If the Nets make a trade or sign another free agent, nobody will remember Summer League. In a couple of months when training camp starts, it’ll be tough to remember several names who played on the Las Vegas roster.
That being said, the Nets didn't skip a beat as they try to create their new identity. Culture mattered just as much in Nevada as it does in New York.
Everybody showed up from Sean Marks on down. Most of Kenny Atkinson’s staff was there along with Ronald Nored, the Long Island head coach as well as two European coaches. Atkinson coached the five games himself, not what you expect in Summer League.
As for the players, six of them were on hand for at least one game. Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Sean Kilpatrick, Joe Harris and Trevor Booker were seen courtside or behind the hoop.
The Summer League roster included five players who were on the Brooklyn Nets roster last year, and two that were on the Long Island Nets roster. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, Archie Goodwin, Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead all played with the big team last season. Prince Ibeh and J.J. Moore played for Long Island.
The “experienced” Nets Summer team finished with a 3-2 record and made it to the quarter finals of the playoffs before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday. Atkinson and co. were taking this seriously.
Players fought for spots on a rebuilding Nets franchise. For those without NBA experience, it was a chance to impress the entire coaching staff and front office. For the others, it was their chance to show signs of growth.
Defense kept them afloat in many games. Teams averaged 83 points in five games against them. They gave up more than 100 points in only one of those games, the 115 L.A. scored Saturday.
Offensively, they showed some of the same issues that hurt the big club last year. They shot 28.3 percent from deep on 26 attempts per game. This doesn’t bode well for Atkinson’s motion offense. Overall, they averaged just 88.8 points on 42.6 percent shooting from the field.
So, who did well? Who did not?
Needless to say, Caris LeVert continues to prove he’s a legitimate piece in this rebuilding process. LeVert’s versatility was on display nightly, as his length and speed continue to give defenses problems with a quick first step that gives him space to drive past his man or take a step-back jumper. LeVert averaged 16 points and five rebounds on 47.5 percent shooting. His best game was the Nets’ playoff game against Los Angeles when he scored 23 points and hit 2-of-4 from deep. This remains his biggest flaw currently: three-point shooting. He hit just 4-of-23 from long range, just 17 percent, and as we know, you have to hit the open three ball in Atkinson’s system. Especially as a wing.
This was Hollis-Jefferson’s third Summer League and his strengths and flaws played out again on the Vegas stage. His jumper is a work in progress, but good things happen when he’s on the floor. He possesses athleticism that the Nets very much lack and he's shown his ability to play the 4. Defense remains his forte. Although a little rambunctious at times, RHJ was pretty consistent in the five games averaging 10 points and 9.4 rebounds on 49.6 percent shooting. On Saturday he went for 15 and 13. His frame appears a bit wider which helps him bang down low, but something has got to give with that jump shot.
Dinwiddie looks more and more comfortable every time you see him play. He’s becoming a smarter basketball player, exemplified by his ability to draw contact when he’s shooting from deep. He put up a little over 10 points per game – highlighted by a 22-point performance in the quarterfinals. He turned the ball over once per game, but dished only two assists per game. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was his defense. His long arms were always active in the passing lanes. At 6-6, Dinwiddie’s length poses as a problem for smaller guards. His best defensive game came when he nabbed five steals against Atlanta early in the tournament. He showed off his ability to cover the other team's primary ball handler, as seen in the last game of the tournament. He was the one chosen to cover Lonzo Ball. Despite all the hype, Ball shot just 4-of-12 from the field. He wasn't the reason the Nets lost.
Dinwiddie is fighting for a spot against several other guards and needless to say, he certainly played like it.
Whitehead looked a bit rusty in his first game of the tournament, but turned it around quickly and finished off on the right note. He looked a bit more stockier in his upper body which helped him body up defenders and bully his way into the paint. His spin move nicknamed “the cyclone” looked as smooth as ever. When Whitehead puts on his streetball cap, he becomes a whole lot of fun to watch. He scored in double digits in all five games finishing with averages of 13.2 points and 44 percent shooting. Like the other three already mentioned, his three-point ball needs work. He finished 5-of-17 in the five games. Other than that, he looks —and sounds— much more confident than he did a year ago.
This was Archie's fourth Summer League. He showed his ability to get into the paint and create for himself and teammates. At times he was a bit too wild and had a hard time finishing both around the rim .... and beyond the perimeter (4-of-13). He was all too inconsistent with games of 14, 6, 18, 8 and 5. On the bright side, his athleticism is something the Nets could use especially on the defensive end where he was a pest for ball handlers. He had no problem pressing the handler and recovering if he was beat up the floor.
He’s worth developing, but with so many guards on the roster, will he make the cut? There were points where he had the chance to take over but didn't. The 2-of-12 finisher didn’t exactly help his case.
Ibeh was the Long Island Nets product who the front office appears willing to develop. He’s extremely raw but they’re intrigued by his ‘lobs and blocks’ possibility. Ibeh started the first two games and was yanked for Nathan Boothe (who signed a deal with a club in Turkey after the second game of the tournament.). He played no more than 11 minutes in a game and received two CD-DNP’s after disappointing performances early. He was slow with his rotations and found himself in foul trouble way too often. He’s a work in progress.
Doyle showed his ability to play at a high level on both sides of the ball despite playing minimal minutes. He logged zero minutes in the first game, but answered with an efficient 13-point game in 16 minutes the next one. He scored 8.4 points and shot 17-of-30 from the field (56.6%) in 12.6 minutes per game. Atkinson likes him.
In one notable sequence Saturday, he ran down a fast break, blocked the shot and went 94 feet the other way.
The Nets first round pick didn't play because of a left hip flexor he sustained during a draft workout. He shot around, looked very tall and very young. He was the sixth youngest player taken in the draft at 19 years, two months. Nets fans will have to wait until preseason in October for a look at his development.
Others included the 6'10" Boothe, who, as mentioned, signed a deal in the middle of the tournament. His shooting stroke is smooth and he was fun to watch play with these guys.
Jacob Wiley, the ultimate underdog story, is a freak athlete with potential. If they’re willing to put in the time with him, he can be an asset one day. He already has a two-way deal. Jeremy Senglin didn’t play much, but he’s a pure shooter. He’ll find a niche somewhere, most likely Long Island. Long term, he could go overseas or find a team that’s willing to develop a one-dimensional player.
Summer League is a learning experience for everybody in the Nets organization. The coaches are still learning and the players are fighting for a chance to prove themselves. As an organization, the Nets showed what they’re all about. Cohesiveness is a big part of the culture they’re trying to build and having one another’s back is crucial. It’s a team first mentality.
Will it matter? We’ll find out. At the very least, it gave us a 5-game sample of what some of the young core has to offer and how they’re improving.