Las Vegas Summer League: Timberwolves 81, D-League Select 83
Here’s what an NBA Summer League game can give you a clear picture of: nothing. Put together a couple of Wolves rookies (Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng), a guy who played overseas last year (Robbie Hummel), the brother of a hot-shooting Golden State Warrior (Mychel Thompson—who didn’t even see the floor), an assistant coach’s son (Luke Sikma) and a squadron of guys looking for enough burn to catch someone’s eye and you have a complete lack of what makes a team be about something. An NBA team is a conglomeration of approaches, toolsets, hopes and dreams, all angled (hopefully with some precision) towards the goal of becoming something greater than the sum of their parts. A Summer League team is the mismatched toolbox you found in the basement when you moved into the first house you bought. It might get the job done, but that’s about it.
So in a game that ping-ponged back and forth with the Wolves jumping out to an early lead with a 22-11 first quarter, then wilting in a 21-11 second quarter before everyone settled in for what ended up being a reasonably tight and entertaining game down the stretch, what did we see?
Shabazz (will we ever be able to refer to him as Muhammad or is he doomed to a single named existence?) was reasonably solid. The good news is that he didn’t appear to be greedy, nor to be pressing, not to give up or not care at the end of the game. He finished with 7 points on 3-7 shooting; not highly efficient but also not just throwing them up. He tallied just one assist, but that was one more than many seemed to expect out of him, and it was on a beautiful bang-bang play that looked buttery smooth, the ball swinging from the arc to Shabazz on the baseline to Lorenzo Brown under the hoop for the lay-in. After hitting his first 3 from the corner he cooled off and only made 1-3 from downtown. His shooting stroke, though, looked good and smooth.
Dieng didn’t make much of an impression aside from a pair of strong blocks and a nice two-handed dunk that seemed to take forever to happen. I doubt Dieng gets that much time to wind up and throw it down in the NBA, but he’s not out there for his offense. He didn’t clean the glass but looked to work hard physically for position, and it seemed like that positioning helped the Wolves outrebound the D-League Select team 36-26. Imagining him in a reserve role, I think he will fit in well to the backcourt as a rim protector and big body.
Hummel impressed, particularly on a few screen plays that had him catching and shooting around the high elbow. He ended up with 12 points on 5-9 shooting and 6 rebounds from the small forward position, which is good, particularly on the boards. Those won’t be as easy to come by in the NBA, but still: there’s a chance that Hummel will be a nice end-of-the-bench player for an NBA team, although it’s not likely it’s going to be the Wolves.
He looks like a young Nick Nolte.
Johnson finished the game with a double-double (11 pts and 10 rebs), befitting a player who made the jump from the D-League to the NBA last season and scored a guaranteed contract (although exactly how that all went down with Kahn signing him to a guaranteed deal is a little strange). The word on Johnson has been that he’s put on 15 lbs of muscle and is up to 230 now. He looked it. His legs might still be toothpicks, but his upper body looks filled out, and it should only help him hold position against bigger players. He also did this in warmups:
So that’s still cool.
This guy is relentless in getting to the rim, going 4-5 and ending with 8 points. It’s a great trait in a guard and he never seemed to shy away from bowling his way into the paint. Still, as Zach pointed out, he doesn’t really have a position, floating at 6’5” somewhere between a big SG and an undersized (but not particularly fast) SF. Regardless, I really liked his work rate.
And I guess that’s about it. Stefhon Hannah absolutely detonated for the D-League Select team, scoring 23 points on just 11 shots. That was pretty much all she wrote. Check back in with AWAW during the rest of Summer League for further updates from Zach Harper, who will be here for the next 11 days and hopefully not die.