The Bucks return to the court for their second game of the Vegas Summer League on Sunday, tipping off against the San Antonio Spurs at 5:30 central time in the big gym at Thomas & Mack. We won't bother trying to break down the matchup itself; it's Vegas, so who wins and loses is fairly irrelevant. Check out our recap from yesterday's Bucks opener against the Pelicans here, and see a quick refresher on the Bucks' roster below.
Bucks roster and numbers pic.twitter.com/KeSKrxY6wB— Eric Buenning (@ericbuenning) July 10, 2015
Instead, I'll offer a few general thoughts from my time in Vegas this weekend:
1. Damien Inglis is weird...and I like it. Him struggling to stay on the court...not so much.
Inglis has been the Bucks' biggest mystery over the last year, but after two foot/ankle surgeries we finally saw him in a competitive environment on Friday. Despite carrying a robust 240 pounds on his funky 6'8" frame, Inglis still might not be fully-formed physically -- he's got a serious backside that he puts to good use, but he's not carrying as much weight on his torso and upper body as his base. It's difficult to believe he's just a month or so removed from turning 20, and that's obviously a major piece of his intrigue as a player.
After a quiet (and at times breathless) start to the game, Inglis began to flash his versatility on both ends near the end of the first quarter and into the second, scoring his first bucket on a short stepback and following it with a nice pass inside and a tidy up-and-under finish. Defensively it was harder to draw firm conclusions, though he didn't seem to have any problems moving his feet against the Pelicans' coterie of random journeymen forwards.
Alas, the good vibes didn't last for long. Moments after swallowing up former Indiana wing Drew Sheehey one-on-one late in the shot clock, Inglis started to limp around the court and eventually went to the bench, where he sat down on the floor and took off his right shoe. Worryingly, that's the same foot that cost him all of last season, though he returned to the bench and was standing up and yelling instructions at times in the fourth. More importantly, he said after the game that it was just a matter of general fatigue (that affects your foot?) and that he expected to play on Sunday, and he did practice with the team on Saturday. Let's hope that's the case, because the Bucks' current crop of combo forwards is both super exciting (Giannis! Jabari!) and super thin. If Milwaukee does make a move between now and camp, another body capable of playing the 4 would make plenty of sense.
As far as comps go, the only obvious guy I might compare Inglis to from an upside standpoint is Boris Diaw -- right down to the French league upbringing and poor conditioning (for now). He seems to have very good instincts, footwork and lateral mobility for a man his size, while also possessing the physicality to bang on the smaller guys he's able to check on the other end. I'm not going to project him as an elite defender just yet, but he clearly has the tools to fit in well with the Bucks' defensive system.
2. For better or worse, Rashad Vaughn lived up (and down) to his scouting report.
The Bucks' 18-year-old had an easy time creating shots against the Pelicans on Friday, though we shouldn't confuse that with creating easy shots. Vaughn has a knack for creating the separation necessary for getting off pull-ups and floaters, and we saw a good sample of his O.J. Mayo-like bag of tricks in his 14-point Bucks debut. Still, it's tough to score efficiently when most of your shots are contested jumpers; Vaughn didn't get to the rim at all, and his final line wasn't helped by the fact that he missed all four of his threes (including a couple wide open looks). If a couple of those go down his line would have of course looked markedly better, and I'm hoping he can break the Curse of Bucks Shooting Guards in Vegas that previously afflicated Jodie Meeks and Doron Lamb in their summer league debuts.
Otherwise, Vaughn did a nice job helping on the boards, but overall was mostly just kind of there defensively. Against the Pelicans that wasn't a real problem per se, but come regular season Jason Kidd and company will probably want to see a bit more intensity if he's going to nab any regular minutes. Until then, #SUMMERLEAGUE.
3. The rookies are looking like a decidedly mixed bag. Because...well, they're rookies.
It's important not to make too much of what we see (and don't see) from rookies in Vegas, which is good news for most of this year's rookie class. The standout performances have few and far between this year, with most fans having to play the optimist card and focus on "flashes" of talent rather than any sustained productivity. Which reminds me...
Vegas Translator: "Dominated"=Took 30 shots, made 9 "Impressed"=Dribbled, didn't fall down "Showed flashes"=Sucked, cool dunk in warmup tho— Frank Madden (@brewhoop) July 10, 2015
With all that said, some random observations:
- Top pick Karl-Anthony Towns opened Saturday's Wolves-Bulls matchup with a nifty fallaway 18-footer, then made just one more shot the rest of the game as Bulls' rookie (and Brew Hoop predraft favorite) Bobby Portis stole headlines with an energetic 23-point, 7-rebound effort that also featured an impressive 3/4 night from deep. No one's going to argue that Portis has Towns' upside, but I'm still amazed that he slipped all the way to Chicago at #22 -- and for the sake of my own sanity I hope he doesn't continue to outshoot Vaughn the rest of the week.
- As much as I like watching Zach LaVine dunk, I dislike basically everything else about watching him play. Though he scored 20 against the Bulls, he was also in full chucker mode (5/20 fg, 1 assist) and there's something about the way he carries himself that just irks me -- it's almost like he's more concerned with looking .
- Lakers' second overall pick D'Angelo Russell should in theory be able to play with second-year combo guard Jordan Clarkson; they're both big enough to guard both backcourt spots, and you'd think having two playmakers in the backcourt would be a good thing. That said, Clarkson seemed perhaps a bit too intent on proving he's better than Russell on Saturday, preferring to go one-on-one over and over rather than let Russell steal his thunder. In the end it worked at least in a self-serving sense; Clarkson had 19 points and a lone assist on 16 shots, while Russell struggled to a 4/15 night including seven turnovers.
It's clear that Russell has good size for the point guard spot and uncommon vision as a passer, but he also struggled to get to and score at the rim -- the common concern we heard repeated over and over before the draft. Adding strength will help over time, though he'll be a fascinating guy to watch this season while sharing the backcourt with Clarkson and that Kobe Bryant guy.
- Third overall pick Jahlil Okafor was much more impressive on Saturday, scoring 19 points (6/14 fg, 7/12 ft) to go with 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He also coughed it up five times, but his polish in the post was clearly evident against some decent Laker bigs including Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw. While the NBA has somewhat famously become a small man's league, I'm not so sure I would have had the guts to pass on Okafor for anyone at #2.
- Okafor's performance also provided some solace for Sixer fans still reeling from news that Joel Embiid's bad foot is expected to cost him a second consecutive season. Embiid was in the house and walking around like normal before and after the game, including some joking with former teammate Michael Carter-Williams. But his surgically repaired foot has apparently still not healed properly, and yet another surgery may be required. Obviously it's sad news for a guy that many (myself included) saw as a possible generational talent ahead of the 2014 draft, though it also raises an interesting question: if Embiid hadn't broken his foot on June 20, 2014, how different might the Cavs, Bucks and Sixers rosters look today?