It took the Blazers a double overtime, sudden-death three-pointer against the Jazz last night in order to get their first win in the Las Vegas Summer League. In an instant-rematch, the Jazz responded with a 86-71 win in the first round of the Summer League Playoffs. The Blazers are out of the tournament, but will play one consolation game, Friday at 3pm against the Boston Celtics. Portland was without starting point guard Shabazz Napier, who was shut down after straining his left shoulder in Tuesday's game. However, the injury is not to be considered serious. The Jazz were without Vegas Summer League leading scorer Tres Lyles, who had already proved he is too good to be playing in Summer League.
Shooting plagued the Trail Blazers in their previous two Summer league losses, and that was no different today. After the game was out of reach, the Blazers hit four of their last seven three-pointers, to increase their percentage to an abysmal 23% (6-26) for the game. The Blazers mustered up just 71 points in 40 minutes and looked like a team without a direction. The Jazz made their open three, took care of the ball, and dominated the boards.
Luckily, Summer League is not about wins. It's about talent evaluation, so let's get to that.
With Napier out, the Blazers started Vegas native Pierre Jackson at the point for the second time this summer. After a rough outing yesterday, Jackson was the lone bright spot for the dreadful offense. His end-to-end speed and quickness led to some one-man fast breaks and easy finishes. He was able to get into the key and, despite being only 5'11", he was able to use an assortment of fakes and floaters to get some points in the paint. His two three-pointers contributed to his game-high 18 points. Jackson thoroughly outplayed Napier this summer, but after Portland traded for Napier just over a week ago, it would be surprising if Jackson was able to pass Napier in the regular season depth chart.
Noah Vonleh continues to show flashes that he can be is a legitimate NBA player, but tonight was another example of how he is not there yet. He looked out of place, shot poorly, and was unable to help keep the Jazz from dominating on the boards. He finished the game with 10 points and just 2 rebounds while shooting 0-4 from downtown. An open dunk, some aggression on his jumper, and an on-point backdoor pass were his positive contributions. Physically, he looks terrific, but it's not a great sign his Summer League performance was worse than last year.
The three other 2015-16 Blazer roster holdovers competing in the Summer league, Cliff Alexander, Pat Connaughton and Luis Montero, were uninspiring as well. Alexander had a few blocks and an awkwardly-obvious goal tend, but rebounded well and had an open dunk just by running the floor. Connaughton and Montero combined to shoot 5-18 for the game and neither had the impact you would hope from a second year player.
After a big role yesterday, Jake Layman was quiet despite glimpses of clear talent. He finished a few good-looking hard drives to his right and hit two three's. At 6'9", he has great size for a three while also able to play the four when needed. He has a great motor, and looks like he could earn some minutes this season if he can get his three-point stroke going.
There was not much positive to say about the rest of the team either. C.J Fair was unable to show anything after looking great in last night's 20-point performance. Russ Smith just plain looked bad, and the 7'2" Jordan Bachynski showed he's clearly nothing but a big body.
Overall, aside from Jackson, most players hurt their stock tonight. As a whole, Summer League was a bad showing for the players at the end of Portland's bench. Luckily for them, there is still some time before training camp begins.