Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer League Notebook: Game 1

Posted By on Sun, Jul 12, 2009 at 10:56 PM

The Grizzlies summer league squad got off to a good start Sunday night with an 86-57 demolition of the Oklahoma City Thunder summer team. The Grizzlies started four players certain to be on the team's regular season roster — rookies Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll, and Sam Young and rising second-year forward Darrell Arthur — and one with at least a puncher's chance — free agent point guard Marcus Williams. The Thunder also countered with a roster that included at least seven probable NBA players, including the team's likely starting backcourt next season — Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

You shouldn't put too much stock in summer league, especially after only one game. But all info is good info, especially when trying to evaluate players that haven't yet logged much NBA time.

My notes on the players that mattered:

4642/1247457220-picture_1.pngHasheem Thabeet: The number-two overall pick in last month's draft showed up with a slick fro-hawk, but that was probably the only flashy part of his pro debut. In 20 minutes, Thabeet registered 9 points (all in the first half) on 3-4 shooting, only 2 rebounds (though that seemed like a low count watching the game), and 1 block. Thabeet clearly needs to add strength, particularly in his rather slender upper body, to be a significant NBA player. He was weak setting picks and struggled to maintain his ground and control the ball in the post against collapsing defense. That strength is not going to be gained quickly, which is why I'll be surprised if Marc Gasol isn't the significantly better option next season (if not beyond).

On the good side, Thabeet impressed with his mobility and quickness off the floor. This will help not just with contesting shots, but rebounding and scoring off putbacks and catch-and-dunk plays (where most of his points came in this game). In an on-air interview, Lionel Hollins stressed this as well, praising Thabeet's mobility and ability to get to the rim and finish. Hollins said Thabeet would be used a lot in pick-and-rolls next season but wouldn't be expected to do much in the post. I wouldn't be too concerned about his meager block total: He was not being challenged very often, which is itself a strength.

DeMarre Carroll: I've wondered aloud if Carroll has much of a game for the NBA level. But they say effort is a skill, and in Carroll's case it seems to be his primary skill. In 21 minutes, Carroll scored 11 points on 4-6 and grabbed 5 rebounds. Even better, he was productive playing the same role and style he's likely to in the regular season. Carroll's hustle — diving on the floor, tracking down loose balls, etc. — was not surprising. Rather, what was most encouraging about his debut was how comfortable he looked moving to the small forward slot. He made jumpers (including 1-1 from three), ran the floor, handled the ball well in transition, and guarded the perimeter effectively, if perhaps over-aggressive at times. A nice debut.

Sam Young: At this point universally considered a second-round steal before playing a second of NBA basketball, Young lead the squad with 14 points on 6-10 shooting in 21 minutes, adding 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Young's full-body pump-fake was effective and fun to watch. He made mid-range jumpers and scored in transition. And he was quick and aggressive defensively. Hollins suggested in his on-air interview that Young would see most of his minutes at the two backing up O.J. Mayo. His questionable handle shouldn't be too much of a problem if paired with a ball-dominating point like Mike Conley (or even Mayo), and he seems to be able to guard the position. The biggest question might be shooting. Young will need to be able to knock down the NBA three. His college numbers suggest he can do so, but he didn't take any in this game.

Darrell Arthur: Arthur was solid, with 11 points (5-9 shooting), a team-high 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 24 minutes. No revelations here. He was active, ran the floor well, and knocked how a couple of jumpers (a facet of his game that really needs to improve next season, and can). Arthur looked like what he should be: A good back-up power forward in an uptempo system. Hopefully he can play that role for the Grizzlies next season.

Hamed Haddadi: Too bad Haddadi never participated in one of the Chicago pre-draft camps. I'd love to see his wingspan and standing-reach measurements, which I imagine are staggering. The project big had 5 points (2-3 shooting), 3 boards, and 1 sweet assist in 16 minutes. On the assist, Haddadi ball-faked left in the post, then turned right, drove into the paint, drew the defense, and dropped the dime to Jeff Adrien for a dunk.

As with Arthur, Haddadi's play only confirmed what we already knew: He can block and alter shots and rebound just out of pure size. He's a good passer out of the post, has good hands and a high hoops I.Q. But the downside is immense: Like Thabeet, he still needs to get much stronger in his upper body (his one non-put-back field goal, a jump hook in the lane, was far more labored than it should be for a man his size because he struggled so much with the defensive pressure) and still hasn't shown much offensive skill outside of his passing.

Marcus Williams: The former UCONN point guard, whom Jerry West once pursued in the draft, is a free agent now just trying to latch on. The Griz need a back-up one, and Williams almost certainly helped himself with what was apparently a Vegas summer-league record 17 assists (with only 1 turnover) in 29 minutes. Williams scoring was spotty (3-9), but he pushed the ball and was obviously looking to set up teammates. One summer league game doesn't outweigh three years of dismal regular-season NBA production, so I still don't think Williams is the answer. But he's definitely worth a look, and he bought himself some more attention in this game.


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