Monday, July 21, 2008

Blazers 2008 Summer League Recap

It isn’t hard to make the case that summer league matters little in the grand scheme of the NBA Universe. There have been players that have dominated here that never amount to much in the league. Others have struggled in the summer and gone on to be All-Stars.

Why pay attention? For me, summer league is intriguing because it gives the potential to learn something new about a player. We can then take that glimpse of something and speculate whether or not it will translate to the NBA. Summer league never gives you all the answers, but this year we can say we have learned some things that can be important for the Blazers future.

Jarryd Bayless:
He has the absolutely valuable ability to attack the hoop from the perimeter (stats). When he (easily) gets by his man, he has shown an excellent knack for finishing at the rim or drawing the foul. Bayless can put points on the board. I mean, his play was worthy of this gushing.

I won’t join the chorus that is concerned with Bayless not being able to be a competent point guard. He came to summer league as the best player on the Blazers roster and was heavily relied on to provide scoring. He was excellent in this role. We don’t know enough to be concerned about his low assist numbers yet. I could just as easily see those drives ending with a dish to Oden or Aldridge when the defense leaves to protect the rim.

Petteri Koponen:
The Finnagler answered some questions this summer (stats). First off, he is big. It happens that size at the point guard position is highly valued by Nate McMillan. He was also very solid on defense, another thing Nate covets. No, he wasn’t guarding Chris Paul. Still, his ability to defend was largely unknown before the summer. In that respect, knowing that he can defend guards at the summer league level is something. Possessing qualities that are highly valued by the head coach will only help his chances of making the team this year

Koponen also performed most traditional point guard offensive duties well. Considering a summer league team is never going to run smoothly, it is hard to glean much insight from how he directed the offense. He did show an ability to put his teammates in a position to score. He was able to penetrate the defense. He was able to hit shots from outside.

Yet Koponen was shaky at times. He didn’t shoot well the last two games. He had occasional trouble bringing the ball up against pressure. At times he looked unsure as to how to attack the defense. There were spats of bad decisions and turnovers. Considering his age these things shouldn’t be all that surprising. None were consistently plaguing his game to the point of being insurmountable weaknesses.

My take away on Koponen from this summer was that he is well on the path to becoming a good NBA point guard. Obviously, gaining experience is now the priority. I’m not sure the Blazers have the minutes to spare at the moment to give Koponen that opportunity. However, losing Koponen for multiple years to a difficult to escape Euro contract may be worse than having him ride the bench for a season. If those are the options the Blazers have, I hope they bring him over this year.


Anonymous said...

Jack, I agree with your comments on Bayless and the Finnagler but I do believe that Bayless' future is more as trade bait to bring in a veteran somewhere down the road not as a permanent addition to the core group.

Jack Brown said...

Could be, that is an interesting idea. It will all depend on how he fits with the team.