Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – It was a bit of a nothing season for KCP, who was given plenty of opportunity to succeed (80 games, 41 starts, 19.8 mpg) and simply didn’t. He averaged only 5.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game, shooting 39.6% from the field and 31.9% from three, looking very awkward on the offensive end of the court. Caldwell-Pope faired better defensively, given plenty of big matchups (especially at the start of the season) and using his athleticism and wingspan to occasionally be a deterrent to any slashing guard, but on offence he mostly looked lost, was unreliable with the handle, and settled for far too many long twos. KCP projects to be a very good three and D role player, which would suffice despite his draft position, but he absolutely needs to spend the summer honing that jump shot. There is something there to work with, yet a long way to go.
Brian Cook – The 33 year old Cook is back for one final go-around, joining the Jazz last year for training camp and now back in summer league for the first time in a decade. Cook however has not been an effective player for seven years, and, having not played in his time since being cut by the Jazz, hasn’t done anything to show this will stop being the case any time soon.
Justin Harper – Seems Stan Van Gundy is bringing in all the stretch fours from his Orlando days. Or at least, that’s what Harper was projected to be. He has not shot the ball well from three point range since leaving Richmond, hitting only 31.9% of his threes last season with Hapoel Tel-Aviv in Israel, on his way to 10.4 point and 5.1 rebound averages. Nevertheless, Harper can stretch the floor a little bit, and put in on the floor as well. SVG apparently went with a stretch four in his Magic days because he had not, not because he wanted to, but now it seems it’s all just his desire.
Damion James – James now has four years of NBA experience and an NBA championship ring to his name, despite playing all of 623 NBA minutes. So he’s been opportunistic with his NBA gigs. All time not spent in the big D-League has been spent in its little brother, where a 12 game hot streak of 21.1 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game averages earned James an April call-up to the Spurs. The 6’7 James rebounds and passes well, but is a bit positionless defensively, better and more willing to defend the paint despite having an NBA small forward’s physique. His offence is opportunistic with no go-to moves, and while he does enough to stay on the edge of the big league, he doesn’t have the one bankable trait to keep him there.
DeAndre Liggins – Another former Van Gundy player with the Magic, Liggins spent 10 days with the Heat last season, and spent the rest of the time in the D-League. Given the opportunity to make quite a lot of plays, Liggins managed only a 4.7/3.0 assist to turnover ratio and just isn’t that effective or efficient of one. He can see over the defence, drive the ball and has improved his three point shot to mediocre levels (and now takes too many), yet he is not good enough to merit the ball at the NBA level, and is not much use without it.
David Lighty – This is Lighty’s third straight summer league, and it’s going to lead to his third straight season in France, having already signed with ASVEL Villerbanne for next season. Last year in his second season with Nanterre, Lighty averaged 8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 26 minutes per game, playing his familiar brand of versatile role playing defensive combo guardyness. It’s probably not ever going to lead to an NBA gig – Chris Babb got one, but he’s a better catch and shoot player. But Lighty should churn out some more good European years yet.
Ian Miller – Miller can score, and Lord does he try. He is a shooter, a good shooter, and a very very enthusiastic shooter. Despite being 6’3 and roughly 200lbs, he is not a point guard or a creator – he can get the ball over halfcourt for you, but he’s not going to collapse and kick, hit a roll man, or do anything especially point guardy. He has the ball up top a lot, but it’s in the hunt for a shot.
Miller was pressed into this point guard masquerade in his time at Florida State, an act to which he committed his best. Miller can make the simple passes and handle the ball up top safely enough, which sufficed. It had to. His handle in traffic is less secure, however, and while he can use his good speed to get to the basket off ball screen action, he struggled to finish there, and instead settled for jumpers and floaters. Miller can nevertheless create jump shots for himself with his speed and agility, pulling up on a dime and shooting a step back, and can make tough, contested shots. He has a quick release and NBA range (and if he doesn’t have the latter, he soon will do), and can hit shots falling in all directions. Frankly, though, he chucks a few. He cannot end team scoring droughts in any way other than by chucking a shot, because he cannot consistently create them. And defensively, while Miller’s good size and speed are good for the point guard spot, he gets lazy defensively at times and is too easily hung up on screens to prevent the drive.
Players such as Jannero Pargo and Ian Clark have made the NBA with similar skill sets, but Miller has never really shown NBA talent. Bundesliga talent, yes.
Tony Mitchell – Mitchell only played 79 NBA minutes last season, but they were 79 good ones. You shouldn’t extrapolate much from such limited time, but it’s fun to do so, so why not. He barely got a chance at the big league level due to the continued mandatory persistence of the Josh Smith thing, and spent some time in the D-League. Down there, the reviews are mixed, averaging roughly 7 points and 7 rebounds in 23 minutes a game, also averaging a block and two turnovers per game. Mitchell is 22 now and cannot stay raw forever, and the Pistons are facing a bit of a roster pinch. He may especially feel it given that, as we see here, Stan Van Gundy seems to really want a stretch four, and Mitchell is not in. Nevertheless, his length, athleticism, rebounding and rim protectioon are still intriguing facets, even if his develop is going very slowly.
Peyton Siva – Siva has a contract for next year, but his spot is far from secure. He was the third point guard in the Pistons’s rotation at that position, but despite Brandon Jennings’s continued proving of the fact that he is not a lead guard, and Will Bynum’s continued limited play (a score first player without three point range who turns it over too often ans is a very weak defensive player), Siva was still the last resort option and still worse. Siva struggled badly on the offensive end, committing many passing turnovers and unable to consistently finish any shot from any area. He did have some good outings in April once the season was effectively over, but that’s small redemption for what was in total a wasted yet. He is here, then, with something simple yet important to prove – is he NBA calibre?
Tristan Spurlock – Spurlock just graduated from UCF, where he averaged 11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes per game as a senior. He also shot only 41.7% from the field for the second straight reason, largely because – what are the odds? – the 6’8 forward likes to take his three pointers. Half of Spurlock’s field goal attempts were three pointers, and he shot only 33,1% on them, which wasn’t anomalous. He always shoots in the low thirties on his threes, and has always taken a lot of them. But then, Spurlock is neither a scorer nor a rebounder. He is a finisher, athlete, dunker, catch-and-shoot player and transition runner at best; he does not take it in the post, and while he wants to be a face-up scorer, he cannot get to the rim consistently and has next to no mid range game. What Spurlock does have is good size and strength for the three position, athleticism and decent defensive instincts, plus the frame to employ them. You can be a wing player in the NBA even if you can’t take a dribble. Gotta shoot higher than those low 30’s, though. Spurlock has nice jump shot form that suggests he can improve in this area, but he also has a history of inefficiency that confirms that he needs to.
Markel Starks – Starks is an extremely solid point guard in all facets of the game, be it as a scorer, playmaker or defender.
As a defender, Starks fouls little and reads plays well, and generally puts forth a decent effort level albeit whilst slightly prone to giving up when beaten. He is small for the position and can be shot over, but it is not for a lack of contesting, and he moves his feet well to try to stay in front, rarely going for the steal. On offence, Starks rather lost his three point stroke last season and struggled to shoot over those bigger than he, which was quite a few. But inside the lane, he is very creative and skilled, with a strong mid-range game. Starks likes to attack the lane and gets there with body control, good feet and a relentless aggression; once there, he finishes fairly well at the basket for a small guard but better from slightly away from it, hitting floaters and runners and shooting pull-up jump shots very well. Starks is a regular users of screens, and can either drive or pull-up in screen action, as well as being able to do that thing so few collegiate point guards can do and actually hit the roll man. He has great body control, decent speed and runs the break fairly well, and although there are some bad decisions on both passes and jump shots along the way, Starks nevertheless much improved his IQ throughout his Hoyas career and became a leader of his team. He finds team mates, hits cutters, and has got the speed.
This ultimately is a package that may struggle to translate at the NBA level, due to his size. Starks struggles against bigger guards, and NBA guards are mostly going to be bigger than he is. However, if he gets the pull-up three to the same standard as the pull-up two, he has a chance some day.
Christian Watford – Oh look, another stretch forward. Since he was last profiled at last summer league, Watford has spent a year in Israel with Hapoel Eliat, averaging 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 26 minutes per game, taking almost three three pointers per game, but hitting only 30.6% of them. He still wants to be a shooter, but he wasn’t that good of one last year, as opposed to the 40%+ of his junior and senior years. Committing himself to the rebounding glass will make him not be so reliant on the jump shot to be effective, though he seems not to want this. Watford can score inside the arc, draw fouls, post and drive occasionally, yet it is apparently Brian Cook he is targeting, so hopefully they’ll make friends.