player on the court – when Exum and Burke were also out there. Kilpatrick is a bit small for a shooting guard, but he is a pure scorer, and with some hard work on the defensive end, he should fine a spot in the league. Jordan McRae also scored 20 points for the Sixers.
Nerlens Noel did not play for the Sixers on Saturday.