Las Vegas is buzzing with the start of the 2014 NBA Summer League, and even when the Hawks are in the midst of an "off" day (Atlanta begins in earnest on Saturday), there is a great deal of action. Each day (or so), I will dive into the non-Hawks action, and emerge with a smattering of thoughts that may or may not be entirely coherent. In that spirit, here we go:
- Tim Hardaway Jr. has no business playing in the LVSL. The Knicks swingman is already an established member of the rotation for the "real" club, and he put up 25 points in 25 minutes in the team's summer opener. Is he a finished product? Absolutely not, but the things that Hardaway must improve (defense!) likely won't be the focus this week, and he can score at will.
- Ivan Johnson, an old and lasting friend of the Hawks, had a rough debut on Friday, as he posted a game-worst -29 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Ivan looked to be in good shape, but the production wasn't there, as he settled for a bunch of contested jump shots and pulled down only 3 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. It is unclear as to what his role is supposed to be for their squad, but my guess is that Johnson would be better served on the interior.
- The "play of the day" occurred when Knicks second-round pick Cleanthony Early destroyed the aforementioned Ivan Johnson with a fast break dunk in the 3rd quarter of the opening game. Needless to say, it brought the house down, at least to the point where that can occur in Las Vegas at about 2:00 in the afternoon.
- The recently jettisoned Lucas Nogueira had an impressive day for the Toronto Raptors. Nogueira's value will probably never be felt on the stat sheet (where he finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers), but he was extremely active defensively and looked spry despite the knee issues from the previous season. Hawks fans will undoubtedly want to burn Danny Ferry's house to the ground if Nogueira ever develops into an NBA rotation player, but he looked to be well on his way (small sample!!!) on Friday.
- Bruno Caboclo... isn't terrible. The entire NBA world made fun of the Raptors when they drafted the unknown player in the first round, but he showed some real flashes in his summer debut. The lengthy forward converted 5 of his 7 field goal attempts, and while he certainly is raw (as 5 fouls and 3 turnovers would attest), it wasn't the comedic disaster that I somewhat anticipated.
- Lakers second-round pick Jordan Clarkson was the best player on the floor whenever he was inserted for Los Angeles. The former first-round "lock" slipped badly on draft night, but after a 21-point outburst on Friday, it is easy to remember why he was once hyped. At 6-foot-5, he probably isn't a point guard as some have opined, but he can create and he can score, and there is always a market for that particular trait.
- The Cox Pavilion was buzzing for the match-up between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, and with good reason. Neither player was flawless by any stretch, but Parker (17 points, 9 rebounds) flashed his highly-developed offensive skill set throughout and Wiggins' athleticism and defensive upside jumped off the page. Parker's body looked to be fairly doughy, at least by NBA terms, but with an NBA trainer/diet, that could be fixed in a hurry, and his conditioning issues could have been tied to Milwaukee's practice schedule, etc. There are plenty of takes on both players around, but neither could be classified as disappointing.
- As a sidebar to the main event, former #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett was fairly impressive. In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a proponent of Bennett despite his dreadful rookie campaign, and he looks to be in much better shape as his sophomore campaign approaches. The production wasn't tremendous (15 points, 7 rebounds, EIGHT fouls in 31 minutes), but there was a semblance of his "real" talent level, and that is encouraging.
- David Blatt, the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has already installed a great deal of offense. Of course, it will be incredibly interesting to see how that is tweaked with LeBron James at his disposal, but Cleveland was basically the only team in action on Friday that was running a great deal offensively, and their ball movement and cutting was a bright spot. Matthew Dellevedova commands the offense with an unusual vigor for Summer League, but credit to Blatt for having his guys in line already.
Stay tuned for more updates as the week continues, and the Atlanta Hawks will be in action for their Summer League debut on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Wizards.