Day 1: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League | Wizards Blog Truth About

Day 1: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League

Updated: July 11, 2015

It was an eventful first day for the Summer League in Las Vegas that drew a single-day attendance record of 12,422. The crowds arrived early, buoyed by a huge contingent of Lakers fans thirsting to see what amounts to three-fifths of Los Angeles’ projected regular season starting lineup (D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson). The matchup between the Lakers and Timberwolves did not disappoint, and that’s as good a place to start as any.

Karl-Anthony Towns.

The No. 1 pick started the game slowly—to put it kindly. On the opening possession he caught the ball beyond the 3-point line on the left elbow and for some inexplicable reason decided to shoot. It was an air-ball. Minnesota’s Towns had very little impact on the game until 3:37 remaining in the first period. That’s when the Lakers’ Tarik Black caught the ball, drove left and slammed an emphatic dunk on Towns. That seemed to wake him up. From that point on, Towns displayed a masterful jump hook and deft interior passing that are worthy of the top billing in the draft.

Towns already has an NBA-ready post-game. He is comfortable on either block and prefers spinning right into an effortless jump hook whenever he feels contact. He also swished the only midrange shot he attempted.

But most impressive was his passing. Los Angeles routinely double-teamed Towns and he never flinched. Instead, Towns seemed to bait the Lakers into sending an extra defender. Whenever he sensed a double coming, he would move away from the basket so that when the second defender committed to a double, there would be more space on the floor to find an open teammate. Towns wasn’t just pass-happy against double-teams. On several occasions he found teammates cutting to the rim for easy scores.

The one negative was his lack of rebounding. Towns has great size but he’s not quick to the ball. He always seemed to be on the outside of the scrum for gang rebounds. Overall, Towns’ first summer league game was reminiscent of Andrew Wiggins’ last season. He was not dominant, but he showed enough flashes of elite skill to let you know he is on another level.

Julius Randle.

In many regards, Randle is the polar opposite of Towns. The reports out of Los Angeles’ practices are that he has been an animal. I believe it. The problem is Randle is out of control. A typical Randle possession proceeds as follows: He catches the ball 20 feet from the rim and pauses; the crowd yells at him to drive; he puts his head down and bullies his man toward the rim, and he throws up whatever shot is available when he gets there.

If a defender can keep his body between Randle and the rim, then it’s not difficult to pick up a charge or force an ill-advised shot. If Randle is able to knock his defender off balance and open a lane to the rim, then he will bully his way to the basket for an easy score. There’s no finesse or change of direction. And his jumper does not scare anyone.

Also contrary to Towns, Randle cannot handle double-teams. After watching Randle catch and hold the ball for the umpteenth time, Minnesota finally sent a second defender at him. Randle pivoted away from the pressure and frantically lobbed a pass into the lane that was stolen, leading to a Zach LaVine highlight alley-oop.

On the flip side, Randle’s bull-in-a-china-shop mentality works well when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. If a defender does not place a body on Randle as soon as a shot goes up, he charges for offensive rebounds and tip-ins. Randle is the type of player who will gobble up weaker opponents with his brute force, but he lacks the refinement to outduel players his own size.

D’Angelo Russell.

Russell’s passing is the real deal. Early in the first quarter he dropped a perfect lead pass to Jordan Clarkson that had just the right amount of reverse spin to dull the trajectory of the pass and allow Clarkson to catch the ball without breaking his stride. Clarkson ended up missing the shot so the pass will not show up in the box score, but it let everyone know that Russell sees things on the court that others do not.

However, as Rajon Rondo and a young John Wall have shown, passing can only get you so far. Can he shoot? The answer appears to be yes. I say “appears” because Russell’s shot has very little rotation. He sort of pushes it yet it still looks good and it went in. We’ll have to see a larger sample before reaching a final conclusion.

Another positive note for Lakers fans: Russell and Clarkson played well together. Clarkson is big enough to play shooting guard and he can certainly score. It remains to be seen how Kobe will adjust to having to share the court with two ball-dominant guards (with shaky jumpers). And that’s before Lou Williams enters the equation.

Zach LaVine.

LaVine looked a lot more comfortable handling the ball than he did last season, and he was very confident on fade-away jumpers. He hit an unguardable 20-foot step back on the right side that got the attention of DeMar Derozan and Damian Lillard, who were sitting in the front row. He still relies a little too much on his athleticism on drives, which causes him to get caught in the air without a clear path to the basket.

Jordan Clarkson.

There’s really nothing new to say about Jordan Clarkson. He looked good last season, and he looked good against Minnesota on Day 1.

Quick Hits.

Emmanuel Mudiay. I only watched this Nuggets rookie play a quarter before switching gyms for the Lakers-Timberwolves battle, but what I saw was impressive. He got to the rim with ease and showed a lot of patience on the pick-and-roll. He never forced a drive; rather, he probed the lane and waited for his big man to pop open at the top of the key. Granted, the big man didn’t often make the shot, but at least Mudiay created the passing lane and made the right decision. Mudiay, like D’Angelo Russell, also looked to set up teammates before taking his own shot.

Oleksiy Pecherov made a surprise appearance on Denver’s summer league team. He was not listed on the Nuggets roster that was distributed in the press room but, lo and behold, there he was. Denver’s general manager, Tim Connelly, was with the Wizards front office when they drafted Pecherov. There was a report a few weeks ago that Pecherov worked out in Denver but no official summer league commitment was released.

Draymond Green went out of his way to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers by wearing a “2015 NBA Champions” T-shirt to the Cavs-Warriors summer league rematch on Day 1.

George Karl and Vlade Divac sat next to each courtside for Sacramento’s first game. There did not appear to be any tension.

On to Day 2…


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Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.