Yesterday, we looked at some of this year's draft picks in action over the first three days of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Today, we turn our attention to the veterans there to work on honing their games.
Byron Mullens, Charlotte - The Bobcats' instruction to Mullens after his first season in Charlotte was clear: Add three-point range. Last season, Mullens attempted 51 threes out of 591 shots (8.6 percent). During his first two games in Vegas, that percentage skyrocketed to 42.4 percent (14 of 33). Stepping back a few feet on the court transformed Channing Frye's career, and could have a similar impact in terms of helping Mullens' efficiency. However, this is a process. He made just 2 of his 14 three-point attempts. On the plus side, Mullens somehow pulled of an amazing open-court dunk, perfectly reading a bad pass for a steal in the backcourt and within the same motion gliding to the hoop for a powerful finish. Believe me, this really happened. There's video and everything.
Samardo Samuels, Cleveland - By virtue of losing probably 20 to 30 pounds since the end of the regular season, Samuels was the most difficult NBA veteran to recognize in Las Vegas. Girth actually worked to Samuels' advantage at times during his sophomore season, as he used his bulk to clear space in the paint. At the same time, the slimmer Samuels was more mobile from end to end and also more effective in the air.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland - The NBA Summer League is a great opportunity to force-feed post touches to Thompson. As compared to his rookie season, I thought Thompson was more patient down low and demonstrated better touch. He even handled double teams, something he's not likely to see on a regular basis come the real season.
Dominique Jones, Dallas - When people talk about summer performances failing to translate, they're probably thinking of Jones' 32-point effort on Sunday. He was certainly effective, but we all knew Jones could score. The Mavericks surely started him at point guard in the hopes of seeing Jones make plays for teammates. That did not happen.
Klay Thompson, Golden State - Thompson is in the discussion with Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard and Wesley Matthews as the most overqualified players to suit up in Las Vegas (Kyrie Irving would have won had he not broken his hand in practice.) Thompson played like it, dominating lesser foes. He started Saturday's game with a series of threes over Evan Fournier and was effective as a focal point of the Warriors' offense before shutting things down after just two games.
Jeremy Tyler, Golden State - On Friday, I thought Tyler had picked up where he left off late in his rookie season--a mixture of solid plays, mistakes and stretches where he's invisible. On Saturday, Tyler took a step back. He was never ready to play and picked up four fouls in the first half of the opening quarter alone. Tyler will have to be more consistent to make good on his potential.
Marcus Morris, Houston - Morris took the opposite path. After sleepwalking through Friday's game and making poor decisions, Morris supplied a better effort on Saturday. With all the competition for playing time at forward for the Rockets given the current roster, Morris is going to have to cut out the mistakes to earn his way on the floor.
Josh Selby, Memphis - Selby displayed heretofore unseen shooting stroke on Saturday, making four three-pointers in five attempts as part of a strong scoring effort. The downside is that, with Jeremy Pargo, rookie Tony Wroten and free agent Jerome Randle all on the roster, Selby had little opportunity to play point guard. His size makes it difficult for him to play regular minutes as a two, though a Selby-Wroten backcourt could present the opportunity to cross-match defensively.
Markieff Morris, Phoenix - The other Morris twin got a fairly good test from Knicks free agent Chris Copeland on Sunday. For the most part, though, Morris had his way as such an experienced and talented player should. We saw little of the pick-and-pop game that was a staple for Morris as a rookie. Instead, he dominated the paint to the tune of 21 points and nine rebounds. That made the timing all the more bizarre when, during the game, the Suns won the amnesty auction for veteran forward Luis Scola. How Phoenix will find playing time for Scola with all four members of the frontcourt rotation possibly returning (backup center Robin Lopez is a restricted free agent) is unclear at press time.
Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento - While at BYU, Fredette lit up the Thomas & Mack Center during the Mountain West Tournament. Playing across the hallway on Friday night, Fredette looked like an overmatched free agent just trying to make a roster. As a point guard, Fredette struggled to break Charlotte's trap (and, in fairness, got little ballhandling help). He found few good shot attempts. Fredette was slightly better on Saturday, when he spent more time at shooting guard. Yet he rarely is able to break down his defender off the dribble and create easy opportunities. At this point, it's hard to see Fredette as more than a spot-up shooting specialist.
Jan Vesely, Washington - According to Mike Prada of Bullets Forever, Vesely has been working on an adjustment to his shooting form. We saw some dividends in Saturday's game, when he knocked down a pair of outside jumpers. Vesely still puts more arc on his shot than almost anyone else in the NBA, but rather than coming up short of the net, this time his efforts were falling.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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