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2009 NBA Summer League round-up: New Jersey Nets/Philadelphia 76ers
July 13th, 2009

To save money, and to add purpose, the Nets and Sixers agreed to share a summer league team this year. It’s not a practice I’m keen on, because I think the more spots given out to random nobodies, the better, and by having only one team that makes 12 less spots for random nobodies. So that’s a shame. But at least they bothered at all, unlike some teams.

 

A.J. Abrams: Abrams’s college career consisted of three things – decent defence for his size, running around endlessly trying to get open, and then shooting jump shots. And a really bloody college career it was, too. However, Abrams is only 5’11. There are plenty of 6’6 guys who spend their entire careers trying to get NBA teams to notice that they specialise in exactly the same things, and (Kyle Korver excepted) they usually fail. So how likely is Abrams to do the same with his half-a-foot height disadvantage? He isn’t, really. He’s small even for a point guard, but the fact that he’s an off-ball guard counts heavily against him. Heavily. Abrams’ only chance to become an NBA player is to develop his ball-handling ability, and rework himself into a crude Jannero Pargo imitation. But Pargo isn’t exactly a regular rotation player in the NBA himself, so A.J’s chances are very slim.

 

Jeff Adrien: Adrien was covered in the Grizzlies round-up. It’s pretty industrious of him to have wriggled his way into the summer league rosters of three teams, which really maximises his options. It was also a damn good idea to get onto the Grizzlies and Nets rosters, the two teams with the worst power forward rotations in the league last year. That’ll help his limited chances a bit. And, despite Adrien’s limitations and damaged prospects as outlined in the other round-up, can he really be much worse than Yi Jianlian? Good luck to him.

 

Blake Ahearn: Ahearn has had two shots in the NBA – once with the distinctly crap Miami Heat 2007-08 team, and a small stint in the early part of last season with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s played a combined 15 games and shot 27%, which is probably not brilliant. But it’s also not an accurate depiction of what Daniel [his real first name] is like as a shooter; he’s a great one, really. This is evidenced in his D-League numbers of last year, when he scored 22.7 points and 5.0 assists per game for the Dakota Wizards, shooting 45% from the field, 42% from three-point range and a typically Blake Ahearn-y 96% from the foul line. (For those unaware, Ahearn shot 95% from the foul line for his NCAA career.) Ahearn’s problem is not with his scoring, but with his position; like so many others before him, he’s not really a point guard, yet he measures at only 6’2 and 190 and without NBA burst. He’s trying to make himself into a point guard, and is getting there slowly, as shown by those assist numbers. Unfortunately, those numbers were record in a hefty 39 minutes per game in an assist-heavy league, and also came along with 3.3 turnovers a game. (As an unrelated aside to the assists thing, Ahearn also only averaged 2.4 rebounds per game in that time, which isn’t getting it done.) Playing alongside former NBA point guard Maurice Baker factors into those numbers, but Baker is far from a pure point guard himself. His great shooting stroke will keep him on the fringes of the NBA for a while, but his existential quandary will keep him out of the realms of guaranteed contracts. Probably.

 

Dionte Christmas: I’ve not seen Christmas, and admit as much. (I had a Temple game from last year saved somewhere, but I think I accidentally recorded over it. Very professional operation we run here) Everyone tells me, though, that Christmas would have been a fine undrafted signing. So here’s what the numbers say; Christmas averaged 19.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists, shooting 41% from the field and attempting nine three-pointers a game, which he hit at only 35%. Those numbers don’t wow me. If you’re going to be a specialist shooter, shoot higher than 35%. So we’ll see. (Or rather, “we have already seen;” Christmas scored 9.3 points per game on 44% shooting in four summer league games.)

 

Chris Douglas-Roberts: Douglas-Roberts is in danger of getting overrated. Fans of pretty much all other teams seem to want to acquire him as an under-the-radar pickup for their shooting guard spot. They rave about his instant scoring punch, and his ability to create on his own. And it’s all true. But lost in that is Douglas-Roberts’ scoring inefficiency; he doesn’t shoot three-pointers, and while he gets to the foul line at a decent rate, he has to in order to be a decently efficient scorer. He shot 54% in both of his college seasons, which is terrific, and he shot 46% in his rookie season which is also very good. However, his eFG is is 47%, which isn’t too good, and his 53% true shooting percentage is solid, but not brilliant in a largely one-dimensional scorer. Chris and Douglas are both decent defensive players, but they don’t rebound and can’t create for others. They enter the game looking to score, and if they don’t have a good shooting night, they don’t really provide much. They should form a decent shooting guard foursome with Courtney and Lee next season, yet they (Chris and Douglas, not Courtney and Lee) are not really starting calibre. Desire them accordingly.

 

Jason Ellis: Ellis is a 26-year-old former Boise State graduate who is a veteran of the US minor leagues. (He also spent two years in Switzerland. Hard to come back from there.) Last year in the D-League, Ellis averaged 7.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 24 minutes per game for the Idaho Stampede, and while I’m usually wary of players who have more rebounds than points scored, Ellis surprises me by shooting 47% from the field and 81% from the foul line. Not bad, that. However, the market on undersized power forwards is pretty saturated, and even in spite of his rebounding rate, Ellis’ 6’7 200lb frame isn’t getting it done in the NBA. Chuck Hayes may be an inspiration to many, but he’s also an exception to the rule.

 

Gary Forbes: Forbes did the rounds last year. Undrafted, he joined up with the Wizards for summer league, and was drafted in the fourth round of the D-League Draft by the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He didn’t make the Wizards roster, and turned down the D-League in favour of Italy, signing with Basket Napoli in Serie A. Unfortunately, Napoli went bankrupt before the season begun (you’d think they might have seen that coming, no?), and Forbes had to return to America where he joined up with the Skyforce. He averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28 minutes per game, before being traded to the Tulsa 66ers, averaging 18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 31 minutes of 30 games for them. After the D-League season finished, Forbes went to the Philippines, averaging 27.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in two games for the joyfully named Talk ‘N’ Text Texters of Tropang (the Philippines league has amazingly corporate team names), and then went to Venezuela to play with Trotamundos for a month. He’s building himself an NBA resumé. Pay attention.

 

Jrue Holiday: Finally got around to watching that UCLA game that I’ve been putting off. Got to say that my opinions of Darren Collison are higher than those of Holiday, who looked…..awkward. Not really a point guard, too small for a two guard, not a great shooter, average athlete….hmmm. Not sure of the tremendous upside potential, to be honest. Good defence, though (or so it appeared; it was hard to tell considering he was guarding an undersized raise-up-and-shoot-er (Patrick Christopher) all night long). He didn’t even play the point guard spot when Collison was out. So whatever it is that makes Holiday a #17 pick, I’m still waiting to see.

(Note: formulating opinions based on one game that you’ve watched is a dangerous proposition that isn’t really advised. So always leave yourself a get-out.)

 

Chris Johnson: Last year for LSU, Johnson averaged 7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He shot only 45% from the field, but the blocked shot and rebounding numbers are nice, and especially since they came in only 25 minutes per game. If he was a junior, we’d be saying how, with about 40 pounds more muscle and an improved post-up game, he’d be a future first round talent. But he’s not. So now, he’s an undrafted 190 lb position-less big man who turns 24 next week.

 

Rob Kurz: Kurz was mentioned in the Minnesota Timberwolves summer league roster round-up thing. He hasn’t changed since then. But, if you like to see enthused play featuring some retro one-handed jump shots, then Kurz might be your man. Or Ryan Bowen.

 

Marreese Speights: If any team doesn’t need Marreese Speights, it’s the team with Elton Brand on it. Nonetheless, I’d love Marreese Speights on my team; even though he never passes and puts forth spotty defensive effort, Speights is an explosive and athletic finisher, who has soothing and sensual touch inside the paint and from mid range. He can’t be bothered to rebound, despite having all the athletic requirements for the job, and that’s a pity. But off the bench, he can be a highly valuable scoring big man. And Lord knows my team could use one of them. So, Philadelphia; if you want Kirk Hinrich, then find a deal that starts with Speights, and somehow work it into a three-way deal that gets us a defensive minded big two guard. Then he’s yours. But Willie Green is not getting it done, and neither is Samuel Dalembert. So don’t even go there.

 

Terrence Williams: How is Williams going to score in the NBA? He’s not much of a shooter, he’s never really had to play without the ball in his hands, he tends to get wild, his 43% FG last season was the highest of his four-year career, and the highest FT% he ever shot was the 61% in his freshman year. That’s as a forward. His passing vision and skills are nice, but he’s not going to be a primary ball-handler in the NBA, and that nullifies them slightly. No, his best chance in the NBA will be as a defensive specialist and a disruptive influence, using his athleticism and energy to annoy the opposition all night and force some turnovers. It’s something he could be very good at, too. And if he ever gets the complimentary jump shot that still evades him, then he’ll be reet.

But do you really take someone like that eleventh overall?

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