Early Observations From Summer League

My name is Patrick Crawley (a.k.a. The Basketball Fiend). I’m new to the FanSided roster, but I’ve been the managing editor over at Basketball Fiend for a year. I’ve been a passionate Kings fan since age 5 and I can’t wait for their return to greatness. I’m looking forward to contributing to A Royal Pain and writing for true Kings fans. Check out my first contribution to A Royal Pain below and, if you like it, head over to Basketball Fiend for more NBA content.

Today I forked over $14.99 to NBA.com for the right to watch Summer League games. A good choice? Well, not really. The announcing is awful, the video quality makes The Breakfast Club look like HD, and the broadcast team has a penchant for cutting to highlights at the exact wrong time.

Other than that it’s great.

Though I have my beef with the NBA.com Summer League pass, I have to say I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to watch the Kings’ young players in action. It’s one thing to read a review online. It’s another to watch guys like Tyreke Evans, Donte Greene, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi, and Jon Brockman on a play-by-play basis.

I enjoy getting to know the tendencies of the young guys on the court (on defense, on pick-and-rolls, on the break, etc.) and seeing how they work together. Since at least 2/5 of Sacramento’s projected starting lineup is playing here in Vegas, the chemistry between the guys says a lot about what we can expect in the 2008-09 season.

Below I’ve included a couple of observations about the main players on the Kings’ Summer League roster. Eze already did a great breakdown of the first game (a loss to the Pistons) so be sure to check that out as well.

Tyreke Evans

I think this kid has a very bright future. Against the Pistons he routinely beat his man off the dribble and had little trouble finishing in traffic. His ten free throw opportunities are a testament to his ability to get into the lane and wreak havoc. As a distributor, he needs work. But he’s not as raw as his boxscore suggests. Tyreke had quite a few excellent passes that should have ended in baskets, but teammates flubbed the finish. With that said, he definitely needs to take better care of the ball. (A 1:2 assist-to-turnover ratio is unacceptable.)

On the defensive end, Tyreke is a monster. His wingspan and lateral quickness make it very difficult for opposing guards to turn the corner on him. He’s also much stronger than the average point guard; an asset that also helps him finish in the lane. I was impressed at Tyreke’s ability to defend one-on-one and avoid ball-watching, but he does need work with defending screens. He got caught on quite a few of them in the Pistons game.

Once he improves on a few areas of his game – perimeter shooting, decision-making, defending screens – Reke is going to be one of the most difficult matchups in the league.

Omri Casspi

Casspi showed good touch on his midrange shots. He also demonstrated his leadership ability and knowledge of the game by directing teammates on the court. You can tell he has competitive fire. I like that. The Kings need more of it. (Particularly after last season.)

Casspi needs to bulk up a lot. He’s going to compete against small forwards like Ron Artest next season and right now I don’t think he’s physically big enough to do that. But he has qualities that will help the Kings to become a better team. Even if his immediate impact on the court is limited to small contributions.

Donte Greene

This will come as a surprise to very few of you. Greene was unfocused in the Pistons game. Though he showed flashes of brilliance (a terrific up-and-under move at the basket, a gorgeous no-look pass to Jason Thompson on the block), Donte also sagged off his man on defense, committed lazy fouls, and ball-watched more often than Derek on the Real World: Cancun.

I like Donte’s skill set. So does everyone. But I wish he would get into the lane more often, instead of staying out on the perimeter. He has a lot of promise – and a great chemistry with JT – but so far I don’t see much improvement over 2008-09.

Jon Brockman

Brockman is going to be a fan favorite. He’s tough as nails and doesn’t mind hitting the hardwood for loose balls. (In fact, I think he prefers it.) Brockman is not at all polished on the offensive end. He air-balled shots and missed easy layups around the rim. But his value won’t be off-the-bench scoring. It will be toughness and rebounding, with a few hard fouls thrown in for good measure.

I think Brockman will be a good complement to Spencer Hawes off the bench. A bruiser with the ability to annoy opposing bigs.

There is no doubt in my mind that he will make the Kings’ roster. The only question is whether or not he will get significant playing time if the Kings re-sign Ike Diogu or make a play for Leon Powe.

Jerel McNeal

McNeal is a 6’3″, 190 pound guard who went undrafted last month, but spent significant time with the Kings during pre-draft workouts. McNeal was terrific in college with Marquette. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown thus far in Summer League that he has what it takes to be an NBA player.

McNeal looked overwhelmed on the court against Detroit. He handled the ball poorly and took ill-advised shots. At this point I don’t think he’s a player that the Kings will want to add to their 2009-10 roster.

Jason Thompson

I’ve saved the best for last.

Jason Thompson is my favorite player on the Summer League roster. He plays the game the way I like to see it played. Hard, but smart. On offense, Thompson showed a lot more polish around the basket than he did in 2008-09. He’s using the rim better on lay-ups (to protect against blocked shots) and he’s making great runs to the basket. Since Spencer Hawes isn’t present to help space the middle part of the court, JT has looked to take more interior shots (a good thing in my opinion). I see him taking a big step forward on offense in the coming season.

On defense, JT is still committing too many fouls. The Summer League whistles have been coming fast and furious, so it’s difficult to ascertain whether this is JT’s fault or the officiating crews’ fault. But either way, he needs to cut down on the ticky-tacky fouls. Other than that, I like JT’s defensive positioning. I think he’s going to benefit from Tyreke’s ability to close off dribble penetration (which will allow JT to provide less help defense and focus more on his man).

In terms of leadership, few players on the Kings have the potential that JT has to become a team leader. He leads vocally, but also by example. Being the alpha dog, so to speak, on the Summer League team will be a valuable experience for him heading into next season.

Tags: Development Game 1 Jason Thompson League Pass NBA 2009 Real World Cancun Sacramento Kings Summer League Tyreke Evans Vegas

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