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Impressions from Portland Trail Blazers Summer League Game 2

Dave Deckard from shares impressions of the Portland Trail Blazers' second Summer League game from Thomas and Mack Center in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. Who shone, who bombed, and which players showed the most promise for the coming year.


I made it to Vegas finally and got a chance to observe the Portland Trail Blazers' second Summer League game.

Some are frustrated about the lack of success for the Blazers as a team so far in Summer League. You don't need to worry about that much. Wins and losses are relatively meaningless. Individual performances and demonstrated skills tell the tale more than stats and scoreboards.

Having read some of your comments on-site, one common frustration seems stems from the disjointed play of the team as a whole. Part of that is Summer League. These guys haven't played together. Many of them haven't played in the NBA at all. But you should also get used to some of that disjointed feeling. Most of Portland's roster is inexperienced in the league and with each other. The Blazers will have a solid game plan and be able to execute it to some degree. But they're not likely to compensate well when opponents catch up to their design or when things go wrong. The young guys seemed to be communicating well on the floor early, less so later in the game. When the Lakers' Summer League team put pressure in the right places Portland's players started concentrating on escaping trouble themselves instead of helping each other out. As they say, that's a bug of this roster, it's a feature of going so young. Growing pains and confusion are the price for potential.

Notes on individual players:

C.J. McCollum has a bankable asset already in his ability to get his jumper off with little space, particularly coming off a screen. If the Blazers set good picks for him he's going to shoot the opposition dead through small cracks in the fence. He's also pretty crafty with the ball...a good quality. His finish off the dribble is less certain. He'll have to find a way to score before he gets to the rim before he's able to convert layups. He's not quick enough or high enough to the cup to convert in traffic without getting the defense off-balance first. McCollum's defense needs work. He's into the game at that end, which is a positive sign. He just doesn't have the know-how right now nor the pure athleticism to make up for its lack. Finally, as you no doubt saw, as soon as he got double-teamed all bets were off. Part of this is experience again. He let himself get trapped on the sideline, forced into bad passes because he didn't know how to deal with help defense. Part of it is size and quickness as well. You can see real promise in McCollum but he's going to have to learn which situations favor him early on in order to exploit his talent, then branch out. He's not likely to be a one-solution-fits-all guard.

Thomas Robinson looks like a great athlete when he gets free. That can be said of many NBA players but at least you know T-Rob can flash with the best of them. I really enjoyed watching him shadow rebounds before going for them. He has a nose for the ball, as advertised. On the other hand, he didn't always run faster than he had to nor did he get into every play with the same vigor. He also seems to struggle against players he can't overpower physically. Technique and approach are going to be critical to his success.

Allen Crabbe has a bit of an unorthodox shot but he seems comfortable with it. I could see him hitting jumpers. I'm wondering about his ball-handling and his defense. More data needed here.

Joel Freeland looked about the same. He was OK, nothing really wrong, but he didn't leave enough of an impact on the game.

Will Barton put in plenty of energy on the offensive end. He had a few spectacular moments. Playing nice with others might be an issue but again, it's Summer League. The offense breaks down more often than a vintage Jaguar.

Meyers Leonard looks OK as long as you put him between 8-10 feet away from the bucket and let him shoot. Otherwise he looks pretty brutal still, especially on defense. His timing is non-existent, almost anti-timing. His body control is stuck on "zero". He spent several defensive stands hanging around the same four square feet of space, then heading back to the other end. That last one is a sin, especially when he's been given the keys to the interior defense and told to take it somewhere. Even fouling out trying to do something poorly is better than not affecting the game at all. Whether his perception and mastery of the game will change is up to debate, but his energy and execution have to or the NBA is going to be a headache-inducing experience for him.

More coming after Game 3 on Tuesday!

--Dave (