I am a sucker for the NBA Summer League and have been for the past couple of years. It comes at that time of the year when nothing else important is on television sports-wise (I love watching the Tour de France, but more for its nap-inducing qualities and the announcers’ voices). This year KSR will be making a trek to the Vegas Summer League, but play has already begun in Orlando, with a few teams kicking off their play. Thus, I spent a few hours this weekend watching the games involving the UK guys and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed them. It turns out that the Orlando league includes the three players from UK in the most precarious position (Andrew, Aaron and Dakari), and since it is likely you spent the weekend oding something besides watching Summer League basketball, I decided to give you a review of what you missed:
Of the three, Andrew looked the most NBA-ready and based solely on what I saw in Orlando, the most likely to make the team. The Memphis Grizzlies had Andrew in their starting lineup and played him a ton of minutes, although surprisingly most of it was at the Shooting Guard position. This may have been due to the fact that the Grizzlies also have Russ Smith and his height requires him to play the point, but regardless Andrew spent most of his two games at the two guard. He played both games consistently and his stats reflected it. Andrew had 10 points in the first game, 9 in the second, but most importantly fit into the flow of the play well. He attacked the basket when it was available, made a number of good passes, was serviceable on defense and limited his turnovers while averaging around 24 of the 40 minutes a game. His team plays up tempo (at least in the Summer League) and that served him well, allowing him lanes to attack and he did a great job making decisions both games as to when to go to the rim and when to pass. I divide Summer League players into two categories…those that look like they belong in the NBA (about 20% of them) and those that don’t (the rest). Andrew was in the first group and seems likely to me to find a way onto the roster.
It was a tale of two games for me for Aaron Harrison as my opinion changed dramatically between Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday Aaron scored 10 points, and started strong. But then as the game went on, he seemed a bit out of sorts, lost on defense and never totally in the game flow. Part of this was due to his team, as Frank Kaminsky was dominant for most of the game (he was the best player I saw over the two days worth of games…much to my surprise actually) and PJ Hairston shot the ball constantly (and poorly) thus dominating most of the action. However whatever concerns I might have had on Day One dissipated on day 2, was Aaron was great in the game against his brother for the Charlotte Hornets. He had 16 points, 8 assists, started the game at Point Guard (on Day One, he came off the bench playing Shooting Guard) and truly found his rhythm. He shot the ball poorly from outside both days (he only made one three pointer, calling to mind Jay Bilas’s Draft Day comments that Aaron is a shooter who isn’t making shots), but he attacked the rim perfectly and totally dominated Russ Smith (who guarded him) on the offensive end. Reporters who cover the Hornets were tweeting about how Aaron looked like he belonged in preseason camp and he was probably the story of Day Two. It was a much needed good performance from a kid who wants to shake off the disappointment of Draft night. Through two days, Aaron seems to be on track to take the next step.
Dakari only played one game over the last two days and it was starting at Center for the Oklahoma City thunder team. He was solid, 7 points and 11 Rebounds, and if you watched the game, you saw a lot of what he did at Kentucky. He took up space down low, played solid defense and rebounded well when the ball was in his area. He struggled quite a bit on the pick and roll, and really had difficulty the couple of times he had to guard Kaminsky. However he was solid and looked to be in good shape after the Draft. He fared better than the other former Cat on the Thunder, Marquis Teague (who didn’t play and wasn’t even wearing the same shorts as the rest of the team) and the fact that he started was a good sign. But the best player on his team was Mitch McGary and Dakari simply blended in with a good performance. I have no idea what his future holds and I want to see him play a couple of more games…but if you believe his likely role in the NBA is a long-term backup Center in the league, he did nothing to suggest that couldn’t be achieved through his first game in the Summer League.
All three players have a number of more games and will each have to make more strides to make their teams. But for all three, especially Aaron, the weekend seems to have been a success, which is very good news.