The Daily Deal: July 19
Each day, NBADLeague.com will be in Las Vegas to cover all of the Summer League action, focusing on the top NBA D-League alums that are trying to make an impact on their respective teams in order to earn a spot on an NBA roster.
For the first 20 minutes of Thursday night's game with the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA D-League Select Team looked like what it is: a collection of players that may never play together again. While the Bucks moved the ball around like they'd been playing together for years (well, at least months), the Select Team struggled for looks and, when they got looks, struggled just as much for makes. They fell behind by 10 at the end of the first quarter, 15 near the end of the second and then proceeded to win the rest of the game. The defense kicked in and the shots started to fall, but the Bucks' early lead -- thanks in large part to their size advantage on the inside, which hurt the Select Team for the second straight game -- was too much to overcome.
But even in that game, some of the NBA D-League's Top Prospects rose up. Kenny Hayes looked sharp, going for 15. Chris Daniels and Leo Lyons did, more often than not, too. But as far as big days in front of the scouts go, that's just the beginning (although it should be noted, because the Select Team played at 10 p.m. ET, not chronologically).
1. BEN UZOH -- GUARD -- TORONTO RAPTORS
Uzoh found his game on Thursday, doing all the things that kept him planted in the No. 1 spot all year in the NBA D-League Prospect Watch (at least when he was actually in the NBA D-League). Which is to say, everything. As far as athleticism and body type go, Uzoh looks as much like an NBA guard as he does a running back. Possibly one for the Dillon Panthers. And the 6-foot-2, 210-pound guard used it to cruise to 16 points and seven rebounds (with four assists tossed in) in just 18 minutes of play. Uzoh still has some ground to cover in terms of becoming a true NBA point guard (inasmuch as that actually exists), like holding on to the ball and creating for teammates a little better, but on Thursday, he showed a prolonged glimpse of what he could become.
2. CHRIS WRIGHT -- FORWARD -- TORONTO RAPTORS
Wright, who just squeezes into our definition of Top Prospect (must have played in the NBA D-League in past two years (check, after playing 13 games in 2011-12) and must not have solidified self yet on NBA roster (check, despite 19 games with Golden State), rocketed himself up the list of forwards on our Prospect Board on Tuesday. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound spring bounced all over the court alongside his teammate Uzoh, going for 15 points and six rebounds with a pair of steals and assists. He also played with control all day, going 5-for-8 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line and 1-for-1 from 3-point range..
3. ELIJAH MILLSAP -- GUARD -- ATLANTA HAWKS
An MVP candidate all season long in the NBA D-League, Millsap spent his first four games at NBA Summer League starved for minutes with some anemic performances as a result. He'd averaged only 11.3 minutes in the first quartet, with 5.5 points a game on 40 percent shooting and a little under two rebounds. But when the Hawks trotted him out for 23 minutes on Thursday, the results came around, too. He looked like the L.A. D-Fenders star that could fill up the score sheet like a Bieber concert, going for 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and staying active all day. "It was good to get in there and get a sweat and get a little rhythm," he said.
In fairness, the angle wasn't great and he was just trying to help.
But that's not the part you'll see when you watch the clip (see below) of 6-foot-3 Damian Lillard hammering a dunk over 6-foot-11 Keith Benson with about six minutes left in the third quarter of Thursday's Hawks-Blazers game.
It was pretty awesome.
But the Top Moment of the day, for our purposes, is how Benson responded.
The next time down the court, Lillard curled around two defenders on the perimeter, drove toward the lane and scooped a shot in near the bucket. Well, Benson got his revenge, blasting the ball out of bounds to the Blazers bench and, a possession later, coming up with a steal to send the ball back the other way.
Toronto Raptors 94, New York Knicks 92: The game, in and of itself, was a great one. Most NBA Summer League games tend to be settled by the time the first substitution's made in the fourth quarter, but the first game of Day 7 blew things open with a rare contest settled in the final seconds.
But the reason why it's a big deal for The Deal is that the game featured three Top Performer-caliber days and 53 percent of Toronto's points (50 of 94) came from NBA D-League alums, including the 31 combined from Uzoh and Wright. Ed Davis (briefly an Erie BayHawk in 2010-11) and Daniel Orton (equally briefly a New Mexico Thunderbird in the same year) had 19 between then, though Davis had the larger share, with 15 points to go along with 11 rebounds.
For the Knicks, Mustapha Farrakhan (an NBA D-League All-Rookie Second-Teamer in 2011-12) showed off a new dose of confidence at the point, playing with far more poise than he did earlier in the week and racking up 12 points and two assists to show for it.
"I hope I can get there. I pray I can get there. That's my dream. I didn't grow up saying I want to play basketball in Korea. No disrespect to them, I mean, they gave me a shot. But I didn't grow up saying I want to play basketball in Korea." -- NBA D-League Select center Chris Daniels, on committing himself to playing in the NBA instead of going back to Korea, where he played parts of the last four years
MUST WATCH VIDEO
Damian Lillard puts Keith Benson on a poster.
WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
At least he's wearing Knicks colors, Knicks fans. (Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks forward | Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty Images)
ON THE HORIZON
1) After losing two straight games, the NBA D-League Select Team will attempt to get back into the win column when they face the Phoenix Suns at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
2) Lance Thomas, who played 19 games with the Austin Toros last season before becoming a rotation guy for the New Orleans Hornets, will go up against reigning NBA D-League MVP and former teammate Justin Dentmon when the Hornets square off against the Mavericks at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
3) Top forward Prospect Malcolm Thomas will go for his third-straight double-double when his Chicago Bulls face the Golden State Warriors at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT.