After watching the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas for a week, we thought we’d go over some of this year’s rookies, how they are playing and what we think of them thus far. We don’t view the Summer League as a major predictive tool. Most of the action rivals pick-up games with not a lot of offense put in and the defense questionable as well. Adding to that this year, the competition level has dropped somewhat, with many European level players with no chance of playing in the NBA on rosters. With those disclaimers, here’s our analysis:
C.J. McCollum, Portland – Maybe he’s just trying to get back into the swing of things after his senior season was cut short by injury, but McCollum has been hoisting them up. He’s currently leading the league in scoring at 21.0 ppg but he’s only shooting 36.6%, 31% on three’s. That included yesterday’s 9-of-26 effort and an 8-of-25 game on Tuesday. He’s listed at 6’3 but appears to be at best 6’2. He’s been a volume scorer in Las Vegas, but not an effective scorer. He doesn’t appear to be a point and playing him alongside Lillard would give the Trail Blazers a very small backcourt. So there are questions there and we’re not sold on McCollum yet.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento – Definitely not a good start. While there’s no denying his athleticism, a two-guard has to shoot reliably and that’s one thing McLemore has not done thus far. After an 0-for-8 effort on Wednesday he’s shooting 28% overall including 18% on three-pointers. He’s had one good game in four, scoring 26 points on 8-for-14 shooting but also had a 4-for-23 game. For a player that many had going #1 he certainly has not impressed so far.
Cody Zeller, Charlotte – Zeller has displayed his athleticism to his advantage, coming up with three strong games in a row. He’s been active, taking his defender off the dribble and running the court very well. He’s averaged 19 points and almost 11 rebounds in his last three games while shooting 54%. It wont be that easy for him against true NBA 4’s and 5’s but so far so good. Zeller’s been impressive.
Reggie Bullock, LA Clippers – Bullock looks like he may be a viable shooting guard down the line. He has a good physical profile at 6’7/210 with nice shooting range. He’s scoring at a 17.0 ppg clip and has not shot particularly well from distance (28%). But the ability and shooting range seem to be there. Bullock looks like a good pickup.
Dennis Schroder, Atlanta – Schroder has looked impressive in the way he runs and controls the offense. He really is mature for the time he’s been playing the game and displays confidence. His offense has been limited thus far as he needs work on his shooting from beyond 20 feet (only 3-of-18 on three-pointers). Schroder has been getting his teammates involved (#2 in assists at 5.8 per game) and has that quick first step. With Jeff Teague returning to Atlanta, Schroder will be brought along a little slower, but he’ll be their point guard of the future.
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota – Muhammad hasn’t done anything to change our mind that he’s a one-dimensional player and doesn’t do much else. He’s shooting 44% on three-pointers but only slightly over 30% on two-pointers. He’s only 4-of-13 from the foul line, has only three assists in five games and is averaging only 2.0 rebounds per game. Yesterday he had only one point until he made two late baskets. He hasn’t defended very well either. Not a great start here.
Vander Blue, Memphis – After four games where he didn’t stand out, Blue got into the zone yesterday, scoring 24 points in 23 minutes, mostly in the second half. Blue made 5-of-8 three-pointers in helping bring the Grizzlies back from a big first half deficit. While Blue may have a low probability to make an NBA roster he has good size for an off guard and if he can score as he showed yesterday he’s got a shot.
We’ll cover other rookies and second-year players as the event approaches the close.