The Summer Pro League held in Long Beach attracted crowds of record numbers. Attendance was off-the-chart with many fans being turned down entrance for the first three Laker games. Many of the fans were excited about lottery pick Andrew Bynum, but came away more than surprised about the play of Ronny Turiaf, William "Smush" Parker, and Von (Vakeaton) Wafer.
Other notable players from the Long Beach Summer Pro League include Charlie Villanueva, Pape Sow, Joey Graham, Uros Slokar, Moussa Badiane, Isma'il Mohammed, Keith Langford, Rawle Marshall, Hakim Warrick, Lawrence Roberts, Kennedy Winston, Wayne Simien, T.J. Sorrentine, Dorrell Wright, Earl Barron, Jared Homan, and Tiras Wade.
Charlie Villanueva showed all the skills that made him a lottery pick; smart play in transition, key rebounding, ball-handling ability in transition, and unselfishness in the paint to hit the open man. He struggled with his midrange jumper, but was crafty in the paint with subtle jumphooks and bankshots in the paint with good position. After a slight ankle tweak in Torontos 3rd game, he failed to play in the remaining games of the SPL.
Joey Graham had a solid week. Hes a great physical athlete who can run the floor and jump with the best. Unfortunately hes the definition of a tweener at this point. His guard skills require dramatic improvement if hes going to stay at the small forward slot. Toronto tried to exploit him in the post, and Graham either got stripped, had his shot blocked, or forced a bad shot, usually a 12 baseline fadeaway jumper. His post game was clearly not his strength here. He wasnt able to blow by his defender, nor did he show a consistent midrange jumpshot, which is surprising considering that this is one of his biggest strengths. He was able to make up his lack of skill level with high energy and great hustle, rebounding ability, getting offensive tip-ins, and running the floor in transition.
Pape Sow had an inconsistent week. He is a good athlete who runs the floor and jumps like a small forward, but really needs to stay out of foul trouble and polish up his game on both ends of the floor. He has no go-to moves in the post and relies too much on his athleticism and length on defense. Many of his fouls were unnecessary, being too physical using his body to bump players away from the basket outside of the paint, or not moving his feet and using his hands to reach in on defense. Schooling him in the fundamentals of defensive position and boxing out consistently would get him more playing time sooner rather than later.
Uros Slokar is clearly not a guy who is ready for the NBA. He has a soft touch, but his game is from 15, where he scored a majority of his points. He played unnoticeable on the floor for the most part, almost invisible. His best NBA quality is his midrange jumpshot, while everything else in terms of rebounding, shotblocking, and his post-game were average at the Summer Pro League level. He clearly exploited guys who failed to show basic fundamentals of boxing out, with a 20 point, 10 rebound efforts against the Lakers facing Andrew Bynum and Trevor Harvey, but failed to make big impact against players such as Eric Chenowith and Moussa Badiane.
Omar Cook is the PG that just can't get a complete game going. He has trouble finishing in the paint, still hasn't really improved his perimeter jumper, and showed the same exact skills when he was at St. John's. Cook was relying on his quickness to attack the paint, but can't handle the contact to finish the play. At times he shows NBA caliber passing ability but isn't consistent. His jumpshot? Sub-par. I'm concerned with the fact that the NBDL doesn't really "Develop" some players due to the level of competition. Skill-wise, he just hasn't changed.
Moussa Badiane showed good potential to be a serviceable backup big man. He has good size, a strong frame, and good athletic ability. Unlike Slokar who was more perimeter oriented, Badiane showed a 15 jumper along with good ability to play in the paint. He is a solid team defender as well, getting a good number of blocks in limited playing time. While he does play in the paint, he didnt exhibit the ability to create a shot one-on-one, but blended into Dallass offense seamlessly, considering it was a perimeter oriented team with gunners like David Logan and Keith Langford in the backcourt.
Isma'il Mohammed is clearly a player who needs to refine his guard skills overseas. Hes a powerful athlete, relying on explosion and top speed to beat players. Unfortunately, he had trouble with dribbling the basketball in transition, in one-on-one situations, and didnt exhibit any kind of consistency from the perimeter. If there was a player that resembled Fred Jones with Power Forward skills, Mohammed is the man.
Keith Langford played a controlled game, being very selective of his shots. He looked for opportunities for his teammates than fellow point guard David Logan and rarely took bad shots. His defense was solid, but nothing spectacular. He did exhibit a midrange jumpshot along with good ability to drive to the basket, but nothing that screams NBA level of play at this point in his career.
David Logan is a gunner. Hes streaky at best, and his game revolves around his jumpshot. When his shots drop, his effort defensively becomes more intense. When they do not, he shoots with poorer shot selection and cares less on the defensive side of the floor.
He really tried to bail the Mavs out with his shooting and for one game was successful. In the others, he looked bad.
Rawle Marshall, like Mohammed, needs to build a foundation of guard skills. Like Warrick, he thrives in transition and in the painted area and loves to finish after being set up. He didnt display one-on-one ability, but didnt play outside of the context of his game. He played with high energy and looks to run the floor to succeed in transition.
Hakim Warrick is an elite level athlete. While he does get bumped around in the paint, there was no opponent that could match him athletically. He played like a PF and didnt exhibit any improvement in his midrange jumpshot. Instead, he looked to attack the basket at will, at times looking to posterize as many Summer Pro League players as he could.
With his aggression and athleticism, he was able to attack the paint and draw fouls. He struggled within the halfcourt, but did display good effort defensively and high energy in transition. In two games against the Lakers, he scored 26 points on 12/19 from the field along with 9 rebounds and 16 points and 12 rebounds shooting 4/11 from the field but 11/15 from the line. Hes a solid pick for Memphis in the late 1st round and definitely a guy who can affect a game at the NBA level with his energy, relentlessness to attack the basket, and transition play.
Lawrence Roberts is a solid power forward. He was able to score on several jumphooks over Andrew Bynum and did an excellent job forcing Bynum out of the paint despite being outsized. Hes a fundamental player that plays in the paint and showed decent touch from midrange. Hes a bit undersized at the NBA level, but a good player for competition elsewhere.
Kennedy Winston was a shooting guard that disappeared off the map like Courtney Alexanders career in the NBA. Hes strictly a midrange shooter that did not attack the basket, did not play solid defense, and did not affect the game in a positive manner for his team.
Anthony Roberson appears to be the better version of Jannero Pargo, due to the fact that he makes better decisions on the floor and is more accurate with his jumpshot. He had some success shaking Sasha Vujacic defensively, but was literally shutdown by Smush Parker, only able to get 4 points on him for the rest of the game. He's shifty, in the way that Nick Van Exel is quick, but craftier with the dribble to get himself open for shots. Roberson is certainly a SG in a PG body, though.
Wayne Simien was a very good pick for the Heat. He has good power forward size and is built like a brick. What surprised me most was his footwork around the painted area. His footwork is an underrated aspect of his game and he was able to create high percentage shots against Ronny Turiaf in the post, along with solid play off-the-ball in regards to offensive rebounds and transition play.
He has a good midrange shot, and beat the Lakers on a buzzer beater with 3 seconds left to play in the last game against the home town team. Often hed end up with a quiet 20 points and 10 rebounds. With good seasoning and if his can knee hold up, he could beat out Udonis Haslem for a starting slot down the road based on the skill level he showed here.
T.J. Sorrentine, the little starting PG for Vermont really surprised me. He does nothing spectacular but really harassed Sasha Vujacic. He was able to steal the ball three consecutive times against the Lakers using full-court pressure, cutting into the passing lane, and off an inbounds pass. Hes a gritty player who showed very good decision-making getting others involved in the offense and being selective of his own shots as well. Unfortunately, his lack of size and quickness will hurt him at the NBA level, but hes the type of PG that coaches would love to have.
Earl Barron showed good success against Andrew Bynum as well. Like Lawrence Roberts, he did the small things that Bynum still needs to learn. Barron displayed a consistent midrange jumper, boxed-out well on both ends of the floor, and denied Bynum good position in the paint. He was able to score over Bynum with jumphooks in the paint. Frankly, Im surprised hes not in the league even as a 10th man, considering his good size, strength, athleticism, and skill level.
Jared Homan is shorter than advertised and had little impact against the Lakers in the last Laker game of the Summer Pro League. Hes a physical player in the paint, but didnt show redeeming NBA qualities to stick on the team.
Tiras Wade didnt exhibit his scoring ability, often being the 3rd or 4th option on offense. Like Homan, didnt show NBA caliber ability to stick on a roster through his defense, aggressiveness getting to the hoop, or his midrange shot.
Matt Walsh from the University of Florida, started at both SG and PG for Miami. He had trouble initiating the offense under full-court pressure and it was clear hes going to be a spot-up shooter at the NBA level for the time being.
He has a quick release, but doesnt always seem to follow through properly when shooting behind the arc. He's an unselfish player, but not a player who can defend his position at the NBA level.
Dorrell Wright didn't play much because he got his teeth knocked out by Von Wafer, swinging his elbows through to "swing/dribble." Dorrell was playing far too tight at the 3pt. line.
Qyntel Woods had a solid showing but nothing explosive. He got rejected by Andrew Bynum on a baseline drive for a dunk, his best blocked shot of the Summer Pro League.
He really needs to work on decision-making, focusing too much on one-on-one play and athletic ability instead of being efficient and working within the team concept. He'd find himself a crowd by the time got to the paint and it led to some poor shots.
Andrew Bynum is a raw center. He clearly needs work on fundamentals such as boxing out consistently, help rotation on defense for a blocked shot, footwork in the paint, jumphook, midrange jumpshot, and a drop step. Surprisingly, he was fairly successful despite his raw abilities. Hed utilize a drop step and set himself up in position to dunk. When faced against a strong man-defender, he struggled to create a shot in the post often getting his shot blocked by smaller players. With his athleticism and decent hoop IQ, he should be a quality center in years to come.
Ronny Turiaf quickly became a fan favorite of the Summer Pro League. He often got into foul trouble with charge calls, bumping guys in the paint for rebounding, hustling for loose balls, and reaching in on defense. His post skill is limited and he likes to utilize the drop step the most. He exhibited good ability to throw a post pass from 15 and has a decent midrange shot that could use improvement.
He has a hitch in his free-throw shooting which hurts his shot mechanics and often leads shots that rim in-and-out. He was clearly outskilled by the offensive talent of Wayne Simien, but did everything in his power to try and dunk over him, outmuscle him for position, and fight for rebounds.
The biggest surprise for the Summer Pro League was Von Wafer. The last draft pick of the Lakers (39th) in the 2nd round, he displayed good ability to initiate the offense against NBA caliber athletes such as Dahntay Jones and Andre Emmett. His ball-handling needs refinement, but his shot-selection improved immensely over the two weeks. When he stopped shooting fadeaway jumpers, his field goal percentages and 3pt. field goal percentages skyrocketed, shooting 65% behind the arc over the two weeks. He shot well from midrange and behind the arc on spot-up jumpshooting and pull-up jumpshots off the dribble.
Wafer accelerated well to the basket going both left and right and finished strong. Defensively, he displayed the lateral quickness and intensity to force his man into changing directions on the drive and cut into passing lanes to get a transition dunk. Hes an underrated athlete who finishes with authority when the opportunity presents itself. He played SG, but often handled PG duties when Parker and Vujacic had strong man-pressure in the backcourt.
Will Conroy was an invite who played well in the Summer Pro League. He plays like Derek Fisher, where the majority of his offense is from the perimeter. He doesnt have true blow-by ability or great finishing ability, but is certainly solid at the SPL level of competition. The best attribute to his game was his leadership, often directing traffic, calling out assignments on defense, and encouraging players. He played gritty full-court defense, at times being beat by smaller guards, but with solid effort nonetheless. Overall, hes simply a smart player just short of having the outstanding athletic ability to be successful at the NBA level for a long period of time.
Marcus Douthit found strength in the dribble, but that's the only thing he learned playing overseas. He added a 15' turnaround jumper along the baseline, but his rebounding, shotblocking ability, and man-defense all declined. He wasn't even a good post-defender last season, getting pushed around by smaller players. He continues to be a high post player, with a majority of his offense revolving around his midrange jumper. Douthit showed some bad hands in the paint, often dropping passes that could've led to layups and instead caught himself with traffic. Douthit was by far, among the worst post passers on the Laker team. He couldn't hit Bynum with a post-entry pass without a deflection or a turnover. He couldn't throw over the top. He couldn't pass using the bounce. He didn't adjust his angle properly.
Sasha Vujacic played a lot more SG this season compared to last. His added strength added consistency to his mid and long-range jumpshot. By far, the best shooting form on the team, elbows tucked, follow-through, and quick release. He didn't display PG ability, often forcing the action on some passes which led to unforced turnovers, or being flustered by PG defense, ranging from Antonio Burks to TJ Sorrentine.
He's a triangle-oriented PG, in the sense that the offense absolutely requires a base of triple threat skills, but utilizes passing options rather than ball-handling to breakdown the defense. His shooting range creates strong spacing and even made some perimeter jumpers with defenders tight on him, but when it came to creating a shot one-on-one, the results were poor.
Devin Green is a quiet player who does a lot of the small things right. He's missing a mid-range and long-range jumper, and it would help him drive by defenders if they actually respected his jumpshot. He really surprised me defensively, often hustling for loose balls, diving on the floor, getting plenty of deflections from cutting into passing lanes or off-the-dribble. He's an excellent ball-denial defender, and Dahntay Jones struggled against him offensively with a 6-19 shooting night mostly from Green's strong man-defense and good team defensive help. He recovers well when he gets beat and contests every shot. He's best utilizing high pick and roll situations to create two on one scenarios to free up Bynum or Turiaf in the paint for the dunk. Green is very unselfish, but turnover prone due to ball-handling and small decision-making errors. He might be a strong jumpshot away from earning an NBA roster spot.
Smush Parker is an excellent athlete who did a great job pressing PGs full-court for at least half the game. He used his length well to pick players in the backcourt and get breakaway dunks. Parker put on a dunk-fest in every warmup and his long arms aid to his explosiveness. He didn't penetrate often to the basket, but did show more polished decision-making skills compared to his previous years in the NBA. When his feet are under him now, the jumpshot usually drops.
Parker pushed the tempo even in semi-transition, leading to some And-1 situations. Still, despite good passing and playmaking ability along with good decision-making, I was impressed by the fact that he kept up with
all levels of PGs. He played in the 4th quarter along with Von Wafer to make a late scoring run or extend the lead to put the game out of reach. If the Lakers were to pick a player that wasn't drafted, Parker should be 1st on that list.
All in all, it was an exciting two weeks at the Summer Pro League. Improvement from certain prospects was evident and it was good to see the undrafted players have successful moments. Simien, Wafer, Turiaf, Warrick, and Villanueva definitely stood out as the best players of the league, displaying an array of athletic skill levels, fundamental skill levels, or intangibles of hustle and leadership on the floor.
DraftExpress and all of its staff members would like to send its best wishes to Los Angeles Lakers power forward Ronny Turiaf and his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them for a speedy recovery and quick return to the basketball court. We are looking forward to seeing the warrior Turiaf back soon.