This is pretty much the same theme as the last Portland game. Portland's experience and chemistry that their starting lineup shares is too much for just about any team here to overcome. Will Barton, C.J. McCollum, and Thomas Robinson remain to look like good basketball players. McCollum in particular is the one that stands out to me and that's primarily based off what I wrote about him the first time I saw them play. Portland continues to have an intriguing core built around almost all of their players having a lot of great years left. The gap here was clear, as the Hawks would be within 5 and then all of a sudden I'm looking up to see Barton throw a between-the-legs lob to Robinson on the fast break to put the Blazers up 15. They are my favorites to win it all.
Daryl Morey is known as the asset master that is willing to make any deal to acquire a star and he has a couple of intriguing young players. My interest was always with Nick Johnson, who has a very good game for the pros and I know that he can be a good NBA player. The first place where Johnson will help you succeed is defensively. Somewhere lost between east coast bias and stupidity was Johnson not getting national recognition as a defender in college. He was easily the best in his conference and was the best defender on the best defensive team in the country. Johnson's 49-inch vertical (!) really stands out to you of course, but his athleticism is so pertinent defensively. He moves extremely well laterally and uses that extra hops advantage to make height advantages disappear at only 6'3". That vertical also makes him one of the most premier chase-down block players around. There are montages of his athleticism all over the Internet. He has a tremendous feel for what his opponents are going to do and those reactions combined with his quickness combine for one hell of a defensive player.
On the offensive side, he uses that IQ and athleticism to create space. He has the ability to run the point and is a very good passer who understands who to find in the right spots. The question for Johnson's career is if he's going to be consistent with his jump shot. He can always create space with it and the rise he has gives him a good look on almost anyone defending him. Even in open situations off-the-ball Johnson was not always a "knock-down" shooter in college. Everything is fine with his release and the way he shoots, it just needs to start going in more frequently if that makes sense.
At the very least though, I saw everyone who Johnson was guarding on the Clippers fail to get into the key against him. Delonte West on the first possession tried to get by Johnson for 7 seconds before having a "fuuuuuu" moment in realizing there was no way he was getting by him. The rest of the time the man Johnson was guarding was mostly involved off the ball because they couldn't create. He will be able to do this for the Rockets.
It's pretty tough to judge performance off of the summer league and it was even tougher today because of the opponent. The Suns played a Sixers summer league squad without it's three best players. Nerlens Noel, K.J. McDaniels, and Casper Ware all sat. The level of talent on the Sixers side was really low so it's difficult to jump to any conclusions after this one. I'll make due though.
There were a couple of standouts. Miles Plumlee was the most active he's been so far in Vegas, getting a couple of offensive rebounds and generally being all over the place with his energy. The post-ups were still there but this is the area of his game that can still be a positive for the team without running plays for him. The sweeping left hook he had early on was actually really pretty and it's weird to say that about a Plumlee post-up.
T.J. Warren continues to score without doing anything too impressive which is what he's all about. He has yet to get the right touch on his floater but he's still scoring all around the basket and is automatic in that department. Even without many touches in scoring situations individually he still got his. Warren scored 28 points and put his field goals at 23-39 for Vegas.
That's it for me from Vegas. Thanks a lot for reading. Summer league was a lot of fun to cover and was a terrific experience. Look for the bossman Dave King to pick up his coverage here on Thursday.
This game features three top-6 picks in the past two years. Well, their teams at least.
No Nerlens Noel (rest). No Joel Embiid (out). No Alex Len (finger).
Hopefully the Suns can finish 2-1 before playoff brackets start on Thursday.
After signing Isaiah Thomas and drafting Tyler Ennis, the Phoenix Suns had no room for another point guard and wish Ish Smith the best in his future endeavors.
One of the pleasant surprises of last season was the emergence of Ishmael Smith as a spirited rotation player in the backup point guard role.
Ish made the league minimum, and his 2014-15 contract was going to be guaranteed if he was on the Suns roster after today (July 15). Ish being squeezed out is more a matter of numbers than anything else. There just wouldn't be minutes for him next season, barring catastrophic injuries.
"We thank Ish Smith for his contributions to the Suns," said President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in the Suns press release. "He played with an infectious joy. We wish him well."
Ish came over to the Suns in the trade of Caron (we hardly knew ye) Butler to Milwaukee in late August along with Viasheslav Kravtsov and quickly earned the backup job from Kendall Marshall, who was later dumped to the scrap heap via Washington.
Smith quickly gained a connection with the team as a spirited lock room presence and speed demon on the court when he got a chance to play. His chance really took off when Eric Bledsoe missed half the season due to knee surgery, becoming the primary backup point guard to Goran Dragic.
Smith was a speed demon on the court with the ball, but was a real non-factor in scoring. He could not make three pointers and had trouble getting to the rim in traffic. But his open court game was perfect for the run-n-gun Suns who led the league in fast break points.
Ish Smith, by the way, is one of only three Suns backups since the 80s to collect at least two 8-assist games in less than 20 minutes of playing time in a single season. The others: Jeff Hornacek and Goran Dragic.
But with the Suns playing two point guards at a time, they need at least four to rotate throughout the game and cover for injuries. Dragic and Bledsoe only started 34 games together last year - less than half the season. So, the Suns decided to double down on the 2PG system by adding more talent.