Las Vegas Summer League, Day 5 Recap: Tuesday's Top Performers

There was a world of difference between Monday and Tuesday here at Summer League, and it's no big mystery why: Washington Wizards point guard John Wall wasn't playing, so the attendance was cut roughly in half and the buzz was reduced in a big way.  Nevertheless, Tuesday had its share of good games, including a buzzer-beater between Memphis and Milwaukee.  

Let's take a look at the day's standout players.

Tuesday's Top Performers

JJ Hickson, Cleveland Cavaliers

There have been some NBA veterans that have had underwhelming performances in Las Vegas (OJ Mayo, for example) but Cleveland's JJ Hickson certainly wasn't one of them.  He scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in 38 minutes against a well-organized D-League Select team.  His energy and impact on both ends were head and shoulders above everyone else on the court and he played like a man ready to take a big leap forward next season, when his usage rate figures to increase considerably in LeBron James's absence.  While hope might be a tough sell in Cleveland these days, Hickson is that guy.

Pooh Jeter, Cleveland Cavaliers

Hickson's teammate, point guard Pooh Jeter, also had an ideal debut, putting up 17 points, 7 assists and 2 steals without committing a single turnover.  Jeter, a multi-talented but extremely small point guard, spent much of the 2009 Summer League playing off the ball with the Portland Trail Blazers.  Tuesday, Cleveland placed the ball in his hands for most of the night and he delivered time and again, finding high-percentage pull-up shots and dishing to perimeter shooters or posting bigs alike.  Jeter continues to pursue an NBA contract, which hasn't yet materialized, but the experience he's gained overseas has done wonders for the consistency of his game, not to mention his decision-making.  He does still have a tendency to pound the rock and initiate possessions slowly but it didn't impede Cleveland's flow too much on Tuesday.  Jeter wound up in Israel last season after a stint in Spain. If the international scouts are paying attention, he should get a look back on the continent this fall. 

Derrick Caracter, Los Angeles Lakers

While DeMarcus Cousins had another monster night, going for 19 points and 12 rebounds, Caracter showed that DMC wasn't the only big with talent and upside in Sacramento's face-off against the Lakers.  The courtside reviews for Caracter were uniformly positive: his work ethic rebounding and boxing out, his five (!) blocked shots, his active help defense and 14 points on a variety of offensive looks had writers and fans alike tweeting up a storm.  His energy and physical skills would seem a perfect fit for the Lakers bench.  His froncourt mate Courtney Sims -- 13 points and 14 rebounds -- was no slouch either.

Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks

While the NBA-level polish isn't all the way there yet for Larry Sanders, there can be no questioning of his athleticism and motor.  For the second day in a row, Sanders wreaked havoc by challenging shots well off the ground and going regularly to the offensive glass against a Memphis Grizzlies frontcourt stacked with current NBA players. Sanders finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal, not to mention a ridiculous three-pointer to nearly send the game into overtime.  Fans is Las Vegas were drawn to his fearlessness and energy; the fact that he played through (and played well) with a bandaged wrist after crashing to the floor on Monday only endeared him further.

Armon Johnson, Portland Trail Blazers

Australian Patty Mills has been the headliner for Portland, due to his hot outside shooting and a few breathtaking passes through traffic, but Johnson has been as impressive as any rookie point guard not named John Wall.  During Tuesday's win over New Orleans, he used his broad shoulders and good on-ball instincts to carve out space going to the hoop.  Once there, he finished with a sweet touch or made good reads to spot-up shooters.  He's also making a point to provide max out effort on defense and avoid forcing shots in the Summer League's sloppy atmosphere.  Blazer coaches were thrilled with his efficient 15 points, 5 assists, 3 steals performance last night and his game drew comparisons to Portland's head coach, former Sonic Nate McMillan.

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