Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It was a good week for the NBA D League

Santa Cruz gym is a big barn.
The 2015 D-League Showcase is in the books. The annual extravaganza for the only minor league directly affiliated with the NBA was a success by all accounts. The concept is simple. Bring all the D-League teams to one location (this year, Santa Cruz, CA.). Hoop for five days, (conveniently right after NBA squads are allowed to sign players to ten-day contracts). Give the league added national television exposure via NBA-TV, and celebrate as players are called up to the "big leagues". 

This year, the Showcase was even better and more competitive thanks to a tournament format that had teams competing for the Showcase Cup. Bonus money was on the line. The result was players playing with sustained defensive intensity, something minor league basketball is not known for. 

During the course of the last week, five players earned "call-ups" to the NBA: James Michael McAdoo, JaMychal Green, Larry Drew II, Dahntay Jones, and Quincy Miller. Does that mean the cupboard is bare now? Not at all. There are players who are eligible to be signed to ten day contracts, and there are players who are "on assignment" that will continue to make the D-League an excellent place to see quality hoops. 

Two guys, that were a part of the Showcase, stand out as the most efficient players in the D-League this season: Quincy Miller, and Clint Capela. Capela is a 20 year-old on assignment from the Houston Rockets. Miller was nabbed by the Sacramento Kings after a ridiculously efficient performance Friday night as a member of the Reno Big Horns. In a win over Westchester, Miller scored 35 points (12-15 FG, 5-6 3-pt. FG, 6-6 FT), added eight rebounds, and blocked NINE shots in 27 minutes!

Archie Goodwin, on assignment from the Phoenix Suns, was named Most Valuable Player of the Showcase Cup. Goodwin is just 20 years old. He continues to have the ability to get to the basket and score with ease. Goodwin averaged 23 points per game in Santa Cruz. 

Following the Showcase, here is how we rank the top-three players at each position... 

Jackson has the range to step out
Point Guards: The current crop of D-League point guards is solid, not spectacular. The NBA is full of great point guards. More than any other position, cracking an NBA lineup at PG is the toughest thing for a minor league prospect to do. It very rarely happens. If pressed to name the top three D-League PGs, we would go with Joe Jackson, Tim Frazier, and Nick Johnson (Vander Blue is right there too). Johnson is on assignment from the Houston Rockets, while Jackson, Frazier, and Blue could be had by anyone. 

  • Joe Jackson is 22 years old, out of Memphis. He went undrafted in 2014. Jackson is skilled but diminutive (6'0" 187 lbs.). He can shoot with accuracy (46% 3-pt, 82% FT, to date in the D-League.) Jackson is a good decision maker as well.  
  • Tim Frazier is 24 years old. He too is a bit small at 6'0", 162 lbs. Frazier doesn't shoot as well as Jackson but Frazier is a superior defender and Frazier has the potential to help as a rebounder from the guard spot. Frazier averages 6.6 rebounds per game. 
  • Nick Johnson, a Rockets second round pick in 2014, certainly has good size for the position at 6'3" 198 lbs. He just turned 22 year old. We would still like to see more aggression offensively from Johnson. He is a good enough athlete to force the issue more often. He needs to continue to work on tightening up his dribbling. 
Two Guards: If a player is in the D-League there is almost always a good reason why. In many cases it is because the player is a "tweener", someone in-between positions. 
  • Jordan Hamilton's natural position is small forward. But Hamilton has struggled shooting the deep ball as a pro (just 30.9% 3-pt. FG in the D-League). At Texas, from beyond the college arc, Hamilton was 37%, which is much more doable for a forward that should stretch the floor with his shooting. Running with Reno, Hamilton is presently in excellent condition. He looks fit and trim compared to the last time I saw him live. He currently has the same amount of assists and turnovers, so his decision making and ball skills are not so terrible that he can't play guard. Hamilton has never been known as a great defender but he CAN score. Since his defense is suspect, and because, in general, "two guards" are smaller than "small-forwards", I think the best option for Hamilton is 'shooting guard' where he has a chance to use his 6'7" height and overall length to help him as a defender against smaller players. ...The real point is... Hamilton is talented as a natural born scorer that also hits the glass (6.5 rebs per game). Coaches may have to be a bit creative to get him on the floor. 
  • Andre Emmett is still plugging away in the D-League. At age 32 Emmett continues to be rock-steady. At 6'5", 224 lbs, he has the prerequisite size to fit into an NBA game. He will give you an honest effort on defense. See Emmett highlights here.
  • Glen Rice Jr. can get a team buckets. His temper has gotten him a bit of a reputation but if a team thinks they can work with him, they probably should. Rice is 6'6", 206 lbs. He just turned 24 years old. He can score. He can shoot the three-ball well. He has more assists than turnovers. 
Small Forwards

Quincy Miller recently made his Kings debut.
  • Quincy Miller, as mentioned above, was signed to a ten-day contract by the Sacramento Kings. Miller was averaging 26 points per game for Reno on efficient shooting (52% FG, 35% 3-pt., and 89% FT). It is easy to forget that Miller tore his ACL during his Senior year of high school. He played just one year at Baylor and bolted early to the NBA. He was the eighth pick of round two in 2012. Had Miller stayed in college, he would be a Senior this season. Kudos to the Kings for snatching him up. Now they need to find a way to keep him around. His upside is too big to not be in the NBA full time. (See Miller's wide variety of skills here.)
  • Taylor Griffin is the brother of Blake Griffin. Taylor is now 28 years old. He was drafted in the second round in 2009. Coming out of college Taylor could not shoot the deep ball with any accuracy. Now, Taylor Griffin has improved his three point percentage for four consecutive seasons. At 6'7" 235 lbs. Griffin can guard wing players or smaller BIGs. He is an outstanding defender that has improved his shooting to the point that I think he should be in line for a possible NBA opportunity. 
  • Renaldo Balkman is now 30 years old. The former Knicks first round pick (20th in 2006) is still the same bundle of energy that he has always been. He creates havoc as a defender and he has shown an improved three point stroke (36% to date this D-League season). 
Capela will be a star.
Power Forwards: Over the years we have noticed that the easiest position to fill is power forward. There seems to never be a shortage of guys who are not long enough to play Center but can hold their own with rebounding ability and a desire to mix it up. The D-League has three "Fours" that we like. 
  • Clint Capela was mentioned at the top of this blog as one of the two most efficient players in the D-League. I believe once he physically matures (he is just 20 years old) and his body becomes stronger, the Rockets will have, at minimum, a rotation player, and very possibly more. Capela, a 2014 NBA first round pick (#25), has touch around the hoop, combined with an extraordinary quickness to his second jump. Capela is shooting 58% FG (D-League stats). On Sunday night against mostly terrible Reno defense, Capela had 25 points (12-17 FG 1-2 FT), 17 rebounds, and four blocked shots in just 26 minutes! 
  • Willie Reed is 24 years old, and he continues to improve. He is shooting 65% FG, and his defensive rating is among the best in the D-League. Reed is averaging 13 points and eleven rebounds per game. The presence he provides on defense is real. (See video of Willie doing his thing on D.) 
  • Arinze Onuaku is a BIG that we think should/could be on an NBA roster. He is a full grown 27 year old that would be able to bang with anybody at the FOUR spot. He averages 18 points and 13 rebounds per contest. 
Centers
  • Earl Barron knows how to play. If pinned down to choose JUST ONE player, that remains a free agent in the D-League, we would roll with Earl Barron. He's not likely going to be much better, given that he is 30 years old. But if a team needs a veteran BIG that can be "plug and play", Barron is the one. He is liked by teammates, and he has enough skill and size to get the job done at Center. Standing 7'0", 245 lbs., Barron moves at the pace of an NBA veteran. It was no shock to see Bakersfield win the Showcase Cup, thanks, in large part, to Barron.  (See Earl in action
  • Sim Bhullar is better than he is given credit for being. While some see him as nothing more than a gimmick, I disagree. It is true that Sim is not going to win any contest that involves sprinting. He is slow in transition. However, as a specialist in half-court situations (say, as a defender against any inbound pass) BIG Sim would be helpful to an NBA team. And the notion that Sim could not exist AT ALL in "the fast paced NBA" is moot because we just saw him more than 'hold his own' in the hyper-speed pace of the Reno / Rio Grande matchup at the Showcase. The final score of that game was 160-153. Bhullar showed enough upper body quickness to go with his massive frame to allow him to block shots and rim-protect. He rebounds at a high rate. His screens are second to none at ANY level of pro basketball. Would you have to coach him in a unique way? Absolutely. But why not have a VALUABLE situational piece on your team in the 13th roster spot, as opposed to a player who rarely, if ever, impacts a game? 
  • Ognjen Kuzmic is a solid defender and he makes this list because the crop of Centers is not deep at all. Kuzmic is limited offensively and not dynamic enough at anything else at this stage of his career. Kuzmic did not score in 31 minutes of playing time Saturday at the Showcase. (To be fair - Kuzmic was being guarded by Hasheem Thabeet, an excellent defender). 
Outstanding Showcase performances: There were several stellar individual performances at the 2015 D-League Showcase. Sunday afternoon, Vander Blue was terrific in L.A.'s win over Delaware. Blue, listed at 6'5" 197 lbs. (he doesn't look that big to me), narrowly missed a triple-double. He scored 34 points, dished ten assists, and had eight rebounds in 39 minutes. Blue is certainly one of the best guards in the D-League. ...Saturday, Talib Zanna, (6'9" 232 lbs.), was brilliant in OKC's win. Zanna had 14 points (5-9 FG, 4-4 FT), nine rebounds and zero turnovers in 26 minutes. We rate Zanna as the fifth best prospect at PF. 

Notes and Tweets






Sunday, January 18, 2015

D League Showcase three days in

Annually I attend the NBA D-League Showcase, using it as a transition point in my "scouting calendar". From Summer League through the second week of January, it's all about the NBA. The D-League gets special attention at this time of year (totally due to the Showcase), and college hoops has "next" leading up to the NBA Draft. The beauty of doing it this way is the natural progression from seeing the first half of the NBA season (before losing front offices send the message to the coaching staff that wins do not matter), to the D-League, to college. My eyes and brain are NBA sharp as I enter the D-League Showcase.

It never takes long to see that the play from NBA to D-League can be easily summed up. The D-League just does NOT have the depth of quality BIGs you see from night to night in the NBA. There ARE big men in the D-League. Santa Cruz plays 7'0" 240 lb. Ognjen Kuzmic, and Hasheem Thabeet is also a D-League starter, at 7'2". But there just are not a bunch of super talented tall and wide players in the D League. Yesterday, I witnessed a Sioux Falls squad that played the majority of the game with a 6'8" guy (Shawn Jones) at Center. Meanwhile, opponent Earl Barron, a 6'11" 230 lb., veteran feasted in the paint. 

Westbrook is a "hyper-athlete"
The next obvious characteristic that separates the NBA from the D-League is the quantity of hyper-athletes.  The D-League has its fair share of athletic cats but the NBA has the THE best athletes in the world in my opinion. From Russell Westbrook to Eric Bledsoe, to Derrick Rose, to Blake Griffin, to LeBron James, and on and on and on, an elite level NBA athlete is easy to recognize. In the D-League, you can still see an athlete of that caliber but there are much fewer.   

Observations after three days: ...Jared Cunningham is a kid that should be in the NBA. He is simply too gifted to not have a chance at being a good NBA player. Yes, his shot selection can be sketchy. But a good coach can change that, or at least improve it to the point where Cunningham doesn't hurt a team by jacking an early three point shot. Cunningham is cat-quick, and he jumps with explosiveness. His creativity on the pick and roll will always give him a chance to score. ...Earl Barron is what he is. He is 33 years old. Upside is not a part of the discussion. That said, I think he could help an NBA team as a rotation BIG. ...Willie Reed and Arinze Onuaku are also ready to make NBA teams. With any NBA attrition, Reed or Onuaku should be in line to be called up. ...I STILL like Renaldo Balkman's game. He is all over the court. ...Omari Johnson (Oregon State) had an impressive game Friday. He had 26 points in 27 minutes, knocking down six threes. Johnson is now 25 years old. He was draft eligible in 2011. ...Santa Cruz as host is completely different than Reno. The plus/minus on that will be explored in a later blog.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

2015 D League Showcase Preview

The annual NBA D-League Showcase moves from Reno, Nevada to Santa Cruz, California for 2015 and it offers some structural changes as well. For the first time, a tournament format will be used with the top eight teams advancing to the championship round of play. The focus on team play is welcomed and should be applauded. In past D-League Showcases we have seen players "going for their own" too often. 

Prior to the Showcase we do an audit of the D League stats, year-to-date, and try to enter the 2015 Showcase as "data informed" as we can be. We continue to believe that data can be a useful tool but it must be combined with a "feel" and a dose of common sense when scouting professional basketball is concerned. 

The D-league can be a source for help to an NBA roster. In many instances, the youngest players on NBA rosters are not much better, if better at all, than the top D-Leaguers. Last season, Shabazz Muhammad and Rudy Gobert used the Showcase to shine. DeWayne Dedmon was still property of the Santa Cruz Warriors. He has since parlayed that into a gig with the Orlando Magic. 

I was hoping to see Joe Alexander play this time around but the Santa Cruz Warriors forward signed a deal to play in Israel through April. Alexander, now 28 years old, had started to show NBA worthy ability. 

This year - here are the players we are particularly interested in seeing again... 

McAdoo is on the verge
James Michael McAdoo - Santa Cruz 6'9" 229 PF ... I wasn't sold on him at North Carolina but McAdoo is making me re-think. McAdoo has one of the strongest defensive ratings in the D-League. He can score despite not shooting the three-ball at all. He has improved from being a 56% free throw shooter in college to now hitting 72%. That is HUGE because he does get to the line often. He is getting closer to being good enough as a decision maker to have a shot at playing on an NBA team. He currently has as many assists as turnovers through 16 D-League contests.  His standing reach of 8'10.5" is the same as Kyle O'Quinn and Quincy Acy which helps explain why McAdoo is blocking shots left and right. 

Willie Reed - Grand Rapids 6'10" 220 PF ...The "stretch four" fascination in the NBA is working against Reed, now 24 years old, and continuing to improve. He is shooting 70% FG and he gobbles up rebounds, especially on the offensive end. He plays solid defense. Reed is averaging 13 points and eleven rebounds per game but his shooting range is limited. He still can't make free throws (47%), and his decision making is suspect. 

JaMychal Green - Austin 6'9" 220 PF ...The reigning D-League Player of the Month, Green is playing with absurd efficiency. He is averaging 22.5 points, and eleven rebounds per game on the season for the Spurs affiliate. He does not have reliable range out to the three point line but he does have touch for a BIG. He shoots 80% FT (career). Green is 24 years old. 

Talib Zanna - Oklahoma City 6'9" 232 PF ...Zanna was draft eligible in 2014 out of Pittsburgh. He is shooting 63% FG while averaging 12 points and ten boards for the OKC Blue. He leads the D-League in offensive rebounding (total). 

Tim Frazier - Maine 6'1" 170 PG ...Frazier is a guy capable of putting up a triple-double in any game he plays in. His one weakness is his deep shooting, otherwise I think he would already have an NBA gig. Frazier is averaging 16 points, eight assists, and six rebounds per game. 

The D-League Showcase begins January 15 and runs through the 19th. For more information and to purchase tickets please follow this link.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 NBA Las Vegas Summer League Stat Audit

NBA Summer League has come a long way! In the mid 1980's, Summer League was made up of pros and amateurs. It was slightly organized; basically pick up games with little, to no, defense. Referees were local guys you would see calling high school games. The exposure level was minimal. Local public access television stations taped a game or two for viewing weeks later, and if an intern was on it, the old-school boxscore would make it's way into the local newspaper.  

Now, 26 of the 30 NBA teams show up in Las Vegas to play highly organized games with deep coaching staffs, refs who are being trained by the likes of Joey Crawford, and ALL the games are broadcast worldwide. An international array of scouts combine in the desert to evaluate players. 

True, Summer League is still largely made up of athletes who will not be on NBA rosters when late October rolls around. Nevertheless, our love for basketball, and curiosity for how players we've followed will fare in this organized setting, is compelling enough for us to invest a significant amount of time in scouting the games. 

Each year of the Las Vegas Summer League - we do a "stat audit" after the dust has settled to see if what we thought we were observing with the naked eye matches what the numbers say. I justify the time and effort spent by simply wanting to be as informed as possible about all prospects. I continue to be a strong believer in being "data informed". When you can combine, serious observation (with note-taking), data, and a dash of common-sense - you become an educated scout. And sometimes the educated scout disagrees with the "herd". The "herd" in this instance is whatever was said, and repeated on "mass-media" websites such as NBA-TV, NBA.com, ESPN.com, etc..., 

All you really need to know about what you are about to read is that we are not paid by any team, agent, or media outlet. We watched and took notes on games, and then followed up each day with a report on the most efficient players at each position. The final step of this evaluation was to review notes, and manually punch in all the numbers for the 239 players who played at least 40 minutes. (See that spreadsheet here

Our findings... 

The player that best combined efficiency with overall production: Donatas Motiejunas - Houston. ...Motiejunas showed that he CAN play center and provide enough offense to impact a game. He has court-sense and vision, and more importantly, he has size. Motiejunas is listed at 7'0" 221. He looks heavier than that to me now that he is carrying what I call "man-weight" ...He averaged 16.8 points (59% FG), and 8.1 rebounds per game. 

Moreland looked like an NBA BIG. 
The most efficient player on the team that won the championship (Sacramento) was Eric Moreland. The undrafted rookie free agent from Oregon State was lively, coming off of the Kings bench to provide instant energy and a defensive presence. Moreland blocked 16 shots in 115 minutes of play to easily lead the Las Vegas Summer League in blocked shots per minute. 

Hoop Obsession All NBA Las Vegas Summer League

First team: Ray McCallum - Kings, Glen Rice Jr. - Wizards, Otto Porter Jr. - Wizards, Josh Davis - Hornets, Donatas Motiejunas - Rockets 

Second team: Isaiah Canaan - Rockets, Tony Snell - Bulls, Austin Daye - Spurs, Quincy Acy - Kings, Gorgui Dieng - Wolves

Third team: Tyler Johnson - Heat, Tim Hardaway Jr. - Knicks, Tyler Honeycutt - Heat, Mike Muscala - Hawks, Bernard James - Mavs. 

Opinion Shifts

While Summer League allows us another look at players, it should always be kept in perspective. The sample size is small. Players are not going through the grind of an 82-game season. The entire Las Vegas competitive period lasts just eleven days. For most teams it was over in eight days. That said, ANY chance to further your "feel" for a player should be welcomed. It is hard to ignore the the shifts in opinion that a scout may have based on intently watching a player play for even as little as 150 minutes. 

So how did OUR opinion shift? Below are thoughts on players and how we changed our mind a bit on certain aspects of their game. 

Ray McCallum certainly gained an "uptick" in my brain. The Sacramento Kings backup point guard had his foot on the throttle and showed that he can be just dynamic enough as a scorer to give himself a chance in the NBA. He will HAVE TO bring that aggressive mentality to the NBA seasons ahead of him to properly complement the rest of his overall game. I never had a question about his ability to be a point guard and run a team. 

DeAndre Liggins was on the verge of being a NBA rotation player I thought (entering Vegas play). Now, I'm not so sure. Liggins is a terrific defender but every player of the floor has to show me enough ability to contribute offensively too. Liggins shot 38% FG in Vegas, and he had more turnovers than assists. ...Perhaps he was fatigued from having just played in Orlando. He did play ten games in 14 days in two cities. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't downgrade him. 

 Porter looked good in Vegas.
Otto Porter Jr. regained the promise he showed as a star at Georgetown. Porter is healthy and he was in shape for the Vegas tournament. It showed in his play. I am back to bullish on Porter. 

Josh Davis of San Diego State is better than I realized. Davis stood out for being active and making plays without having any plays run for him. He should absolutely be in the development plans of an NBA team. 

Tony Snell is bigger, stronger and better than he was as a rookie or as a college player. His growth impressed me. He showed that he can be more than just a stand-still jump shooter. Snell had a 2.33-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Vegas and more importantly - he put the ball on the deck and earned free throw attempts. 

Tyler Johnson of Fresno State really impressed me. He is more athletic than I realized and his decision making and ability to score looked natural. Johnson is 6'4" 177 lbs. He outplayed Shabazz Napier badly on the Miami team. 

Three more guys who certainly gained traction in my mind: Shane Edwards, Justin Holiday, and Bryce Cotton. ...Edwards seemed to be in the right place at the right time all the time. He played within himself and feasted in transition. Last season, Edwards had a "cup of coffee" with the Cavs. He was waived after one ten-day contract. I think Edwards, at age 27, is a guy who is better than most of the 22 year-old "kids" who are being employed due to their potential. Edwards could probably have a positive impact on an NBA game due to his ability to contribute without having any plays run for him. ...Holiday was brilliant at times, showing that he now possesses enough consistency in his jump shot to warrant a further look. He has always been a high-level defender. He too is a guy that would complement any team that is filled with scorers. ...Cotton displayed the speed and quickness that good NBA guards have. He seemingly could get to any spot he wanted to. 

Defense matters

Aaron Craft was all over the floor!
We are always looking for players who can play defense effectively. Here are the players with the best defensive ratings at each position...

Best DEFRTG Centers: Ognjen Kuzmic 74.7, Rob Loe 82.2, Miles Plumlee 87, Rudy Gobert 87.8, Jordan Henriquez 89.7

Best DEFRTG Power Forwards: Thomas Robinson 80.8, Mitchell Watt 81.6, Anthony Bennett 82.2, Javon McCrea 85.6, Ivan Johnson 86.4 

Best DEFRTG Small Forwards: Rodney Carney 84, Eric Griffin 84.5, Christian Watford 84.9, Andrew Wiggins 86.8, C.J. Fair 88.7

Best DEFRTG Shooting Guards: Orlando Johnson 82.7, Rodney McGruder 85.4, Elijah Millsap 87, Justin Holiday 87.7, Ricky Ledo 89.2

Best DEFRTG Point Guards: Dee Bost - 83.5, Shane Larkin 87.4, Maalik Wayns 87.6, Matthew Dellavedova 88.3, Tim Frazier 89.4

The top five players in blocked shots per minute: Moreland, Travis Hyman - D League Select, Jerome Jordan - Lakers, Justin Hamilton - Miami, and Eric Griffin - Dallas.  

Aaron Craft was such a pest and is so relentless on defense that we truly believe he should be in the NBA specifically for special situations. If the opposing point guard is going off, sick Craft on him. He made the game virtually impossible for Dennis Shroder, one of the quickest young guards in the NBA. Craft's "plus/minus" was +34 in five games. His spirit, spunk, and energy would be welcome at practice every day too. 

The nitty gritty

The most efficient player overall was Justin Hamilton. However he only played 85 minutes. Nevertheless, Hamilton has improved tremendously since his LSU days. I don't see why he couldn't get some minutes in the NBA. 

The top five players in efficiency per-minute (80 mins. minimum): Hamilton, Rudy Gobert - Utah, Bernard James - Dallas, Glen Rice Jr. - Washington, and Keith Benson - Clippers. 

Whiteside has unteachable aspects to his game.
The best scorer per minute was Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Knicks. Hardaway is ultra-aggressive offensively. He scored 114 points (43 %FG, 38% 3-pt. FG, and 82% FT) in 133 minutes in Vegas play. 

The players with the top-five "points per minute" rates: Hardaway Jr., Glen Rice Jr. - Wizards, Jordan McRae - Sixers, T.J. Warren - Suns, Marshon Brooks - Kings. 

The player with the highest "rebounds per minute" rate: Hassan Whiteside - Toronto. ...Whiteside had 30 rebounds in 51 minutes. Yikers! Whiteside played well in China last season. Perhaps he will find his way back into the NBA. He's always been efficient. 

The top five players in rebounds per minute: Whiteside, Eric Moreland - Sac, Jerelle Benimon - Denver, Rudy Gobert - Utah, and JaMychal Green - San Antonio. 

The player with the highest "assist per minute" rate: Langston Hall - Miami. ...Hall dished eleven assists in 44 minutes. 

The top-five players in assists per-minute: Hall, Russ Smith - Pelicans, Chris Wright (Georgetown) - Nuggets, Lazeric Jones - Bulls, Roberto Nelson - Hornets. 

The player that attempted the most free throws per minute was DeQuan Jones of the Pelicans. ...The top-five in FTA per minute: Jones, Rice Jr., McRae, Andrew Wiggins - Cleveland, and Thomas Robinson of Portland.

The player with the best assist-to-turnover ratio (over 80 minutes played): Stephen Holt - Atlanta. Holt, from Saint Mary's, posted a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 119 minutes. ...The top-five in assist-to-turnover ratio: Holt, Bryce Cotton - San Antonio, Marcus Denmon - San Antonio, Lazeric Jones - Chicago, and Tyler Johnson - Miami. 

They did well with the minutes they were given... Here are the top seven players in efficiency per-minute who played between 40 to 79 minutes total: Hassan Whiteside .725, Shane Edwards .689, Trey Thompkins .653, James Ennis .578, Ronald Roberts Jr. .536, Jackie Carmichael .514, Josh Howard .510. 

What about the lottery picks? 

Nine of the 14, 2014 NBA Draft, lottery picks were on display in Las Vegas. Here is a brief synopsis of their respective efficiency and what we saw...

Warren gets buckets
T.J. Warren - Phoenix. EFR .613 ...He can score, score, score. And that's all he wants to do. He had one assist in 124 minutes of playing time. Warren has a mid-range game ready for the NBA, and in transition he was brilliant. 

Doug McDermott - Chicago. EFR .565 ...McDermott looked good. He played at NBA speed and knocked down free throws like Rick Berry or Mark Price. McDermott hit 22 of 23 foul shots (95% FT!). 

Jabari Parker - Milwaukee. EFR .427 ...Parker has fantastic ability with the ball in his hands. He will likely improve his efficiency if he gets into NBA shape. He is going to be a tough matchup for any defender. 

Zach LaVine - Minnesota. EFR .366 ...LaVine's ceiling is so high it is incredible to ponder how good he can become. He is not there yet. But he left no doubt about his special athletic gifts. It says here that LaVine, in hindsight, should have been selected much higher than 13th. 

Noah Vonleh - Charlotte. EFR .342 ...Vonleh displayed his good footwork in the low post and his outstanding reach that allows him to be effective around the hoop. While he was not efficient, it is nothing to worry about. 

Andrew Wiggins - Cleveland. EFR .342 ...Wiggins ceiling is unlimited. His step-back jumper is unguardable. We would expect him to find a way very soon to be efficient overall even if he was not in Las Vegas. His defense in Vegas was better than I expected it to be. 

Julius Randle - Lakers. EFR .330 ...Randle had some good moments. He also looked out of shape (by NBA standards). His decision making was suspect (six assists, 13 turnovers), and he only shot 41% FG. 

Nik Stauskas - Kings. EFR .272 ...Stauskas shot the three-ball very well (47%) but was not particularly productive for the over 200 minutes he played. 

Dante Exum - Jazz. EFR .180. ...Exum really struggled in Las Vegas. He was nowhere near the athlete that some had billed him to be. I was open-minded on Exum because the last time I saw him actually play in a game was the 2013 Hoop Summit. He was very good in that ONE game. In Las Vegas, Exum shot 30% FG, 18% 3-pt FG, and 64% FT in 133 minutes played. It is safe to say his shot is broken. 

It was not their week

They did not play well... A list of the 12 lowest (worst) efficiency ratings for players who played over 80 mins: Deonte Burton .030, Shabazz Napier .120, Scottie Wilbeken .126, Gilbert Brown .145, Matt Janning .153, Brandon Davies .156, Dante Exum .180, Lamar Patterson .191, James Michael McAdoo .200, Scott Suggs .202, Marcus Denmon .222, DeAndre Liggins .224. 

The All-Ole' Team. These players posted poor to downright worrisome defensive ratings: Abdul Gaddy 120.9, Josh Carter 119.7, Dwight Buycks 119.5, Malcolm Lee 119.3, Jordan Morgan 117.8, Darington Hobson 116, Quincy Miller 115.8, Carlon Brown 115.4, Brady Heslip 114.9, Patric Young 114, Cameron Ayers 113.8, Courtney Fells 113.5. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Triple OT! Rice Jr. fries Spurs on NBA Las Vegas Summer League day nine.

Glen Rice Jr. has attitude.
The most entertaining game we saw in the 2014 NBA Summer league took place Saturday as the Washington Wizards outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 95-94 in triple overtime. Glen Rice Jr. was the star of stars Saturday with 36 points (11-21 FG, 6-10 3-pt. FG, 8-13 FT), eleven rebounds, and four steals in 36 minutes. Rice is a cocky kid that seems on the verge of a technical foul at any moment. He is ultra aggressive offensively. 

Most efficient power forward on a winning team: Daniel Theis, Washington. ...Theis is a 6'9" athlete from Germany. Saturday he scored ten points (4-6 FG, 2-2 FT), snared eight boards, and blocked five shots in 22 minutes. Theis impressed us throughout summer league play with his quick jumping ability. He is just 22 years old. He went undrafted in 2013. 

Most efficient center on a winning team: Donatas Motiejunas, Houston. ...Motiejunas continued his strong Vegas play Saturday by scoring 19 points (6-10 FG, 2-2 3-pt. FG, 5-9 FT) and grabbing 13 rebounds in the Rockets 78-71 victory over Atlanta. 

Most efficient small forward on a winning team: Otto Porter, Washington. ...Porter impressed us during Las Vegas Summer league Play each time he took to the court. He is now in NBA shape and it showed in his performance. Porter has fantastic basketball instincts. He makes the correct pass, or he can hurt opponents with his ability to score. Saturday, Porter scored 27 points (10-22 FG, 2-5 3-pt. FG, 5-7 FT), pulled in five rebounds, and had three assists in 35 minutes. ...While the Wizards losing Trevor Ariza is a big blow, the addition of Paul Pierce, and the promise of Porter being healthy and ready, should ease the impact (of Ariza's departure). 

Most efficient point guard on a winning team: Ray McCallum, Sacramento. ...McCallum scored five points, had five rebounds, and four assists with zero turnovers in 22 minutes Saturday. The Kings beat the Bulls easily 80-61. McCallum is as steady as they come. 

Seven more stars: 

Jeff Ayres - San Antonio. ...Ayres has a simple game. He rebounds, and defends and he doesn't take bad shots. Saturday he had eight points (3-6 FG, 2-2 FT), and 14 rebounds in 28 minutes. 

Cleanthony Early - New York. ...Early scored 15 points (6-11 FG, 0-1 3-pt. FG, 3-4 FT) and retrieved ten rebounds in the Knicks 82-79 loss to Charlotte. Early was the 34th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. 

Austin Daye - San Antonio. ...Daye, as an established NBA veteran, was simply more skilled than most of his opponents during Summer League. Saturday, Daye scored 27 points (8-18 FG, 1-4 3-pt. FG, 10-12 FT), grabbed seven boards and blocked two shots in 38 minutes. 

Shane Larkin - New York. ...Larkin is so speedy! He gets to pretty much any spot he wants to on the court due to his great quickness, and ball-handling ability. Larkin scored 16 points, added seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals Saturday, playing as the starting point guard for the Knicks summer team.  

Ben McLemore - Sacramento. ...McLemore was efficient Saturday in the Kings win. He scored eleven points (4-7 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 2-2 FT), and helped on the glass with four rebounds. More importantly, Ben dished three assists with only two turnovers in 23 minutes. 

Mike Muscala - Atlanta. ...Muscala scored 16 points (6-12 FG, 0-1 3-pt. FG, 4-5 FT) and grabbed seven rebounds in 26 minutes. 

Casey Prather - Atlanta. ...Prather is a guy NBA teams should be looking at to develop. He has NBA athleticism and strength at the TWO. Saturday, he scored 13 points (4-9 FG, 0-3 3-pt. FG, 5-5 FT) and added five rebounds in 23 minutes. Prather can defend well. The three point shot from NBA distance is something he may be able to develop. 

Notes: Three players (who played at least 20 minutes) posted "negative" efficiency ratings Saturday: Trevor Releford (out of shape), Billy Baron, and Austin Freeman. ...Doug McDermott did not play Saturday. He was being rested by Chicago due to a sore left foot. 



Monday, July 21, 2014

Las Vegas NBA Summer League. Stanford's Powell is day eight star.

Powell played well Friday.
Friday was a day full of consolation bracket games in the 2014 NBA Las Vegas Summer League. In general, we felt like the intensity was down, and coaches were giving looks to deep bench players. The most efficient player on a winning team was Dwight Powell of Cleveland. The Cavs beat the Heat 95-90 behind Powell's 15 points (4-7 FG, 7-7 FT) and nine rebounds in 24 minutes. 

Most efficient small forward on a winning team: Eric Griffin, Dallas. ...Readers of our basketball writings and TWEETS know that we thought Griffin was good enough out of Campbell University in 2012 to make the NBA. After tours of Italy, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, it finally happened for him with the Mavs' this week signing him to a contract (non-guaranteed) for the 2014-15 season. Friday Griffin was excellent, scoring 20 points (9-13 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 1-2 FT) and blocking three shots in 27 minutes in Dallas' 88-62 romp over the Suns.

Most efficient shooting guard on a winning team: Ricky Ledo, Dallas. ...Ledo scored 15 points (6-13 FG, 1-5 3-pt. FG, 2-3 FT) with nine assists, four rebounds, and two steals in 26 minutes. Ledo was the 43rd pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. He is 21 years old. 

Most efficient center on a winning team: Rudy Gobert, Utah. ...Gobert likely needs a bit more seasoning but he is getting close to being a rotation player in the NBA in our estimation. Friday he scored eleven points (4-7 FG, 3-4 FT), grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked two shots in 28 minutes. Utah beat Portland 75-73. 

Most efficient point guard on a winning team: D.J. Kennedy, Minnesota. ...Kennedy came off the bench for the Timberwolves and scored eight points 2-5 FG, 2-3 3-pt. FG, 2-2 FT), with five rebounds, and seven assists (one turnover) in 30 minutes. The T-Wolves beat New Orleans 97-78. Kennedy spent 2013-14 in France and Israel after playing the prior season in the D League. He's worth keeping an eye on due to his excellent size (6'6") as a ball handling guard.

Seven more stars:

Chris Wright (Dayton) - Milwaukee. ...It was great to see Chris Wright showing that he can knock down free throws. He hit 8-9 FT in Milwaukee's 79-74 win over Golden State. Wright, historically has been sketchy at the foul line, a real bugaboo in his intensely active game.Wright closed his Las Vegas Summer league run with 16 points, eight boards, and three blocked shots in 27 minutes. Over the entire five games, Wright made 14 of his 16 free throw attempts (87%). 

Xavier Gibson - Lakers. ...The BIG 6'11" center from Florida St. scored 13 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 FT), grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots in 20 minutes. Gibson is out of shape by NBA standards but does provide a presence in the paint. 

Brady Heslip - Minnesota. ...Heslip can shoot the ball! He scored 15 points (5-8, 2-2 3-pt. FG) in 20 minutes Friday. The former Baylor guard is limited defensively by his lack of size. His DEFRTG of 107.9 (career) prohibits us from seeing an NBA future for him. Personally, I enjoy his game. He has a high hoops I.Q., and if you leave him open - the ball is going in the hole. 

Tyler Johnson - Miami. ...Johnson had another productive, eye-opening game Friday. Well, maybe it was eye-opening to others. We are now firmly aware of who Tyler Johnson is. He scored 20 points (6-11 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 7-7 FT), with three assists (one turnover) in 28 minutes. We will re-state AGAIN that this kid should be in ANY NBA team's long term development plans. In our opinion, Johnson is closer to being ready to play in the NBA than one of the lottery picks of 2014 is. 

Devin Ebanks - D League Select. ...Ebanks scored 23 points (6-17 FG, 2-5 3-pt. FG., 9-11 FT), and snatched 15 rebounds in 35 minutes to lead the D-League "Selectors" (that is a deejay term... maybe I'm the only one who gets it?) past the Philadelphia 76'ers 91-87 in a game that required overtime. 

Jamelle Hagins - Philadelphia. ...Hagins scored ten points (5-9 FG), and pulled 13 rebounds in 25 minutes off the Philly bench Friday. 

Jabari Parker - Milwaukee. ...Parker had a "breakout" game Friday with 20 points (8-15 FG, 4-6 FT) and 15 boards in 30 minutes. His offensive ability is truly special in our opinion. You just don't see guys with his combination of size and ball-skills that often. He can take BIG's off the dribble, and he overpowers most wings. ...Parker is not in NBA condition. His huffing and puffing led to taking a few plays off on defense. That cannot happen in the NBA with consistency if Milwaukee wants to win some games. Hopefully Parker's diet and body will be a non-issue going forward but for that to occur Parker will have to do hard work and change some habits.  

Notes: Jerelle Benimon was just outside our top-12 cutoff line but he deserves a shout out for his excellent play for Denver. Benimon had 17 points, 15 rebounds, and four assists in 35 minutes. ...In negative efficiency territory was Portland's Bobby Brown. What does a "negative" efficiency line look like? How about two points (1-9 FG, 0-2 3-pt. FG, 0-0 FT), no boards, six assists (three turnovers), no steals, and no blocks in 23 minutes? Yuck. ...NBA-TV had NBA legendary referee Joey Crawford on for an extended in-game interview. In our opinion, the league should do that more often. It allowed NBA fans to hear, and see "Joey" in a different light. 














Saturday, July 19, 2014

NBA Las Vegas Summer League day seven. Motiejunas the center of attention.

Legit center = Motiejunas.
Donatas Motiejunas was the most efficient player on a winning team during the seventh day of play at the 2014 NBA Las Vegas Summer League. In a wildly entertaining 96-90 victory for Houston over Cleveland, Motiejunas went to work against smaller defenders. He scored 21 points (8-11 FG, 5-7 FT) and grabbed eleven rebounds in 26 minutes. Motiejunas is 23 years old. He was the 20th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. His body has really changed over the years since we first saw him at the 2009 Hoop Summit. He now legitimately looks the part of an NBA BIG at 7'0" 225 lbs.

Most efficient shooting guard on a winning team: Ben McLemore, Kings. ...Ben McLemore surely benefited from being guarded by an opposing backcourt of Shabazz Muhammad, and Brady Heslip, but nevertheless, Mclemore was excellent Thursday. McLemore scored 22 points (7-11 FG, 2-4 3-pt. FG., 6-6 FT), had six boards, and four assists (three turnovers) in 31 minutes. Sacramento beat Minnesota 100-86. McLemore has an athletic advantage over most TWO guards in the NBA. Harnessing that speed, quickness and leaping ability, into a wise decision making shooting guard that achieves, is what the Kings hope to accomplish. On Thurday, McLemore slowed his game down, made more "simple" plays and was rewarded with an efficient game and more importantly, a W.

Most efficient power forward on a winning team: Josh Davis, Charlotte. ...The undrafted rookie from San Diego State has boundless energy. He came off the bench to score 14 points (4-6 FG, 6-10 FT) and haul in 12 rebounds in just 25 minutes. Charlotte beat New Orleans 104-75. Davis' activity and energy stand out in any game he plays in. His shooting is sketchy but his upside is high due to his "nose for the ball". We again re-state that we think Josh Davis should be on all radar screens of NBA teams as a guy worth taking the time to develop.

Most efficient point guard on a winning team: Isaiah Canaan - Houston. ...Canaan put on a show Thursday, high-stepping his way to 28 points (10-16 FG, 4-8 3-pt. FG, 4-4 FT) in 31 minutes. Did he do traditional point guard things? No. But he also only had one turnover (two assists) while scoring at will. Why pass the ball when Cleveland had no rim protector to stop Canaan's drives?

Most efficient small forward on a winning team: Tony Snell - Chicago. ...Snell scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dimed three assists, and blocked three shots in 33 minutes. He looks much stronger in year two as an NBA player. He has obviously worked hard to gain weight in his upper body. Snell, now 22 years-old, was impressive to me Thursday, showing signs of being more than just a guy who shoots three point shots. His Bulls team beat Philadelphia 79-68.

Seven more stars

Cameron Bairstow - Chicago. ...Bairstow "lived" at the free throw line Thursday. He scored 18 points (3-7 FG, 1-1 3-pt. FG., 11-13 FT), and pulled eight rebounds in 22 minutes.

Jordan McRae - Philadelphia. ...McRae put on a shooting clinic, scoring 25 points (7-8 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 10-10 FT) in 27 minutes.

Brock Motum - Utah. ...Motum came off the Jazz bench to score 14 points (6-8 FG, 2-3 FT) and grab eight rebounds in 22 minutes. The former Washington State star played in Italy last season. Utah lost to San Antonio 86-77.

Bryce Cotton - San Antonio. ...The speedy Cotton scored eleven points (4-6 FG, 1-1 3-pt. FG, 2-2 FT), had five rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes. Cotton went undrafted in 2014 despite starring at Providence.

Rodney Hood - Utah. ...The good Hood showed up Thursday. We say that because his output has varied wildly from game-to-game. Hood was good enough to be our most efficient player on a winning team earlier in the week. He followed that great game with a "negative" efficiency game the next time out. On Thursday, Hood scored 19 points (7-11 FG, 1-3 3-pt. FG., 4-4 FT) and had five boards in 29 minutes.

Shabazz Muhammad - Minnesota. ...Muhammad is a scorer. He tallied 24 points (7-13 FG, 1-1 3-pt. FG, 9-11 FT) in 26 minutes. He REALLY needs to work on paying more attention to detail on defense, and sharing the ball on offense.

Quincy Acy - Sacramento. ...Acy was allowed to play power forward Thursday (due to addition of Alex Oriakhi to team as center), and he rewarded the Kings with a stellar game. Acy scored 15 points (7-11 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 0-0 FT) to go with seven rebounds, and two steals in 28 minutes.

Notes: ...Four players played well enough (on most days) to make our top-12 above, but found themselves just behind the cutoff line: Trevor Releford, Shane Larkin, Ray McCallum, and Jeff Ayres. ...Thursday's games produced five players who played at least 20 minutes but somehow managed to have negative efficiency ratings: DeQuan Jones, Dante Exum, Scott Suggs, Deonte Burton, and Scottie Wilbekin. ...Wilbekin is so active defensively, that we can overlook a bad day on offense but for Utah fans it has to be disturbing that their prized pick, Dante Exum has struggled so badly. He is NOT the supremely special athlete that he was billed as. ESPNU went as far as showing video of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan as comparisons to Exum's game during the NBA Draft Combine coverage. PLEASE. While we are not writing off Exum after a poor showing in a summer league game, we are saying that our gut is very worried for the Utah franchise that they made a colossal blunder on draft day 2014, selecting the Aussie guard with the 5th pick.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Kevin Jones oustanding on Las Vegas Summer League day six.

Jones has face-up game. 
The D-League Select Team boasted the most efficient player on a winning team during play Wednesday at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Kevin Jones was that man. He came off the bench to score 19 points (8-11 FG, 2-2 3-pt. FG, 1-1 FT), and grab six rebounds in 21 minutes. The D League "Selectors" (as well call them) beat the Denver Nuggets summer squad 87-75. Jones, 24, is limited athletically but he can shoot face up shots as a BIG. 

Most efficient center on a winning team: Kyrylo Fesenko, Minnesota. ...Fesenko got loose for 17 points (7-9 FG, 3-6 FT), eight boards, and two blocked shots.  The 27 year-old Ukrainian has been out of the NBA since October 2012. 

Most efficient small forward on a winning team: Kyle Anderson, San Antonio. ...Anderson only played 20 minutes in the Spurs 100-71 blowout win over Milwaukee. Anderson scored 14 points (4-9 FG, 2-4 3-pt, FG, 4-4 FT) to go with three rebounds, and two assists. Anderson was the 30th and last player taken in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. 

Most efficient shooting guard on a winning team: Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota. ...Muhammad scored 16 points (4-12 FG, 8-9 FT), grabbed nine rebounds, and had two steals in the Timberwolves 86-77 victory over Phoenix. Muhammad was the 14th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of UCLA. 

Most efficient point guard on a winning team: Tyler Johnson, Miami. ...The truth is, the most efficient point guard on a winning team was just "solid". It was a poor day for PG efficiency Wednesday. Johnson scored eight points (4-7 FG), dished five assists and did so without a turnover in 27 minutes. As previously stated, we think ALL NBA teams should be considering Tyler Johnson as a player for development. He has good size, NBA athleticism, and he has shown enough of a feel for the game in summer league play (both Orlando and Las Vegas), to warrant a long look. 

Seven more stars

Keith Benson - Clippers. ...The most efficient player overall Wednesday was Keith Benson. He came off the Clippers bench to score 18 points (7-8 FG 4-4 FT), pull six rebounds, and block four shots in 21 minutes. Benson played most recently in Belarus. He was the 48th overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft. In our opinion, Benson is better right now at age 25 than some BIGs presently employed in the NBA. 

Elijah Millsap - Philadelphia. ...Millsap was used as a reserve shooting guard Wednesday, injecting energy into a 85-63 Sixers rout of the Lakers summer team. Millsap had SEVEN steals on the day, combined with 19 points (5-7 FG, 9-12 FT) in 24 minutes. ...Millsap is 26 years old. 

Gal Mekel - Dallas. ...Mekel poured in 17 points (5-7 FG, 1-2 3-pt. FG, 6-9 FT), grabbed five boards, and had six assists (two turnovers) in 29 minutes. His Dallas team lost to Charlotte 82-81 on a Roberto Nelson buzzer beater. 

Drew Gordon - Philadelphia. ...Gordon scored eight points (4-9 FG) and gathered ten rebounds in just 20 minutes Wednesday. Gordon most recently played professionally in Italy. 

T.J. Warren - Phoenix. ...Warren can flat-out score. Wednesday he went for 26 points (11-18 FG, 4-6 FT) in 29 minutes. Warren was the 14th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after wining ACC Player of the Year honors at N.C. State. 

Donatas Motiejunas - Houston. ...Motiejunas is playing center now. He scored 18 points (7-10 FG, 1-3 3-pt. FG, 3-5 FT) and pulled in seven boards in 25 minutes. Houston beat Toronto 93-77. ...Certainly there is a HUGE gap between Summer League competition at the FIVE, and real NBA competition at center. That said, Motiejunas has looked good. He scores near the hoop using either hand well, and he also displays a feel for the game with his vision and passing ability. He is a unique player. 

Gorgui Dieng - Minnesota. ...Dieng scored 13 points (6-13 FG, 1-2 FT) and grabbed 19 rebounds in 35 minutes. Dieng came on strong at the end of his rookie season. He finished the 2013-14 NBA regular season as the 16th ranked center in efficiency per minute. We think he should be starting full-time somewhere. 

Notes: ...It was a kick to watch veteran legendary NBA referee Joey Crawford be 'kissed-up to" by virtually every NBA person that passed his way. Crawford was seated on an asile, jotting notes on future NBA refs as they worked the game. ...Three players were in "negative" efficiency territory Wednesday: Ricky Ledo, Kendall Marshall, and Brandon Davies. This is the second time in the Vegas Summer League that Davies has had a "minus" efficiency rating. That is not good. ...We watched Aaron Craft give Dennis Schroder fits Wednesday in the Hawks / Warriors game. Atlanta won 68-65 but Craft almost brought the Warriors to a come-from-behind win with his inspirational play off the bench. Craft is beyond tenacious on defense. He is downright pesky. He challenges every motion of his opponent. He makes plays that do not show up in the boxscore (such as pressuring the opposing PG into a pass to his center who promptly, palms the ball and commits a turnover). I think NBA teams should seriously consider Craft, if for nothing else, specific defensive assignments when an opposing point guard is "getting off".