LAS VEGAS – Some thoughts just before leaving summer league, minus comment on the mean, mean lady standing on the other side of the table with an obvious anti-media bias constantly dealing 12s, 13s and 14s while turning face cards for the house:
- The Bobcats are intriguing. Really. How will Mike Dunlap, a respected basketball mind but a surprise hire, do as a first-time NBA head coach? Can Bismack Biyombo, a project as a 2011 lottery pick who had some encouraging progress last season, take a big step toward becoming the ferocious defensive presence many envision? How will Dunlap find time for rookies Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor when both are small forwards? That’s a lot of prominent storylines at once.
One certain outcome, at least, will be to play Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor together, an option since both are versatile and talented defenders. Dunlap sees them as capable of guarding either backcourt spot and, if the opponent goes small, either forward.
The Bobcats didn’t get the chance to test drive the look because MKG, the No. 2 pick, missed four of five games with a sore left knee, an absence they termed precautionary. But it was easy to see why some teams thought Taylor, who was picked at No. 31, could have been drafted eight or 10 picks higher. He’s smart, has improved his jumper a lot, is athletic and defends. That’s a nice future for a second-rounder.
“He reminds me a lot of Shane Battier,” Dunlap said.
- It has been a different kind of summer league. Two marquee rookies are not here because of Olympic commitments, Anthony Davis (Hornets) with the United States and Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) with Lithuania. Kidd-Gilchrist missed most of Charlotte’s games. Dion Waiters missed two for the Cavaliers with a bad knee. Meyers Leonard went from a very encouraging showing in the Trail Blazers’ opener to two games of reduced energy while playing through, or recovering from, a bad stomach bug.
Also different: Temperatures in the 90s much of the week. That’s a gift. When Hang Time CEO Sekou Smith was here a few days earlier for Team USA duty, it was more like 114. Thank you.
- The Bucks are pleased with the perimeter game of John Henson, after all the talk heading to the draft that he had no offense. “Maybe it’s because Carolina had so many other guys to go to,” Milwaukee assistant Jim Boylan said of Henson’s scoring ability not getting attention. “But he can certainly step out and shoot the ball from 15, 17 feet.”
That will be a pick-and-pop asset. There just won’t be many opportunities – the Bucks already have Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy and second-round pick Doron Lamb to shoot. But if Henson can add enough bulk, an obvious shortcoming, to also become a post presence, his value on offense goes way up.
Milwaukee also has the parts to be a good defensive team despite guards who could get stepped on: Henson and Samuel Dalembert, a newcomer in trade from Houston, joining the front line with Luc Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh and Larry Sanders, with some potential on D, will help compensate for the small Jennings-Ellis backcourt.
- Thomas Robinson already has a good enough handle, better than most realized, that the Kings will run some of the offense through him as a rookie. He won’t immediately make the Sacramento faithful forget Vlade Divac and Chris Webber as excellent passers, but being able to play inside-out at all in 2012-13 is a good fit for the system in the first full season with Keith Smart as coach is an advantage.
While Robinson needs to improve his post game, he has the athleticism and ball handling at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds to go around most bigs once he learns to turn and face instead of trying to back down. There will also be times he should be able to take the defensive rebound and push the ball himself.
- It’s going to be hard to pick against Davis, the No. 1 pick, for Rookie of the Year. But if someone wants to be a nonconformist, go with Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
- Houston forward Royce White plays with such composure for a rookie. He showed the offensive arsenal, and is every bit the gifted passer advertised coming out of Iowa State, but rarely forced the action. And when he did, particularly in the opener, he quickly adjusted and played under control while whipping the ball around, even beating defenses with long underhanded assists.
- Baron Davis insisted here that he is not retiring and expects to play again after sitting out this season while recovering from the May knee injury as a Knick. When he is ready to launch the comeback in 2013-14, Davis can sign with his hometown team if the Lakers want a “youth” movement at point guard.