The Hawks went 1-4 during the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, but despite having only one win, the Hawks saw some promising play (and not so promising play) out of a number of their young players. Here, we will evaluate the winners and losers of Summer League for the Atlanta Hawks.
Dennis Schröder: Schröder was the darling of Summer League. Everyone in the arena loved him: fans, media, coaches, executives, other players...everyone. Schröder did everything people wanted to see him do and more. We all knew going in that his size and lack of strength would cause him problems, but his command of the offense and leadership on the floor was more like that of a 10-year veteran than a 19 year-old rookie.
Watching Schröder play from courtside, I grew to appreciate his court-vision over the course of the week. While on the ball, Schröder is constantly scanning the floor, assessing the defense, and looking for open players. He also showed patience in running the offense, particularly pick-and-rolls, well beyond his years. Schröder does a great job turning the corner and continuing to look for the pass to the rolling big. His shooting has a ways to go, but it is definitely something that can improve with work.
Defensively, Schröder excelled with his on-ball defense. He has incredible footwork to go along with his Rondo-like wingspan and massive hands, and is aggressive in pressuring ball-handlers on the perimeter. He has work to do to improve his pick-and-roll defense, where, due to his size, he can struggle getting through screens. Schröder told us after the final game that increasing his strength would be his biggest challenge and the biggest improvement the coaches have told him he will have to make in his game.
Lucas Nogueira: Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira had a relatively impressive Summer League. Going into the week, I expected Bebe to be an extremely raw, skinny kid that would show flashes of good play, but end up being too undersized (weight-wise) to really make a sustainable impact on either end of the floor. While Nogueira struggled with bigger players, he showed some skills that were quite impressive.
Lucas' passing out of the high post was very good. On a number of occasions Nogueira hit cutters from the high post with excellent passes. Along with flashing his passing ability, Lucas showed off his transition game as well, which was something we all knew he had, but was extremely impressive to see in person. His help defense was solid, especially towards the end of the week when he seemed more committed to his decisions compared to the first few games.
Nogueira has a long way to go, and will likely spend the next year in Spain to continue developing, which he desperately needs. Lucas has to gain a lot of strength in order to be able to deal with NBA big men on a consistent basis. He also needs to develop a more consistent offensive game outside of alley-oop dunks and tip-ins. While he has some major work to do in order to become a contributor on an NBA team, Nogueira showed that there are a lot of skills to work with, and that, should he continue developing on the court and physically, he could be a very solid NBA center. He also cemented his position as fan favorite due to his incredibly engaging personality on and off the court, not to mention the hair.
Mike Scott: Scott came into the week looking to show improvements to his game and be one of the two best players on the court, and he succeeded. Scott played well on the offensive end, showing off an improved three-point shot that could allow Scott to see the floor more as a three. He also appeared to be in excellent shape, which showed in his perimeter defense. Scott played very well, especially in the last few games of the tournament and, I believe, helped himself potentially get more minutes in the regular season.
John Jenkins: Jenkins came into Summer League hoping to be the best player on the team and win MVP. He did not accomplish either of those things. Jenkins appeared to put too much pressure on himself to be "the man" and instead became an inefficient volume shooter. Jenkins, who was given the green-light from the coaching staff, appeared to force things on offense, most notably in the final game where he shot 2-of-9 from the three point line. Jenkins is best served as an off-ball player, running off of screens and playing within the flow of the offense. He was asked to be more than that in Summer League and to create his own shot, and he did not do well in that role.
Shelvin Mack: As I've written about here, Shelvin Mack did not have the best Summer League performance. Mack struggled early, but excelled in his final game. The reason he is one of the losers is more about what Schröder did than what Mack did or did not do. Schröder's impressive play seems to have solidified his role as the back-up point guard, which was a possibility for Mack had Dennis not shown himself to be so mature a player.
The rest of the team: Unfortunately, the rest of the team also count as losers. The majority of them figure to find themselves somewhere outside the NBA next season. For some, they never got much of a chance to show themselves on the floor due to a commitment from the Hawks to let draft picks and those with roster spots see the most court time. For Mike Muscala, the disappointment comes because he will likely be sent overseas to save a roster spot and cap space. Jared Cunningham did not have his best week but, due to his guaranteed deal, he has a good chance to make the roster, however he will likely be buried on the bench behind a litany of guards.
My Sanity (and money): Eight days in Las Vegas watching seemingly never-ending mediocre basketball finally got the best of me, (as did the tables). Those of you that follow me on Twitter witnessed it in real-time; for those that don't, it's probably for the best. I know I never had much, but whatever I did have, I lost it. If you go to the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV and find it, please send to Philips Arena.