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NBA Summer League 2017: Winners and losers from the Atlanta Hawks

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Let’s take stock of what we saw in the desert.

NBA: Preseason-Cleveland Cavaliers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks won’t be participating in another official NBA basketball game for some time, as the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League is now in the past. As usual, there were positives and negatives for the team throughout the journey to Las Vegas but it would be easy to argue that this year’s edition brought more intrigue to the table than most previous squads based on the talent and overall direction of the franchise.

With that as the backdrop, it is time to unveil a (very) traditional evaluation tool and that is naming “winners” and “losers” from Summer League. It would be wise to actually read the text associated with each player for the purpose of nuance but, in the end, judgments are made and they arrive here.

Losers

  • Bryce Cotton - Cotton was the biggest name in terms of non-roster invitees on the squad and the diminutive guard struggled mightily. His numbers (24% FG, 11% 3PT, more turnovers than assists) are brutal to see but, more than that, Cotton looked overwhelmed defensively and wasn’t able to make up for that with his microwave-like offensive game. There has been a lot of buzz about Cotton as a potential addition to the regular season roster but this week did not do him any favors in that regard.
  • Tyler Dorsey - Dorsey suffered an ankle injury and missed Atlanta’s final two games. Prior to that, his play wasn’t fantastic and some of his pre-draft deficiencies showed up in a prominent way. Dorsey will rely heavily on his shotmaking at the NBA level and the concern will be what happens when that isn’t working in his favor. He didn’t look particularly explosive and faint thoughts of him operating at point guard in the near future largely evaporated. Make no mistake, it wasn’t as if Dorsey was one of Atlanta’s worst players in Vegas because, well, he wasn’t. Still, this is compared to expectations and, as a top-45 pick, Dorsey wasn’t great.

Status Quo

  • Isaia Cordinier - Candidly, Cordinier would have found himself in a more unfavorable segment before a very strong game on Friday. That performance prompted LVSL head coach Charles Lee to say some encouraging things about the second-year player and Cordinier flashed some of his defensive and decision-making tools. Prior to that, it was a mixed bag and, frankly, he would be in the “losers” category if not for a very disappointing showing in 2016 Summer League and throughout last season in Europe. Cordinier might land in Erie but he’s a long way off in terms of NBA contributions.
  • Josh Magette - Magette was seen as a disappointment by many evaluators and it seems plausible to have that takeaway having never watched Magette before. In his defense, Summer League is a (very) rough situation for his skill set, as he thrives on running an established offensive system and letting his passing shine as a result. Still, I am lower on Magette than the Hawks (clearly) are and his defensive limitations were on full display in Las Vegas. I believe he’ll be an effective caretaker in Erie that will make his teammates look good with high-end passing and execution. There is something to be said for that.
  • Taurean Prince - Prince is the best NBA player that appeared in an Atlanta Hawks uniform this week. With that said, he didn’t dominate in the way that Hawks fans may have wanted to see and his efficiency left something to be desired. Prince was a real-life contributor on a playoff team a year ago so there is nothing to worry about here, but his stock is neutral based on this week alone.
  • Diamond Stone - It was a mixed bag for Stone. We saw his offensive efficiency and touch on display at times and, when planted near the rim, he was effective in rim protection. Elsewhere, though, Stone really struggled in terms of defensive awareness and he is (very) raw at this stage. On the bright side, he’s 20 years old. On the negative side, the Hawks will have only one year to decide on his future before restricted free agency.
  • Everyone else - With all due respect to Trent Lockett (who played well on Friday) and Richard Solomon, the rest of the Summer League roster wasn’t exactly chalked full of overly intriguing players. Lockett was probably the best of the bunch and there are some NBA-worthy traits elsewhere but, alas, there is only so much bandwidth.

Winners

  • DeAndre’ Bembry - Bembry was a steady hand for the Hawks throughout the week and he was highly efficient in doing so. The most encouraging thing from Bembry was apparent confidence in his jump shot and the small sample of results reflected some progression. He could still use an uptick in strength on both ends but Bembry looks the part of a rotation player next season. Whether he excels in that role at the NBA level remains to be seen but he did everything he could have to assuage fears in Las Vegas.
  • John Collins - The rookie was quite a bit of fun in the desert. Collins made a name for himself around the league with a bunch of ferocious athletic plays and averaged more than nine rebounds per game in only 23 minutes of action. The caveat for Collins’ breakout is that, well, he is the exact kind of player (hyper-athletic, numbers-producing) that can look better in Summer League than he actually is but we are nitpicking here. The defensive concerns remain, even from the coaching staff, but Collins made a very strong impression and there isn’t much he could have done to improve his standing more over a five-game period.
  • Alpha Kaba - I would like to have seen Kaba for more than 11 minutes per game but the No. 60 overall pick was quite solid. If anything, he is ahead of Stone in the pecking order when evaluating defense in a vacuum and Kaba isn’t completely lost. Make no mistake, he is certainly a project that isn’t close to contributing in the NBA but you can see the path and that is an encouraging sign.