Volume I of Vegas Summer League is in the books for the Blazers, and other than the loss which means absolutely nothing it was mostly successful. UNLV has a great setup with Cox Pavillion joined with the Thomas and Mack Center, so when two games are going at once you are free to roam wherever you please. Lots of the big names in the industry were walking among the fans, from front office players to current and former stars. If you’re an NBA nut, this is the place for you, as long as you can deal with some trash hoops going on. But good team basketball is not why we’re here. We’re here to check out the three players who will likely be on the Portland roster next season.
Jerryd Bayless (22 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 6 turnovers, 7-of-17 shooting): The big question on all our minds is “Can Bayless play point guard?” If we’re going on his performance today, I’d say probably. He looked every bit the part in the first quarter, getting into the paint and setting his teammates up for open jumpers and one nice alley-oop to Pendergraph that screamed for Greg Oden. On more than a few occasions he yelled at the recipient of his passes to shoot the ball, possibly a sign that he was concerned about his assist total, but he still made the passes. The pass was clearly the first option, and only once he had set up his team did he start taking shots, many of which were deserving of plenty of superlatives.
People will be concerned with the six assists, but most were a result of Bayless being aggressive with the ball and not being able to complete a tough pass. He did have one bad pass picked off during a fast break — also giving up the ball earlier than he should — but that’s something he can learn. What I liked was the moment he got the ball, he was taking off down the court and trying to set up someone else.
As far as leadership goes, Bayless is the big dog on the team and guys were looking to him for guidance on court. On at least one occasion he made a good play and immediately called for a huddle to settle things down. I don’t think there’s any question he has some good instincts in this area, but I would’ve liked a bit more towards the end of the game, when the score was tight and it was his time to takeover. In fact, really the only time I was disappointed was in the fourth quarter, when Bayless blended in a little too much right when I wanted him to takeover. That’s not to say he wasn’t still making nice plays down the stretch, but things looked a little more forced and he didn’t make the impact I thought he would. All in all, it was a good, solid start and now we can only wait to see if things carry over to the next game.
UPDATE 10:45 PT: Left out one thing about Bayless. His defense. There wasn’t much of it. He stuck his man occasionally and the refs let him play fairly physically on the drive (those hand checking rules weren’t enforced too often). Quincy Douby also torched him at least twice, with Bayless left turning around, watching Douby score easily at the rim. No doubt Bayless can guard the point — which he’ll have to do if he’s going to play there — but he didn’t look as though he were trying very hard to do that today. Of course, this could be because he’s focusing on running the offense, and there’s the fact that Summer League doesn’t exactly motivate people to guard anyone, but the D has to catch up at some point.
Jeff Pendergraph (12 points, 9 rebounds, 5-0f-8 shooting): We’ve loved this guy from the beginning (considering the price) and he did nothing to prove us wrong. He had a number of bullish dunks — from Bayless and on offensive putbacks — and went out and grabbed the ball on the boards, rather than waiting for it to come to him. I’d like to see him get a few more looks in the post and on spot-up shots as he missed a good looking hook in the first quarter, but that might come. The only negative to his day was that he had some passive stretches where you forgot he was out there, which was odd because his motor seems to run fairly high at other times.
Dante Cunningham (21 points, 9 rebounds, 8-of-17 shooting): Mr. Cunningham, meet Mr. Bayless. He gets you good looks. Finishing off a number of Bayless assists, Cunningham flashed a mid-range jumper that was both consistent in form and results. He, like Pendergraph, was also very active on the glass, and even tried to make some soaring blocks, but for the most part his damage was done on the perimeter. Some people have compared Cunningham to Travis Outlaw, which is apt in terms of athleticism, but he didn’t show that ability to shoot off the dribble and create his own shot that Outlaw depends on so much. Maybe he has it, but it wasn’t there today.
Next game is Wednesday, and until then make sure to follow us on Twitter as we report on all the goings ons in Vegas.