Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

There has been a lot of conversation about Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder. As I wrote in this story and again in this story: Durant met with Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison in Los Angeles before he met with teams. The impression that Westbrook and Collison -- and many around Durant -- had was that the coveted free agent would return to the Thunder.

In a TrueHoop podcast on Tuesday, I misspoke in saying that Durant specifically told Westbrook he was coming back.

On the podcast I said, "Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant's sitting there at dinner, telling [Westbrook], 'Hey I’m coming back, man. Don't worry about it.' And now Russell Westbrook's kinda been thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected."

These were not direct quotes meant to be attributed to Durant. It was an attempt to characterize what Westbrook thought his situation was going to be in Oklahoma City and how Durant's leaving impacts his thinking about his future.

The back-of-the-envelope guide to Las Vegas Summer League: the East

July, 7, 2016
Jul 7
By D.J. Foster, Special to

Ben SimmonsAP Photo/Kim RaffNo. 1 pick Ben Simmons and No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown will be crossing paths at Las Vegas Summer League.

There's something for everyone at Las Vegas Summer League. For the new blood in the 2016 draft class, it's their first real chance to make a name for themselves on the NBA stage. For others, it's an opportunity to jump-start a career and break into the league.

The following is our annual back-of-the-envelope guide to the 23 NBA teams participating in the Las Vegas Summer League, highlighting some of the more promising and intriguing prospects who will take the floor. The East guide is below, and the West guide is here.

Atlanta Hawks


Taurean Prince:
He’s already roasting reporters at an elite level, and after using the 12th pick in the draft on him, the Hawks are hoping the Baylor product will develop into the 3-and-D presence they lost when DeMarre Carroll bolted for Canada last year.

Bryce Cotton: It's hard to believe that a player who averaged 22 points per game on 45.3 percent 3-point shooting with 90.5 percent free throw shooting in 40 D-League games can’t hold down a regular rotation spot as a backup point guard. After trading Jeff Teague, Atlanta should give Cotton a long look.



Boston Celtics


Jaylen Brown: Being the third player selected in a supposed “two-player draft” is enough to create a healthy chip on anyone’s shoulder. Brown has shown that he’s capable of playing with a mean streak, and, for a defensive-minded coach such as Brad Stevens, that’s half of the battle. The jury is still out on his jumper, though, and he isn't expected to play before this weekend after bruising his right knee.

Terry Rozier: The 16th pick in the 2015 draft barely got off the pine his rookie year, but he’s been impressive early on in the Utah Summer League. Rozier might have a tough path to playing time with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart ahead of him, but for now, it’s his time to run the show and win some more fans within the organization.



Brooklyn Nets


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: His rookie campaign was interrupted when he fractured his ankle, but RHJ looked like Gerald Wallace 2.0 when he did play. It's clear he can defend his tail off and rebound, but now it will be interesting to see how much polish he has added to a pretty raw offensive skill set.

Isaiah Whitehead: This feels like a “local boy makes good” type of story. Whitehead is a Coney Island native and played at Lincoln, the same high school that produced Sebastian Telfair and Stephon Marbury. After being drafted by the Nets in the second round, he’ll try to live up to the hype of being the next great New York-bred point guard, right in his own backyard. No pressure.



Chicago Bulls


Bobby Portis: No Pau, no problem? The Bulls will miss Gasol, but Portis is going to add a much-needed boost of athleticism and energy to the frontcourt that often went missing last season. Not many guys can grind on the offensive glass and step out and play on the perimeter, but Portis has the versatility to become a key cog in Chicago's future.

Doug McDermott: McBuckets shot 42.5 percent from behind the arc last season (that’s good!) but didn’t do anything else well (that’s bad!) in his sophomore campaign with the Bulls. Swapping a scorer in Derrick Rose with a distributor in Rajon Rondo at point guard might lead to some more chances, but McDermott has to defend and rebound better to earn more minutes (especially with Dwyane Wade joining the mix).

Denzel Valentine: The AP Player of the Year probably would have been a top-five pick if he were 6-foot-8 instead of 6-6, but regardless, his versatile offensive game should shine at any position. Valentine can do everything offensively at a high level, but he'll need to become a much better defender to earn big minutes right away.



Cleveland Cavaliers


Kay Felder: Big men, beware: Felder is only 5-9, but he has so much bounce that Oakland would run lob plays for him pretty regularly. That obviously won’t be his bread and butter in the pros, but Felder is cut from the Isaiah Thomas mold and is a certified bucket acquirer. With Matthew Dellavedova gone and Mo Williams aging quickly, Felder has a shot to play real minutes for the reigning champs.

Sir’Dominic Pointer: For the second year running, Sir’Dominic Pointer wins the hotly contested “best name at summer league” award. He can play a little bit, too, as he’s a solid defender on the perimeter.



Miami Heat


Justise Winslow: He was spotted at a game earlier this summer with a hat that said, “Really Really Good,” and that probably sums it up. Winslow is a little too good for summer league already, but it’s a nice place for him to work on being more aggressive offensively and looking for his own shot more often. He’s already a great role player -- can he develop into more?

Josh Richardson: Dwyane Wade has left Miami, so Richardson’s development suddenly means quite a bit. If the Heat decide not to match the reported $50 million offer the Nets gave restricted free agent Tyler Johnson, Richardson could be on track for big minutes soon enough.



Milwaukee Bucks


Thon Maker: There’s plenty of controversy behind his age and the unconventional path he took to the league, but Maker has the kind of length you dream of. Whether the mixtape skills we’ve seen in the past are for real, though, remains to be seen.

Rashad Vaughn: The UNLV product is an important piece of the puzzle for the Bucks going forward, as he’s projected to be the wing shooter to slide in between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Vaughn is somehow still only 19 years old, but the Bucks need him to grow up quickly for depth reasons.



Philadelphia 76ers


Ben Simmons: Get your popcorn ready. The process led the 76ers to Ben Simmons, an athletic freak who possesses some of the best court vision you’ll ever see from a 19-year-old forward. No one in this draft class has a higher ceiling, and no one’s performance will be more closely scrutinized. The rap on Simmons at LSU was that he wasn’t competitive enough and that he often played with a certain level of laziness. He has a chance to put a lot of those concerns to bed in Vegas.



Toronto Raptors


Bruno Caboclo: Fran Fraschilla said in 2014 that Caboclo was “two years from being two years away,” which would put the lengthy forward as being just two years away now. Got all that? Along with Caboclo, the Raptors will have Delon Wright and Norman Powell on the wing. This is like the summer league version of Golden State’s big four, basically.

Jakob Poeltl: Let’s get this out of the way: Here’s how you pronounce his name, straight from the source. Poeltl is a bit of a throwback in that he’s an efficient back-to-the-basket scorer with limited range, but the Raptors will have to get him up to speed defensively rather quickly after reportedly losing Bismack Biyombo to the Orlando Magic in free agency.



Washington Wizards


Kelly Oubre Jr.: The Wizards might have the least entertaining team in Vegas, but at least Findlay prep grad Oubre will be there to get shots up. Oubre was the 15th pick of the 2015 draft and a self-proclaimed "steal" and, given the lack of big-time talent around him, is a decent bet to lead summer league in scoring.

D.J. Foster is an NBA contributor for, ClipperBlog and others. Follow him, @fosterdj.

The back-of-the-envelope guide to Las Vegas Summer League: the West

July, 7, 2016
Jul 7
By D.J. Foster, Special to

Brandon IngramAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesAfter drafting second in back-to-back years, the Lakers will be eager to see how Brandon Ingram looks in Las Vegas.

There's something for everyone at Las Vegas Summer League. For the new blood in the 2016 draft class, it's their first real chance to make a name for themselves on the NBA stage. For others, it's an opportunity to jump-start a career and break into the league.

The following is our annual "back-of-the-envelope" guide to the 23 NBA teams participating in the Las Vegas Summer League, highlighting some of the more promising and intriguing prospects who will take the floor. The West guide is below, and the East guide is here.

Dallas Mavericks

Perry Ellis: Ninth-year-senior Perry Ellis (not really, but it feels that way) is finally done at Kansas and is ready to join the league. How ready? He already has an endorsement deal signed with... Perry Ellis.

Justin Anderson: After letting one 3-and-D stud slip through their fingers in Jae Crowder, the Mavs are hoping they can develop another one in Anderson. The lefty forward has strength and plenty of athleticism, but it won’t mean much in Dallas until he develops his jump shot.

Denver Nuggets

Jamal Murray: Every draft class you have one elite prospect who falls a little too far. Taken with the seventh pick, Murray is a good bet to be that guy. He’s one of the best shooters to come out of the draft in a long time, and the Nuggets need that floor spacing next to Emmanuel Mudiay. Don’t be surprised if he ends up looking like the best rookie in Vegas.

Emmanuel Mudiay: It might be weird to see him here considering he started 66 games last season, but the Nuggets are taking full advantage of the opportunity to buy their young backcourt of the future more time together. Mudiay’s shooting percentages last season were brutal, but there were flashes of major potential as well.

Jimmer Fredette: Jimmer! This is going to be kind of like seeing a wrestler from your childhood looking lonely at a booth at Comic Con: you’ll be happy, nostalgic and then a little depressed all at the same time. Maybe Jimmer has a dominant summer league run in him like Adam Morrison did a few years back.

Golden State Warriors

Landry Fields: Now here’s a throwback. Chances are you mostly remember Fields for letting Jeremy Lin sleep on his couch in the Linsanity days, back when they both were lighting it up for the Knicks. Unfortunately, Fields has been unable to hit a shot ever since and fell out of the league entirely last season.

Patrick McCaw: The UNLV product will surely have some fans in attendance, and the Warriors' contingency probably isn’t going to be small, either. McCaw has lots of length on the wing and would do well to show he can defend at a high level, as the Warriors shouldn’t need a whole lot of help scoring the ball this season.

Houston Rockets

Michael Beasley:
This is not a clerical error: Beasley, the second pick in the 2008 draft, is really on Houston’s summer league team. After tearing it up in China and becoming a key contributor down the stretch for the Rockets last season, Beasley told the Houston Chronicle that he wants to get a jump-start on learning Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has no plans of trying to score 40 points. That doesn’t sound like fun...

Gary Payton II: The son of The Glove landed in a pretty good spot after going undrafted, didn’t he? New Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is considered a point guard whisperer, and Payton has plenty of athleticism to work with and a good opportunity to steal minutes away from Patrick Beverley down the line.

Los Angeles Lakers

Brandon Ingram: Lakers fans travel well, and they’ll come out in droves for a look at their newest star. Ingram has freakish length and a smoothness to his offensive game that you wouldn’t expect from someone so young. He’ll have the green light all the way, and his July 9 matchup against the Sixers and Ben Simmons should be the one Las Vegas Summer League game you refuse to miss.

D'Angelo Russell: The dynamic between Russell and Ingram should be interesting to watch. Will Russell take a backseat and let Ingram create for himself, or will he spoon-feed the rookie with his excellent passing? And here’s something else to think about in these awfully quiet gyms: Have the fans forgiven him for last season’s incident with Nick Young, or will it be open season for hecklers? Either way, the Lakers are going to be the most entertaining team in the league, if only for a few weeks.

Memphis Grizzlies

JaMychal Green: One of the lone bright spots last season for the injury-plagued Memphis Grizzlies was the emergence of Green, a scrappy energy guy who new head coach David Fizdale should quickly fall in love with.

Wade Baldwin IV: Baldwin is a point guard with a 6-foot-11 wingspan who probably needs to file a restraining order on Jay Bilas (a legendary lover of wingspans). He has all the physical tools to be a disruptive defensive force, and his spot-up shooting should come in handy for a team that always seems to be starved for floor spacing. He could end up being one of the big steals of this draft class.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Kris Dunn: Can he play with Ricky Rubio, or is he going to replace Ricky Rubio? That probably won’t be decided this summer, but Dunn is the type of player who will shine the brightest when the ball is in his hands and he’s using his elite physical abilities to put defenses in bad positions. The future is bright in Minnesota.

Adreian Payne: Payne is probably running out of chances, despite having an intriguing profile. Players who are this big and athletic that can shoot from deep are relatively rare, but Payne hasn’t been able to consistently demonstrate his skills or a solid basketball IQ. He needs a strong summer as much as anyone.

New Orleans Pelicans

Buddy Hield: Being the best player in college basketball doesn’t always translate to NBA success (just ask Jimmer Fredette), but Hield certainly looks like he’ll be able to contribute for the Pelicans right from the jump. With Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson both reportedly signing in Houston, the Pelicans will need perimeter shooting in the worst way, and that’s what Hield does best.

Phoenix Suns

Dragan Bender: He’s the runner-up for having the best name at summer league, but he’s also a fascinating prospect. Bender has a well-rounded game without any glaring weaknesses, and as of late, he’s become a much better perimeter shooter. It’s not completely clear what he does best now, but at 7-foot-1, his size is going to amplify all his skills. If he can play next to Alex Len, Phoenix could have the rare option of playing two towering centers at the same time.

Marquese Chriss: The Suns spent this offseason stockpiling all the intriguing big men, as Chriss shot up draft boards thanks in large part to his workout numbers. The UW big man projects as an ultra-athletic power forward who can knock down open shots, but those types of players are slowly being replaced by power forwards who can make plays against scrambling defenses. It will be interesting to see if the Suns turn him loose and see what he can do with the ball.

Portland Trail Blazers

Noah Vonleh: The ninth pick in the 2014 draft hasn’t shown a whole lot in his first two years, but he’s still only 20 years old and is clearly adjusting to the speed of the NBA game. Vonleh isn’t much of a scorer, despite possessing a decent shooting stroke, and he doesn’t have the quickness to keep up with most power forwards. Perhaps one day he can develop into a rim-protecting stretch 5, but patience is required here.

Sacramento Kings

Willie Cauley-Stein: The Kings have loaded up on big men during the past two drafts, much to the chagrin of DeMarcus Cousins. Cauley-Stein at least has the defensive versatility to make sense next to Cousins. He can really guard and he can really run, but it would help if Cauley-Stein could demonstrate that his jumper isn’t a lost cause.

Skal Labissiere: All the Kentucky big men! Labissiere didn’t play a whole lot in his one year at Kentucky, but he showed just enough of a sweet shooting stroke and rim-protecting combination to be a first-round pick. Maybe the Kings are planning on defeating small ball, one center at a time.

San Antonio Spurs

Kyle Anderson: He’s way too polished offensively to be playing in summer league. Go on a vacation like everyone else next year, Kyle.

Jonathon Simmons: Simmons broke out in a big way last season, and he carried the momentum over to the Utah Summer League as well. Unsurprisingly, it looks like the Spurs have taken another wing player from the bottom of the barrel and developed him into a real NBA player with a bright future.

Utah Jazz

Trey Lyles: Lyles has a great opportunity to learn from recently acquired forward Boris Diaw, a player whom Lyles was often compared to when he entered the draft last year. It seems likely the Jazz will lean on the versatile forward quite a bit this season, especially after he shot 38.3 percent from deep in his rookie year.

D.J. Foster is an NBA contributor for, ClipperBlog and others. Follow him, @fosterdj.

Kevin Durant as a Golden State Warrior?

June, 30, 2016
Jun 30

Tom Haberstroh on why it makes so much sense for free agent Kevin Durant to join Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors this

In recent memory, top free agents taking meetings have seriously considered switching

The NBA's best 3-and-D free agents

June, 29, 2016
Jun 29

Kevin Arnovitz on four of the best available 3-point shooters and lock down defenders in this year's free agent


Oklahoma City's newest addition makes a lot of sense for the Thunder, says David Thorpe.


The Thunder didn't need Serge Ibaka to do much on offense. Can he blossom in a bigger role? David Thorpe discusses.

Kris Dunn on guarding Curry

June, 23, 2016
Jun 23

An elite NCAA wing defender imagines guarding back-to-back MVP Stephen

Jamal Murray the meditator

June, 23, 2016
Jun 23

The elite NBA prospect has been meditating every day as long as he can

Ben Simmons and Australia are taking over the NBA

June, 22, 2016
Jun 22

Henry Abbott talks to Ben Simmons about trusting the process, 76ers coach Brett Brown, and Australians in the

Brandon Ingram will steal your lunch

June, 22, 2016
Jun 22

Did the NBA Draft's skinniest player steal somebody's lunch?video

Won for The Land: How LeBron bore the weight of a city

June, 22, 2016
Jun 22
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne

IT WAS LATE, but apparently not too late.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had lost the first two games of the NBA Finals by a combined 48 points. The Golden State Warriors were dominating every phase of the game. And LeBron James was looking for something, for anything, he could say to his teammates to help them believe a comeback was possible.

LeBron had spent the weekend watching old Muhammad Ali fights, in awe at the champ's perseverance. His longtime friend and adviser, Nike executive Lynn Merritt, had suggested he study the way Ali carried himself in those epic 12- and 15-round fights. The way Ali took punches, knowing his opponent would eventually tire. The way he taunted opponents, flaunting his superior skill and talents, knowing he would get into their heads. His teammates needed something else, though. Something they could connect to that would make them believe this series was not over. And so LeBron gathered everyone in the Cavaliers locker room before Game 3 and played a portion of Steve Jobs' commencement address to Stanford University in 2005.

The Apple founder, who died in 2011, had told a story about dropping out of college and how taking a calligraphy class ended up helping him design the elegant fonts and interface of the first Apple computers. "Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later," Jobs said in his address.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."


THE MORNING OF June 21, 2012, the front cover of The Miami Herald carried the headline, "REIGN BEGINS." There was LeBron James raising the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time, and across the league it was a no-brainer: If you can't beat those guys, you can't win. A string of Heat titles -- "not five, not six ..." -- seemed, for the moment, likely.

History, though, screams a different story. Predicting dynasties is a lousy business. In the 3-point era, which began in 1980, there have been just eight back-to-back champions, and of those, only three repeated a third time. Which means that of the past 37 postseasons, only 11 champs have repeated.

Dominant though a team might appear, events tend to conspire against trophies in bunches. The Heat dynasty resulted in a worthy haul of two titles. Rare and impressive -- but hardly making it "reign" -- and, like so often happens, it was all undone by something nobody saw coming. Just two years after the Herald headline, on July 11, 2014, James' smiling face was on the front cover of Sports Illustrated with the headline, "I'M COMING HOME." To Cleveland.

And just like that, the reign was over. Two of the Heat's big three were out of Heat uniforms (LeBron as a Cav, Chris Bosh in street clothes) just four years later. Who knows when Miami will win another title?

All of which leads us to the Warriors, who -- though younger than those Heat -- came within a minute of being the 73-win back-to-back champions. If ever there were a dynasty to project, this would have been it. But of course, as history would predict, things didn't go that way because they usually don't.


For most players, the numbers say it's a mistake to play Hero Ball. Kevin Arnovitz says one Finals star is the big