Early takeaways from Las Vegas Summer League

Derrick Williams, Ben McLemore, Brendan Lane and Jared Cunningham (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Summer league is not for the faint of heart.  It is hot, cramped and the basketball is less than stellar. It is a dangerous place to make assumptions, be it positive or negative. For young players like Nik Stauskas, this is the first time they have played against this level of competition. For others, this might be the last time they throw on a professional basketball uniform. It is an eclectic grouping of basketball’s future and past with a heavy dose of dreamers.

While summer league is just the first step in a long preseason, we can still look at the game action and pull out some observations. Through three games, there is a lot to like and a few things that haven’t gone so well.

 

The Positives

 

  • Nik Stauskas is a competent defender and can really shoot the ball. The knock on him coming out of Michigan was that he would struggle to stay in front of his man due to a lack of lateral quickness. He hasn’t been perfect, but the 20-year-old guard fights through screens, gets long on the close-out and is stronger than he looks. He has a base with which Michael Malone can work. On the offensive end, he is shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from long range, all without a dominant post player like DeMarcus Cousins around.
  • Quincy Acy’s perimeter game. Sacramento has until late July to make a decision on the forward’s 2014-15 non-guaranteed contract. If he makes the team, he has the potential to stretch the defense with solid range from the baseline three and a nice 18-20-foot jumper from the elbow.
  • Ben McLemore’s aggression. This item will make an appearance twice in this piece. McLemore looks like he has added strength, and he is following the direction of the coaching staff and attacking the rim.  The shots will eventually fall, but until they do, McLemore needs to use every ounce of his athleticism to get to the free-throw line.
  • Eric Moreland has a chance. I’m not sure if it’s a great chance, but Moreland has a great motor, he rebounds and his 7-foot-3.5 wingspan is impressive.  He has trouble on the offensive end, but the Kings need a long defensive-minded role player.  That is what Moreland can be.
  • MarShon Brooks fits a need. With Isaiah Thomas on his way to Phoenix, the Kings are going to need another scorer. Brooks has a solid grasp of the game and can score in a variety of ways.  He can also handle the ball a bit and rarely makes mistakes. His NBA skill is scoring, which he does well. The Kings will face competition for his services if they pursue a training camp invite.

 

The Negatives

 

  • McLemore’s ball handling and decision-making. The former Kansas star struggled to create for himself and others last season. The team has asked him to be aggressive, but that has led to 16 turnovers through three games and he has yet to get credit for a single assist.
  • Nik Stauskas’ rebounding. Through three games, the Kings rookie has five total rebounds. Stauskas has been impressive at almost every facet of the game, but NBA shooting guards need to rebound and they have to put a body on someone. Put this on his list of things to work on before training camp.
  • Jared Cunningham has faded into obscurity. Cunningham came in with an outside shot of winning a roster spot in Sacramento. After losing time to D-League standout Ra’Shad James and then two straight DNP-CDs, Cunningham needs a miracle. Going from first-round pick to fringe NBA player in two years is a worrisome sign.
  • Derrick Williams’ inconsistency. This is summer league, Williams is entering his fourth season after being the second pick in the draft, and he’s averaging just 12.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game in Vegas. Rookie Doug McDermott, the 11th overall selection in this year’s draft  is averaging over 20 points per game for the Chicago Bulls summer league team through three games. Williams should be dominant. He is playing against plenty of players who will never play an NBA game, yet he is still passive.  The Kings need more.
  • The slow start for Ray McCallum. Sacramento is counting on big things from McCallum this season, and he had a rough start to summer league.  Through three games, the second-year guard is averaging 8.7 points and 5.3 assists, but 12 of those assists came in the team’s last game.  McCallum needs to finish strong in the Kings’ final games to show he is ready to play major minutes behind Darren Collison.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".