With the NBA’s Orlando Summer League winding down, the focus will shift west for the Las Vegas Summer League, which runs July 9-18. Twenty-two NBA teams will be in attendance, along with another team made up of players from the NBA Developmental League. The games will be played on the campus of UNLV, split between Cox Pavilion and the much larger Thomas & Mack Center. The Vegas Summer League provides NBA coaches and scouts an annual look at the league’s top rookies as well as promising second- and third-year players. While Summer League production can foreshadow regular season success (Anthony Randolph and Eric Gordon both averaged over 20 points in the league last summer), it is still an inexact science (Adam Morrison was the league’s fifth leading scorer in 2009). Here’s a breakdown of the key teams and players to watch in Vegas over the next week-and-a-half.
Rodrigue Beaubois, the 6-0 lightning bug from France, will be the Mavericks’ most entertaining player to watch this summer. After seeing just ten minutes of action in the first five games of the Mavs’ opening round loss to the Spurs in this spring’s playoffs, Beaubois logged 20 minutes and 16 points as an effective change-of-pace to the aging Jason Kidd in Game 6. Beaubois outplayed his more-heralded countryman, Tony Parker, but sat for much of the fourth quarter as the Spurs closed out the series. The Mavs’ summer league entry will be entirely in the hands of the second-year point guard as he will try to show that he is capable of taking over Kidd’s starting position when the veteran retires. Beaubois will also be in action later this summer, as he will represent France at this year’s World Championships in Turkey. Guard Dominique Jones, a first rounder in this year’s draft out of South Florida, led the Big East in scoring last season and will also bear watching in Vegas. Harvard’s Jeremy Lin, who will back up Beaubois in Las Vegas, is attempting to become the first Ivy Leaguer to play in the NBA since Chris Dudley in 2003. Center Omar Samhan of Saint Mary’s will also suit up for the Mavs after putting up 32 points in the Gaels’ second round upset of number 2 seed Villanova in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have several big men worth watching, including number 6 pick Ekpe Udoh of Baylor. The 6-10 Udoh is an athletic shot blocker (3.7 bpg last season) and used his 7-4 ½ wingspan to grab 10 rebounds a game for a Bears team that was one win short of the Final Four this spring. Anthony Randolph, still a week shy of his 21st birthday, will return to Vegas after he lit up the circuit with a league-best 27 PPG last summer. Randolph missed a large chunk of time last season due to an ankle injury, but has shown tremendous potential for the Warriors as he prepares to enter his third season. Brandan Wright, who missed all of last year because of shoulder surgery, will look to fulfill the promise the Warriors saw when they drafted him number 8 overall out of North Carolina in 2007. Instead of staying in Chapel Hill, (where his former classmates would win a title in 2009) Wright left for the NBA and has struggled to find success. He will look to prove that he is not a bust and is capable of cracking Don Nelson’s rotation.
Power forward Patrick Patterson will be the main new face for the Rockets as their first-rounder from Kentucky will suit up in his new duds for the first time. After a strong sophomore season in 2008-09 (18 PPG, 9 RPG, 2.1 BPG), Patterson’s stats fell off last season as the Wildcats incorporated productive freshmen such as John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. He still averaged a respectable 15 points and 8 rebounds per game, and has already shown that he is willing to play a complimentary role (as he likely will in Houston). Playing alongside Patterson at small forward is Chase Budinger, the high-flying redhead who will be entering his second year in the league. Budinger gave the Rockets some decent production off the bench last season (9 PPG, 37% on threes) and will look to shine as a larger piece of the offense. Center Jordan Hill, Budinger’s classmate at Arizona, was a lottery pick last year and came to Houston as part of the Tracy McGrady deal last season. Hill can bang for rebounds down low, but may find his minutes diminished this season upon the return of Yao Ming from foot surgery.