LAS VEGAS — Summer League is all about leaving a lasting impression. For the young players with guaranteed contracts who make the trip out to the Desert, it’s about proving why that’s the case. For those without a deal, it’s all about opportunity. This is the best place to get noticed.
“Opportunity is a word that’s used a lot,” said Ryan Saunders, the Wolves assistant coach who is back on the sidelines calling the shots for the second summer in Vegas. “All the scouts and all the coaches from all around the league are here, so it’s a good opportunity for everybody.”
In the Wolves’ first game of the preliminary round this afternoon, at a sold out Thomas & Mack Center—this was the first time they had to stop selling tickets because everyone came to see Lonzo Ball and Jayson Tatum square off in the game afterwards—nobody really made a positive first impression.
Canis favorite Deonte Burton was completely ineffective in 18 minutes, finishing with only 4 points and 2 rebounds. Probably time to pump the brakes on him. Perry Ellis (0 points, 3 rebounds), Amile Jefferson (2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals), and V.J. Beachem (1 point on 0-7 shooting) also offered nothing to get excited about. The three best players for the Wolves in the blowout loss to the Raptors, 97-72, were Marcus Paige, Jack Gibbs, and Levi Randolph.
Paige finished with 18 points on 5-12 shooting but had 4 turnovers and zero assists. He added two steals. The former UNC point guard was selected by the Brooklyn Nets in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft and spent last season playing with the Salt Lake City Stars in the D-League (now the G-League). He is 6-2, 169 lbs. Nobody else could score for the Wolves, meaning Paige took it upon himself to try to carry the load, but ZERO ASSISTS for a point guard is obviously not good.
“Marcus can play in pick-and-rolls,” Saunders said after the game. “He will be getting a better feel as the week goes on for us. We just need more from everybody. That’s the main thing.”
Gibbs is a short, stocky guard (6’0”) from Davidson. At 220 pounds, he looks way stronger than Paige. He can also shoot. Gibbs went 3-7 from deep and 7-12 from the field on his way to 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench. I liked his jumper. Randolph was solid, though didn’t stick out in any real way. He finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Jakob Poeltl scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Pascal Siakam had 17 and 4. They are NBA players and showed it. The Wolves had no big to stop them on the interior. Siakam has great length, often contesting shooters with good closeouts, and seems to protect the rim pretty well. I can see why the 23-year-old power forward started 38 games for Toronto in his rookie year this past season. Strong defender (1.9 DBPM in his first season) who plays hard and knows what he is good at. Siakam stays in his lane. I can appreciate the fact that he doesn’t seem to play outside of his abilities. I like these types of players. Rookie Kennedy Meeks looked like he shed some weight since the National Championship game. That man is an absolute load in the paint. He just parks it right underneath the basket and isn’t easily movable. The UNC product had 12 points in 9 minutes. Still, his conditioning didn’t look great in limited minutes.
Did Ryan Saunders have a specific message for the Summer Wolves after this poor opening performance?
“Just throw it in the trash,” Saunders said.
“We’ll learn from it, we’ll watch the film. That’s one thing we’ll do. We’ll treat these guys like pros. We’ll watch the film tomorrow and try to learn from it. You learn from today and hope for the best tomorrow.”
NEXT UP: Wolves vs. Denver tomorrow (July 9) and 5:30 pm CT on ESPN 2. Saunders says we can expect to see a lot more Charles Cooke in that game. He wanted to get a better look at some other guys today.
EXTRA! EXTRA!: I joked with Ryan Saunders after the game about looking sharp in his summer league attire today ... blue joggers, instead of shorts like last year, with white shoes and no socks. A classic Ricky Rubio look. Ryan is a man of the people.