Hope you enjoyed summer league as it is going to be the last "pro" basketball you’ll get to see for the next two and a half months or so. I enjoyed it greatly and since I haven’t had a ton of time to share my thoughts on each game, I thought I’d do a general recap of the whole week. Take all this with a grain of salt since I remember raving about Marcus Banks in the first summer league and he’s still playing in it.
Grown Man and Big Baby
In a league that is famous for playing to the strengths of guards, you have to be impressed with the play of our undersized big men.
First of all, a big hats off to Leon Powe, who gets my vote for Team MVP of the league. He did everything you could ask of him on the court. He scored, grabbed rebounds, played defense, and just made his presence felt down low. Last year I had trouble picturing him in the rotation for next year. Now, I see him as a valuable banner and clean-up guy. He’s the kind of guy that you know won’t hurt you by putting him on the floor and he can contribute a lot without a single play ever called for him.
Count me as a big fan of Big Baby. I was skeptical at first. I thought he’d struggle with weight and lack of height. And he still might. However, he already looks like he’s got more muscle than fat and given our training staff’s track record with Kendrick Perkins, I have a lot of faith that he’ll be able to stay on track and eventually get on the floor. When he’s on the floor, the best word for him is "clever." Unlike Powe, you can run plays for him either at the high or low post and expect him to find a way to deliver a good play. If he can keep grabbing rebounds by finding and creating space, he’ll have a place in this league for a long time.
Gerald Needs A Brain Dr.
I’m no psychologist, but Gerald has to be one of the most transparent players I’ve seen in a long time. He wears his heart on his sleeve and you can tell that the young man is juggling about 15 different emotions all at once. Consider these sometimes conflicting forces pulling at him right now:
He was on all the posters for the summer league since he’s back in the spot that made him famous with the dunk contest. You can just tell that every play is a potential highlight reel to him. On the other hand, the team just traded for a guy that will likely take most of his minutes away. He knows he’s got more athletic talent than 95% of the guys in the summer league. He also knows that he’s not exactly dominating this summer. He knows he can score in the NBA, but his coaches want him to work on everything else. To do so, he must use this league as an opportunity to show he can do other things (like defense, rebounding, moving without the ball, etc.). All that effort takes away from what he does best, which is shoot and dunk. When he’s hitting 3’s and slamming home big dunks, he’s light as a feather and pumped and ready to go. When he’s not, he walks like he’s got 50 lb. bricks strapped to his shoulders.
The bad news is that he’s pressing way too hard. This game is all about confidence and right now he’s just not 100% sure of himself. The good news is that he doesn’t ever quit. He’s still taking decent shots, they just aren’t falling. He’s driving to the lane and getting free throws. It just isn’t all coming together for him yet.
The end result is that he hasn’t progressed as far as we would have hoped, but he’s still got that "potential" label. It is possible we’ve seen the last game he’ll play in Celtic green but I think the kid is going to be at least a good pro in this league. He just needs to get that confidence up.
Brandon Wallace is just plain fun to watch in this setting. Every time he’s on the floor, he does something that impresses you. He’s long, athletic, and always around the ball. He’s like a defensive Gerald Green. He’s like Jerome Moiso with a brain. He doesn’t exactly look comfortable with the ball in his hand, but I don’t recall him doing anything foolish with it either. The one time that stuck out in my head was when the ball wound up in his hands at the top of the key as the team was still coming down the court, and instead of panicking and forcing something, he stopped and got it to the point guard. It is a silly simple point, but one that is lost on many guys.
At first I wondered where the team would use him, but now I realize that he fills a need. Tony Allen is a good stopper from the 2 spot, but he was overmatched when paired up with a 3. Wallace could step in and harass the opponents’ swing players and provide some weak side shot blocking to boot. He might have to get some run in the D League before he’s ready for prime time, but I like the signing and I look forward to seeing him on the team.
Point of Attack
I’m in agreement that Rondo is going to need to develop a jumper someday. On the other hand, the thing that concerned me more early this week was his apparent unwillingness to take semi-open layups. Thankfully he got the message and just lit up the Chinese team in the 3rd game. With that said, let me make a point here. Having a point guard who would rather pass than shoot is a great, fantastic, wonderful breath of fresh air. Throw in the fact that he’s an excellent defender and his leadership skills are growing and you’ve got a gold mine. He’s still young and he’s going to make his share of mistakes. Don’t expect a veteran-like point on opening night. However, he trails only Al Jefferson on this team in terms of potential immediate and long-term impact.
In the battle between Alan Ray and Gabe Pruitt, I think it is safe to declare Pruitt the winner. And the main tipping point has to be the fact that Pruitt can actually play the point. Ray tried to run the offense, but he looked clumsy and overmatched doing so. He’s a point guard in size only. He’s a catch and shoot guy and that’s just not enough.
Pruitt on the other hand can catch and shoot and dribble and pass and defend and still have a little juice left to sky for the occasional dunk. He’s not the answer at backup point guard, but he can be the 3rd on the depth chart, filling in at the shooting guard spot some too. He doesn’t completely fill the shoes of the departed Delonte West, but he does fit into that combo-guard role.
Allred got a lot of minutes, likely based on his solid showing in the DLeague last year, but he didn’t show me much. He had his moments but was pretty overmatched in the paint. Pat Carroll showed he could shoot midrange jumpers, but not much else. The big Greek guy Glyniadakis was a lot more coordinated than I thought he would be (showing a nifty spin move at one point), but he was also pushed around more than a guy his size should be. Did he really get just one rebound all week? Am I reading that right? Fellow blogger Sergio Sanchez didn’t seem much court time. From what I saw, he seemed a little over-eager to impress early on and played out of control. He looked better in the garbage time of the Mavs game, but it was a little late. Better luck next time Sergio.