I don’t want to make a huge deal out of summer league, as it is hardly a measure of how the participants will perform once the regular season rolls along, but a lot went on in the Cavaliers in Las Vegas. The team went 3-2 in a five-game exhibition league, losing to the Charlotte Bobcats on a rare technical foul and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Cavs did beat the D-League select team (a team comprised of D-League all-stars), the Phoenix Suns and walloped the New York Knicks. But remember, the summer league is hardly a measure of how the regular season will turn out. The summer league consists mainly of rookies or young bench players, but you will sometimes see some jobless veterans.
There are some important topics to touch on when talking about the Cavaliers summer league like head coach Byron Scott saying that Dion Waiters had to lose 10 pounds. Now it’s time to dissect each game and every story behind them.
Charlotte Bobcats vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 64-68 (L)
The rookie debuts of center Tyler Zeller and guard Dion Waiters showed a lot about where the two players are in their transition to the NBA. Zeller threw down some powerful dunks and showed poise in his shooting while Waiters traded clutch shots with guard Kemba Walker. It wasn’t until under a minute to go that Waiters made a costly mistake, part due to the coaching staff.
With no timeouts left Waiters received the inbounds pass and quickly signaled for a timeout, resulting in a technical foul that secured the victory for the Bobcats. Before that Waiters hit a long two-point shot to put the Cavs up 64-63 with just over 15 seconds to go in the game. Walker then proceeded to dice through the Cavalier defenders into the lane, converting on a beautiful floater. After that is when the trapped Waiters panicked and signaled for a timeout.
The former Syracuse bench player had an off shooting night, converting on three of 11 attempts that were from outside of the paint. Waiters didn’t take the time to drive to the lane and usually just popped a shot when he received the ball. Samardo Samuels, who played great off the bench, and Waiters both notched 10 points in the exhibition contest.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he No. 2 pick in the NBA draft by the Bobcats, did not play because of a tweaked knee.
NBA D-League Select vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 94-88 (W)
What confused me about Waiters in his first two starts in summer league play is why he didn’t attack the hoop more often. Whenever he did it resulted in points, as confused defenses couldn’t seem to get to the Cavaliers guard. The two guard scored in double figures again, but also struggled from the field, bringing his shooting percentage to 25.9 percent.
Zeller once again impressed me, showing that he is powerful enough to fight down low in the paint and score and also create hard-to-defend shots such as the sky hook to ensure his defenders couldn’t get to the ball. The former Tar Heel finished with 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting five of eight from the field and nine of 10 from the free throw line. Zeller’s shooting habits have me very excited to see him in regular season form, as he has always been an accurate big man from the stripe and the field.
Donald Sloan, who spent some time in the D-League last season, also recorded 19 points in the victory. Along with Samuels (11 points) and Luke Harangody (12 points), Sloan is ready to take on the job as a role player for the Cavs. You can tell by looking at players such as Samuels, who came into the summer league a lot lighter and a lot more in shape.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Phoenix Suns – 89-74 (W)
The aggressiveness that Waiters, who came off the bench because he had to change his uniform and socks before the game, has put on in the summer league so far has me wondering why he just doesn’t take the ball to the rim every time he shoots. He shot 5-15 from the field, scoring 16 points in what would be the rookie’s final summer league contest. The spinning drives and finishes that Waiters showcased in his three exhibition games excites me, but he must work on his outside-shooting form in time for Byron Scott’s grueling training camp.
Taking a look at the big men now, Zeller recorded a double-doulbe and again showed why he can be the big that the Cavaliers are in need of. Samuels displayed his newly renovated athleticism, as the forward scored a team-high 17 points and shot a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line. Tristan Thompson made his summer league debut, but without much of a splash as the 2011 No. 4 pick had four points and grabbed four boards in eight minutes of play.
Guard and No. 13 overall pick in the draft Kendall Marshall made his summer league debut against the Cavs, as he dished out five assists.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – 65-78 (L)
Beside from the continuing solid bench play from Samuels and a powerful showing from Thompson, the Cavaliers didn’t impress in their fourth exhibition game against the Timberwolves. Waiters was out with a sore knee while Zeller struggled to get anything going from the field, shooting 1-7 from the field. He had previously shot 51.8 percent from the field in the first three games.
Thompson shot 7-10 from the field in 20 minutes of play, adding 16 points to the Cavs total via “throwing the hammer down.” Strong is a good word to describe the play of Thompson against the Timberwolves, but I’m still concerned about the defensive aspect of his game. By letting players like Minnesota forward Derrick Williams, who put on a show with 23 points and many rim-rattling dunks, bully him in the middle he is making himself susceptible to the big finishers in the NBA.
Williams has been looking great, and I’m not only talking about his play. He has gotten his weight down to 233 pounds from 248 last year. His ideal weight right now is 225 pounds, as the Arizona project seems to be shifting his interest into playing small forward.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks – 98-64 (W)
The Cavaliers were all over the Knicks in their summer league finale, handing the Knicks their fifth straight loss in Las Vegas action. Thompson showed up big early, but was taken out of the game after suffering an eye injury. He scored 13 points in 12 minutes of play, throwing down some impressive dunks during the short time that he played.
Samuels, who I think will be one of the bigger contributors off the Cavaliers bench this season, ended an impressive summer league showing with a nine-point, 13-rebound performance. Harangody and Sloan could also fulfill that same role off the bench as well, as they scored 12 points and eight points respectively.
Justin Holiday, the younger brother of Philadelphia 76ers guard Jrue Holiday, recorded 12 points and also shows a lot of potential going into training camp, wherever he lands. He also spent time with the 76ers summer league squad.
The Cavaliers still have a long way to go before training camp starts in late September, but promising summer league performances from the likes of Samuels and Zeller should have Cavs nation excited. Here are the final averages from the summer league roster via NBA.com:
|2012 Cavaliers Summer League Averages|