The Summer League is rarely a good barometer for future success, but that’s never stopped media and fans from getting as much Summer League action as they can, especially from their favorite teams. It’s the first chance for coaches and future teammates to take a look at what their newest draft picks look. On one hand, it’s incredibly important for coaches to try out new sets and see what they have to work with. On the other, the results rarely predict the future.
Still, this game was a Vegas attraction tonight. It brought out a crowd that hadn’t been seen previously.
NBA Summer League — Single day record attendance of 12,422 today. Insane, wonderful atmosphere here in Vegas.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) July 11, 2015
The NBA has cleverly scheduled the No. 1 and No.1 picks to face off in the primetime hour of the Las Vegas Summer League’s first day. Last year, it pegged Andrew Wiggins (then with the Cavs) against Jabari Parker. This year, it squared off Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell, of the Timberwolves and Lakers respectively.
Without going into too much detail on the overall scope of the game, the Wolves took control of the game early with some quality ball movement, and finished the win off with some nice play around the hoop, mostly by Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers.
But the Summer League, more than anything else, is about the prospects. Wolves fans tuned in to see the new rookies, and the returning youngsters, so that’s who we’ll look into….in perspective.
Remember, this is one Summer League game, not the end-all decision-maker of what will happen this season.
Zach LaVine: 24 pts, 6 rbs, 3 asts, 3 TOs, 7-17 FG, 4-8 3PT
One great part of present-day Zach LaVine is his clearly unshakable confidence. In the Summer League, it’s fun. LaVine was jacking up 29-foot 3-pointers, but was also making some of them. He made some mistakes on both ends, including some bad moments in the pick and roll on both ends, but I left feeling as good about LaVine as ever.
Iffy decision-making mixed in with athletic brilliance and some skill can give you a good statline with the right level of confidence. That’s what the Wolves might have in Zach LaVine.
Oh… he also does this.
Adriean Payne: 10 pts, 9 rbs, 8 fouls, 4-13 FG
Payne’s struggles in the regular season carried over a bit in tonight’s game, and continues to play like a 15-year-old kid learners’ permit driving a Porsche. His freakish athleticism is evidenced by the way he rebounds the ball, but his struggles come once his feet hit the ground again.
He struggled to make good decisions in the post, got jump-happy on both ends, and didn’t hit consistently from deep. Remember: there’s plenty of time for Payne to figure things out, but tonight’s game did not lead to confidence.
Karl-Anthony Towns: 12 pts, 3 rbs, 4 asts, 8 fouls, 4 TOs, 4-10 FG
After tonight’s game, Towns told NBATV that he was nervous coming into his first unofficial dose of NBA action.
The bad: He struggled to secure rebounds on the defensive end, struggled a bit in post-up situations, and had only 1 block in 32 minutes.
The good: He reinstated the confidence Wolves fans had in him after Flip Saunders drafted him. He showed a strong game on the pick-and-pop, was protecting the rim efficiently despite his low block totals, and, more than anything else, was passing out of double/triple teams at the level of a seasoned vet. He looked used to it, which is pretty astounding. If this passing is for real, the defense will have to respect it. That’s when the scoring will come.
Also: Broadcaster Reggie Miller kept calling Karl-Anthony Towns “Anthony Towns”, as if he had two last names instead of two first names. This went on the entire game, and was hilarious.
Tyus Jones: 0 pts, 2 rbs, 0 asts, 0-4 FG, 3 TO
Definitely not the way Jones wanted to start off his LVSL campaign. He struggled to get any offense going. His most consistent weapon, a sharp pass-first mind, didn’t seem to be present tonight. There’s not a ton to say on this one. Jones had opportunities to finish at the rim, but flat-out missed shots. He tried to get fancy at half court and got the ball stripped.
He was a freshman a year ago and was picked late in the first round. The learning curve for Jones is going to be longer than Towns’ with a lesser reward, but ultimately, Jones is a much better player than he showed tonight. Just a bad game is all.
The other guys: Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers
The only other two with any real chance of getting a spot on this roster, Brown and Jeffers were the steadiest forces for the Wolves all night.
Brown played to a point where Tweets like this were surfacing the internet. This opinion wasn’t without company.
Seems like Lorenzo Brown is a jumper away from being a legit rotation player.
— Punch-Drunk Wolves (@PDWolves) July 11, 2015
However the regular season roster shapes up, it’s good to have guys like Brown and Jeffers on your Summer League squad. Both are legit NBA talents.
Lastly, here’s a video of Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine being awesome in a post-game interview. Good night.