Las Vegas Summer League winners and losers
Winner: Jonas Valanciunas
Taking home MVP honors in a guard-dominated format like this is no easy task for a big man. But Toronto’s Valanciunas was a worthy pick, as The Point Forward has noted before, and he managed to fend off Warriors guard Kent Bazemore for the award despite a sprained finger and Toronto’s elimination in the quarterfinals.
Loser: Bryan Colangelo
There’s plenty of reasons for Raptors fans to be pumped right now: Valanciunas looks like a budding star; off-the-radar signing Dwight Buycks had an impressive (if brief) week at summer league; Andrea Bargnani is finally gone after being traded to the Knicks; and new general manager Masai Ujiri, the reigning Executive of the Year for his work in Denver last season, has developed a reputation for having the Midas touch.
In all that excitement, let’s take a moment to remember Colangelo, the team’s former president, who has been the subject of much criticism in this space and elsewhere. Amid all of his questionable decisions and desperate moves, Colangelo did draft Valanciunas with the fifth pick in 2011, knowing that he would take the public hits if and when the Lithuanian remained overseas. (Valanciunas debuted for Toronto in 2012-13.) That patience is now being rewarded two years later, but Colangelo, who was ousted this summer, is no longer around to receive his just due.
The NBA has gradually relaxed its policy on shoes, allowing players to wear designs that include black, white or their team’s color schemes, and making special exceptions for other colors on holidays or big events. In Vegas, though, it’s the Wild Wild West. Anything goes.
For the many sneakerheads in attendance — whether they be players, media members or fans — that meant a wide variety of looks you don’t see every night in the NBA. Retro Jordans were quite popular, with some players sporting models that debuted before they were born. Another go-to were the fluorescent or highlighter sneakers (see above) that have become popular among high school players but are rarely seen in the pro game. Here’s hoping the rules continue to become less and less restrictive. The diversity in designs added one more layer of intrigue.
Losers: Sleeved pinnies
The sleeved jersey concept — first unveiled for the Warriors in February — was a contentious idea from the beginning. Supporters liked the audacity of the never-before-seen look in the modern NBA. Detractors saw fashion overshadowing tradition and some players complained about the sleeves’ effect on their shooting.
Summer-league jerseys are more pinny than real jersey, but the versions with sleeves that were worn in both Orlando and Las Vegas did the general concept no favors. It’s one thing to get a bright yellow Stephen Curry Warriors jersey that nicely replicates the version worn by Curry himself. It’s quite another to comprehend the plain white V-neck jersey worn by Cody Zeller and the Bobcats (above). At some point, don’t you have to ask the question: Who is the target market here? And: They really can’t do better than this?
Those questions aren’t meant as a knock on Zeller — who had a very nice week in Vegas — but more to highlight a major lost opportunity. If sleeved jerseys or other non-traditional concepts are here to stay, then Vegas is the time to really push the envelope, concocting crazy designs as a testing ground for future regular-season looks. As is, the pinny version just undercuts the whole sleeved concept while also being boring and unappealing.
Winner: Kent Bazemore
The most entertaining player in Vegas was rightfully rewarded with an All-Las Vegas Summer League selection and a title. This was the perfect ending.