Tuesday, July 17, 2007

NBA Summer League: The Good, the Bad and the Jianlian

Given some time to contemplate (not to mention read a helpful ESPN article) I have a few opinions about some select players’ performances in Vegas this summer.

The guys you’re interested in:
1) Greg Oden. You have all heard about what an embarrassment this guy was for the Blazers. As I’ve said, the NBA Summer League doesn’t supply an accurate portrayal of the actual season, but you would expect this guy to get more points than fouls but despite his inability to do so, it is unfair to label him a dud. He only played two games due to his enraged tonsils and during the season he will hopefully spend a little more time utilizing that body of his. Bottom line: Hopefully, this Summer League will force the Blazers to put Oden behind Aldridge, at least for a little while.
2) Kevin Durant. Well, this guy delivered what we all expected: buckets. 24 points per game isn’t bad, but he definitely has some things to work on. Lots of points seems unavoidable when you put up as many shots as this guy did. His amazing moments were often met with equally uninspiring ones. No need to fear Sonics, some refining will turn this rookie into the immediate impact player you want. Bottom line: After some pampering and tutelage, this guy will be great, even on defense.
3) Mike Conley Jr. A classy guy with a high basketball IQ. He’s fast and may be able to get some of his sub-par Grizzly teammates involved. There’s not much to say about this guy considering he met everyone’s expectations. Bottom line: He’s just what Memphis needs and after some work on his jumper, will be a dominant guard for years.
4) Yi Jianlian: As a principle, I tend to hate all foreign basketball players. As much skepticism as I met this guy with, he managed to impress me. He’s around 6’10” and plays SF as well as anyone. By no means is he a high flyer but he’s powerful, smart and can shoot. He got plenty of opportunities to touch the ball while playing with the crappy Chinese National Team. I expect him to make an impact with the Bucks if his handlers deem Milwaukee honorable enough to sign his paycheck. Bottom line: His combination of size and skill should impress but NBA bigs will have no problem shutting him down.

Some snippets:
1) Spencer Hawes. Shot 44%, shameful for a big man who’s supposed to be skilled and failed to get to the line in the Summer League. Not looking good.
2) Thaddeus Young. Got better as the week went on and finished with 20 and 10 in the last game. A beast on the offensive boards.
3) Julian Wright. Yet another athletic wingman, he was very inconsistent. Probably won’t be a factor with the Hornets for a while.

The best:
1) Nate Robinson: The NBA named this guy their MVP and I’d have to agree, except that he’s a 3rd year veteran. Between playing at random parks in NY and playing against rookies, this guy needs to find a gym to work out in. All that said, he really did everything well and led the Knicks to 5-0. If only the real Knicks could start winning.
2) Louis Williams. Here is the true MVP. One year has done wonders for this guy’s game and I couldn’t ask for a more promising guard to play behind Andre Miller. (His teammate Rodney Carney looked good too).
3) Randy Foye. Definitely the most athletic guy in the league. He scored at will and made some posters out of Yi.

The only things that will stay consistent in the regular season are Durant’s shooting (33% but plenty of points), Conley’s dominance (he’s fast enough to be considered speedy compared to anyone) and, hopefully, Oden’s lack of time (not to say he won’t play, just maybe behind and impressive Aldridge).

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