Las Vegas Summer League winners and losers
LAS VEGAS — The 2013 Las Vegas Summer League is finally in the books after 11 days and 61 games. Here’s a rundown of some of the winners and losers from the competition. Click here for our assessment of the top performers at summer league and check out complete coverage from Sin City here.
Winners: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors emerged as the first summer-league champions by rattling off a 7-0 record and defeating the Suns in Monday night’s title game. There weren’t any ropes around the court or any confetti falling from the rafters, but the Warriors did get “Victory in Vegas” T-shirts and a nice trophy. It all sounds a bit corny at first blush, but the Warriors were jubilant and you couldn’t blame them, not after seeing how the consistency of their work ethic and focus stood out from start to finish.
“We’re just trying to continue to build, defend, compete, no matter who is in a Warrior uniform. It’s who we are,” coach Mark Jackson said after the championship. “It’s about the culture. It doesn’t matter who puts the uniform on, whether it’s summer league, regular season or playoffs. The mindset and the mission remain the same.”
Losers Winners: Phoenix Suns
It doesn’t feel right calling the Suns losers following Monday’s loss, not after they went 6-1 overall and competed hard throughout the tournament. After last season’s mess — Michael Beasley, the Lindsey Hunter experiment, lots of losing — Suns fans needed something, anything to latch on to that might have the possibility of one day developing into hope. A few encouraging strands emerged in Vegas.
First-round pick Archie Goodwin was a bundle of energy, crashing around the court to the tune of 13.1 points per game. Not bad for an 18-year-old selected 29th in last month’s draft. The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, who were reunited by a midseason trade, displayed inside/outside versatility on offense and tough-minded defense. It remains to be seen whether they can make a similar impact in NBA games. Even Kendall Marshall, who struggled with his shot all week, managed some flashes of the “eyes in the back of his head” vision that made him a 2012 lottery pick.
Best of all, though, was rookie coach Jeff Hornacek’s decision to guide his team through Vegas, rather than turning the team over to an assistant. Hornacek was able to get a feel for the young talent on his roster, and his presence set a nice tone as Phoenix embarks on a multiyear rebuilding effort.
Winner: Ian Clark
The undrafted guard — touted by SI.com’s Luke Winn as the best shooter in the 2013 class — made seven three-pointers and scored 33 points for the Warriors on Monday to earn the MVP award in the championship game. Talk about good timing. Clark, who spent four years at Belmont, posted consistent shooting numbers throughout his college career but entered Las Vegas without so much as a firm training-camp invite for the fall.
“He carried us,” Jackson said. “I’m sure he becomes a hot name right now. … We’d love to have him. He’s an NBA player.”
Loser: Ben McLemore
First, it’s important to note: McLemore did everything within his power to shake off some horrendous shooting stretches, twice putting together games of at least 20 points thanks to big second-half efforts. OK, with that courtesy disclaimer out of the way, check out these three numbers for the seventh pick in the June draft: 150 minutes played, 78 field goals attempted, zero assists. Sacramento’s overall offense was anemic, but there’s no reasonable explanation for that disparity.
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.