LAS VEGAS -- It's truly unfortunate that the NBA Summer League only lasted 10 days, because although it isn't against NBA-level competition, Vegas is still a fine place to project how well young players are going to be able to translate to the next level.
Talking to those in the know this week, it seemed quite apparent that if a prospect plays well in Summer League, it could mean he's going to be pretty good (LaMarcus Aldridge in 2007, Kevin Love in 2008, Blake Griffin in 2009 or John Wall in 2010) or it could mean absolutely nothing (Von Wafer in 2007, Jerryd Bayless in 2008, Anthony Randolph in 2009 or Sam Young in 2010).
It's pretty difficult to say exactly where each of the following players fit in this fold, but the starting five All-Rookie Summer League team is included below.
Point Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers -- Man oh man was Mr. Lillard outstanding. The first of two Blazers lottery picks acclimated himself well in Vegas after playing his college ball at Weber State. In addition to some highlight-reel plays and co-MVP honors (along with Josh Selby), the steady-handed guard averaged 26.5 points and 5.3 assists while under the tutelage of interim head coach Kaleb Canales.
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards -- The third-overall pick in this year's draft averaged a rather subdued 17.6 points in Sin City as he shot just 42 percent from the field, but that shouldn't bother fans considering he seemed to be playing the role he'd be cast in for the NBA rather than trying to be a Summer League All-Star. There's a lot to like about his game and it should only get better as he's playing alongside John Wall rather than Shelvin Mack.
Small Forward: Jae Crowder, Dallas Mavericks -- It was kind of unclear how Crowder would translate to the NBA despite a standout season at Marquette, hence his second-round selection in this year's draft. It turned out he translated just fine, though, on his way to averages of 16.6 points and 5.4 rebounds while even showing some of the perimeter skills that will be necessary for him to play at the next level.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets -- There weren't many stellar performances from the power forward class, but Jones was much better (and bigger) than expected. The former Kentucky Wildcat showed the ability to play to his abilities on offense and collect the caroms en route to 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds through the Rockets' five games. (Honorable Mention: Jared Sullinger, Royce White)
Center: Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets -- Motiejunas wasn't in the same draft class as the rest of these guys, but he was getting his first taste of NBA action. The 7 footer looked bigger than expected and perhaps more polished than expected, too -- and it was especially nice when he showed the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc. (Honorable Mention: Tyler Zeller, Meyers Leonard, Paulao Prestes, Robert Sacre)
The NBA Summer League is geared toward the rookies -- and there were plenty of them in attendance -- so it was a nice little barometer of where everyone stacked up with the rest of this year's crop of athletes.