The NBA Las Vegas Summer League ended its 11-day run by crowning the Golden State Warriors as it’s first ever champion in a 91-77 win over the Phoenix Suns. While the Warriors took home the title, there were plenty of other champion-like performances turned in by players in Las Vegas.
Sifting through the 22 teams and over 300 players in attendance, here are some of the NBA players and hopefuls that made some noise during the week worthy of recognition.
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Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors: Yes, he’s the starting center for Toronto and maybe it wasn’t a big deal for him to have played well. But he was so polished offensively it bears mentioning. He completely dominated Vegas with 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats: In four masterful games, Taylor showed he was pretty much wasting his time by competing in Vegas. Taylor did as he pleased by scoring in every conceivable way. He made jumpers, layups, floaters and mixed in some highlight dunks to propel him to 20.3 points per game at summer league.
Austin Rivers, New Orleans Pelicans: He looked completely healthy with an improved handle and midrange jumper on his way to 18.3 points per game on 49 percent shooting. He also played a bit more under control than we have previously seen which should help him get minutes on the improved Pelicans roster next season.
Aron Baynes, San Antonio Spurs: If summer league was any indication of how good he can be, then the Spurs will be deep in the frontcourt next season. Baynes was one of five guys to average a double-double with 12 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Malcolm Thomas, Chicago Bulls: He led all participants in rebounding at 15 per game, including a Las Vegas Summer League record-setting performance with 22 boards on July 15. He has a great attitude and is fine trying to carve out a niche as a defender and rebounder, even if it won’t be in Chicago. The Bulls didn’t retain his rights.
Andrew Goudelock, Chicago Bulls: There is little doubt that Goudelock can score in the NBA (19 points per game in Vegas). What he is not is a playmaker for others, so teams should stop trying to make him become one. He should get another shot in the league as an instant offense type of guy next season.
5. RAY McCALLUM, Sacramento Kings
It could be easily argued that McCallum was Sacramento’s best player, or at least the most consistent, in Las Vegas. He littered the stat sheet with 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. His jumper wasn’t exactly wet at just 38 percent, but he was effective at getting into the lane and finishing in traffic with contact. His play was so impressive that the Kings locked him up with a three-year guaranteed deal, according to The Sacramento Bee. Keep in mind that most second-rounders don’t receive guaranteed deals. The Kings will have a crowded backcourt in the fall and McCallum is going to make the decision on playing time very stressful for their new head coach Mike Malone.
4. JOSH AKOGNON, Dallas Mavericks
This was one confident dude out at summer league. He finished his run 12th in scoring at 17.5 points per game. The downside is that he doesn’t do much else than score, which is a hard sell, especially given his height at just 5-11 (and that’s being generous). Comments on his game ranged from “chucker” to “spark plug” which probably puts him somewhere in the middle. His overall 42 percent from the floor wasn’t all that impressive, but his 39 percent from deep and 96 percent from the free throw line were. He made the most of his opportunity and was aided by Shane Larkin‘s ankle injury, opening up time in the guard rotation. After recently being waived by Dallas, he will probably spend time in the D-League but could be called up by a team in a bind later in the season.
3. JACK COOLEY, Memphis Grizzlies
After playing in the Orlando Summer League with the Houston Rockets, Cooley latched on with Memphis to play in Vegas. Double-duty Cooley worked his tale off to impress scouts and coaches, posting 15 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He was able to score primarily off of midrange jumpers and put-backs on offensive rebounds. Cooley is a fighter and it is hard to not root for someone with his genuine work ethic. He definitely has the feel of fellow Notre Dame alumni Luke Harangody, which isn’t a knock on either’s game.
2. MIKE SCOTT, Atlanta Hawks
Yeah sure, he was put on a nasty poster by Ben McLemore, but Scott was one of the more impressive forwards in Las Vegas. What was most surprising to see was his ability to shoot from midrange, accompanied with a decent post game. He averaged 18.6 points while remaining effective on the glass with 6.2 per game. Scott started all five games the Hawks played and became the leader of the team even though many thought John Jenkins would have taken on that same role.
What he lacks in quickness he makes up for with strength and he doesn’t try to do too much on either end of the floor. As Atlanta moves on without Josh Smith, Scott could easily become a nice rotation guy next season. The talent is clearly there.
1. NBA D-LEAGUE SELECT TEAM
While their performance may not have been noteworthy for the casual NBA fan, the league itself has to be proud of the Select Team’s story. This bunch of hardly-known guys finished summer league with a 4-1 record and made it to the quarterfinals in tournament play. Many saw their potential and jumped on their bandwagon (if there is such a thing at summer league), picking them to win it all. Unfortunately, their championship campaign ended at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats in an 85-75 loss.
Truly a band of brothers, the Select Team had multiple contributors shoulder the load throughout the week. Elijah Millsap, Stefhon Hannah, Darnell Jackson, Brian Butch and Kyle Weaver were just some of the standout players in the D-League’s inspiring run.
Which players impressed you the most during the week in Vegas?
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