Summer League in Vegas ended Monday with the Bulls defeating the Timberwolves in the Championship game. Over the course of 11 days and 67 games we learned that Buddy Hield might not be the shooter we all thought he was; Kay Felder is the next Nate Robinson; and Denzel Valentine does a pretty decent Robert Horry impression.
PopGates was on hand all week. Here are our top 10 takeaways from Summer League:
10) Jimmer Ferdette Belongs in the NBA:
Everyone knows the knock on Jimmer: He’s undersized and can’t defend a conveniently placed trash bin. But, his particular skill set is currently the most coveted skill set in the NBA: volume scoring from behind the arc.
Forget about his time with Sacramento and New Orleans; the past year in the D-League Ferdette was good for 21 points per game, shooting 46 percent from the floor. Last week in Vegas, he was equally impressive, dropping 15 per game on 40 percent shooting.
Is Jeremy Lamb better on the end of the bench than Jimmer would be? How about Axel Toupane? Ish Smith? Darrun Hilliard? K.J. McDaniels? Joe Young? Marcelo Huertas? Tim Frazier? Sasha Vujacic?
Knicks fans hate the guy – hell, a lot of fans hate the guy (look no further than any Reddit thread he is mentioned in). Sure, the whole milk, hard-working white guy angle is played out, but his Player Efficiency Rating in Westchester last season (20.6) warrants an NBA opportunity that extends beyond six games.
9) In today’s position-less NBA, Jameel Warney will be a beast…if he is given a chance:
Most NBA fans are unfamiliar with the America East Conference and mid-major Stony Brook. Warney (undrafted), the three-time conference Player of the Year at Stony Brook, finished his collegiate career with averages of 16 points, three blocks and nine rebounds per game.
His four years at Stony Brook culminated in an NCAA Tournament appearance versus Kentucky. In the loss, Warney, who was essentially quadruple teamed all game long, dropped 23 points and snatched 15 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. That performance came on the heels of a conference record-tying 43 points in the America East Championship game to punch Warney’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
After the game, Kentucky head coach John Calipari compared Warney to Malik Rose saying:
“I will tell you that the respect we had for him: We never played him one-on-one. Think about that. The guys that have watched me coach know that very rarely do we do that — like, we just don’t play that way. So we did today. I said this kid could go for 40 against us, so let’s not let him get going… and he still got 23 points. He still got 23.”
Warney led Summer League in Vegas with nearly five offensive rebounds per game – including 10 against Milwaukee and seven against Golden State.
At 6’7’ 260 pounds, Warney doesn’t have the prototype NBA body — but neither does Draymond Green.
I asked Warney in Vegas what he needs to do to get to the NBA, his response:
“Rebounding and showing people I can defend bigger guys, [A] lot of negative feedback I have is they don’t know if I can defend people taller than me or skilled four men…I’m not going to back down, I am going to do all the little things right.”
8) Lakers fans might actually be respectable:
For the second year in a row, the Lakers had by far the most fan representation at the Thomas & Mack Center. In the middle of the work week, a sea of purple and yellow filled the arena to near capacity for Laker games. More so, they took the games incredibly seriously, creating a near regular season atmosphere.
7) Las Vegas Summer League is growing in popularity and that’s a bad thing for hoop-heads:
Ticket prices were up seven dollars and the Thomas & Mack Center had a noticeably larger fan presence than last year.
Summer League is a cool event for die hard hoops fans. You get to sit next to Drew Gooden, and eat hot dogs with Joey Crawford – but more fans – motivated by selfies rather than ball, take away from the event; and as it continues to grow the fan experience will lessen.
The dude who took a selfie with Gorgui Dieng and then called him LeBron was possibly the biggest offender – followed closely by the Jewish Youth Group who chanted for Trump an entire afternoon.
Sidenote: Humor point to the kid who in response to the Mariachi band said “Yo, it’s mad ethnic in this bitch.”
6) Chinanu Onuaku won Summer League:
Last year it was Matt Stainbrook, a stiff, goofy, white, left-handed big man with bleached blond hair and sports googles. This year it was Chinanu Onuaku’s granny style free throws.
Onauku broke out the Rick Barry under handed chuck after shooting 46.7 percent from the line his freshman year at Louisville. The following year, the 6’10” center improved at the charity stripe by nearly 12 percent.
For the Rockets at Summer League, Onauku hit one of two free throws ala Barry.
The second round draft pick is a long shot to open the season with the Rockets, but could be looking at a late season call up from the D-League.
5) Ben Simmons Can Save Philly:
For all the despair that Philly fans had to endure during the last couple years, their misery is finally paying off.
Ben Simmons exceeded the hype and will be the franchise player the 76ers were waiting to get all along. His athleticism, ability to get to the hoop, and amazing court vision will bring fun back to the Wells Fargo Center.
4) Larry Nance Should be in the Dunk Contest:
We already have an array of dunk footage from the regular season this year, but he reminded every one at Summer League why he should compete in the Dunk Contest during next year’s All-Star Weekend.
3) Basketball is Tough for Thon Maker:
Height can’t be taught.
The league knows this, the Bucks know this, and that’s why they drafted Thon Maker, who stands at 7’1”.
Thon seemed confused by where to go in a pick-and-roll, unable to box out small guards that no one recognizes, and frequently wandering around on defense trying to figure out who he is suppose to guard or where he should be. But hey, he did find a way to commit 10 fouls in a single game, and that is another talent that can’t be developed.
2) “Nah man, I don’t play basketball”:
Mistaken athlete identification happens every year by the fans at summer league who are hunting for autographs.
I get it, Summer League is a great casual environment where fans are constantly walking or sitting next to players and coaches from the NBA. But not every tall guy walking around the hall is worthy of having your program signed. News Flash: Tall people like to watch basketball too.
If you plan on attending next year’s summer league and you happen to be over 6’5”, don’t be shocked if kids come up to you asking for your autograph. My advice, just play it like you are a player. If anything, maybe this helps you get into some Vegas pool party.
1) Meek Mill’s Height is Uncertain:
During the 76ers game against the D-League Select team, Meek Mill decided to drop in to watch his hometown team play. As he came down the stairs with his crew I noticed one thing…
“Damn, he is tiny.”
And not just him, it seemed like because he was so self-aware of his height he assembled his crew accordingly. To make sure his image wasn’t stunted, he found a whole group of friends roughly the size of Muggys Bogues to help make him look taller.
As as I sat watching the game, Meek Mill’s height was all I could think of during timeouts. However, once it hit halftime Mill stepped onto the court to talk with Ben Simmons (who was only watching the game, not playing that day) and my reality was shattered.
Mill was not dwarfed by Simmons, he was actually not that much shorter than Simmons. My reactions followed as such:
This couldn’t be right; I must have a vision impairment.
Maybe Ben Simmons is actually 6’3” or something?
Is Peter Dinklage a giant and everyone else in Game of Thrones are even bigger giants?
Meek Mill must have had a magic mushroom from the Super Mario World.