The Orlando session of the NBA summer league might be over but there’s still plenty of ball being played, this time in Vegas. There’s more teams and more former Orange players putting in work in the desert. Let’s take a look at how they’ve fared.
Dion Waiters– The Cavaliers didn’t play in Orlando, so this is the first NBA-esque action Dion has seen, and he’s held his own. Through two games, he’s averaging 10.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.5 APG and 2.5 TO in just over 30 minutes of action. Dion has been nothing if not consistent, dropping 10 points and 4 dimes in his debut, with 11 points and 3 assists in the second. He’s only shooting 28% from the field, though, so that, along with his AST/TO numbers, must improve.
Dion might not be playing his most efficient ball out of the gate, but he hasn’t let it affect his aggressiveness. He’s been in attack mode so far, shooting eight FTs as opposed to only five 3pt attempts so far. It’s good to see him not settling for jumpers. Once he gets used to the size and physicality of NBA defenses, you can expect to see his shooting numbers rise so long as he maintains an aggressive mindset. It’s also worth noting that reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving is out with a broken hand. Irving’s presence in the summer league would have opened things up more for Dion. Still, it’s a chance for Cav’s brass to see what they really have in Waiters, without the already spectacular Irving there to skew things.
Kris Joseph– Montreal’s Finest continued his strong, aggressive play in Vegas. In Boston’s first game of the session, he shared team-high scoring honors with Jared Sullinger, netting 14 points on 4-10 shooting in a win over the Hawks on Monday. He also grabbed 2 boards.
The best way to describe KJ’s performance so far in the summer leagues is that he’s playing like a man possessed. In the past, I’ve questioned his dedication to the game. In the weeks leading up to the draft, it was almost as if he didn’t care if he was drafted or not. It seemed like he was just going through the motions of workouts and the like. And maybe that’s true. But now that he has a shot at an NBA job, he’s going all out. As much as I hate to say it, this is the Kris Joseph Syracuse fans wanted to see his last two seasons; looking for his shot, attacking the rim, getting to the line. Overall just more assertive. I’m glad he’s finally figured it out and has a great chance to make the squad. I just wish he’d done it two years ago.
Fab Melo– Fab also had a promising start to the Vegas session. The Big Bastard scored seven points and snagged five rebounds in 18 minutes of action against the Hawks, with most of his damage done in the first half.
It was in the second half where Fab reminded everyone just how raw a player he really is. Celtics assistant Tyronn Lue, who is in charge of the summer league squad, attributes Fab’s inconsistency to fatigue, but praises the big man’s effort. Lue notes that, although Fab is having trouble with the defensive calls, the ability is there and it’s simply a matter of time. As far as fatigue, Lue cites the fact that Fab is used to simply standing in the middle of the 2-3, not having to hedge screens, rotate and recover. All this is true. But I also think that Fab’s time spent as the anchor of the zone will help him pick up the calls he’s struggled with so far. In coach Boeheim’s 2-3, Fab was responsible to calling out opponent movements. He could be seen directing traffic on defense and communicating effectively with his teammates. Despite his struggles with the calls themselves, coach Lue praises Fab’s ability to communicate, even if the big Brazilian doesn’t recognize and react quite as quickly as he needs to. All that is just a matter of time and practice. And, as I’ve said a few times already, being able to learn under a phenomenal defensive player like Kevin Garnett once training camp starts will only accelerate Fab’s progress.
I think Fab’s game is best summed up by this play against the Hawks, where he contests a 3pt shot (although weakly) at the top of the key, then leaks out for a transition dunk. On the one hand, you’d like a better contest. If he extends fully and actually jumps, there’s a chance he gets a fingertip on that ball. Plus, you want your big man to get a running start to crash the glass there. On the other hand, it’s a savvy basketball play to recognize the chance for an easy bucket (although the assumption that his teammates will corral the board is a big one). And how many big men, especially young ones, are able to make that catch running backwards, execute that move and finish without turning the ball over? We sometimes forget that Fab has only been playing organized basketball for six years. For a guy as big and as inexperienced as he is, he has a tremendous coordination and overall feel for the game. Those are things you can’t teach, and are exactly the tools GM Danny Ainge saw he had to work with when he decided that Fab was worth a first round pick. Of course, none of this ensures that Fab’s won’t end up as a deep rotation backup for the next decade. But they put him ahead of the curve when taking about raw bigs drafted almost entirely on potential.
The Vegas summer league continues this week. Check back for more updates on how the Orange rookies are doing.