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Who Are The NBA Summer League Headliners?

The tournament portion of the Las Vegas NBA Summer League is underway and with pride on the line, there should be a bit more effort placed on team play and defense, but probably not. There have still been some great individual performances, however, with the possibility of more to come.

Jonas Valanciunas – 3 games, 20 points and 9.3 rebounds

Jonas Valanciunas has been feeling the love from the media in Las Vegas and many have the Raptors center pegged as the Summer League’s top overall performer. Three games of 18 plus points on 52.9 percent shooting and 24-27 from the free throw line, Valanciunas has been a force in the paint against Summer League competition. This has been a great place for the seven-footer to practice that running hook shot he likes to use as he sweeps laterally through the paint five or so feet from the basket. So far, defenses have either been letting Valanciunas practice the moves he is working on or fouling to stop him.

Thomas Robinson – 4 games, 9.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks

Things started slow in Summer League for Thomas Robinson, but he has been in beast mode these last two games. A 12 point 18 rebound effort in an overtime loss to the Bulls on Tuesday followed by a 13 point 17 rebound game in a close win over Atlanta. Already on his third team since he was drafted 5th overall last summer, these last two Summer League games are what should be expected from this naturally gifted athlete against this level of competition.

Andrew Goudelock – 3 games, 22.7 points

A scoring guard that played 40 games with Lakers as a rookie, but only one NBA game outside of the D-League last year, Andrew Goudelock can score. He put up 26 and 31 points in his first two games behind some great shooting, but only 11 points the next time when his shot wasn’t falling. It would be nice to see if the 6’ 2” guard could be a true point guard and facilitate some offense, but this might not be the right venue. Goudelock is hitting 60 percent of his three-point bombs in Summer League, but it has already been established he can do that. FC Barcelona is interested in signing Goudelock according to Sportando.

Jeff Taylor – 3 games, 21 points

A rookie with the Bobcats last year, Jeff Taylor is having a solid Summer League experience in Las Vegas. After three games of 19 points or better on decent shooting of 47.7 percent, Taylor and Cody Zeller (15.3 points) have been carrying the offensive load for the Bobcats. A successful NBA Summer League may be just what Taylor needs after his non-descript season last year.

Josh Akognon – 4 games, 20.5 points

Josh Akognon auditioned for the Mavericks on 10-day contracts at the end of last season and the audition continues in Las Vegas. The 5’ 11” point guard is making the most of it with three games of over 20 points and hitting 41.9 percent of his 31 three-point attempts. Akognon has followed up a 7-7 performance from the free throw line against the D-League Selects with an 8-8 effort against the Clippers to help the Mavericks advance to the second round of the tournament.

Malcolm Thomas – 2games, 12 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks

Malcolm Thomas has played 3 NBA games with the Spurs, 5 games with the Warriors and most recently 7 games with the Bulls since he left San Diego State in 2011, but after stints in the D-League and Europe, he now holds an NBA record. Thomas owns the all-time NBA Summer record for rebounds in a game with 22. It doesn’t matter what league he is playing in, 22 rebounds is really something. Thomas suffered a leg injury and didn’t play in the Bulls 3rd Summer League game.

John Henson – 2 games, 14 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks

This isn’t really a surprise, John Henson was a very active player with the Bucks last season and where the thin-as-a-rail power forward has strength issues at the NBA level, he should dominate in Summer League. All we are really getting out of his performances here is confirmation that as Henson gets older and stronger, he’ll be a good NBA player.

Aron Baynes – 3 games, 11.7 points, 10.7 rebound, 1.7 blocks

This senior from Washington State played four seasons in Europe before the Spurs picked him up for 16 games last season. An off the radar 26-year-old seven-footer that has caught the eye of the Spurs, anyone want to bet against that? He put up 19 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks in his last Summer League game.

Some other Summer League participants that are getting noticed include Jack Cooley, Cody Zeller, Tyler Zeller, CJ McCollum, John Jenkins, Marquis Teague, Mike Scott and Deshaun Thomas.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

NBA Summer League Headliners

The Orlando Summer League has wrapped up and day three in Las Vegas is on Sunday, so there have already been some stories worthy of a quick mention.  Remembering that Summer League usually tells us more about what a player isn’t ready to do at the next level than actually being able to project these results onto the coming season, there have been some performances that have impressed.  Here’s a selection.

Thunder’s Reggie Jackson had everything going his way in a game against Detroit on Tuesday as he scored at will against the Pistons dropping 35 points.  Jackson only played in a game and a half after getting cut above the eye, but apparently, he doesn’t need to be here.

The Celtics made a draft day move to grab the 13th pick, Kelly Olynyk and he made summer league look easy.  18 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, the seven-footer with athleticism and shooting range was pretty much having his own way in Orlando.

The Thunder’s Jeremy Lamb was just the scoring lead in Orlando, but he did it with some pretty brutal shooting.  39.1 percent from the field and 6-22 from three-point range is not what a returning NBA player should be doing at this level.  Dwight Buycks on the other hand, turned a pair of very good Summer League games with the Thunder into an NBA contract with the Raptors.

Point Guard Ian Clark made a big impression on the HEAT averaging 16 points on 49 percent shooting, so much so that they asked him to join their Las Vegas squad.  Unfortunately, Clark had already committed to the Warriors for Las Vegas.

Returning Piston Andre Drummond put up perhaps the biggest performance in Orlando.  15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 blocks is what a team hopes to see out of their lottery pick from the prior year’s draft.

Las Vegas is just underway, but already there have been some big performance.

Point guard Andrew Goudelock played the last two seasons with the Lakers and is trying to catch on with the Bulls.  He put up an early tournament best 27 points on 9-15 shooting to go with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.  If you have seen him play in the NBA, you would know he doesn’t belong in Summer League, but he needs a job.

John Jenkins returns to the Hawks Summer League team after a typical rookie season and he did what he was supposed to do.  He shot 11-23 from the field to score 24 points and he added 6 boards and 3 assists.

Austin Rivers didn’t have the easiest rookie season with the Hornets – now Pelicans, but his first game in Las Vegas was dominate.  8-15 from the field, 24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal, now that’s doing it right for someone in Summer League for a second time.

One can be forgiven if they don’t remember Jeff Taylor of the Bobcats last season.  The rookie had typical rookie numbers in a forgettable season on a forgettable team.  Taylor was the Bobcats leading scorer on Friday with 24 points on 9-17 shooting and made an unexpected drive starting behind the three-point line to posterize the Spurs Aron Baynes.

Point guard Stefhon Hannah used his three years of D-League experience to shoot 8-11 from the field and 4-6 from deep to score 23 points in his first game with the Select team on Saturday.

The Toronto Raptors returning rookie Jonas Valanciunas missed Summer League last year due to commitments with the Lithuanian National team, but he put on a dunk fest for the fans in Las Vegas Saturday.  The seven-footer hit on 8-10 from the field for 23 points in 26 minutes to go with 7 boards in another dominating performance by a player who played in the NBA last season.

Josh Akognon played briefly with the Mavericks last year, but doesn’t have a guaranteed deal, so Summer League matters to the 5’ 11” point guard.  Akognon led his team with 22 points on 8-14 shooting on Saturday.  He’s motivated.

The Trail Blazers 10th pick, C.J. McCollum had a nice start to his professional career in Las Vegas.  The rookie went 9-19 for 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and a steal.  Next step for the guard is to reduce his turnovers from 4 the next time out.

Anyone who saw John Henson play for the Bucks last season will have noticed this guy is on a pogo stick, as thin as a rail and probably tougher.  Henson had 19 points on 7-10 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, a steal and 3 blocks for a Summer League double-double.  Padding his stats at this level shouldn’t be a surprise.

Other notable performances from the first two days in Vegas include Kent Bazemore, Cory Joseph, Reggie Bullock, Dominique Jones, Markieff Morris and on and on.  The important thing for these guys is to build on this.

Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre.  A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

Welcome To NBA Tank Nation

Wiggins presser2The 2014 NBA Draft is one the most anticipated drafts since the Cavaliers took LeBron James in 2003. There are just as many potential superstars available next June. This draft is so enticing that some NBA fan pages are actually promoting going winless next season just to have a chance at a game changing player like Andrew Wiggins – 76ersWinlessFor Wiggins.

The usual suspects expected to tank for Wiggins include Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix and New Orleans, although there is still time to change their minds and both Charlotte and New Orleans are doing things that will add wins next season. These teams have been overtly joined by Utah, Philadelphia and possibly by the “I think thou dost protest too loudly” Boston Celtics. After Friday’s announcement by Dwight Howard that he’s taking his talents to the great income tax free state of Texas, the Lakers may soon be on this list as well. It’s not too late to join this exclusive club for other NBA franchises and you can believe there are fans of certain teams that are wondering why their club isn’t on board yet.

Reasons for tanking the 2013-2014 season extend beyond the unusually deep and franchise changing draft next summer. July 2014 could see a jaw dropping list of available free agents if certain players opt out of their contracts. It will still be impressive if just the players on expiring deals are there.

Just some of the best players who can decide if they would like to be free agents next summer include:
ETO – early termination option, PO – player option

LeBron James – ETO
Dwyane Wade – ETO
Carmelo Anthony – ETO
Chris Bosh – ETO
Zach Randolph -PO
Rudy Gay – PO
Tim Duncan –PO
Amar’e Stoudemire – ETO
Andrea Bargnani – ETO

Some of the notable players on expiring contracts this season are:

Kobe Bryant
Paul Pierce
Dirk Nowitski
Luol Deng
Paul Gasol
Andrew Bogut
Danny Granger
Ray Allen
Vince Carter
Marcin Gortat
Shawn Marion
Emeka Okafor
Caron Butler
Metta World Peace

Just to tease some teams, there could be some pretty impressive restricted free agents available as well:

DeMarcus Cousins
Paul George
John Wall
Greg Monroe
Derrick Favors
Avery Bradley
Lance Stephenson
Eric Bledsoe
Evan Turner
Larry Sanders
Ekpe Udoh

These lists do not represent every free agent expected to be available in July 2014, that list would just keep going and going and going. Hoopsworld keeps a reasonably comprehensive and up-to-date list of all the possible 2014 NBA free agents. If there ever was a year to clear salary cap space, this is it and those teams that can combine the ability to land a franchise changing rookie with one or more franchise players could be setup for a long run of success.

The teams best set up to go WinLessForWiggins and attack free agency next summer include:

Charlotte Bobcats – ready to go.

Orlando Magic – setup up to do both.

Utah Jazz – joined Tank Nation and cleared the decks for next summer.

Philadelphia 76ers – just need to dump a little more talent and they are there.

Phoenix Suns – ready, but could use a salary dump.

New Orleans Pelicans – recent moves may have taken them out of this race.

Dallas Mavericks – have the potential to join the club.

Detroit Pistons – would find it easy to get on board.

Los Angeles Lakers – tweak the roster and tell Kobe to rehab next season and they can do it too.

Boston Celtics – did half the job, hired a college coach and just need to finish the work they started.

Toronto Raptors – would need to dump a couple of key players to have a shot at tanking.

Sacramento Kings – may not do it on purpose, but wouldn’t find it hard to join.

Washington Wizards – have the potential, but probably too good to tank.

Milwaukee Bucks – will probably have trouble with the tanking aspect.

Should your team go WinlessForWiggins and create salary cap space for the 2014 free agent class? Let us know in the comments below and tell us how you feel about NBA teams joining Tank Nation.

Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre since 2009. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.

Celtics Rajon Rondo On The Trade Block?

It was only yesterday that Ben Watanabe, NESN.com reported “Danny Ainge, Celtics Not Looking To Trade Rajon Rondo At This Time”.  Of course even Watanabe wondered if that really meant, “maybe, he was the only one they couldn’t unload.”

It didn’t take long for the Rondo rumors to start however.  On Saturday, Mike Fisher, Scout.com says, “The Mavericks are engaging in trade talks involving Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, sources.”

It makes sense.  If you ask, will the Celtics be mediocre or tank? They’ll tank.  Right now the Celtics are too good to be bad and take advantage of the potential franchise player next year’s lottery could provide.  Passing up that opportunity for the chance to finish between seventh and eleventh next season just doesn’t make sense.

Ainge isn’t going to give Rondo away, but if he can land young players and/or future draft picks that expedite the Celtics rebuilding process, trading Rondo has to be on the table.