NBA Vegas Summer League: Day 9 Preview

I have to admit to hitting "the wall" a bit in my Summer League watching up to this point, but with just two days to go I've gotten my second wind.  It doesn't hurt that there are some pretty good matchups today; I'm particularly interested in the Clippers-Spurs game as well as D-League-Atlanta, though I'll probably have to just monitor the latter without seeing it.  This is the last day for many of these teams, meaning it's the last chance to see these prospects before many of them move into more limited roles in training camp.

The majority of these games will be shown on NBA TV (I know not all of them will be live, but they all eventually will be shown), and those that don't have access to NBA TV can watch all of the Summer League games online for $14.95 either live or on demand.  The "what to watch for" notes are after the jump (all times are Eastern).

4 p.m. - New York Knicks vs. Washington Wizards


Knicks Free Agent to Watch: Patrick Ewing Jr.

Ewing Jr.'s Vegas Summer League performance has been much more in line with his skills and abilities than his Orlando games.  Whereas there he turned mostly into a (poor) shooter and something of a ball-hog, with the Knicks he's contributing throughout the box score, averaging nine and a half points, four rebounds and two blocks a game.  He also has attempted just four three-pointers across three games, which is about where he should be rather than taking four a game.  Injuries have kept Ewing Jr.'s career a bit off-track thus far, but he can defend and rebound, and probably will go to training camp somewhere.

Wizards Free Agent to Watch: Jerome Randle

Randle has impressed a few people with his Summer League performances, but I'm not really one of them.  He only has one good game, all the way back when he was in Orlando when he had eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Magic.  Since then he's been an inefficient scorer and an over-dribbler.  Those attributes are out of line with how he played in college, though, so he could bounce back in his final game here.

6 p.m. - Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers


Heat Free Agent to Watch: Davon Jefferson

A highly-regarded player coming out of high school, Jefferson went to USC for only a year before turning pro, and went undrafted.  He's athletic, but one of the reasons he went undrafted was because he was nowhere near in shape at the draft combine, so he clearly doesn't always make the best use of his gifts.  He's also 23, a bit old for a player who otherwise would've just finished his junior year of college.  He has played for Maccabi Haifa since then, and averaged 17 points on 57 percent shooting last year, which is pretty good.  His Summer League stats are pretty similar, 15 points a game on 57 percent, though his rebounding is down a bit, moreso than playing just three fewer minutes a game should show.  Jefferson is talented, but still a bit of a gamble for NBA teams at this point.

Cavaliers Free Agent to Watch: Christian Eyenga

Not technically a free agent, Eyenga was Cleveland's first-round pick a year ago, then stayed in Spain and actually had his contract extended for three years.  Eyenga's probably stuck, as the guy who drafted him no longer works for the Cavs, and I'm assuming he was picked as a way for Danny Ferry to emulate his former (former) employers, the Spurs.  Whether the Cavs' new GM bothers to keep an eye on Eyenga (that was unintentional) remains to be seen, but he's playing pretty well in Vegas.  He's third on the team in scoring, averaging 13 points a game through the first two games, and he's shooting over 55 percent from the field.  Eyenga is still pretty young compared to several players in this year's draft class (he's 21), and a name worth filing away for the future.

6:30 p.m. - Toronto Raptors vs. New Orleans Hornets


Raptors Free Agent to Watch: Michael Roll

Roll has been streaky here in Vegas, going from scoring 10 points to two to seven, then didn't play at all last night.  He didn't do much at UCLA until his senior year, when his minutes nearly doubled and he shot 42.6 percent from outside.  New Knick Landry Fields is a fan: "Mike, to me, is a much different player when he is able to get outside of his school's system. While at UCLA, a lot of his game was restricted and he was almost strictly a shooter. After working out with the guy for a few months now, let me tell you, he is not just a shooter. His excellent basketball IQ definitely broadens his basketball ability, he is a great passer, a solid defender, a big time competitor and a very underrated ball-handler."  I'll...take his word for it.

Hornets Free Agent to Watch: Nikola Dragovic

I'm not that enamored of Dragovic, but if I can be honest, I'm running out of Hornets free agents to talk about.  Dragovic has some talent, but he really does nothing except hang around the perimeter.   He's 6'9" yet never averaged more than 4.5 rebounds per game in college.  He was a member of a gold medal-winning Serbian Under-20 team, so he must have something going on for himself, but I can't see him playing anywhere other than Europe at this point.

8 p.m. - LA Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs


Clippers Free Agent to Watch: Marqus Blakely

Blakely played as an undersized power forward in college, but he's a smart, physical player who's playing pretty well here.  To be honest, I'm a little surprised the Rockets didn't have dibs on him.  Blakely got the start on Thursday and scored 14 points on 6-9 shooting with six boards, two assists, two steals and a block.  He'll likely need to improve his midrange game if he wants to succeed in the NBA at his height, but DraftExpress thinks he may have a future as a Luc Mbah a Moute-type.

Spurs Free Agent to Watch: Gary Neal

A combo guard thus far in his career, Neal has primarily played at shooting guard here in Vegas and done well in that role, leading the team in scoring after three games.  He also was a pretty good scorer in Italy, averaging 20 points a game last season, as well as an efficient one.  Neal does well both off the dribble and in coming off screens, and he's definitely a name to keep in mind as the Spurs debate in-house vs. free agent wing options.  Somewhat interesting (to me and probably three other people, anyway) is that one of his high school teammates was former Spurs second round draft pick Jack McClinton.

8:30 p.m. - Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls


Kings Free Agent to Watch: Devan Downey

Downey is an undersized (5'9") point guard who's more of a scorer than a distributor.  The Kings must have a type, because that also describes another player on their roster, Tyrese Rice (though Rice is taller).  Downey is quick and has a few solid offensive moves, but he didn't shoot all that well in college, never shooting better than 44 percent from the field or 35 percent from the outside.  Another issue for Downey is that he turned the ball over quite a bit in college, and that probably will keep up as he tries to develop more passing skills.  Still, Downey can be fun to watch, particularly in this setting.

Bulls Free Agent to Watch: Morris Almond

Apologies for not discussing Almond before this point, as he's second on the team in scoring behind John Lucas III.  That's good, because scoring is pretty much all he does at this point.  He dropped 14 points on eight shots last night, and he's shooting 61.5 percent overall.  That's good, because he was oddly struggling with his foul shooting, starting off 3-10 before recovering to go 8-9 against Cleveland.  Chicago has been snapping up swingmen, so Almond's likely not in play for them, and his defense has disappeared over the last year or so, but teams in need of an efficient, end of bench scorer would do well to look Almond's way.

10 p.m. - Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Portland Trail Blazers


Timberwolves Free Agent to Watch: Greg Stiemsma

Stiemsma hasn't gotten a ton of playing time, but he's doing pretty well.  He was one of the best shot-blockers in the D-League last season, and got a call-up with the Timberwolves at the end of the season.  I'm listing him as a free agent anyway because the Timberwolves' recent roster moves make his place with the team a little uncertain and his contract is unguaranteed.  He's playing relatively well in a limited role, with five blocks in 37 minutes over three games, though I doubt his GM has noticed.

Trail Blazers Free Agent to Watch: Ekene Ibekwe

Ebekwe is shooting a mind-boggling 71.4 percent so far, though he's only attempted seven field goals over three games (making five of them, if you'd rather not do the math).  His two blocks a game are legit, though, as he was a big-time shot-blocker in college and is athletic enough to be the same in the NBA.  He's a bit undersized, and his rebounding hasn't been quite as good as it could be (he's averaging the same amount as Patty Mills, though that figure represents a very good effort for a guard like Mills).  Still, he's young enough (he turns 25 on Monday) that he still could be an interesting prospect.

10:30 p.m. - D-League Select vs. Atlanta Hawks


D-League Player to Watch: Curtis Withers

Withers hasn't always shot the ball well this week (he's at 42.3 percent overall), but just about everything else is going right for him.  He's leading the D-League team in rebounding, averaging 7.7 per game, and he's also averaging an even block per contest.  Defense and rebounding are how he'll make his mark, though his offense is better than most guys for whom that's true, and both have been on display so far.  He'll have some interesting matchups in this game, against solid players like Richard Hendrix, James Augustine and Alade Aminu.

Hawks Free Agent to Watch: Alade Aminu

After a decent Orlando Summer League, Aminu has gotten more playing time with the Hawks but has been less consistent.  His talent has certainly been on display at times, as when he scored 14 points against the Grizzlies and had 10 points and six boards against the Bucks.  Yet he's also averaging roughly half as many defensive rebounds here as he did in Orlando despite playing seven more minutes a contest and his field goal shooting has dropped 12 percentage points (though it's still above .500).  Aminu got a call-up towards the end of last season with Miami, so he's on NBA radars, though it remains to be seen whether he'll be on a roster to start this year.

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