Now the Las Vegas has come to a close we have gotten our first look at the top ten picks of the 2008 draft against other NBA players. Some disappointed, some excelled, and some did as we expected. Summer league success/failure has never been a true indicator of pro success, but it does give us an idea of what the player's strengths and weaknesses are. With just one player on this list still actively playing in the summer, here are the grades for how the top ten picks played in their respective summer leagues:
Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
Noteworthy Performance: Nine points, eight assists against the Indiana Pacers
Review: Rose's performance in Orlando was not exactly the start he wanted to his Bull career. At times Rose looked out of control and despite having some legitimate weapons he never found his comfort zone running the team. Towards the end of the Orlando Summer League news broke that he had a mild case of right knee tendinitis holding him back. If Rose didn't just get done dominating at Memphis a few months ago there would be reason to be concerned in Chicago, but he did and it's just two summer league games. Don't expect to see the same Derrick Rose come the start of the regular season that you did in Orlando.
Michael Beasley – Miami HEAT
Noteworthy Performance: 25 points, eight rebounds against the Orlando Magic.
Review: In his few games at Orlando Beasley showed the exact same things he did at Kansas State last year: the ability to create his own shot, a wide offensive arsenal, and solid rebounding skills. The biggest issue that Beasley had at Orlando was efficiency. Beasley shot 38% from the field largely due to poor shot selection. Beasley had the freedom to do as he pleased offensively at the camp, but that won't be the case once the regular season starts. Beasley did show some very encouraging signs and with Shawn Marion on the block the HEAT have to feel pretty content with what they got with the number two pick.
O.J. Mayo – Memphis Grizzlies
Noteworthy Performance: 26 points, five rebounds against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Review: Like Michael Beasley, you came away saying the same things about Mayo after summer league that you did after his freshman year. Mayo is adept at scoring the , but his shot selection is questionable, and he turns the ball over at an extremely high rate. Considering that he spent a lot of time playing with a true point guard in the backcourt with him you would have hoped Mayo shot the ball better and turned it over less. Still, his overall talent was on full display and Mayo made people's jaws drop with plays like the 69-footer he nailed, or the vicious dunk he had over Hilton Armstrong. Mayo knows what areas he needs to work on, but it's obvious Memphis got a player.
Kevin Love – Minnesota Timberwolves
Noteworthy Performance: 18 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Review: Reports that Kevin Love got in the best shape of his life leading up to the NBA Draft were definitely not false. The hard work that Love put in after the end of his college season continued to pay off as he was one of the best player at Las Vegas. Love treated every rebound like it was his and would let nothing get in his way. Offensively he was extremely impressive as well, but it will be his work on the glass that is really important alongside Al Jefferson. Jefferson can provide the points, but what the Wolves really need is consistent rebounding, and it appears they got it in Kevin Love.
Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
Noteworthy Performance: 18 points, five rebounds, four assists against the Indiana Pacers
Review: There were some questions about how well Westbrook would play since this was his first time playing at the point guard position exclusively. He looked like a seasoned point guard though alongside Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. Westbrook handled the point extremely well and looks ready to play the position full-time. The only issue in Orlando was Westbrook's jump shot mechanics, which need some work. Other than that Westbrook play really impressed the Sonics, until they saw Jerryd Bayless earn MVP honors in Las Vegas. As good as Westbrook may be, Bayless should have been the pick.
Danilo Gallinari – New York Knicks
Noteworthy Performance: 14 points, six rebounds, two assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers
Review: Due to lower back pain Gallinari played in just one game at Las Vegas. In that one game it took him a half to get a feel for the style, but after that he looked really good. He showcased an impressive touch on his jumper and some very nice ball-handling skills. It would have been really nice to see him go against the better players in Vegas, but we'll just have to wait another couple of months to get another glimpse of the Italian sensation.
Eric Gordon – Los Angeles Clippers
Noteworthy Performance: 23 points, seven rebounds, two assists against the Dallas Mavericks.
Review: Gordon played in just two games at Las Vegas due to a strained hamstring, but that was all Clippers fans needed to see. Gordon looked ready to contribute offensively right away. His jump shot wasn't falling like it typically does, but Gordon can score in a bunch of other ways. In the open court he was great, and he also got to the line 10 times a game. Defensively he struggled to stay in front of the quicker players. Gordon didn't just focus on offense either; he rebounded, made plays for others, and caused turnovers on the other side of the court. With Baron Davis as his mentor, sky is the limit for Gordon.
Joe Alexander – Milwaukee Bucks
Noteworthy Performance: 10 points, seven rebounds, three blocks against the Denver Nuggets.
Review: Alexander's play in Milwaukee was not stellar to say the least. If anything he made the Bucks really happy that they pulled off the Richard Jefferson trade, because he does not appear to be ready. Alexander looked timid at times throughout Vegas and didn't assert himself like he should have. Alexander looks a year away from being able to handle the speed, physicality, and athleticism of the NBA game. His rookie year looks like it will mainly be a learning opportunity. Make to mistake about it though, he has the ability to play this game and play it well - just not right now.
D.J. Augustin – Charlotte Bobcats
Noteworthy Performance: 30 points, six rebounds against the Golden State Warriors.
Review: It's really tough being a true point guard on a team with very little weapons, but that was Augustin's situation in Las Vegas. Augustin made plays for others; they just weren't capable of finishing. Four assists total in three games for a point guard of Augustin's caliber gives you an idea of how much of a struggle it was for his teammates. Augustin showed in his last game against the Warriors though that he was capable of getting his own offense when he needed to. Before the draft nine appeared to be too high to take Augustin, but it's not looking that way anymore.
Brook Lopez – New Jersey Nets
Noteworthy Performance: 22 points, eight rebounds, three blocks against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Review: Lopez had an awful debut for the Nets, but after that first bad game he really looked like a steal for at 10. For years now this team has been looking for someone who can score for them inside the paint, and it looks like they finally found that player in Brook. Lopez left the impression on everyone in Orlando that he is ready to contribute offensively right now. Defensively he did average nearly two blocks a game, but the rebounds weren't as high as you would like. Rebounding has always been an area where Brook needs to improve, but overall the Nets have to be extremely pleased with him. Lopez is the only player on this list who is still playing, as the Nets are participating in the Rocky Mountain Revue.
Outside of Joe Alexander and perhaps Danilo Gallinari everyone on this list is going to see extensive minutes during their rookie campaign. Michael Beasley, Brook Lopez, and Kevin Love all looked like viable rookie of the year candidates. While the three of them looked poised to have big years – don't expect the award to go anywhere but to Portland for Jerryd Bayless or Greg Oden.
- Part Two Coming Soon!