Day 2: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League — Porzingis, Cuban, J-Craw & Oubre | Wizards Blog Truth About

Day 2: Sights and Sounds of Vegas NBA Summer League — Porzingis, Cuban, J-Craw & Oubre

Updated: July 12, 2015

The Las Vegas Summer League is my favorite time of year and it appears I am not alone. For the second straight day, the Thomas & Mack Center was packed and it was difficult to navigate the concourse after each game.

Part of the problem may be that the Los Angeles Lakers have played an evening game on both days. Lakers fans have descended on UNLV’s campus like it’s the NBA Finals. They are like locusts. They are everywhere.

It’s actually a little depressing to see a once-proud franchise’s fan base so charged up for Vegas. As a summer league veteran I can tell you that if your summer roster is exciting your regular season team probably is not.

The day began with Jordan Crawford’s debut with the Dallas Mavericks. Crawford was a lot more passive than expected. He still got his numbers (and his shot attempts) but he did not force the issue. I was expecting more of a show from a guy trying to climb back into the league. After the game I spoke with Crawford about his Wizards days and upcoming game against his former team. [Quick aside: One of Crawford’s friends was on my flight to Las Vegas and he predicted a big game from Crawford against Washington.]

Adam Rubin: Are you aware Dallas is playing Washington on Tuesday?

Jordan Crawford: No, I didn’t’ really look ahead. I’m just out here enjoying my time. Getting to know my teammates.

AR: Your friend was trying to guess how many points you will score against Washington.

JC: [Shakes head.] No, no. I’m just here to lead the team.

AR: No extra motivation against Washington?

JC: No.

AR: Is there anything you want to tell the Washington fans about your departure? We saw the series of DNPs at the end and all of a sudden you are gone. Are there any misconceptions the fans have about what happened at the end?

JC: The one thing I definitely always wanted to … no matter how bad the organization was or the record I always wanted to play as hard as I could for them. So that’s one thing I wanted to clear up. No matter what was going on I always wanted to play hard for them and gave my full effort.

AR: Do you still keep in touch with your old teammates?

JC: Oh yeah. Blatche, Bradley, John. I talk to all of them daily.

AR: What do you think the biggest issue is in terms of getting back in the league?

JC: Just staying patient. I’m young. I’m 26. Just keep on grinding, keep building my resume and let it go from there.

Moving on…

The biggest draw at the Mavericks game was not even a player. As soon as fans walked into the Cox Pavilion, the first face they saw was a smiling Mark Cuban. He shook hands and took selfies with fans and appeared to be in a jovial mood.

After the game Cuban held an impromptu press conference that drew the largest media scrum of the summer league so far.

(MarK Cuban fields a lot of Deandre Jordan related questions in the post-game scrum. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Mark Cuban fields a lot of Deandre Jordan related questions in the post-game scrum. Photo – A. Rubin)

On to the Players.

Kristaps Porzingis.

All eyes in the Thomas & Mack Center were on Porzingis as soon as the Knicks entered the arena, including the man who selected the mystery man with the fourth overall pick.

The first thing you notice is his length. He unfolds to a legit 7-foot-2 and his wingspan when contesting jumpers is Manute Bol-esque.

The good news: Porzingis runs the floor well. He is active on offense, setting picks on the perimeter and moving to open spaces on the floor. On more than one occasion he snuck back door and pointed to the rim à la JaVale McGee, but, alas, the ball never came. Porzingis suffered from a condition that affects a lot of big men in Vegas called lack-of-point-guard-itis. He will be a lot more effective once he is playing with a ball distributor who can make an entry pass.

Now the bad news. On defense, he is always ball-watching and ends up losing track of his man. As a result, he is out of position for rebounds and doesn’t have the strength or quickness to recover. He needs to put a body on his man as soon as a shot goes up or else he will be yielding a lot of offensive put-backs. Playing alongside Robin Lopez, if that’s possible, will help mask Porzingis’ defensive rebounding issues, but a Porzingis-Carmelo or Porzingis-Derrick Williams front court will have issues.

On the bright side, he is a much better on-ball defender in the post. He uses his size really well, extending his arms straight up without reaching. Porzingis disrupted several shots with his wingspan. It remains to be seen whether he can hold his own in isolations against smaller power forwards and more mobile centers, but he will definitely collect a lot of weak-side blocks.

Jahlil Okafor.

(Jahlil Okafor is fronted by Larry Nance Jr. Photo - A. Rubin)

(Jahlil Okafor is fronted by Larry Nance Jr. Photo – A. Rubin)

Summer league headquarters did a great job with this year’s schedule. Okafor made his Vegas debut against the team that famously passed on him in the draft. Unlike most other rookies in Vegas, this was not Okafor’s first game in an NBA uniform. The Philadelphia 76ers participated in the Utah Jazz summer league, which takes place prior to the bigger Las Vegas edition.

The reviews from Utah were positive, if not overwhelming. One prominent NBA referee sitting near me remarked during the game that Okafor played better in Vegas than he did in Salt Lake City.

Okafor’s frame and movement look a little like a young Tim Duncan. He even prefers to go glass anytime his shooting angle allows it. But the results are not Duncan-like. He shoots a line-drive with a very low trajectory, but unlike Duncan, most of his jumpers caromed off the backboard and rim. 

Okafor makes his money with footwork and touch in the paint, both of which were on display in Vegas. His post play is refined and he should have no problem putting up big offensive numbers as the focal point of a bad, bad Philadelphia team.

Jahlil is a little more plodding than expected, but he uses his body on defense to take up space and isn’t afraid to mix it up for rebounds.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

For Wizards fans, Oubre’s debut was the main event of summer league. A lot has been written about his performance and it basically boils down to this: Oubre showed he has the potential to be a 3-and-D guy in the Trevor Ariza mold but he is also far from a finished product.

I am a little more bullish than most. He started the game with a lot of missed shots, but he was not passive. Oubre looked to assault the rim every time he touched it, making an early statement with a drive and emphatic dunk attempt. He missed but was fouled.

His ball handling is light years ahead of Ariza. Oubre had no problem catching and driving from beyond the 3-point line. It is not difficult to imagine Oubre catching cross-court passes from Wall with nothing but open space between himself and the rim.

After the game, Oubre talked about the biggest difference between the college and pro game: “I noticed that the floor was open. There’s more space. Sometimes I was indecisive about what I wanted to do. When I got decisive I was successful.”

I asked Oubre if he was surprised at how easily he was able to get to the rim. “I was able to get to the rim easy in college, get to the free throw line, pretty much create a shot,” he said. “It’s a new level, bigger bodies, more competition, so I just want to put an emphasis on those things and be the best that I can be.”

As has been noted elsewhere, Oubre talks—a lot. But it’s not just his ill-advised trash talking. Oubre is very communicative on the court. He calls out defensive schemes and makes sure everyone is on the same page with pick-and-roll coverage. He’s also good at making high-pitched sounds when he is open and wants the ball.

Oubre was disruptive on defense and made good use of his 7-foot-2 wingspan in passing lanes and with pressure defense on the ball. He was also active competing for loose balls and following shots on the offensive boards. Overall, he was very engaged. An Otto Porter-Kelly Oubre lineup could develop into a defensive terror on the perimeter.

Aaron White.

White played exactly as advertised. He crashed the offensive boards on every shot attempt and threw himself around the court. His athleticism was not overstated in pre-draft evaluations. White can jump.

He has a nice pump fake and can put it on the floor but he only took three jumpers so it remains to be seen whether he has the range to be a stretch 4.

White mentioned post-game that there is a learning curve going from college to NBA: “Defensively it’s a little different with the three-second [rule] in the key. Trying to go ball side, I went weak-side one time and let Phoenix get a drive.”

White also admitted after the game that he had some jitters and could have been a little more aggressive, so hopefully more of his offense will be on display in Game 2.

Other Wizards.

TAI’s Kyle Weidie was kind enough to include a comprehensive write-up on the rest of Washington’s roster in his Game 1 review. In short, the Wizards summer league team was almost un-watchable when Oubre and White were off the floor. And it’s not likely to get any better throughout the week in Vegas with Dez Wells announcing (non-verbally) that he will not play at all in Vegas. There were some positive performances from Scott Suggs and Jarrid Famous but that’s about it.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
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.