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Bucks vs. Hornets Preview: Milwaukee Opens Vegas Summer League Against Anthony Davis-Less New Orleans

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2012 Vegas Summer League

0-0 0-1
July 16, 2012
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
9:30 PM CT
TV: Broadband
Probable starters:
Aaron Miles PG Austin Rivers
Doron Lamb SG Xavier Henry
Tobias Harris SF Darius Miller
Larry Sanders PF Lance Thomas
Brian Butch (?) C Darko Planinic

On the Hornets: At the Hive / Hornets 24/7 / Hornets Hype

Real NBA(ish) basketball is back!

The Vegas Hornets won't have top pick Anthony Davis tonight--he's slumming with those Team USA guys--but they will feature tenth overall pick Austin Rivers when they take on the Bucks in Milwaukee's Vegas Summer League opener. Rivers struggled in the Hornets' Vegas opener on Sunday night, going just 3/13 for 14 points with six fouls, four turnovers and two assists in the Hornets' 85-82 loss to Portland.

The Bucks will unfortunately also be missing their top pick, as John Henson is out of tonight's game with a stomach virus but expected back for Wednesday's contest.

What to watch for:

  • Rookies. Lottery pick John Henson and 42nd overall selection Doron Lamb figure to start and see plenty of time this week, with Henson presumably starting up front next to Larry Sanders and Lamb likely starting in the backcourt. We'll of course be keeping a close eye on the slender Henson's ability to hold his ground inside on both ends, particularly on the defensive end where he'll hopefully be ready to make some kind of immediate impact. He's now up to 224 pounds after checking in at 216 in Chicago, but as long as he rebounds and block shots at a high level I'll be happy. If he shows off some offensive polish in Vegas I'll consider it gravy, though for now the first goal is getting back on the court.

    Lamb was a lights-out shooter at Kentucky, so hopefully he adapts to the longer NBA three point line quickly. Recall that former Wildcat Jodie Meeks initially struggled in that department after the Bucks drafted him in 2009, only to regain his stroke after being traded to the Sixers. Otherwise I hope we see Lamb get some time leading the offense--he did a little of that at UK--and like every rookie we'll have to see if his defensive abilities carry over to higher level of competition. A matchup with Rivers--who the Hornets are attempting to use at point guard--would be a nice early test.
  • Tobias' chance. Though he has a year of NBA basketball under his belt, Tobias Harris will be making his Vegas debut on Monday and it's a big week for him in general. With Carlos Delfino not expected back, Harris appears in line for a major bump in minutes, as he figures to share SF minutes with Mike Dunleavy and Luc Mbah a Moute. Harris showed surprising savvy around the hoop, in transition and in the post as a rookie, but the big question is whether he can develop the perimeter skills necessary to be a high-level NBA small forward. Showing off a more consistent jumper is the number one thing most of us will be watching out for, though he's my odds-on favorite to lead the Vegas Bucks in scoring even if his three point shot isn't up to snuff yet.
  • Sanders. Larry Sanders put in a solid showing as a Vegas rookie back in 2010, and you'd hope that he would look even better now that he has two years of NBA experience under his belt. Sanders probably won't play as much as the younger Harris, Henson and Lamb--he may sit out some games like Amir Johnson did back in 2009--but he'll likely see a good number of touches in the post and have the green light to crank up jumpers. It'd be nice to see him show improvement in those areas, though a consistent jumper would be more useful than improvement on the block, where he's unlikely to ever be a go-to-guy. Practically speaking, the main thing I'd like to see is improved strength down low, both as a finisher and rebounder. Oh, and the ability to catch passes? Yeah, that'd be nice too.
  • The other guys. It's not likely that any of the non-roster players make the regular season roster; as far as I can tell it's never happened during the Hammond/Skiles era. But rules are made to be broken and there is some talent on the roster beyond Harris, Sanders, Henson and Lamb. Brian Butch is the most recognizable name among the non-roster players, and his combination of rebounding and pick-and-popability certainly holds some appeal, even if it's just as a 14th or 15th man.

    Former Kansas point guard Aaron Miles might see the most minutes among the "other" guys, mainly because none of the Bucks' real point guards are in Vegas. He's carved out a nice niche in Europe over the years, while shooting guard Tarence Kinsey has done the same after showing some promise early in his career with the Grizzlies.