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What To Take Away From 2016 Summer League
This year’s Summer League has come to an end, and what a time to be alive it was for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The team started out 0-3 before making an unlikely run to the championship game as the No. 24 seed before falling to the Chicago Bulls in a game full of clutch shots.
Summer League is difficult to assess. It’s almost impossible to judge what will translate to the NBA game and what won’t. For example, Josh Selby won the Summer League MVP in 2009 and played in just 38 games in his NBA career. Summer League was peak Selby.
On the flipside of that, All-Stars like Blake Griffin, John Wall and Damian Lillard have also been named MVP.
Here, I’ll try to weed through what you should take away from the Timberwolves' 2016 Summer League.
Jones Wins MVP, But What Does That Mean?
Jones averaged 20.4 points, 6.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from the 3-point line and 84.2 percent from the free-throw line on his way to the Summer League MVP trophy.
What does this mean for Jones going into his second year?
I think it says a lot that Jones was doing the majority of his work against NBA-caliber guards. His matchups were against guys like Emmanuel Mudiay, Delon Wright, Kay Felder, Wade Baldwin IV and Jerian Grant. These guys aren’t All-Stars (yet), but it’s safe to say that they belong in the NBA.
If there’s one stat that you can probably take away from Summer League with Jones, it was his ability to shoot from deep. Jones hit 40 percent of his shots from deep on 32 attempts. It’s only eight games, I know, but if you can hit 40 percent of 3-pointers in game at any level (especially when you’re one of very few scoring options), that’s saying something. In four Summer League games last season, Jones hit just 25 percent from deep, and in 37 games during his rookie season, he hit 30.2 percent from deep.
I can confirm that Jones has been putting plenty of time in at The Courts at Mayo Clinic Square this summer, which brings us to the next point.
We did a sit-down interview with Jones (will be released on the site at some point) and he looked incredibly stronger. When watching players on the court constantly, you can’t really point out any changes with their body unless they broke their leg or something. Then it's pretty obvious.
After not seeing Jones for a few months, it was evident he did some lifting this summer to bulk up for his second season. It looked like it paid off in Summer League as he was able to take more contact and get to the rim. When he got there, he either finished or got to the free-throw line. Jones got to the free-throw line nine or more times in the last four Summer League games, including 13 times in Sunday’s win over the Suns.
After the Wolves drafted Kris Dunn, it looked like he and Ricky Rubio would assume most of the point guard duties. Don’t be surprised if Jones gets some run there as well.
Speaking Of Dunn…
Dunn was the darling of Summer League until he suffered a concussion in the second game against the Raptors.
In two games, Dunn averaged 24 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field.
There’s plenty to get excited about after watching Dunn at Summer League. His competitiveness was off the charts, which is awesome to see at Summer League and you know that Tom Thibodeau had a smirk on his face while watching.
Most of the time, Dunn looked like the best player on the court. He attacked like a mad man, almost young D-Wade style.
His handles looked solid. He crossed JaKaar Sampson back to Philadelphia in the first game (we should mention he missed the shot, but this is Timberwolves.com so we're just gonna ignore that). Defensively, he’s going to be able to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player. Some of this is stuff we already knew, but it was reassuring to see it against NBA rotational players like Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Norman Powell.
There are things that Dunn could improve upon. He shot just 16.7 percent from the 3-point line (1-for-6), but his shot, by no means, looked broken.
I said to a few people that the only thing that really concerned me was how hard he played. It was 140 miles per hour. Wait, playing too hard? There’s that Thibs’ smile again. Minnesota fans will love him.
What To Make Of Payne’s Performance?
Summer League was a bit of a roller coaster for third-year power forward Adreian Payne.
Payne averaged 15.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game through eight games. Those numbers seem impressive, but don’t necessarily tell the whole story. He did have a 22-point, 16-rebound game against the Bulls on Monday night. That was nice. But he also had a nine-point game against Cleveland on July 11 in which he shot just 2-for-12 from the field. That was not so nice.
With Payne’s physique and age (25), he should be able to man-handle some of the guys he’s going up in Summer League. And sometimes he does. But at other times, he inconsistent.
He’s at his best when he lets the game come to him. If the offense is flowing nicely and Payne gets an open jumper, a shot he can hit, he should take it. But there was a play in Monday night’s championship game when Payne backed down his defender and tried to throw up a shot, only to get blocked almost immediately.
He has the physical tools to be good, and we saw that. He closed out Summer League with three straight double-doubles and shot a combined 5-for-12 from the 3-point line. There’s an opportunity for Payne at the power forward position this season with the Wolves. Whether he capitalizes on it will depend if he can consistently play within the offense.
Others Who Impressed
Three players without an NBA contract who really impressed me on the Wolves were Coty Clarke, Xavier Silas and Devin Thomas.
Clarke was a solid player off the bench, averaging 8.4 points per game, including a combined 31 points in Minnesota’s first two tournament games. He’s an undersized power forward, but he showed glimpses of being able to shoot from deep, shooting 2-for-4 from deep against Memphis and 2-for-5 against Chicago.
Silas emerged as a scoring option alongside Jones and Payne after the first game. In six out of eight games, Silas hit double-digits, including a 22-point performance against the Raptors in a tight 81-79 win. In eight games, he averaged 10.9 points and shot 37 percent from deep.
And then we move to Thomas. Thomas has virtually no game outside of the paint. But inside the paint, watch out. Thomas crashes the boards like a mad man. He averaged six rebounds per game and nearly 12 per 40 minutes.
I’m not sure if any of these guys will get invites to training camp from the Wolves or another team, but they can leave Summer League knowing they left a good impression.