Top 5 Things To Watch For At Summer League
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It’s hard to believe, but Summer League is almost here. This mid-summer get-together in the Las Vegas heat has become an increasingly popular event with fans because it offers so much when it comes to opportunity, potential and growth. And the possibilities are endless. Who would have guessed Damian Lillard would win the Summer League MVP last year? But once he did, he became a potential Rookie of the Year frontrunner and ended up taking home that award, too.
That being said, here we go in 2013.
The Timberwolves have a collection of storylines that will make this year’s trip to Vegas intriguing. For one, this squad has three rookies from June’s NBA Draft on the roster in Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng and Lorenzo Brown. Last year, the Wolves had just Robbie Hummel on the roster when it came to last summer’s draft picks—mostly due to the Wolves using their 2012 first round pick in a deal with Houston for Chase Budinger. This time around, they’ve got a first round scoring wing and a first round shot blocker to go along with a 6-foot-5, second round point guard.
But that’s not all. The Wolves have six players who most recently played overseas in leagues ranging from Spain, Italy, China and the Philippines. There are also four players who have played in the NBA Development League on the roster. These are all important, because remember last year’s Summer League club had some impressive showings from guys who had overseas and D-League experience. Derrick Williams and Wes Johnson both had strong Summer Leagues, but it’s debatable that Kammron Taylor and Coby Karl—two guys with overseas experience—were just as valuable in the team’s 4-1 campaign.
Who will stand out this year? Any surprises in the works? Here’s a guide to this year’s Timberwolves Summer League and a few storylines to watch for.
Oh, and one more noteworthy nugget: Remember that this year is the first Summer League that will have a championship component to it. That means each team will play three preliminary round games, then enter into a championship tournament that includes a consolation bracket. Each team will play at least five total games, possibly more depending on how they do in the championship round. Minnesota’s three preliminary round games are June 13 against the D-League Selects (5:30 PM CT), June 15 against Phoenix (5:30 PM CT) and July 16 against Miami (3 PM CT).
Can Shabazz Take Over Offensively?
This will be our first chance to see Shabazz Muhammad in a professional basketball setting. The one-and-done standout from UCLA averaged the second most points per game (17.9) for a freshman in UCLA history last year, and a big reason for that was his smooth scoring touch and his ability to get to the hoop and draw fouls. This will be a good test for Muhammad, who will be facing the best from the NCAA last year as well as a collection of veteran professionals who have experience in the D-League and overseas. Muhammad is anticipated to be a rotation player coming off the bench for the Wolves as a rookie, but putting together a dominant showing at Summer League would be a good first step in carving out the type of minutes he will receive in his first season with the team. And given the path Muhammad took during the Draft workouts—answering questions about if he can play with a team-first philosophy—this will be a great starting point for him to get to work and back up all the right things he said throughout the past month and a half.
Gorgui Dieng Block Party
With the Wolves opting to waive Greg Stiemsma this weekend, the door is open for Gorgui Dieng to assume a prominent role as the Wolves’ backup center this season. He’s got that 6-foot-11 frame and 7-foot-4 wingspan, and one of the primary benefits of the Wolves making a Draft night deal with Utah was moving up to the 21st pick and nabbing a guy like Dieng who is, by most accounts, ready to step into that type of role in the NBA. Dieng blocked 2.5 shots per game last year (3.2 BPG as a sophomore) and was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. How does that translate to the NBA level? We’ll get our first look at it here in Summer League. If Dieng is able to adjust to the speed of the league and get himself in position to defend without getting into quick foul trouble, he will be a big asset heading into next season. Not only that, but Dieng did averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in his final year at Louisville—with an efficient 66 percent shooting around the rim—so he could also potentially bring a little punch around the glass on both ends of the court.
The Development Of Hummel, Johnson
Two familiar faces will be on the Summer League roster in Chris Johnson and Robbie Hummel. Johnson originally signed on with the Wolves on a 10-day contract in January, and that subsequently turned into a second 10-day contract followed by a guarantee for the rest of the season. His playing time was sporadic, but when he did see the court he made use of his minutes with blocked shots and fast-break points. He averaged 14.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes last year with the Wolves. His biggest need this offseason is to put on strength (he’s 6-foot-11, 210 pounds). He wasn’t able to defend the post exceptionally well against bigger, more powerful centers because of that.
Hummel was the team’s lone 2012 draft pick, selected 58th overall before participating in last year’s Summer League and spending the winter playing professionally for Blusens Monbus in Spain. Overseas, he did suffer a torn meniscus in his right knee but returned to play in 30 games and averaged 10.1 points per game. He shot 41.2 percent from 3-point range and hit 89.1 percent of his free throws.
Both players could have nice Summer League showings given their professional backgrounds and age—Johnson will turn 28 on July 15 and Hummel is 24 years old. Look to see how Hummel’s perimeter shooting looks, and we’ll see if Johnson has been able to put on some muscle in preparation for this upcoming season.
Sikma, Thompson Family Ties
We focused a little bit on Luke Sikma during last year’s Summer League, partially because he had the chance to play for his dad, Wolves assistant coach Jack Sikma, and partially because of his aggressive, hard-working demeanor. Sikma is undersized as a 6-foot-8 power forward, but he plays incredibly hard. He received increasing minutes during Summer League last year, and he ended up averaging eight points and seven boards over his final two games in Las Vegas. Given the rigorous schedule NBA teams play during a regular season and the years Jack has been involved in franchises as an assistant coach, you could tell both thoroughly enjoyed getting to work with one another during last year’s event. They’ll get that chance again this summer.
Another interesting family tie to the state of Minnesota is Mychel Thompson joining the Wolves’ Summer League roster. Thompson, who played in the D-League for Sioux Falls last year, is the son of former University of Minnesota standout and NBA champion Mychal Thompson. He is also the brother of Klay Thompson, the sharpshooting guard out in Golden State. Thompson played for the Cavaliers during part of the 2011-12 season and spent the past year in the D-League. For any old-time Minnesota hoops fans, getting a chance to see one of his sons playing for the Wolves’ squad should be a cool experience.
Adding To The Coaching Resume
Like last year, player development coaches David Adelman and Shawn Respert will be leading the Wolves’ roster. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, David Adelman has all the makings of a successful coach in this league some day. He’s got the attention to detail and Xs and Os from his player development background, he’s got his dad’s ability to get the most out of his players and he also has command of the sideline. Respert is a player’s coach who got his first taste of head coaching during last year’s Summer League. As much as this event will be used for young player development, it will also be a chance for Adelman and Respert to get additional in-game coaching experience.
|WOLVES 2013 SUMMER LEAGUE ROSTER|
|No.||Player||Position||Height||Weight||Birthdate||Prior to NBA/Home Country||NBA Exp.|
|22||Marqus Blakely||G/F||6-5||225||10/22/88||San Mig Coffee (Philippines)/USA||R|
|4||Lorenzo Brown||G||6-5||186||8/26/90||North Carolina State/USA||R|
|8||Kee Kee Clark||G||5-11||185||10/08/84||Umana Venezia Reyer (Italy)/USA||R|
|23||John Holland||G||6-5||205||11/06/88||Cajasol (Spain)/USA||R|
|6||Robbie Hummel||F||6-8||215||3/08/89||Blusens Monbus (Spain)/USA||R|
|12||Othyus Jeffers||G||6-5||200||8/05/85||Iowa (NBADL)/USA||2|
|40||Phil Jones||C||6-10||255||9/02/85||Los Angeles (NBADL)/USA||R|
|44||Solomon Jones||F||6-10||245||7/16/84||Liaoning (China)/USA||7|
|30||Demetri McCamey||G||6-3||200||2/21/89||Fort Wayne (NBADL)/USA||R|
|43||Luke Sikma||F||6-8||235||7/30/89||Autocid Ford Burgos (Spain)/USA||R|
|24||Mychel Thompson||F||6-7||215||6/01/88||Sioux Falls (NBADL)/USA||1|
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.