Due to the inconsequential nature of the actual basketball at Summer League, we’re going to stick to the starting lineup — or guys that have a chance of making the team — rather than go with our traditional Re-Thoughts. We’re live in Las Vegas all week, so make sure to follow us on Twitter during every game.
But quickly before the players, Chad Buchanan and Mike Born each had a significant presence on the sidelines during the game, but it was Tom Penn who was absolutely working the room from all angles. Penn was seen chatting it up with Born and the Maloof brothers, among others. The man is clearly looking for a job. Chances are we’ll see Kevin Pritchard pop up sometime this week, too.
Dante Cunningham (5-for-11, 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 FTA’s):
Coup: While I’ve never been as high on Dante as some folks, I was expecting a little more out of him than the usual mid-range jumpers, solid position all around the court and glass work. But what’s wrong with that? While I would have liked him to be a little more assertive, he played the role he’s going to play for the Blazers, and played it well. Sometimes we might get too wrapped up, during Summer League, in guys making dramatic improvements and trying to show people news facets of their games that we forget that the goal for most of these guys — the non lottery picks — is to just refine a certain skillset enough for it to be dependable and useful on the pro level. If the first game was any indication, that’s exactly what Dante is trying to do.
SJ: Agreed. While Summer League may be a time when rotation guys can try and expand their game, it can also be a time where they simply refine it. Some may be disappointed in the fact that Dante didn’t do anything particularly splashy and that’s ok…but he just played solid. Nothing wrong with that. Now, would you like to seem him stay in the background all week? No. Dante might as well just keep pounding away with what got him to the dance: solid, solid, solid play.
Jeff Pendergraph (4-for-10, 9 points, 6 boards, 6 Fouls, 2 FTA’s):
SJ: I don’t know about you but I have mixed feelings about Jeff’s first game. It was obvious in the build-up to Summer League that Jeff was looking to put his stamp on this week. He said so himself. You have to like his aggression on the offensive end. It may have seemed like he was ‘gunning’ at times, but he’s in a spot to work on his offensive game. Summer League is a chance for him to work on his offensive game and clearly he’s going to take it. Also, let’s consider that he is playing a different role on this team. Whereas with the full Blazer squad he doesn’t need to do anything offensively, on this SL team he’s one of the top guys. The worrisome thing was the 6 fouls with I believe 4 or 5 of them coming in the first half. Last year, Jeff showed a great ability to talk on D and rotate. This year he seemed a bit slow. Let’s hope the offensive part doesn’t mean he loses his edge defensively.
Coup: Surely not the start that Jeff wanted, but he looked like he was working on a variety of moves, which is what you’d rather see than him going to the same face-up jumper every time down the floor. That said, his hook shot looked straight out of the Greg Oden School of Hooks and Jeff didn’t look very fluid or confident taking it. His energy level might have been too high, leading to some of those fouls, but he just didn’t seem to be making the correct defensive reads sometimes. All in all, if you didn’t know he was already on a team, he didn’t particularly separate himself from the rest of the summer league talent, but he might need to focus less on making a huge impact and more on tweaking his game. But it’s just one game, so let’s stop there.
Luke Babbitt (5-for-9, 0-f0r-3 from downtown, 13 points, 4 boards, 4 turnovers, 2 steals, 2 assists, 3 FTA’s):
Coup: The best way to put Luke’s first game is probably that it was inconsistent. He was making determined, confident cuts off the ball at one minute, making slow defensive rotations and some shaky passes the next. He started out nicely with two offensive rebounds that he finished with soft hooks but as the game wore on he began floating on the perimeter in a very Martell Webster-ish way. A spot-up jumper on the right wing got him going again later in the game, but it looked as though his legs left him as he armed up a couple bricks.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Babbitt comes back the next couple of game. He didn’t appear to be a very confident ball handler in traffic — forcing himself into a pair of jump passes on the break — and was out of position a number of times when he was the help defender, but he’s a fluid mover and seems to understand offensive positioning and spacing well. Again, we’re sort of describing Webster here, but for his first Vegas minutes, Babbitt was more assertive than Webster was out of high school.
SJ: Disagreeing with you on Babbitt, he’s already shown more than Martell. There is no doubt that he has a tremendous offensive game. If anything what impresses is how crafty Babbitt is on the offensive end. In this game he showed an ability to get to the basket and get that little lefty hook off. As the week goes on he will show off more, but for a first effort I’m ok with his effort offensively. He showed an ability to penetrate, an ability to come off down screens and his and-one finish showed he won’t be completely overwhelmed physically on this level.
If there is any question mark, it comes on the defensive end. It was only one game, but Babbitt didn’t really ease any of the concerns surrounding him on that end of the court. He’s not completely helpless, but there is work to be done. He got stuck on too many screens for my liking, both down screens and ball screens which forced switches. Also, as talented as Chase Budinger is, you would like to think that’s one of the more ideal matchups for Babbitt as a defender…and he struggled keeping him in front.
Armon Johnson (4-for-8, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals, 2 turnvoers):
SJ: I think Armon Johnson was the most impressive of the bunch if you asked me. His calling card was an ability to attack the basket and finish, and while he only had a couple chances to show it…he did impressively. He has a controlled quickness about him. For the majority of the time he looked comfortable at both the 1 and the 2. Also impressive was his defensive motor. 4 steals may not have much value in a SL game, but Johnson’s length and ability to stay in front of defenders does.
Coup: You’ve been up on Johnson from the beginning and he came exactly as advertised: a combo guard who does many of the same things Jerryd Bayless does. The mechanics on his jumper don’t look like they’ll translate to much efficiency if he’s going to be pulling up off the dribble, but as you said, he had a nose for the rim and finished despite (like Mills) not meeting a ton of opposition when he got there due to a tired Houston squad. We need to see much more of him to make any judgements, but it certainly looks like he’s got the tools to provide backcourt insurance should the Blazers make any moves with their bench players this summer.
Patty Mills (5-for-10, 2-for-5 from three, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers):
SJ: Patty got a lot of love on twitter for his performance in yesterday’s game. The statline was a little more impressive than his actual game. It was not the type of blow-away, wow, performance that many are making it out to seem. He did do a good job of running the offense, but sometimes it felt like he was too fast for his own good on the court. At times I wonder if he only has one speed, I’d like to see him show off a little change of pace as the week progresses. He was clearly in attack mode, also must of wanted to show off his outside game (shot 5 threes). I’d rather see him attack the basket than launch threes. Defensively, his ability to slide his feet, stay and front, and be a mini-bulldog was nice. It would be a shame if we let his talent go away.
Coup: The speed was nothing new with Mills, but it was nice to finally see him get a chance to run an offense. His passes were direct and on target, though at times he was given much better passing lanes then he’s ever going to see in the pros. And that’s my concern with him this summer — that, as much as his speed is an asset, he’s going to look good because of this league and because he has legitimate NBA talent in the starting lineup with him. That’s certainly not something to hold against him, but when he’s getting to the hoop and defending big men are just watching him do it, speed can only be so much of a factor there.
His shot and release look good, though, and he seemed very balanced off the dribble.