Column: Breaking Down Summer League 2013

Breaking Down Summer League 2013

Summer League 2013 is in the books, and as the week for the Timberwolves came to an end they leave Las Vegas with a 3-3 record and the distinction of, despite being eliminated from the championship tournament, winning their last game thanks to a 72-66 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. It was a taxing week as Minnesota played six games in seven days—including five straight from Monday through Friday—but a productive week. The rookies got a chance to see what life is like at the NBA level, and some veterans got a chance to showcase their talents and possibly play their way into a Training Camp invite somewhere around the league.

In case you missed any of the action, I broke down some of the storylines that developed over the week. I think the most important thing to remember about Summer League is this is a tournament meant for rookies to grow and journeymen veterans to help the younger guys get acquainted with the game while doing their own auditioning for a job. In the end we saw a mix of both here in Vegas this week.

Top Rookie: Lorenzo Brown

Of the drafted rookies, guard Lorenzo Brown had the best overall week out of a group that includes Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Brown averaged 8.3 points per game and shot 50 percent from 3-point range over the week, and he saved his best statistical game for last when he posted 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists against the Blazers on Friday. He also had 11 points and six boards in a blowout win against the Kings on Wednesday. Brown seemed to improve and get more acquainted with the NBA game as the week went on. He started Summer League with an eight-second back court violation in his first game because he was still used to the 10-second college rule. He finished the week by being on the court and making the right plays that ensured the Wolves a six-point win.

“I feel comfortable, that was basically the whole thing I had to do was get comfortable and try to figure out what type of players the guys are,” Brown said. “That’s my job as the point guard. I thought I did a pretty good job this last game.”

Muhammad and Dieng had their moments as well, and coach David Adelman said all three of the rookies improved throughout the week. Muhammad’s best game came on Wednesday against Sacramento when he scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range. His biggest task moving forward is finding his flow in the offense and eliminating some of the shots he takes early in the shot clock. Dieng saved his best game for last, scoring 10 points and blocking three shots against the Blazers. But he’ll be tasked with learning to play defense at the NBA level without getting into foul trouble.

Those are things that are expected out of rookies at Summer League. That’s what this week is for.

“I like the progression of all our young players,” Adelman said. “Sometimes progress is made through mistakes and failures. It’s just how you learn from it day-to-day.”

The key is being able to add consistency.

“Let’s have success in short bursts and let’s learn to extend that and play consistently solid and well for minutes at a time, not possessions at a time,” Adelman said.

Top Veteran: Othyus Jeffers

Othyus Jeffers has spent time in the NBA with Utah, San Antonio and Washington—even playing 16 games for Flip Saunders with the Wizards in 2010-11. Since then, he’s spent most of the last three years in the D-League. You could tell Jeffers has that veteran experience in his play this week. He’s a tenacious defensive player who brings a ton of energy and impressed a lot of people with his play in Vegas. He completely shut down lottery pick Ben McLemore on Wednesday—holding McLemore to zero field goals on the day—and continued that type of intensity and versatility throughout the week.

“We knew he was a professional—he’s been in the league—but the type of shape he’s in, the way he competes, the way he guards three positions, he just goes about his business the right way. It’s good for the young guys to see him play.”

Jeffers might have worked his way into a Training Camp invite with his Summer League play this week. We’ll see if that happens come September.

3-Point Efficiency

The Wolves’ biggest strength this week was from beyond the arc. They wrapped up the week shooting 44.3 percent from 3-point range, and that includes cooling off during their last two games against the D-League Selects and Portland. Four players—Lorenzo Brown, Kee Kee Clark, John Holland and Demetri McCamey—shot 50 percent or better from 3-point range during the week. Those four combined to shoot 36-of-71 from beyond the arc, with McCamey opening up the week shooting 8-of-11 from distance in his first three games. Minnesota is stressing enhancing its 3-point efficiency on its NBA squad this year, and bringing in shooters on their Summer League roster fits the philosophy Flip Saunders and company are trying to follow. At the very least they got a chance to see a collection of sharp-shooters this week to keep tabs on moving forward.

Turnovers, Free Throws Were The Difference

The Wolves shot 47.7 percent as a team this week from the field, so scoring wasn’t the issue. Minnesota actually led all Summer League teams with 51 percent shooting through their first three games. That’s the good news. The bad news is Minnesota struggled with turnovers throughout the week, and it cost them a couple games. The Wolves averaged 25 per game through three contests and ended the week with 109 turnovers in six games. Again, that’s what Summer League is for, but with the way the team shot from the field there’s a chance the Wolves could’ve left Vegas with a winning record if those miscues were limited. The Wolves also at times had trouble keeping opponents off the line. They allowed 154 free-throw attempts in the six games, including 38 to the D-League Selects on Thursday.

Speaking Of The D-League Selects…

The Wolves got two games against the D-League Selects this week, losing both contests but hanging with the D-Leaguers in both. The Wolves actually had a double-digit lead against them in their first meeting. The reason I’m bringing this up is since the purpose of Summer League is development, getting a chance to play two games against the D-League Selects is actually a pretty good scenario for the Wolves. The NBADL brings their top players who haven’t signed on to play with an NBA Summer League team, so they’re all professionals and veterans who are fringe players trying to get onto an NBA roster. They’re all playing for a chance to get a Training Camp invite. The D-League brings a physical brand of basketball that will help these younger Wolves players get acquainted with what life will be like in the NBA. The D-Leaguers have a lot to play for, and they have a lot of experience.

Hummel Stood Out Early

Robbie Hummel looked far more comfortable and consistent in his second Summer League stint with the Wolves. He started five games—he didn’t play in the finale due to five straight nights with games and leading the team in minutes per game—and he averaged 8.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. He was versatile, and he helped the Wolves by guarding multiple positions within games both on the wing and down low. The Wolves certainly like his desire and his determination to make it at the NBA level.

Balanced Scoring

The Wolves were about as balanced as you can be this week in the scoring department. No player averaged more than 8.7 points per game (Kee Kee Clark led the team), but six players averaged more than 8.0 points a night and nine of the Wolves’ 13 players averaged at least six points per game. Adelman rotated the starting lineup a lot as 11 players got a chance to start, and really there wasn’t a big difference between having the starters or the bench in during any game this week.

Stat of the Week

The Wolves finished 3-3 for the tournament, but their losses were more competitive than their wins. The Wolves lost three games by an average of four points a night. They won three games by an average of 17.7 points per game. That number is skewed by a 38-point win over the Kings, but taking that outlier out the Wolves won their other two games by an average of 7.5 points.

Game By Game Recap

July 13: D-League 83, Wolves 81
July 15: Phoenix 91, Wolves 89
July 16: Wolves 80, Miami 71
July 17: Wolves 92, Sacramento 54
July 18: D-League 83, Wolves 75
July 19: Wolves 72, Portland 66


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