July 24, 2012
By Joe Kotoch
For much of the past two weeks, Orlando and Las Vegas have been home to the NBA Summer League and the writers of Pro Basketball Draft. One constant throughout each Summer League has been the scrappy nature of the players on the rosters. Many players have taken advantage of the opportunity to be showcased in front of the basketball world. International coaches, scouts, GMs, agents, and media have watched their every move. Some players rose to the occasion while others shriveled. Here is a look at some of the top performers at the Summer League and some who failed to take advantage of their opportunity.
Markieff Morris, PF, Phoenix - Morris was sensational in Las Vegas. Morris did it all scoring, defending, crashing the glass, and showing range on route to averaging 20 and 10. Expectations should be high in Phoenix this year as Morris should have plenty of touches playing alongside Kendall Marshall.
Tobias Harris, SG, Milwaukee - Harris looked rather impressive in most of the games he played. Whether crashing the boards, facing up or scoring in the paint Harris showed why John Hammond is high on him. Averaging 20 and 7 with over a block a game and shooting over 50% from the field and 33% from 3 will force the league to take notice regardless of the setting.
Damian Lillard, PG, Portland - What else needs to be said other than Lillard was named co-MVP on his way to averaging 27.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, and 4.0 rpg. Lillard scored all over the court had command of a young Blazers team and verified GM Neal Olshey's belief that Lillard was worthy of a top-6 pick and can be a potential All-Star PG.
John Henson, PF, Milwaukee - Henson looked NBA-ready with his ability to lockdown defensively and alter shots and opened some eyes with a nice pick and pop jumper. Very solid and should give the Bucks flexibility on the defensive end.
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Houston - Lamb was smooth-scoring all week in Las Vegas on his way to averaging 20 a night. For a guard, Lamb was efficient as a shooter and fluid offensively in getting his shot off.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Charlotte - The good part of MKG's summer league was that he did everything for the Bobcats in a win over the Kings. MKG looked the part of an All-Star for one game. Sadly, that was all the Bobcats wanted to see as they shut him down for the remainder of Summer League. Nonetheless, MKG wowed and could be the biggest threat to Damian Lillard as a potential Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate.
Bradley Beal, SG, Washington - Beal was impressive scoring 17.6 ppg and grabbing 4.6 rpg on a Wizards team filled with NBA players. Beal didn't shoot great but did score well enough to make the future very exciting in DC.
Tyler Zeller, C, Cleveland - Zeller was a solid big man in Vegas, which you don't see often. Zeller scored in the paint, facing the basket, off the pick and pop, and was a good rebounder. Taking into account Zeller's age and polish still does not diminish what he did. Zeller should be the starter in Cleveland right away.
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Houston - Averaging 16 and 8 a night while shooting over 60% from the field will get any big notice. In Motiejunas' case he looked very good offensively and could be a great weapon in Houston or an asset to acquire Dwight Howard.
Josh Selby, SG, Memphis - Not sure if I actually saw Selby miss a shot in Las Vegas as he shot 55% from the field and 64% from 3 on his way to 27.5 ppg. Add in 2.5 steals per game and Selby looks ready to step in and replace O.J. Mayo in Memphis. Selby was excellent at creating his own shot.
Jae Crowder, SF, Dallas - Crowder had arguably the biggest highlight dunk in Vegas on a massive throwdown off a missed shot. Crowder was exactly what he showed himself to be in the Big East: a solid basketball player that will do all the dirty work necessary to help a team and can even shoot the 3. Should become a fan favorite pretty quickly in Big D.
Jimmy Butler, SF, Bulls - Butler averaged 20 ppg and 6.5 rpg while shooting great from the field in Vegas. With Derrick Rose out for an indeterminate amount of time the Bulls may need last year's first round pick to step up and help fill the scoring load.
Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland - Waiters was off his game in Las Vegas. While Waiters got to the rim he struggled to finish and was blocked an awful throughout the Summer League. Additionally, Waiters seemed to get locked into being a one-man scoring crew. Waiters finished the Summer League as a bystander with a injured knee.
Thomas Robinson, PF, Sacramento - Robinson seemed to have an identity crisis in Vegas. Robinson looked physically impressive and very athletic but he seemed to always push the fast break and often settled for a jump shot. Hopefully, these issues can be corrected before the regular season begins.
Fab Melo, C, Boston - Melo looks like a project and should benefit from time to develop. Offensively, Melo still has a ways to go to be a functionall starter but his size and potential warrant Boston taking things slowly.