The NBA Summer League is over, leaving a nation without any sort of organized basketball, professional or otherwise, until the NBA preseason and college basketball practices warm up in October. The Summer League, as much as it is an experience unto itself, also does a fine job of giving GMs and scouts an extended look at recent acquisitions, down-bench pieces and other abnormalities, and it gives fans a chance to praise and/or criticize said acquisitions, pieces and abnormalities.
The nearly two-week retreat in Las Vegas, as each edition tends to do, produced its share of standouts that did something to raise eyebrows. Each of the five profiled below did so under a different set of circumstances heading in to the tournament.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
McCollum led all rookies in scoring in Las Vegas with 21 points per game in five games for the Blazers, but this may not surprise, necessarily. McCollum was the No. 10 pick in June's draft, after all, and scoring was not an issue at all for the Lehigh product who scored 2,361 points in his 3.5 years of college (a broken foot ended his senior season at about its midway point in January).
McCollum isn't a ready-made prospect, and Dave at Blazer's Edge summed up what needs to fill out in his game:
McCollum will have to figure out how and when he can score consistently outside of screens. Just as importantly, the Blazers are going to have to figure out how and when to use him. He's not an automatic backup point. He is a fine backup two-guard, but his minutes will depend on understanding the game and not getting blown away on defense. At first they're going to need to choose his spots as much as he'll have to choose his shots. Hopefully the menu will expand for him and the team as his career progresses. Just don't expect him to be an instant fit at point guard or an instant starter at the two.
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns
Goodwin was the No. 29 overall pick for the Suns as a freshman out of Kentucky. His defection after one year from the Wildcats seemed like a fate resigned when he first arrived on Kentucky's campus, but his first season as a Wildcat raised some question as to whether he'd return to school. He did not, and the fringe first-rounder defied most projections when the Suns took him 29th. He seemed to vindicate general manager Ryan McDonough with his play in five games in Las Vegas; at least, Goodwin showed the potential he only showed in flashes in college that seems to suggest he'll develop into a quality NBA player.
Goodwin averaged 13.1 points on 50-percent shooting in Vegas in seven games, repeatedly demonstrating his ability to get to the basket -- almost an invincibility, it seemed at times -- and draw fouls, occasionally stepping outside for shots.
He scored 16 points in the first half of Monday's Summer League title game against the Golden State Warriors, but Dave King at Bright Side of the Sun pointed out that not all of his performance Monday was positive:
Archie Goodwin came out completely flat in the second half, deferring totally to his teammates. He didn't drive or cut or demand the ball at all. This is something that reminds you Goodwin is still just 18 years old.
Goodwin finished that game with 18 points.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
The inclusion of Valanciunas, the Summer League MVP, on this list is different than others, because the 21-year-old Lithuanian scored 8.9 points per game in 57 starts last season for the (regular, fall through spring league) Raptors. But he averaged 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game in the Summer League and seemed unchallenged at times in the process.
It didn't deter Adam Francis at Raptors HQ from still giving Valanciunas an 'A' in his Summer League grades:
He went left. He went right. He went over and through. Pretty much you name it, you saw it from Big Val who averaged a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and even hit 29 of his 33 free throws!!
Yes, a lot of the time Valanciunas was going up against D-League quality opponents, but that's not his fault. Valanciunas did exactly what we hoped he'd do. Dominate.
Valanciunas' grade at Raptors HQ was much more forgiving than the 'F' assessed to Terrence Ross.
Andrew Goudelock, Chicago Bulls
Goudelock presented promise on a different level than those mentioned before him in this piece of prose: He was a second-round pick in 2011 who never really caught on with the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Lakers, and is now trying to crack a roster elsewhere in the league. Goudelock didn't have much of a chance with the Lakers, spending most of his time in the D-League, but he was called up upon the myriad of Laker injuries late in the season and even scored 20 points in a start in Game 3 of the Western Conference playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs.
That performance earned him the nickname "Mini Mamba" straight from the mouth of the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant.
Despite scoring 19 points per game in five games in Vegas, Goudelock's spot on the Bulls' roster is not certain. His predicament is complex, Ricky O'Donnell wrote at Blog-a-Bull:
He could catch on if the Bulls do chose to use all 15 spots on their roster next season, but the luxury tax makes that an improbable bet. Goudelock can score and has the ability to get buckets without needing to be set up; he's also a quality 3-point shooter. Problem is, he doesn't bring much else to the table. He's too short to play the two and doesn't have the ball handling or playmaking for a point guard. It looks like he doesn't play much defense, and we know he has a tiny wingspan that sort of prevents him from doing so at the highest level.
Austin Rivers, New Orleans Pelicans
Austin Rivers' rookie season in New Orleans was a disaster. He shot 32.7 percent from the field, scored 6.2 points per game, was one of the least efficient players in the league upon being thrust into the starting lineup due to Eric Gordon's injury, then topped it all off when he broke his hand in March. He did not seem to acquit the New Orleans' brass for spending the No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 draft on him.
But the game he showed in five trips to the floor in Vegas looked a lot more like the dynamite scorer seen at Duke than the can't-keep-up rookie in New Orleans. He averaged 18.2 points per game in the Summer League, shooting 48.2 percent from the floor. SB Nation's Paul Flannery caught up with Rivers in Vegas and came away impressed:
He still has a long way to go to become the kind of playmaking guard they were hoping for when they drafted him in the lottery, and his jumper still needs some work, but Rivers was satisfied with his performance.
"You can see the difference between last year and this year," Rivers said. "I wanted to show people that I'm healthy, I'm back and this year is a big year for me."