Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:50 am EDT
Who to watch in the Las Vegas Summer League
By Kelly Dwyer
With 21 participating teams alongside a group of D-League hopefuls, the Las Vegas Summer League should be a bit of a doozy this year. What follows is a list of ten players to watch when the games tip off on Friday.
The Guy Everyone Is Rooting For
Shaun Livingston(notes) seemed to be everyone's second-favorite player during his star-crossed turn with the Los Angeles Clippers, as his range of skills and lithe frame made him a fun watch even as he struggled through three injury-plagued seasons with the team. Currently playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder's summer league outfit after a respectable showing with the team during the regular season, Livingston is trying to return the form that offered so much promise before he suffered a devastating knee injury in February of 2007.
The Hotshot Stud
Blake Griffin(notes), the first overall pick in last June's draft, will be bounding about for the Clippers' outfit, ready to showcase an athletic game that seems ready-made for the pro ranks. Top picks have lone been scrutinized for iffy Summer League play (with an oft-told, and quite frequently exaggerated story about Greg Ostertag dominating Tim Duncan(notes) in 1997; when he merely competed well with TD), and though Griffin will be pretty foul-prone (there are no foul-outs), he should hold his own.
The Niche Guy
In a league that seems to always be searching for good shooters with size, it's a little puzzling why Luke Jackson(notes) (a shooter who managed a 43.8 percent mark from long range in the D-League last year, with size!) can't find consistent footing in the NBA. A strong summer league run with Dallas' team could earn him a contract this fall.
The NCAA Head-Turner We're Not Sure About
Let's get real, Stephen Curry(notes) will be a fine pro. Warriors fans needn't worry. But questions about how his game and frame would translate into NBA success dogged him during his time spent at Davidson. He won't exactly have to get a shot off against Kobe Bryant(notes) as he works for Golden State's summer league squad, but it will be interesting to see this sprightly one toss it up against bigger and stronger pros.
The YouTube Sensation
James White(notes) has bounced from team to team, league to league, over his career; but his reputation as a high-flyer has never waned. Even if his time spent with the Houston Rockets' summer league team doesn't earn him an NBA contract this fall, we could at least get a couple of web-worthy gems out of him.
The Bust, Starting From Scratch
Sadly, it's been an inglorious NBA career thus far for Adam Morrison(notes), who has gone from a top-three draft pick to an expiring contract left off the playoff roster in three short years. Working for the Lakers' summer league team, Morrison is hoping to prove to the Los Angeles staff that he is worthy of minutes in the final year of his rookie contract.
The Kid That Everyone Knows/Doesn't Know About
Brandon Jennings(notes) knows how to make waves. He spurned the junior college-to-NCAA route to go to Italy for a year to work as a pro before declaring himself for the draft once he became eligible. Drafted as a lottery pick by the Bucks last month, Jennings stood out by essentially gate-crashing the draft after initially turning down a green room invite, then he was taped unknowingly candidly discussing the Bucks in the days following. And yet, few of us have ever seen the guy play, save for a few scant clips. That ends soon.
The Big Mouth, Looking To Play Nice
If not play well. Smush Parker(notes) went from starting next to Kobe Bryant, to fighting for minutes and feuding with the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, to the D-League in just two years. Along the way, he's bad-mouthed just about every part of the Laker organization, even as they've made the Finals twice (winning once) in his absence. Working for Toronto's summer league team, Parker is trying to start over.
The First Round Reach With Lots To Prove
Pundits seem to either love or hate Detroit's selection of Austin Daye(notes) 15th overall in last month's draft. Some think his game, while not great shakes at Gonzaga (I like that line, "great shakes at Gonzaga." That should be a title of a Western), is better suited for the pros. Others point to his skinny frame and inconsistent game as warning signs. We won't find the final answer in the upcoming days, but summer league play could give us an idea of where we should lean.
The Guy That Should Be In the NBA
Blake Ahearn(notes) should be in the NBA. He's only six feet tall, but he can score, he can shoot, and he deserves an extended shot on a major league squad. With the Knicks whiffing on Jason Kidd(notes) and potentially losing out on retaining Nate Robinson(notes), perhaps Ahearn can parlay a summer league run into a guaranteed contract.
Related: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, James White, Adam Morrison, Nate Robinson, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Smush Parker, Tim Duncan, Austin Daye, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA Summer League
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