How have the top picks fared?
#1 Anthony Davis was scheduled to appear until he was pressed into Team USA duty, but there has still been plenty of star power in Las Vegas over the past week. Several of the top picks from June’s draft were in action, so here’s a recap of what they’ve done so far (through Thursday’s games).
#2 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: Kidd-Gilchrist looked great in the Bobcats’ first game, a 121-87 win over the Kings on July 13. MKG had 18 points, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 5 assists and 4 steals while displaying the athleticism and intensity that had scouts buzzing about his NBA potential ahead of the draft. Oh yeah, and he did all that in just 22 minutes. But Kidd-Gilchrist injured his left knee in that game and hasn’t played since. Bobcats fans don’t have reason to panic just yet, but it’s unfortunate that they haven’t had a chance to see the guy who may end up being their best player in 2012-13.
#3 Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards: Beal has put up points (18 per game), but his shooting – which he was heralded for in college despite unimpressive numbers – has been poor, as he’s shooting just 42% from the field and 30% on threes. He has had a few nice games on the offensive glass for a guard (9 offensive rebounds in a three-game stretch against the Grizzlies, D-League Select and Rockets), but so far Beal has been what we’ve expected him to be: a scorer who can’t really shoot that well. At least he’s not shooting as badly as this next guy . . .
#4 Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers: Waiters has averaged 12 points per game in three contests so far, but he’s taking over 13 shots per game to do so. His FG% (30%) and 3FG% (17%, though he’s attempted just six threes) are horrible. Waiters was already a question mark after not even starting for Syracuse last season, and his poor summer league showing will do nothing to silence his critics. One silver lining: the Cavs reached for Tristan Thompson at #4 last year and he turned in a decent rookie season, so perhaps they know what they’re doing with Waiters.
#5 Thomas Robinson, Sacramento Kings: The former Jayhawk has been merciless on the boards, but he’s really struggled with the other aspects of his game in the desert. He looked terrific in his most recent outing, a 15-point, 16-rebound outing in a victory over the Celtics on Thursday. But he’s shot just 32% from the field in the other four games—awful numbers for a big man—while struggling at the line (54%). It’s not like he’s been overwhelming on defense either, blocking just one shot in 148 minutes on the floor. The rebounding numbers are promising, since that skill, more than almost any other, carries over to the pros. But Robinson has to return to the efficient scorer who shot 53% from the floor in three years at Kansas if he wants to help the Kings this season.
#6 Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: Lillard led all players in scoring through three contests, with an average of 28 points per game in three contests. But he also led all players in shots (by a healthy margin, at 21 per game) and had an ugly seven turnovers against the Rockets in an 11-point loss on Tuesday. The Blazers can look at Lillard’s performance two ways. They can be pleased that he is managing to score against better competition than he saw last year (with the caveat that it’s nowhere near NBA-level) or they can be upset because he’s doing so in a very inefficient manner. His assist to turnover ratio (4.7 to 4.3) is also extremely poor for a point guard which should worry Blazer fans since, with Raymond Felton gone, Lillard is currently projected as the team’s starter.
#7 Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors: The 6-foot-8 Barnes has showcased a variety of skills, but his toughest feat may be being able to shoot 38% from the field while simultaneously shooting 70% (7-for-10) on threes. His struggles from inside the arc aside, Barnes has demonstrated ability as a rebounder (5 per game) and defender (2.0 steals per game), the latter of which was viewed as one of his best skills entering the draft. Barnes was viewed with such hype entering college – he was the first freshman ever named preseason All-America (one of the many reasons why preseason All-America teams are dumb) – that almost anything he does in the NBA will be considered a failure. But if you recalibrate the expectations and look at Barnes as a lockdown defender/jump shooter, he has the potential for a nice career. Every championship team seems to have one of those guys by the way—think Bruce Bowen or James Posey.
Break up the Bobcats!
Okay, not really. But after submitting one of the worst seasons in NBA history, the Bobcats opened 4-0 in the Vegas Summer League. Part of that is due to the fact that Charlotte has more of its actual NBA players on its roster than most other teams (same goes for the 3-0 Warriors), but the main reason is because Kemba Walker has played like an NBA point guard in all four games. He’s put up a sterling 7.3-1.2 assist-to-turnover ratio while leading all players in assists per game. He’s also averaged 2.0 steals per game for good measure. There are causes for concern—he’s shot just 35% from the field, and that’s including his 8-for-13 effort against Denver on Thursday, and he’s yet to connect on a three-pointer (0-for-10)—but if Walker can become a legit threat at the point, the Bobcats will have a place to start as they continue a long building process. The next step for Walker is to cut down on bad shot attempts, something he’s struggled with in his career, but a necessary skill for a great point guard.
Adam Morrison—yes, Adam Morrison—has been surprisingly effective
He’s still got a long way to go to redeem himself after failing spectacularly as the #3 pick in the 2006 draft, but Morrison — who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010 — has shown that he still has his shooting touch, shooting 56% overall and 60% (6-for-10) on threes in three contests with the Clippers. He dropped 22 on his former team, the Lakers, as he celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday, and his play has made it so that the Clips will have to at least talk it over before cutting him. Morrison still lacks toughness and athleticism, and, once they wrap up their free-agent signings, the Clippers almost certainly won’t have room for him. But, at the very least, Morrison should be able to catch on with a D-League squad this season, granting him another chance to impress NBA scouts.
Malcolm Thomas can rebound
Thomas, 23, went undrafted out of San Diego State in 2011 and played for six teams in three leagues last season, including a stint with Mobis Phoebus of the Korean Basketball League. He played a total of 15 minutes in the NBA with the Spurs before they released him, and now he’s caught on with the Bulls’ summer league outfit and is showing scouts that, even at 6-foot-9, he can still grab a ton of rebounds. He’s averaging 13 through two contests, though the most interesting thing about Thomas’ play in Vegas has been his box scores. I can’t remember seeing two more similar lines from the same player in consecutive games. Check it out:
July 17 vs. Celtics: 30 minutes, 10 points, 4-for-10 FG, 2-for-3 FT, 13 rebounds (4 offensive)
July 18 vs. Rockets: 31 minutes, 10 points, 4-for-9 FG, 2-for-3 FT, 13 rebounds (4 offensive)
Josh Selby is talented, but can he put it together for a full season?
Selby was one of the top recruits in the high school class of 2010, but he did little in his one year in Kansas before he was drafted by the Grizzlies in the second round in 2011. He’s had problems in the past (had to sit out 10 games at Kansas and was fined for receiving improper benefits), but he has the kind of athleticism and scoring chops that make teams salivate. Selby dropped 35 on the Wizards on Tuesday and followed that up with 32 against the Bobcats on Friday, pushing his three-game average to 29 points per game. He’s been unconscious from downtown, hitting 73% of his threes (19-for-26), which, even though it’s unsustainable, is also really impressive. His game against the Wizards was probably the best anyone has played in Vegas—in addition to his 35 points, he hit 7 of 8 threes and collected seven steals. Selby may have made some mistakes in the past, but with displays like that, you’ve got to think the Grizzlies will play him more than 9 minutes per night in 28 contests, as they did last season.