My man Jon Santiago, who hosts a fantastic podcast with my man Patrick Crawley (Do I sound enough like Ahmad Rashad?), tweeted me last night, wondering why Donte Greene wasn’t starting. My reaction was it’s probably a way to see how some of the other guys adjust to a different role. Coachie inserted Jon Brockman and Wesley Matthews into the starting five to replace Donte and Jerel McNeal and I actually really liked the move. After watching Greene up close and personal for the first two games, I can confidently tell you that DG is pretty much the same player that he was at the end of last season. His rebounding is a little more spirited but his movement towards the basket is still sub-par on offense. His defense is improved with a little more muscle but he still doesn’t shoot effectively off the dribble.
So I was all for getting some fresh blood in there to see what happens with a different mix of guys starting the game out. Matthews and Brockman joined Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson, and Omri Casspi in the starting lineup to square off against this year’s 10th pick Brandon Jennings, last year’s eighth pick Joe Alexander and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League squad. The Kings lost again, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the Bucks shot over 50% from the field and made 8/12 from three-point range.
But none of that is really important. What’s important is how the individual players performed and whether they progressed from last game or regressed. Here’s how they played:
You’ve got to respect Omri Casspi after the last two games than you might have with the first game of his Summer League career. He looked good and promising in the first game. In the second and third game, he looked like he had no clue how to play the game (or what I like to call – the Andrew Bynum Syndrome). Now, I think he’s much better than someone suffering from ABS because of the heart he’s shown in these games.
It would have been really easy for him, and probably typical for most young players, to just hide in his shell after performing two stink bomb games. But he never seemed to shy away from taking shots or attempting to make plays. His defense was solid. And he was still aggressive with the ball in a smart way. I like the mental makeup of Omri, especially considering all of the pressure he feels from being the first Israeli person to play in the NBA. He has the weight of a proud and passionate nation on his shoulders and is using that to persevere through these minor speed bumps.
Brock got the start and once again showed to me that he can be a regular rotation guy in this league. He’s still the best rebounder on the floor in every game he’s played so far. He grabbed 12 rebounds in 22 minutes, giving him 27 total rebounds in just 52 minutes of play this summer. And for questions about his height, he played good defense against the much taller and more experienced Amir Johnson. He held his own in the paint against him and rebounded better than everybody on the floor. He makes up for his lack of height with a quick jump to the ball and great positioning with his body on defense. His offense is really limited. He’s a good slasher at his position and can find openings in the defense to flash to for quick pass but he isn’t good shooting the ball and doesn’t have a post game at all.
The best way to describe Jason Thompson on the court this summer is sloppy. He’s just been sloppy all around. Before this game, he scored the ball pretty efficiently but couldn’t get much to drop against Amir Johnson and Joe Alexander. Once again, he failed to rebound the ball effectively and now has just 13 rebounds in 98 minutes this summer. His defense was especially sloppy with nine fouls and having trouble guarding Joe Alexander. JT has been forced to guard quicker and smaller players twice in the VSL so far and both times he’s been ineffective defensively. DaJuan Summers torched him on Friday and Joe Alexander had a fair amount of points against him last night.
I don’t think this is the end of the world for JT fans but I think it’s something to be mindful of. He doesn’t make smaller players pay in the post because he settles for the jump shot. He hasn’t hit the glass hard at all, despite the fact that he claims it’s about the strategy of the other teams in keeping him off the boards. And his defense has looked lazy at times and uninspired. If he’s still this way when the regular season starts, get worried. But for now, just chalk it up to some type of summer malaise.
Listening to Jerel McNeal on Saturday, he spoke about how smart and cerebral Matthews is as a player in the backcourt. I thought that proved to be true in his VSL debut last night. Mr. Matthews (any Boy Meets World fans out there?) started out slow by missing his first five shots from the floor but quickly made up for that with a strong showing in the second half. He eventually ended up making five of his last eight shots, including two of his three three-point attempts, and finished with 14 points. He was strictly a scorer out there with zero turnovers, assists, or rebounds but he showed that he knew when to take his shots. Almost all of his 13 attempts were good, smart shots in the flow of the offense and it looked like he always ended up in the right spots. He might be a guy to keep an eye on for the last two games.
McNeal’s defense has been solid throughout the Summer League so far. His offense was practically nonexistent in this game with only two shots from the floor but he did a nice job of taking care of the ball and moving it through the options on offense. He never forced anything in his 17 minutes on the floor. I don’t know that he’s shined enough so far to warrant a roster spot. But I think he’s probably earned a spot in someone’s training camp based on his solid play and proof that his injuries are behind him.
I’m still impressed every game with Landry’s ability to shoot the ball from outside. He went three of five from three-point range in this game and totaled 13 points to go with his six rebounds off the bench in 25 minutes. He’s shooting 9/18 from three in the VSL and has played acceptable defense, whether he’s guarding a bigger or smaller player. He’s only turned the ball over twice in 76 minutes of play and has grabbed more rebounds than Jason Thompson. Landry needs to be offered a non-guaranteed contract for the season and kept for his ability to shoot the ball off the bench. He’s really played as well as can be expected this summer.
Donte Greene hardly played in this game and when he did, he was a non-factor on the offensive end of the floor. He wasn’t very aggressive and only found himself with a few touches. And his defense was average. He didn’t give up much but didn’t lock anybody down, either. But once again, Donte rebounded pretty well. He grabbed six boards in 15 minutes of action. He’s now racked up 20 rebounds in 72 minutes and seems to be more committed to being a presence on the glass.
I don’t think Roberts is going to make this team but he’s had a nice showing in the VSL so far. He only played six minutes in this game and didn’t really do much offensively but every time he’s on the floor, he plays solid defense. He’s done a nice job of taking care of the ball too and will either find himself in the D-League or playing overseas.
Everyone’s favorite Michael Jordan look-a-like got into the game after sitting out Saturday’s contest with a DNP-CD. He didn’t do much in just four minutes of play but he did grab an offensive rebound. His two turnovers and one point were nothing to be proud of but he still looks exactly like present-day Michael Jordan.
And now for the Tyreke Evans show:
Let me start this off by sharing an email from TrueHoop Network brethren Jeremy over at Bucksketball, the Milwaukee Bucks TrueHoop blog:
“You get to watch Tyreke Evans play on your team for at least the next four years. From what I saw tonight that will be pretty cool. That dude was just relentless. He never stopped attacking the hoop with everything he had. He was like a wrecking ball attacking a building.
I’m still not convinced he’ll be a point guard though. He seems like a dude you just get it to on the wing so he doesn’t have to worry about getting the offense set up. I don’t see how he wouldn’t be more effective as a wing who has point skills and CAN get others involved rather than be the initiator who HAS to get others involved.
Regardless he seems like he’s going to be a handful for everyone in the league. Early-Artest-like physicality on offense.”
I have to say, I’m completely sold on Tyreke Evans after three Summer League games and I know exactly how irrational that sounds. After all, it’s JUST Summer League. But he plays the exact way that the Kings will need him to play. He’s tough and physical. He powers his way to the basket. He’s like a boxer jabbing away at the defense, biding his time, and then exploding with an overhand right when he finally gets an opening. You all know that he put up 33 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. Maybe you’re concerned with the seven turnovers and the fact that he’s turned the ball over 16 times in three games. But who cares? He’s a monster on the court.
He got to the free throw line 19 times in this game and has now shot 41 free throws in three contests. You can’t even compare him to a current or former player either because what he’s doing is so unique. He isn’t quite as reckless as Dwyane Wade when going to the hoop because he seems to slow down and switch direction at the perfect time. Wade is more of a quick strike guy. He isn’t like Derrick Rose because he’s too big and powerful. He isn’t as big as LeBron and doesn’t settle for jumpers when he should be driving. He’s almost always looking to drive because he knows that the defense hasn’t tried to take it away from him yet.
I also was really impressed with his defense in this game. Sure, Brandon Jennings ended up with some nice numbers. Jennings finished with 13 points, 14 assists, and one unfounded trip of Jason Thompson. Jennings made 2/3 threes against Evans but they were shots that you want Reke forcing Brandon to shoot. One of them happened to clinch the game when he pushed the lead to five in the last few seconds but it was exactly the shot that the Kings had to be hoping for – an off-balanced three from a bad outside shooter. It was good to see Evans guarding a smaller, quicker point guard in this game because that’s what he’ll have to do for the next few years.
His play-making ability also was more impressive in this game than in the previous two. In the previous two games, he was pretty much resigned to getting assists off of basic passes. Against the Bucks, he was able to draw the defense in more to open things up for his teammates. On one particular play, he drove into the middle of the lane from the right wing, drew the second defender to him and dumped it off to Brockman for a lay-up. Those are the type of plays that Kings fans want to see this season.
Overall, I’d give Evans a B+ for this game. He got lazy around half court when he was handling the ball a few times and Jennings took advantage by ripping the ball from his slow dribble for points the other way. He’ll just have to remember to be alert while handling the ball at all times. It’s good that he learns that now, rather than in the regular season when the steals and turnovers mean much more.