It wouldn’t be possible to live in the summer time in Southern Nevada if it weren’t for air conditioning. Las Vegas’ July temperature reach upwards around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Seems like the perfect place to showcase some of the hottest young basketball prospects in the world.
The sound of squeaking sneakers filled the Thomas and Mack Center and Cox Pavilion as the NBA Summer League returned for its tenth year. People came out in droves for the Summer League–fans, owners and players alike. The atmosphere was really great, a very fun event to attend. I attended two days of the Summer League, July 13th and 18th.
There were plenty of reasons to be excited as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan for this year’s Summer League. New Head Coach David Blatt made his NBA coaching debut as did top draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Anthony Bennett returned to the place where he thrilled the crowd as a dominant freshman at UNLV.
Indeed, the storylines were aplenty this summer at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Oh, and the Summer League just happened to kick off on the day that the King announced his return to Cleveland.
Andrew Wiggins (15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.3 AST)
The Las Vegas NBA Summer League began with a match up of No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks when the Cavaliers faced the Milwaukee Bucks. Fans wouldn’t have to wait to see if Cleveland made the right decision at the top of the draft:
Both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker’s talents were on display for the packed Cox Pavilion crowd. Wiggins outplayed Parker down the stretch, leading to a fourth quarter comeback for the Cavaliers 70-68.
Wiggins showed “flashes of brilliance” throughout the whole tournament. His defense proved to be his strong point, as his length served as a nuisance for passing lanes and shots alike (1.5 Blocks, 1.2 Steals per game). Wiggins also showed a knack for getting to the free throw line, shooting 20 free throws in one game alone. The ability to draw fouls will prove valuable for the young Wiggins as his shooting develops: he shot a paltry 15 percent from 3 point land throughout the Summer League.
If Andrew Wiggins really is the “over-sized two guard” that David Griffin projects him as, there is definitely cause for concern. Wiggins had just one assist throughout all four games he played at the Summer League. His ball handling seemed shaky at times as passes frequently bounced off his fingers.
All negatives aside though, Wiggins truly did impress at the Summer League. It will be amazing to see this kid develop along side LeBron James if the Cavaliers do indeed keep him in their pursuit of Kevin Love. I truly believe Wiggins will be a “20-5-5” guy in the NBA.
Anthony Bennett (13.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.8 AST)
Anthony Bennett returned to his old stompin’ grounds looking a bit different from when Cavalier fans last saw him. The former UNLV Runnin’ Rebel looked almost unfamiliar to his home crowd, almost lanky. Bennett himself admitted to dropping “15 or 20 pounds,” but onlookers would say it seemed more like 30.
Following his Kwame Brown-esque rookie season, Bennett needs to come out strong to shed his “bust” label in year two. His performance at the Summer League certainly gave people reason to believe “AB” will do just that.
In a matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, Bennett was a monster on the glass as he snatched 14 rebounds to go along with 13 points. Many of these rebounds came against Jeff “The Artist formally known as Pendergraph” Ayres, something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Ayres started 10 games during the regular season for the NBA Champion Spurs.
Even in his new slimmed-down body, Bennett seemed sluggish up and down the court at times. Chances are his sleep apnea and asthma could prevent him from ever playing 40 minutes a night. Luckily, Bennett will not be expected to start for the Cavaliers.
Bennett could be a prime candidate for Most Improved Player next season; he has no where to go but up. There’s no reason that Bennett can’t double his production from last year, it’d be nice to get eight points and six rebounds from him off the bench.
Matthew Dellavedova (11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 AST)
Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards was asked who was the toughest defender he played against last season. After a long pause, Bradley Beal said Matthew Dellavedova and described him as a “pest.”
Matthew Dellavedova looked like a floor general during his 3 game stint at the Summer League. His presence was certainly missed in the 96-90 loss to the Houston Rockets, where point guard Isaiah Canaan erupted for 28 points. Hadn’t Dellavedova been preparing with the Australian team for the FIBA games, the Cavaliers may have been able to capture the Summer League Championship.
Now that Jarrett Jack has been traded, Dellavedova assumes the back up point guard responsibilities for the Cavaliers. The former St. Mary’s stand out will lead a Cavaliers second team featuring veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller and perhaps the all-time leader in NBA 3-pointers, Ray Allen. Perhaps he can follow in the footsteps of his countryman Patty Mills; a reliable point guard off the bench on a championship team.
“Dude, you’re getting a Dell,” the exceptional back up point guard model.
Most likely to get a 10 day contract: Will Cherry (12.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 AST)
Will Cherry spent last season playing for Cavaliers’ affiliate Canton Charge in the NBA D-League. Cherry definitely plays with a chip on his shoulder, and coming from a small school like Montana may fuel that. He was a very fun player to watch during the Summer League.
In the Cavaliers 82-70 win over the Spurs, it was Will Cherry who took over the game down the stretch. He finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. His performance had the Cox Pavilion crowd turning to their programs to find out who #56 was, me included.
Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley was the best big man not named Anthony Bennett for the Cavs at the Summer League. It would be nice if his skills were transferred into the body of his 7’0 teammate Alex Kirk (Cooley is only 6’9). Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller are gone from the Cavaliers roster, and little is to be expected from veteran acquisition Brenden Haywood. With Anderson Varejao’s injury history, back-up big men are a necessity in Cleveland.
Second round pick Joe Harris looked solid, hitting 40 percent of his 3-pointers throughout the tournament. He should be used to fill out the roster and sit on the end of the bench with James Jones.
Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins didn’t play in the Cavaliers’ last game, a loser’s bracket match up against the Miami Heat. This fueled the fires of trade speculation, as both of these players have been linked to a potential Kevin Love deal. However, it was apparently the plan all a long for the duo to only play in four games at the Summer League.
Other teams sat high profile players in the loser’s bracket as well. The Philadelphia 76ers sat Nerlens Noel, the Utah Jazz sat Trey Burke and the Miami Heat sat Shabazz Napier.