Lessons from the Vegas Summer League, Vol. 1

The Warriors opened summer league play on July 12 with a 40-point drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers in Las Vegas. If we extrapolate that performance over a full season, it looks like the Warriors are set up to win somewhere between 75 and 81 games in 2012-2013, right?

Obviously, the 90-50 boat race on Friday doesn’t mean a whole lot for the games that will actually count this fall. It’s often easier to be fooled by summer league results than it is to learn anything from them. After all, the rosters are an odd mixture of talented young players and unsigned free agents trying to hang onto fading NBA dreams. The lack of preparation (most teams practice for about a week before the games start) and unfamiliar personnel usually lead to a wide-open game where defense is an endangered species.

So if we’re going to draw responsible conclusions from a summer league game, we’ve got to stay pretty guarded in our analysis. We’ve got to try to pinpoint the positive signs and performances that might actually translate into real games this season. Separating those things from the desert mirages in Vegas is a trick most magicians working on the Strip would envy. But behold! Lessons from Vegas Summer League, Vol. 1:

1. Harrison Barnes can shoot the rock.

The Warriors’ draftee came out of North Carolina with reputation for smooth scoring and a polished game. I guess the scouting reports forgot to mention he’s a lights-out shooter. Barnes went 8-for-13 from the field and made all four of his three-point attempts, totaling an easy 23 points. In addition to his outside shooting, Barnes had two notable finishes inside, as well. In one, he attacked off of two feet after a backcourt steal and finished above the rim while drawing a foul. In the other, Barnes received a quick pass, gathered himself and deftly finished with a reverse layup—showing great hands and quick feet.

2. Klay Thompson Doesn’t Belong

In a good way. Thompson tossed up an effortless 24 points on just 13 shots. he made 6-of-8 threes and was clearly the best player on the floor. Usually, a team’s best players forgo summer league games because they don’t provide sufficient competition. If Friday’s performance was any indication, this will be Klay’s last summer league appearance—he clearly doesn’t need it anymore. In just 22 minutes, Thompson did it all, piling up six rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. No word on whether he turned out the lights and swept the floor after the game.

3. The Jury’s Out on Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli

Green looked solid coming off the bench with nine points and nine rebounds, but summer league isn’t the place where we’re going to figure out his NBA fate. He proved in four years at Michigan State that he could play against athletes like the ones he’ll face in Vegas. We need to watch him against real NBA talent before we’ll know if his game holds up. Still, he looked pretty good in leading a second half unit that expanded the blowout lead.

Unlike Green, Festus Ezeli got the starting nod on Friday. And the reports are true: he’s a big, strong dude. At the very least, he looks the part of an NBA bruiser. Ezeli snagged five rebounds and swiped three steals to go with his three points. He also committed three fouls in 18 minutes. All those signs point to activity, which is a very good thing. Still, we’ll need to see more from Ezeli before we can confidently say he’s a rotation player for the Warriors.

Other notes:

  • Jeremy Tyler pulled down just one rebound in 16 minutes.
  • Charles Jenkins started and was unimpressive, with just four points and four assists.
  • The Warriors’ next summer league game is today (Saturday, July 14) at 1:00 pm
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