Wizards in Vegas — Quick Hits From Game 1 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards in Vegas — Quick Hits From Game 1

Updated: July 9, 2017

[Ernie Grunfeld and Tommy Sheppard work the phones before Washington’s opening summer league game versus Memphis.  Photo – A. Rubin]

The Washington Wizards started their 2017 NBA Summer League campaign with what can generously be described as one of the least interesting first halves of basketball in recorded history. Much to the surprise of the sparse crowd at Cox Pavilion, the game somehow morphed into an entertaining back and forth affair in the fourth quarter, rewarding the die-hard fans with one of the more entertaining finishes of Day 2 in Vegas.

Washington tied the game 88-88 on a Kevin Pangos jumper with 19.3 seconds remaining, only to watch Wayne Seldon hit a game-winning fade-away with a foul over Shelden Mac with 2.2 seconds left. That’s about all you need for the game recap.

Quick Hits on the Wizards

Sheldon Mac

To put it kindly, Washington’s summer league roster lacks star power. The fact that Sheldon Mac – who went undrafted in 2016 – is the biggest in-house name on the team, tells you everything you need to know about the Wizards recent draft history – or lack thereof.

Mac showed flashes in his brief appearances in the regular season and with the Wizards bench in need of a major upgrade, Mac seems to have a shot at cracking Washington’s rotation.

Unfortunately, his summer league debut left much to be desired. He did not show any of the explosiveness and aggression getting to the rim that he did in the regular season and was outplayed by Wayne Seldon.

In fairness to Mac, he only played 19 minutes and his summer league coach, Chad Iske, suggested after the game that Mac may still be limited by a recent ankle injury. So, Mac gets an “incomplete” for Game 1.

Chris McCullough

McCullough was acquired at last season’s trade deadline as a throw-in to the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. He has been a bit of a mystery in his young NBA career, having missed most of his rookie season after being drafted by Brooklyn with the 29th pick in the first round and spending his time in Washington in the D-League.

After one game in Vegas, he’s still a mystery. He’s 6’11” and moves well, but it’s still unclear where he fits on the basketball court. Is he a floor-spacing big man? Is he strictly a slasher? Can he create his own shot?

McCullough’s first touch was a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. My immediate thought was: “Wait, can he make that shot?” As his air-ball sailed past the rim, I had my answer, “No.”

McCullough, like most his Wizards teammates, missed the overwhelming majority of his shots (4-for-12 FG, 0-for3 3PT). He was awkward handling the ball around the rim and did not impress with footwork in the paint. He also had five turnovers.

On the bright side, the athleticism was there. He soared for an alley-oop from Kevin Pangos and occasionally challenged shots at the rim. Nevertheless, it’s still difficult to envision where he might fit in Washington’s rotation, but that’s what the next four summer league games are for.

Michael Young

Young turned out to be the most interesting player on Washington’s roster. Young signed a two-way contract with the Wizards after going undrafted this year. As Wizards summer league coach Chad Iske explained after the game, Young played a lot of 4 in college at Pittsburgh and the team is trying to experiment with him on the perimeter.

Young’s uncertainty with his new role showed in the first half. He attempted (and missed) several jumpers and looked very uncomfortable dribbling the ball on the wing. Young acknowledged as much after the game.

However, in the fourth quarter he seemed to let his natural instincts take over and was the driving force in Washington’s furious comeback. He had a monster block and used his size against smaller players down low. It was a small sample size, but the results were intriguing. Coach Iske said after the game the coaching staff is still trying to figure out what they have in Young but they like his toughness and physicality.

Devin Robinson

Robinson has long arms, long legs and a very short torso. He’s bouncy and did a good job contesting shots. His box score does a great job illustrating his activity-level: 18:26 minutes, six rebounds, two steals, three blocks, four personal fouls.

Daniel Ochefu

Ochefu’s stat line was impressive: 13 points (3-for-5 FG, 7-for-7 FT), 10 rebounds, five blocks, two steals, but he still seems a bit clumsy with the ball. He is not nimble enough to play power forward so his path to playing time is extremely narrow on a team that employs both Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi.

Jared Cunningham

Guys like Cunningham are staples in summer league: veterans who have tasted the NBA and are fighting for a chance to return. Usually, those types of players try to make their mark in the box score — specifically, the FGA column. Cunningham was no different.

Cunningham dropped a very Nick Young-like stat line: 26 points, 7-for-12 FG, 2-for-3 3PT, 10-for-11 FT, one rebound, zero assists, zero personal fouls, zero steals, zero blocks.

Don’t get excited. It’s classic summer league.

Danuel House

House was the fourth reserve to enter the game and he spent most of the first half sitting at the end of the bench looking like a guy who did not expect to play. He only played 9:37 minutes and looked exactly like the player he was the last time he wore a Wizards jersey.

It’s possible the coaching staff intends to feature House later on in Vegas.  Coach Iske said he preferred to use a smaller rotation rather than give several bench guys five minutes each.

Kevin Pangos

Pangos seemed to be the only player the coaching staff trusted to run the offense. He played 30:30 minutes and had the ball in his hands a lot. He finished with seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals, two blocks and only one turnover.

He also was very good at harassing shooters by nudging their hip or grazing their elbows on their release. It’s the little things that help make up for his size disadvantage. Although, on one first half play, Wayne Seldon barreled into Pangos’ chest and hit a running layup plus the foul and declared loudly “He’s too small.”

Pangos won’t make the Wizards roster, but he’s an important summer league piece as a competent and scrappy floor general.

Wizards In The Stands

Bradley Beal showed up early to Cox Pavilion to cheer on the team. He greeted the Wizards front office and coaches, then took a seat in the front row.

Kelly Oubre, Jr., wearing oversized sunglasses, joined Beal in the front row.

Well, This is Awkward

The most interesting “Wizards moment” of the game did not even involve a Wizards player – at least not a current one. In the first half, I did a double-take when I saw Andrew Nicholson walk into the gym and head toward Washington’s bench. After talking to an usher he took a seat in the front row directly behind the Wizards bench and a stone’s throw from the Wizards front office. What happened? Just watch the video.

The Most Interesting Person in Las Vegas

Overheard During Los Angeles Lakers Game

Lakers Fan #1: “I can’t believe Swaggy P is going to win a championship.”

Lakers Fan #2: “It pains me to my core.”

They have no idea.


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.