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.