If you are looking for beautiful team basketball, played with precision timing and execution than Vegas Summer League isn't for you. These teams have had just a few days to practice together as a unit and they are comprised mostly of players who are on the fringes of NBA talent. Add to that the 10-foul rule which encourages hacking in the paint and you basically have a jumbled mess.
And yet we watch this mess because it is our first chance to see big-name rookies in action and check on the progress of second and third year players. Forget Mike Tyson's tiger, this is what Las Vegas is really about.
Day 1 of the Las Vegas Summer League featured four games:
Game 1: Denver 88 - Dallas 70
Dallas came into this game with one of the more exciting young players in the league, Roddy Beubois. The speedy French point guard was extremely impressive during his inconsistent court time for the Mavericks last season but today against the stingy defense of Ty Lawson and Coby Karl he was held to 12 points on only 3 of 16 shooting.
SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside blog picked four "Monstars" from today's games, two were Nuggets:
Coby Karl, SG, Denver Nuggets - Karl got the start alongside Ty Lawson, though he brought the ball up a fair amount. He didn't have the best shooting night, 3-8, though he got to the free-throw line and finished with 16 points along with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. During the game, IMG Basketball Academy and ESPN's David Thorpe tweeted "I sound like a broken record, but I'm always mystified that Coby Karl has to fight for an NBA job every year." Karl looked pretty comfortable on the court and amply demonstrated his versatility (he also played decent defense, and like Thorpe I'll be pretty mystified if he doesn't get a serious NBA look this year.
Shane Edwards, SF, Denver Nuggets - Summer League is full of guys like Edwards, a quick, athletic leaper (or slasher, or both) who played out of position in college and trying to transition to something closer to what the NBA is looking for. Edwards has been working hard for over a year to improve his skills, and if day 1 was any indication it's paying off. Edwards attacked the basket relentlessly, making five of his six field goals on the way to 15 points in a little over 21 minutes. He also used his quickness on defense, picking up three steals and three rebounds.
Game 2: Houston 100 - Phoenix 82
This game was actually pretty close until the fourth quarter when the Rockets superior size and muscle took it's toll on the Suns. The Rockets featured three second-year NBA players (Jermaine Taylor, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger) along with rookie Patrick Patterson.
Hill and Budinger both played well, but the real stars for Houston were Patterson, who showed surprising range for a big man, and Jermaine Taylor who lead his team in scoring (25) and rebounds (7) from the shooting guard position.
Rockets blog The Dream Shake was duly impressed:
...if you weren't excited about Patterson before you should be now. In twenty minutes of play, he was 8/9 with 18 points and two rebounds. He also showed off his range by sinking both of his three point attempts. Yes, this guy is a much better perimeter shooter than I personally knew about. And from the comments in the game thread, many others were quite surprised as well.
Jermaine Taylor obviously had the green light to shoot tonight. Because I don't think the work "pass" is in his vocabulary. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. He ended the night with 25 points on 10/19 shooting with a highlight reel flush... Rick Adelman is high on the kid and I understand why. There is still plenty of room for growth for Taylor, but he already looked worlds better tonight than in his rookie campaign.
The Suns were hoping to see similar progress from Earl Clark who saw very little court time during his rookie season. Unfortunately, he reverted back to form and settled for too many jump shots as described by Bright Side of the Sun.
Game 3: Detroit 89 - Lakers 84
This was the best game of the day thanks to a couple of evenly matched teams.
Last season's number 15 pick, Austin Daye, eventually showed his sophomore surge as he lead his team with 22 points with 10 coming in the fourth quarter. The Pistons also got the kind of solid performance we've come to expect from Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers.
Newly drafted Greg Monroe looked tentative and couldn't find any kind of touch on his shot. For a big guy, he seemed much to willing to settle for mid-range attempts.
Game 4: Golden State 77 - New Orleans 76
The Hornets featured two of the more surprising and dynamic rookies from last season, Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton. Thorton picked up right where he left off, shooting from long range and showing a surprising ability to get to the rim despite sub-par athleticism.
Except both Thorton and Collison were missing at an unsustainable rate. They combined for a .352 shooting percentage.
For the Warriors, it was just good to see the frequently injured Brandan Wright on the court. He looked a bit stronger than in years past and played a solid all around game.
SB Nation talked to Wright after the game. He said his shoulder was feeling good and he had full extension and just needs to get his timing and feel back.
"It's going to be huge. They brought in David Lee but I really think they are expecting a lot of things out of me this year," Wright said about his role this coming season with the Warriors.