Las Vegas Summer League: Thoughts on all 22 teams as tournament play begins
LAS VEGAS — After five days of business as usual, summer league heads into uncharted territory on Wednesday with the start of the new tournament format.
Here’s the short version of how this will work. First, all 22 teams have played three games so far. Teams have now been seeded based on their performance, earning points for winning quarters. The top-10 seeds receive a bye on Wednesday; seed Nos. 11-22 will play each other to determine who advances to face the top-10 seeds. From there, a typical best-of-16 tournament will unfold, with a champion being crowned on Monday. Every team, including those that lose along the way, will play at least five games, the standard number from past summer leagues.
Here’s a look at the schedule for the next two days with quick thoughts on all 22 teams. All times Pacific.
Wednesday, July 17
3 p.m.: #11 New Orleans vs. #22 Denver (COX Pavilion)
Pelicans: Austin Rivers is the main attraction for the Pelicans, but Brian Roberts has quietly had a very nice, composed week, highlighted by a 20-point performance against the Bucks. And then there’s shot-blocking specialist Jeff Withey, who was acquired from Portland in the three-team trade for Tyreke Evans. Withey provided this sequence against the Cavaliers.
Nuggets: Denver, the lowest seed in the tournament, has lost all three games by at least 12 points. The highlight of the ugly week — if you want to call it a highlight — was veteran guard Andre Miller’s honest assessment when asked if the Nuggets could repeat their 57-win season from last year: “Naw.”
3:30 p.m.: #12 Washington vs. #21 Memphis (Thomas & Mack)
Wizards: Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, hasn’t made much of an impact, and he suffered a hamstring injury that ended his night on Tuesday. If he sits the rest of the way, it will be Jan Vesely time.
Grizzlies: Like the Nuggets, the Grizzlies have lost all three games by double digits. Tony Wroten, Memphis’s biggest name and the 25th pick in 2012, is shooting just 9-for-40 (22.5 percent). Grit and gruesome.
5 p.m.: #13 Minnesota vs. #20 Sacramento (COX Pavilion)
Timberwolves: Robbie Hummel, the often-injured former Purdue standout, has impressed all week. The most entertaining thing about Minnesota, though, is watching Shabazz Muhammad play off-ball defense. He chases his man through screens in a most unusual and uneconomical fashion, his arms and legs both seemingly flailing in different directions as he tries to navigate the traffic.
Kings: After a rotten start to the week, Ben McLemore finished with 26 points against the Raptors on Tuesday. Normally, we would apply a garbage-time asterisk for his scoring 22 second-half points in a double-digit loss, but it was just nice to see the ball go through the hoop after his 8-for-35 performance in the first two games.
5:30 p.m.: #14 Atlanta vs. #19 Portland (Thomas & Mack)
Hawks: This might not be the best team in Las Vegas, but it leads the field in intrigue. First-round picks Dennis Schröder and Lucas Nogueira are the main reasons for that appeal. But Mike Muscala has also had his moments, and 7-foot-3 Serbian center Boban Marjanovic is one big, big, big man.
Trail Blazers: Yet another 0-3 team, though there were positive signs in Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Bulls. Rookie guard CJ McCollum hit a game-tying three-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to complete a 14-point comeback and help set up OT. Second-year forward Thomas Robinson, who is seeking to rejuvenate his career after being traded twice, also found his groove against the Bulls. He pulled down 18 rebounds and rising high for a highlight block shot.
7 p.m.: #15 New York vs. #18 Miami (COX Pavilion)
Knicks: One Knicks employee was seen flashing two fingers on Tuesday — as in peace, Metta World Peace — and off-court drama has dominated New York’s summer league for the second year in a row. In 2012, Jeremy Lin’s restricted free agency took center stage. This year, questions over J.R. Smith’s knee surgery and contract details have surrounded the team. First-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. hasn’t shot the ball that well, but he had a number of highlight plays before missing time with a bruised wrist.
Heat: Boiled down, Miami’s week has been a series of people tweeting that Jarvis Varnado should probably be nicknamed “Sharknado.” That, and Erik “Two Rings” Spoelstra getting love from his colleagues every time he enters a gym.
7:30 p.m.: #16 Dallas vs. #17 Los Angeles Clippers (Thomas & Mack)
Mavericks: Don’t close your eyes or turn your head or you’ll get nailed by a behind-the-back pass from Gal Mekel. The Israeli point guard, who signed a three-year contract with Dallas this summer, isn’t afraid to mix it up a little bit either.
Clippers: Jerome Randle, a 26-year-old point guard who has bounced around in international leagues, has given the Clippers some nice minutes this week. First-round pick Reggie Bullock is averaging a team-high 16 points, and that’s ultimately the whole point of this week for L.A.
Thursday July 18
1 p.m.: #7 Cleveland vs. #10 San Antonio (COX Pavilion)
Cavaliers: Dion Waiters entered summer league as a potential MVP candidate, but he’s shot just 29.5 percent and averaged more than three turnovers in three games. Does that matter? Probably not, but the Cavaliers couldn’t be faulted for wanting to see more as tournament play picks up.
Spurs: The famed San Antonio culture extends all the way to summer league. Remember the in-game video features during the playoffs that showed Gregg Popovich’s turning over some of the coaching duties to point guard Tony Parker during huddles? During a stoppage in play this week, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka called out to Parker’s backup, Cory Joseph, who immediately pulled his teammates together into a huddle to set their defensive plan for the next possession.
1:30 p.m.: #8 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #9 Milwaukee (Thomas & Mack)
Lakers: The Lakers stand out as a truly random assortment among rosters that are generally pretty random. Lester Hudson, 28, has been big for them. Need I say more?
Bucks: John Henson, the 14th pick in 2012, is averaging 14 points, 14 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. Meanwhile, Chris Daniels dropped the hammer on Quincy Miller.
3 p.m.: #6 Toronto vs. Winner of New Orleans/Denver (COX Pavilion)
Raptors: The phrase that keeps going around about Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is “man among boys.” His play, which has often been borderline dominant on both ends, offers a sliver of satisfaction for former team president Bryan Colangelo. As his successor, Masai Ujiri, has wasted no time tearing apart a messy roster, Colangelo can at least console himself with the knowledge that Valanciunas, a risky pick in 2011 because he waited a year to come to the NBA, is looking like he will develop into a franchise centerpiece.
3:30 p.m.: #5 Charlotte vs. Winner of Washington/Memphis (Thomas & Mack)
Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the second pick in 2012, has been a bit underwhelming. But 2013 first-round pick Cody Zeller has helped make up for it, showing nice versatility and averaging 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds.
5 p.m.: #3 Phoenix vs. Winner of Atlanta/Portland (COX Pavilion)
Suns: The Morris brothers — Marcus and Markieff — were born to be summer-league All-Stars. The twins argue calls incessantly, stand up for each other at every turn, uncork elaborate handshakes, break off plays so that they can operate in isolation and generally do what they please. Phoenix is undefeated and both brothers are averaging at least 12 points, so it’s all good.
5:30 p.m.: #4 NBA D-League Select vs. Winner of Minnesota/Sacramento (Thomas & Mack)
D-League Select: The camaraderie on this 3-0 team is pretty amazing considering that every player is looking to make a name for himself in one way or another. (The roster includes former second-round picks Kyle Weaver, Darnell Jackson.) The coaching staff really takes the cake, though. It repeatedly screamed at its players for not sagging off poor jump shooters during Tuesday’s victory against the Mavericks. There’s daring an opponent to shoot, and then there’s strategically yelling at the top of your lungs so that the entire gym knows you believe your opponent has no chance of knocking down a jumper. The D-League squad falls firmly in the latter category. Good times.
7 p.m.: #2 Chicago vs. Winner of New York/Miami (COX Pavilion)
Bulls: One guy worthy of some extra buzz is Marquis Teague, who is averaging 17.3 points and 5.7 assists while generally making life miserable for his defender with his insanely quick moves off the dribble. Meanwhile, former Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock is having a summer league that Nate Robinson, Jerryd Bayless and Josh Selby would be proud of, shooting 56.1 percent from the field and 60 percent (9-for-15) from three-point range to average 22.7 points.
7:30 p.m.: #1 Golden State vs. Winner of Dallas/Los Angeles Clippers (Thomas & Mack)
Warriors: The stars of the show have been Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green, who together provide an intensity and talent level that many other teams haven’t matched. Bazemore, in particular, has been impressive, averaging 15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists while playing aggressive chest-to-chest defense.