By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Posted Jul 11, 2014 8:30 AM
LAS VEGAS -- Day 1 of the Las Vegas portion of summer league, and Round 1.
It can't be anything close to a showdown because of the calendar and the location, and neither want that buildup even when the moment actually does arrive in the regular season, but today's Milwaukee-Cleveland game can still be something.
No. 1 overall Draft pick Andrew Wiggins and the Cavaliers play No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker and the Bucks on Friday at 8 p.m. ET at Cox Pavilion. It is at the very least a nice schedule fluke ... as well as the first chance to start the compare-and-contrast both want to avoid.
Parker could get minutes at power forward, and almost certainly will at some point as a rookie if not in the opener. Wiggins could play some shooting guard, but it would be a surprise if they don't go head-to-head during stages of the third game overall on the first day of games from Vegas. This all passes for intrigue by summer-league standards.
The teams here will play 67 games over 11 days at Thomas & Mack Center and the smaller Cox Pavilion, often at the same time in the adjoining arenas, as part of a schedule that was released 14 days before Wiggins and Parker were drafted. It includes a tournament format for the second year in a row, with each club playing three times from July 11-15 before being seeded for the next stage that begins July 15.
Every team will play at least five games and the championship game is July 21.
Friday is the one day of overlap between the summer leagues, with the final installment in Orlando and the openers in Las Vegas. Perfect timing for the Ladder to go from ranking the prospects in Florida back to rating the entire rookie field.
The No. 2 pick left Draft night thinking he was part of a clear plan in Milwaukee, only to find he walked into a franchise turned upside down by the mangled Jason Kidd hiring. It should not impact Parker, though. He will probably get time at both forward spots, can score, rebound, handle the ball some and has good instincts for a college one-and-done.
2. NERLENS NOEL, 76ers (3)
It's not just that he played 26, 24 and 25 minutes while sitting another game on the second day of a back-to-back to rest the left knee coming off surgery. The projected defensive presence at power forward, and maybe center, had three blocks in two of the outings, one good game on the boards and one poor, and made shots from the field and the line. Philly must be very pleased with this progress report.
3. JULIUS RANDLE, Lakers (2)
Concerns about his foot passed after a specialist confirmed Randle does not need surgery, only to be replaced by a new issue: He could miss much or all of summer league because signing a contract now would eat a chunk of cap space being held for free agents. It's a timing issue. The Lakers need to add new players, or decide there is nothing to get done, before dropping in his salary.
4. JARNELL STOKES, Grizzlies (not ranked)
Twelve rebounds in 29 minutes the second game, 12 rebounds in 25 minutes the third, seven rebounds (five offensive) in all in 30 minutes in the fourth game. That's the kind of physical presence that will mean minutes for Stokes -- who is also a nice passer in the post -- in Memphis' big-man rotation.
5. JAMES ENNIS, Heat (NR)
The No. 50 pick in 2013 made a strong statement for not only joining Miami after spending last season in Australia and Puerto Rico, but for pushing into the rotation. The extent of his role will obviously depend on (cough, cough) what other small forwards are on the roster, but Ennis earned positive reviews by shooting with range and rebounding.
6. JORDAN ADAMS, Grizzlies (NR)
Adams made just 35.5 percent of his attempts his first three outings, but scored 22 and 20 in two of those games. He showed an assertiveness that will help in the transition from No. 22 pick to potential immediate contributor on the Grizz. He had good shooting numbers last season at UCLA, so opening 11 of 31 seemed more like a typical rookie transition (or pressing on offense) than a reason for concern.
7. DOUG McDERMOTT, Bulls (6)
"Dougie McBuckets" is in a very good spot for a ROY campaign: A major-market team that will get a lot of attention and could pile up wins in a boost to his candidacy, but that also may only have one other scoring threat, Derrick Rose with health concerns. That obviously changes if the Bulls land a major name via trade or free agency, but for now, McDermott joins a roster in need of shooting. He is experienced, will (maybe) play with a point guard who will draw defenses into the lane, and a center, Joakim Noah, who can pass. That's opportunity.
8. ANDREW WIGGINS, Cavaliers (5)
The question is not how good he can become. That's easy: superstar good. The question is how good he can become this season. He's making the transition after a single choppy college season and will try to shine while veterans Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are the offense's focal point. If Wiggins clears all those hurdles as a rookie, regular All-Star appearances won't be far behind.
9. K.J. McDANIELS, 76ers (NR)
This was the McDaniels teams had expected at the Draft -- able to put up numbers in several categories and defend multiple positions without being spectacular -- he has a chance to go from the second-round pick to a long NBA career. Shooting with range in Orlando was a bonus. The experience of three seasons at Clemson (and in the ACC) shows.
10. DANTE EXUM, Jazz (7)
Like Wiggins, he arrives with a lot of hype and a game that can captivate, a valuable head start for the kind of attention it takes to win Rookie of the Year. Exum's challenge, though, is unlike anyone else's. He is making the jump after playing against mostly high school competition, and high school competition in Australia at that. There have been good showings at the Nike Hoop Summit against top U.S. prep competition and at the under-19 world championships, both in 2013, but this is a learning curve to conquer.
Dropped out: Elfrid Payton, P.J. Hairston (he knew the rules: getting in a fight with a high school kid in a pickup game before even playing in summer league is grounds for the public humiliation of being ejected from the Ladder), Aaron Gordon, Nik Stauskas.
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