The Las Vegas Summer League, by and large, was a success overall. Unfortunately, the bright lights of Vegas didn’t shine admirably upon everything and everyone associated with the NBA’s marquee summer event.
Whether it was by absence of body or actual play, the following list constitutes the five biggest disappointments from the Las Vegas Summer League.
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5. ABSENCE OF TOP DRAFT PICKS
Usually the Las Vegas Summer League provides fans with a glimpse of the upcoming elite. Unfortunately, this year’s draft class was filled with role players, which hurt the value of the summer league project in general. That misfortune multiplied as some of the more intriguing guys missed the 11-day event with injuries. Fans missed out on a chance to see Shane Larkin (Mavs), Alex Len (Suns) and the No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett (Cavs) due to various physical ailments. I don’t know the last time the No. 1 pick didn’t play in Summer League and it would have been especially sweet to see him in the town he played his college ball in. Missing those guys was a total vibe killer.
4. SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD/GORGUI DIENG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Many praised Flip Saunders and his staff for having a good draft and turning one pick into two with a draft night trade involving the Utah Jazz. Getting Muhammad with the 14th pick and Dieng at 21 was supposed to be great value and could turn out to be so. However, neither guy did much to make those early assessments hold weight at Summer League.
Muhammad averaged just 8.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in the six games he played in Vegas. He shot the ball at just 37 percent from the field and was even more dreadful at 35 percent from the free throw line. He was at times confused whether to play inside or out, but the decision became clearer each game as his shots from outside were regularly awry. His ability to finish in traffic and with contact around the rim is suspect and his poor showing from the line just made matters worse when he was fouled.
After a very good NCAA Tournament where he improved his draft stock, Dieng came to Vegas and struggled. Somewhat surprisingly, he came off the Minnesota bench in four of the six games they played and might have earned the dreaded “project big” label. He was regularly pushed off the block defensively, which resulted in lots of fouling on his part as he tried to recover. Guys like Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic (if he’s still in Minnesota) will have their way with him in practice in the fall, but hopefully that will push him (no pun intended) to be better and become a solid contributor off the Minnesota bench.
3. MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST, Charlotte Bobcats
There are expectations that come with being a high draft pick and playing in Summer League… especially in year two. MKG wasn’t too impressive or involved in his second-straight appearance in Summer League. He isn’t and will probably never be a volume scorer, but one might expect him to pick things up against the watered-down competition in Vegas. Instead, he coasted most of the way, seemingly uninterested, and played in short spurts. He opted to let guys like Jeff Taylor and Cody Zeller shine brightly as he played in the background.