WITH Summer League now behind us basketball fans are left high and dry, with no respite on the horizon. The next basketball action we see will be the headline grabbing preseason contests (yawn). So with the stars of tomorrow fresh on our mind, let’s break down who’s trending up and down heading into the boring part of the NBA season.
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Lakers Win Tally
LONZO Ball claimed MVP honours after a ridiculous six game tear that included two triple doubles and a 36 point game. Don’t sleep on another Lakers rookie though. Kyle Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 boards in the Championship Game and made more field goals than anyone else at the Las Vegas Summer League. That tied in with the continued growth of the other LA younglings should see them climb from cellar dwellers too, well, sort of cellar dwellers.
Seeing A Rook In The Dunk Comp
WE all thought that Dennis Smith Jr was an athletic ball of potential. After six games our suspicions have been confirmed with Smith wowing the fans in the layup line and in-game with his aerial acrobatics. He wasn’t alone above the rim though, with John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks showing that big men can throw down too with this ABSURD poster. They look like they are ready for the big stage that much is for sure!
ON draft night last month Swanigan had to hear 25 names called before his own was finally reeled off by Adam Silver. The Blazers were happy that they secured a high energy, inside big man who had a serious case of the ‘double-doubles’ in college last year. They were even happier when Swanigan started to expand his range and step out behind the three point line, looking more than comfortable facilitating or shooting. With a huge luxury tax bill due Portland could call upon the cheaper Swanigan to contribute as they ship off an expensive player later in the season.
A draft night trade to move up to No. 13 seems like a masterstroke by the Utah Jazz. It is only the Summer League remember, but let’s overreact and say that Mitchell will immediately fill the scoring gap left by All-Star Gordon Hayward! Back on Earth, it isn’t impossible to see Mitchell contributing in year one after pouring in over 20 a game through his five game span at Salt Lake City and Vegas. His diversity, high motor and volume scoring were all on display at one time or another, including in his last game of the Summer League when he dropped 37 points and had EIGHT steals! Watch this space.
The Goddamn Golden State Warriors
THE rich get f*cking richer. Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw looked great in their court time, an encouraging prospect for the Dubs and a scary one for the rest of the league. Their second round steal in Bell put up a 5×5 (5 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 6 blocks in 32 minutes) as the Draymond Green comparisons continue to be thrown around and McCaw showed he is ready to contribute meaningful minutes averaging 20 PPG through five games. This isn’t fair.
Image from csnbayarea.com
IT hasn’t been a great offseason by the Chicago Bulls, and things didn’t improve in Las Vegas. The two main assets Kris Dunn (3-12 for 11PPG in one game) and Lauri Markkanen (12-41 for 14.3 PPG in three games) they got for trading Jimmy Butler away didn’t exactly look like world beaters for the Bulls. Compacted with the fact that Cameron Payne had more turnovers than assists and Denzel Valentine took a step backwards too, it’s time to start watching MJ Chicago re-runs instead of the present day squad.
Markelle Fultz’s Durability
ARE the Philadelphia 76ers genuinely cursed? No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz hurt his ankle causing him to miss the rest of Summer League after just 15 minutes of Sin City action against the Warriors. Forget about all these playoff allegations, I want to see Simmons, Embiid and Fultz all on the floor for more than half a season before I even consider the prospect of the 76ers achieving something meaningful in 2017.
New York Knicks Point Guard Choice
WAIT, wasn’t Phil Jackson’s exit meant to improve the New York Knicks? It’s hardly Frank Ntilikina’s fault that he didn’t play in Summer League after dealing with niggling injuries, but after Dennis Smith’s eruption, the media is already having a field day. By no means do I agree with claims that Ntilikina was the wrong choice for New York, as we haven’t seen either player contribute NBA minutes yet, but good luck telling the ravenous New York media that.
Image from nydailynews.com
I gave the Kings massive wraps for their moves over the past month, but I’m beginning to have second thoughts. Their young kids were sporadic with Fox (11.8 PPG, 3.0 APG) struggling slightly and Justin Jackson (16.7 PPG) looking like a steady, reliable wing. The biggest disappointment though was Buddy Hield’s Summer League after the second year guard missed a massive chance to announce himself as Sacramento’s two guard of the future. He put up the same PPG as Jackson but shot just 35.6% from the field in a competition he should have obliterated.
JOSH Jackson (17.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG) was patchy throughout his five appearances, but he had a solid showing, playing hard en route to being named in the Summer League 1st Team. The Suns 2016 lottery picks were a serious bummer though. Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss could have announced their arrival with a big showing and instead they laid an egg. Chriss (14.4 PPG, 6 RPG) and Bender’s (14.2 PPG, 6 RPG) numbers look solid on paper, however, questionable shot selection and efficiency coupled with looking out of place and position doesn’t exactly scream ‘breakout candidates’ for the season ahead.