Observations From Las Vegas

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.


  1. Swala says:

    Lilliard is a real special player. If he was playing at a bigger school than Webber St he would of been drafted top three for sure….Great get for Portland. Franchise pg.

    Couldn’t go past Dion Waiters as the disappointment of the Summer. He has the confidence of a guy that got picked at #4 but shoots with as much skill as a late 2nd round draft pick. He shot ice cold.

    R.O.Y: Lilliard.
    All-Rookie Team: Lilliard, Beal, MKG, Davis, Zeller
    The Dark Horse to Surprise: Perry Jones III

  2. D Lion says:

    Damian Lillard is the next ROY! And I don’t mean Brandon Roy, I mean Rookie Of the Year. Speaking of which, when is the last time a ROY has a) been drafted below the #1 spot, b) played for a winning team his rookie season, or c) made the playoffs his rookie season? Anthony Davis or Lillard, if voted Rookie of Year, have the possibility of fulfilling some of those criteria. Can’t wait to see them, and all of the other young players, launch into their NBA careers! Go Blazers!

  3. Zeke says:

    I really like the look of the Rockets, I think their summer league team would have beaten the Bobcats and possibly the Wizards before they got Nene. Machado-Lamb-R.White-T.Jones-Moutejounas that is one talented team.

    These players have caught my eye;

    Damian Lillard – Looks like he could be in the new wave of talented young PG’s like Westbrook, Rose, Jennings etc. He should be put the Timberwolves back on the map with Will Barton who in my eyes was a steal.
    Darius Morris – Looks bigger and seems more sure in his play than last season, needs to improve his jump shot still.
    Terrence Ross – I always knew he was going to be a solid NBA player, efficient and capable on both ends of the floor… Raptors are covered at every position next season and finally have some much needed depth.

    Josh Selby, John Henson, Andrew Nicholson and Bernard James

    My disappointments

    Thomas Robinson – Has had a hard time shooting the ball especially around 7 footers.
    Jared Sullenger – Same as Robinson but no doubt he can rebound.
    Austin Rivers – Looks too raw should have stayed in college for another year.
    Andre Drummond – Just like Rivers he is super talented but he is too raw but to a much worse extent, he is a dreadful free throw shooter (never thought it could get any worse than Shaq). Looks lost at times.
    Quincy Miller – Was hoping to see more even though he was drafted second round.

    Injuries – Perry Jones and MKG (Both looked impressive especially MKG, If the Bobcats can get the best out of Biyombo, MKG, Jeff Taylor, Kemba Walker, Tyrus Thomas they can become an elite defensive team.

    • Peter says:

      Lillard and Barton are putting the Timberwolves on the map? Ouch. They were drafted by the Trail Blazers, bro.

      • D Lion says:

        Lillard and Barton WILL put Minnesota on the map when they get some nice lobs over Kevin Love lol.

  4. Tasketball101 says:

    Baron Davis will rejoin the Clippers when he returns. Guaranteed.

  5. Choker says:

    Jeremy Lamb, Damien Lillard, Harrison Barnes were standouts

    Austin Rivers was a disappointment, Marquis Teague isnt a great scorer,

  6. RocketFan says:

    Houston’s rookies will make a big impact. thats if they dont go to orlando with the trade….

  7. steppx says:

    Impressions from both cities: Lillard looks special. Terrence Ross was a great pick, good at both ends of the floor. Miles Plumlee didnt get a lot of ink, but he’s a tough big strong kid inside. Lamb biggest surprise…..a clinical shot. Jeff Taylor was outstanding.

    Dissapointments…..Rivers looks utterly unable — strength wise….to compete at this level. WIll sullinger look this good against real NBA bigs? Barnes can shoot, but CANT defend.

    Zeller also outstanding…how did he last until 17?

    Teague can defend, but not ready to play point.

  8. steppx says:

    through both summer league cities…I was most impressed with Lillard….the guy is a special player. Miles Plumlee didnt get that much ink, but he’s a big strong tough guy inside. Ross was great at both ends. That was a good pick. Zeller also outstanding. How did he last until 17?? Lamb biggest surprise to me. Strong, and just a clinical shot.

    Dissapointments: Rivers looks utterly unable, strength wise, to compete at this level. Harrison Barnes can shoot, but CANNOT defend. Sullinger is ok, but boy one wonders if he can score against top NBA bigs.

    Jeff Taylor oustanding, a steal. Teague can defend, but not ready to play point. Harkless looked great….in short amount of time. A bit of paul George about him. Second year guys were great…..Faried, Harris, Kawhi Leonard, and Alec Burks. The latter looks a bit like paul pierce.