Nine notable performances from Day 5 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: C
An average outing in the second part of a back-to-back? He’s got this NBA thing down already. The level of aggression offensively wasn’t quite the same as it had been in previous games, as Exum willingly deferred to others instead of really forcing the issue and creating offense. The limited minutes probably didn’t help him stand out much, but most of the decision-making was fine. This was just a scaled-back effort.
Will Barton, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: B
Remember those “my fast is faster than your fast” commercial spots? It really feels that way when Barton takes the floor, as he flies up and down the court at a breakneck pace. Don’t mistake his energy as a cover-up for a lack of skill, though, because Will “The Thrill” displayed great shake off the dribble to get into the paint early and often, gashing the interior defense. The between-the-legs alley-oop to Thomas Robinson wasn’t half bad, either.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers | Grade: A-
McCollum is a really sneaky athlete, mainly because it factors into situations you don’t normally pay much attention to. For example, McCollum gets a ridiculous amount of elevation on his jumper, which allows him to pull up off his own dribble or shoot right over the top of a closing defender. After hitting six 3-pointers and tallying 28 points, McCollum is making it clear he’s a spot-up threat defenses are going to have a whale of a time with going forward.
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls | Grade: A
There’s a lot of legwork that goes into getting an open look when you’re a shooter with his reputation, but McDermott has the rare ability to read a defense while he’s on the move. Multiple times after manipulating his man into a screen, McDermott burned the overcompensating help defense with a picture-perfect pocket pass. He gets it.
Glen Rice Jr., Washington Wizards | Grade: A-
Could a sophomore second-round pick end up stealing the summer league MVP award? Rice may not bring the hype that accompanies the fresher faces, but he once again looked a cut above his competition. Rice’s game is all about explosiveness.
Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns | Grade: B+
We were robbed of seeing the only two projected starting centers in Vegas go up against one another when Nerlens Noel sat out, but Plumlee put on a nice show against the Sixers regardless. Given his production last year and his role going forward, it’s a bit surprising to see Plumlee here, but it’s evident he’s working hard on becoming a better rim protector and defensive presence. In order to take the next step, Phoenix will need that from him.
T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns | Grade: A
He didn’t earn the bandage over his eye by accident. Warren was a human wrecking ball offensively, smashing his way to whatever spot on the floor he desired before simply overpowering his defender for easy buckets. It’s not very often you see a perimeter player rack up 28 points with no threes, but Warren seems to get the best of every physical exchange he gladly partakes in. If he ever develops 3-point range, watch out.
Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves | Grade: D-
Muhammad once again elicited groans from his hometown crowd for his selfish play, as he chucked his way to a 3-for-15 night while providing almost nothing across the board. At this point you have to begin to wonder if Muhammad, whose lone strength is his ability to bully smaller defenders, really belongs in a league in which he’s regularly outworked. On the bright side, he did register his first assist in three games, so at least there’s that.
Cameron Bairstow, Chicago Bulls | Grade: B+
It’s unfortunate for Bairstow that Chicago’s frontcourt is so loaded, because it sure looks like he’s an NBA quality big man. On defense he’s physical and doesn’t give up ground, but on offense he’s more of a finesse guy who can step away from the rim, pass from the elbow and really knock in midrange jumpers at a high clip. He’s the best player in Vegas that looks like "Karate Kid" villain William Zabka, by far.