Las Vegas Summer League begins on Friday and the Minnesota Timberwolves once again ride into Sin City with a pretty intriguing squad. Ryan Saunders will once again coach the Summer Wolves in Vegas, and all eyes will obviously be on No. 5 pick Kris Dunn out of Providence. People will want to see what he can do, even in a pretty chaotic and disorganized environment like Summer League play.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the guys on the Wolves’ roster, what to look for from them, and who might contribute the most:
The Summer Guards
Kris Dunn, Rookie: This is the main guy we all want to see, right? No. 5 pick in the draft. Possible point guard to supplant Ricky Rubio at the position. And he’s just supposed to be a damn good basketball player. I’ve had my questions about him and I still do, but I’m more interested to see how he manages the game rather than just looking to take shots. If he creates great opportunities for himself, I hope he takes them. If he creates great opportunities for others, I hope he gives them. Mostly, I want to see how his decision-making process in this environment looks.
Often, you can see guys over passing in an attempt to show how unselfish they can be. Flip side of that can be players trying to do too much by themselves and get into trouble by forcing up a lot of bad shots in the name of domination. I’d like Dunn to be somewhere in between. I’m not terribly worried about the percentage of shots he makes; I’m more concerned with how the entire process looks. I think Dunn can be very good in Tom Thibodeau’s system. But we’ll get to see more of his mentality and possibly his maturity in the next week.
Tyus Jones, Second Year: I wonder how tough this will be for Tyus Jones with Dunn already on the roster and presumably getting the bulk of the point guard responsibilities. I also think we’ll see some stretches with Jones at the point and Dunn off the ball to see how either do in those situations on both ends of the floor. Tyus struggled a bit in Las Vegas Summer League a year ago.
Jones scored 31 points on 27 shots in four games, making just 40.7% from the field and 25% from deep. He had 13 turnovers and eight assists, and he mostly seemed uncomfortable with getting guys in position. I think we know him to be a better point guard than that but he looked pretty green. He should be more aggressive this time around and his defensive decisions will be fascinating.
Kevin Punter, Rookie: Kevin Punter was a big time scorer in his sophomore year at Tennessee. Put up 22.2 points per game while shooting 46.0/36.9/81.7. He got to the free throw line over eight times per game. He can get buckets, he’s a good spot-up shooter, and he can isolate against many defenders and get a good opportunity. Two things I want to see from Punter:
1) Can he defend? He wasn’t a great defender in the team concept at Tennessee and struggled a bit closing out against shooters. He usually wandered away a bit too much and couldn’t recover. 2) Can he do anything else on offense but score? Can his movement make the defense get discombobulated and will he make the extra pass or the correct pass? He’s another guy who could end up being too aggressive trying to score. We know he can score. He needs to show what else he’s got.
Toure’ Murry, Third Year: Toure’ Murry is an interesting option for the Summer Wolves. He can play the 1 and the 2. In Las Vegas, he maybe even sees some time at the 3. Three years ago, he played 51 games for the New York Knicks. Since then, he’s bounced around a bit and played primarily in the D-League. He’s been solid in the D-League too. He put up 11.5 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in 45 D-League games split between the Sioux Falls Skyforce and the Texas Legends.
He’s not a very good free throw shooter and his 3-point shooting is spotty. But if he can play good defense and create for others, he’ll turn heads and maybe get a camp invite somewhere. He’s done well every year he’s been in Summer League action.
The Summer Wings
Kris Joseph, Second Year: Kris Joseph has been out of the NBA since 2012-13. He was a second-round pick of the Boston Celtics, played one year in the NBA for the Celtics and Nets, and then found his way to Europe. He’s been playing in the French League ever since. He’s been solid overseas so far. His outside jumper has been inconsistent. His scoring has been OK. He’s been a good enough defender at times. It’ll be interesting to see how good his defense looks in Vegas.
Xavier Silas, Second Year: The 28-year old out of Northern Illinois has played two games in the NBA, and that was for the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2011-12. Since then, he’s spent significant time between the D-League and playing overseas. He’s played in Argentina, Germany, Israel, Greece, and France. Over the last year both in Europe and the D-League, Silas has seen a huge improvement in his outside shooting. Maybe that’s his way back into the NBA conversation.
Scott Suggs, Rookie: Over the last three years, Scott Suggs has lit up the D-League (18.5 points, 40.3% from 3), been a solid scorer in the French League (10.5 points, 36.9% from 3), and lit up the D-League once again (18.0 points, 41.9% from 3). He’s had poor showing in Summer League action over the years, so he probably needs to prove he can shoot in this environment while playing solid team defense. I’m not sure how much the Wolves will want to see from him outside of that. Just be a shooter.
Coty Clarke, Second Year: Coty Clarke is a very intriguing guy here. He had a cup of coffee with the Boston Celtics last season, but mostly played in Maine for the D-League. He’s a tweener forward at about 6-foot-7 and he loves to get out and run the floor. He can get up and throw down. He was a 40.6% 3-point shooter on 187 attempts in the D-League. He could be a guy that really clicks with Tyus and Dunn in running the floor and filling the lane for a highlight.
He needs to prove he’s quick enough to defend on the wing and stretchy enough to pull the big man away from the hoop. He’s a fun prospect on this roster though.
The Summer Bigs
Adreian Payne, Third Year: I was really high on Adreian Payne in the 2014 NBA Draft. I thought he was a no-brainer option for the Wolves if Kevin Love was on his way out. I thought his skill set coupled with his athleticism made it insane that he’d even fall to the Wolves at 13. I was so damn wrong about Payne. The red flags about him getting the system in a short amount of time were real, but we’ve seen him “shine” in one environment of play: Summer League.
Last year in Vegas, Payne averaged 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in 30.8 minutes. He shot 40.4/37.5/70.4, which isn’t bad. You’d like a higher percentage of shots to go in for him but he was active, decisive, and finished through contact. I’m not saying this will be the start of a breakthrough for Payne. Just enjoy Payne in a style of play he can produce. We think…
Devin Thomas, Rookie: The Demon Deacon Devin Thomas is a strong power forward who does nothing but rebound and get buckets around the basket. He’s not a jump shooter. He shot a little bit from mid-range — mostly the elbows — his junior year but he was a guy who took over 75% of his shots around the basket as a senior.
He did break a backboard in high school though:
Jarrid Famous, Rookie: Here’s my favorite thing I learned about Jarrid Famous. He’s played all over the world but while playing in the D-League, there was an incident in which his head got split open during a game in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Instead of getting stitches, he simply had the wound staples shut. That’s how badly he wanted to play. He went full on Lethal Weapon home repair weaponry on himself in order to get back out there. I don’t even care what he does at this point. He’s just a badass.
As for his basketball skills, he’s played all over the world. He’s played in Slovakia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Venezuela, and China. He can rebound and score. He had a nice LVSL with the Washington Wizards last season.
Majok Deng, Rookie: Majok Deng played his last two years of college at Louisiana-Monroe, where he averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds as a senior. He also shot 36.1% from 3-point range on 277 attempts. He’s a versatile forward, who really needs to put on some muscle and build that strength. He reminds me of a poor man’s Gorgui Dieng.
Keith Benson, Second Year: Keith Benson is a Summer League veteran. This will be his fifth summer session since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He’s a rebounder, a shot blocker, and a dunker. He plays above the rim and close to the rim at all times, and he can be pretty fun doing it. Benson should provide at least one big moment in the next week and a half.
It usually goes something like this: