Thoughts From Las Vegas Summer League – Game One

With the debut of DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside officially in our memory banks, seems like a good idea to recap how the entire team did during the Summer League. First off though, I’m going to pimp out something I wrote for the Daily Dime that came out this morning on ESPN.com:

Cousins’ apparent obsession with contact on the defensive end of the floor slams nicely into the offensive side of the court, too. He forced his way into the paint against the Pistons’ big men with nimble feet and an uncanny ability to shift his weight to put the defender at a disadvantage. When Detroit doubled him, he showed vision in his passing game that you don’t see with a lot of guys his size. It wasn’t revolutionary; it was just another weapon at his disposal.

The list of ammunition in his arsenal is more than he was able to show at Kentucky. When asked about his jumper that he employed from all over the floor, he responded, “I’ve had it, but Coach Cal didn’t need me to do it at UK.”

Click the link to read the rest of it.

Now, onto my thoughts on the team:

- DeMarcus Cousins: I don’t think you could have watched DMC yesterday and not be blown away by how good this guy is going to be. I sat next to David Thorpe during the game and he was amazed that Cousins wasn’t the second pick in the draft. Cousins passing ability and physical nature impressed me the most throughout the day. He made a lot of passes that most centers in the league can’t make. His vision in the block and moving to the basket is something the Kings can really use. His only problem was that the execution of the passes was a little sloppy at times. But you can live with that as he builds up more experience in those situations.

Cousins’ outlet passes are also something that will be of great value to the Kings. His rebounding is spectacular and he’ll easily be a walking double-double in this league. With him owning the boards so well, it will give him a lot of chances to toss good outlet passes to get the Kings some quick offensive options. He’s also capable of trailing the play and diving hard to the basket or being a good jump shot option. His follow-through on the jumper was unfinished and short a lot but you can easily fix that. He’s a complete offensive force that can defend pretty well in a team concept. Kings once again got extremely fortunate in capitalizing on other GMs’ mistakes.

- Hassan Whiteside: Sort of a sexy line for Hassan, who was dubbed “SWAT” by Cousins. Five points, five boards and five blocks. Hassan went up and got some really incredible blocks during his time on the court. Some of them seemed impossible and some of them seemed like goaltends but when he was on the court, he was a threat to come from the weakside and erasing any attempt. He and Cousins played well together defensively.

The problem I saw with Whiteside is he’s sort of lost on defense until he gets a chance to go make a play on a shot. He’s sort of just wandering around out there. He’s also a little too aggressive in challenging shots and while it works in Summer League, it’s going to hurt the Kings in the season if he ever plays. Teams will be able to crash the glass against him and have an advantage on the offensive boards. It’s something you can correct with teaching but it’s not a guarantee that it will be fixed. With that said, he’s exciting out there on defense and should be a nice option for alley-oops and tip dunks. The guy is beyond long and lanky.

- Omri Casspi: Casspi was night-and-day from what we saw in Vegas a year ago and what we saw on Monday. He was one of the most confident players I saw on the court all day long. His jumper looks as smooth as ever and his movement toward the basket is very direct. Everything he does has a purpose. He appeared to be in complete control of his part of the game. Defensively, he did a great job of locking up one of the best scorers in the Summer League. Austin Daye has been killing his defensive assignment so far and Casspi found a way to take away his effectiveness. Now Casspi is too good for the Summer League at this point in terms of skill and ability, but it’s good to see him working on defense.

- Donté Greene: At this point, we know Donté’s game. So we don’t really need to analyze it in a Summer League platform. What I noticed the most out on the floor was his leadership. He got on Whiteside for not hustling back on defense on a play in which the Pistons got a transition score. He directed guys around on offense and called out switches, assignments and adjustments on defense. DG could very easily be the leader of this team in a couple of years. He’s already a great locker room guy and he’s showing in Vegas that he can be a strong voice in directing his team on the court.

- Ryan Thompson: Casspi shouldn’t get all of the credit for locking up Daye. RT showed toughness in defending Daye in the mid-post and cutting off his quick first step. Offensively, he got a relatively easy 12 points in just 18 minutes on the floor. He has great touch from the outside and seems to be another guy that gets to the free throw line an exorbitant amount. I’d like to see him guard more of a playmaking shooting guard than a small forward he can easily cut off. To make this team (and the league in general), he’ll need to be able to keep up with quicker guys. I do not doubt that he can. I just want to see him do it.

- Tyrese Rice: You can look at the 15 points from Rice and be impressed with the box score line he put out there but if you do, you’re missing the point of the way he played. Everyone knows he can score. It’s what he did in college. Teams want to see him effectively run a team and I didn’t see much of that from him yesterday. He missed wide-open teammates on multiple occasions. He dribbled way too much with his down and struggled to get plays going quickly. On a couple of occasions with the clock running down, Mario Elie was shouting for him to start the play and each time he took three or four extra seconds to get it going. He found Chism for a nice dunk at the end of one of these plays but it had more to do with the horrible Detroit defense than it did with him. He needs to show more of a point guard mentality to win some favor with NBA front offices.

- Donald Sloan: The Kings newest member of the team did a nice job of moving the ball around and getting guys in the right spot. Defensively, he’s very quick and has a strong base. But we didn’t get to see him really run the team all that much. Thompson, Greene and Casspi initiated a lot. I’d like to see him being more of a leader and a creator in the next couple of games to see what he can do. Defensively, I’m intrigued to see him against smaller, quicker guards to see if he can keep up.

Final thoughts

– Mario Elie is a perfect coach for running this Summer League team. He was as vocal with the Kings when the game just started as he was when he emptied the bench as they closed out a 29-point victory. He was constantly working with Cousins and Whiteside to help them realize where they needed to be in defensive rotations. As the game wore on, he didn’t let the Kings let up because he knew it was about the young guys learning how to play in this league. Unfortunately for the Kings, there are a ton of GMs and front office people in the league. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t given a head coaching job in the next two years.

– Sylven Landesberg has a very quick first step. He blew by his defender multiple times and if given more of a role, he should be able to put up some points in a hurry.

– Communication was the biggest key for the Kings. Defensively, they knew where to be and on offense, they didn’t have too many clogged, broken plays. Donté and Omri were huge parts of this because they genuinely tried to coach up their teammates and give them hints to be successful. Cousins was also surprisingly active in this role too. He talked to everybody who would listen. The more this team talks to each other on the court, the better off everybody is.

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