The Trail Blazers extended their Las Vegas Summer League winning streak to four games with a lopsided 95-69 victory over the Hawks. Anfernee Simons and Jake Layman led the way for Portland with 20 points apiece. Aside from rookie big man Omari Spellman, Atlanta struggled on both ends of the court.
The Blazers are well on their way to returning to the summer league finale, but let’s take a look at the contributing factors before we move on from this victory.
Floor Spacers “R” Us
Jake Layman, Anfernee Simons, and Gary Trent Jr opened up the lanes all night for Portland’s offense. All three were effective in catch-and-shoot situations, and the rookies continued to show off their quick triggers.
The speed of Simons’ release is something Portland should be excited about. The 19-year-old guard hit a gorgeous step-back three-pointer after navigating around a screen in the second half, and followed that possession with a few trips the three throw line. Due to his pacing and quick release, Simons regularly kept his defender off balance. Simons finished the night with 20 points, and connected on 3 of his 7 shots from beyond the arc.
Whether it was hitting shots from beyond the arc, or cutting to the basket, Layman continued to be a force on the offensive end. Early success from outside opened up the paint for the former Maryland wing, and he had no problem exploiting a Hawks defense that was slow to recover.
It is important to keep these summer league performances in perspective, but this trio of perimeter players look like capable scorers. Unlike the slogan of the now defunct Toys “R” Us retail chain, the Blazers should be excited for these floor spacers to grow up.
Pay The Man
Wade Baldwin IV continued to build an impressive case for his bid to get his contract guaranteed by the Blazers. With the floor opened up on offense, Baldwin picked apart the Hawks. The former Grizzlies guard successfully generated his own offense (15 points), and helped get others involved too (8 assists).
If it wasn’t for the uncertainty of his contract, Baldwin would certainly find himself on the “too good for summer league” list. After four stellar games, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what else Baldwin has to prove to get his contract guaranteed later this month.
Mobile Big = Defensive Problems For Portland
One of the few bright spots from the Hawks tonight was the play of Omari Spellman. The No. 30 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft used his mobility to capture 20 points. Caleb Swanigan once again struggled to cover ground on the defensive end. It is still early in the offseason, but the idea of Swanigan replicating Ed Davis’ role in the post is on the verge of becoming a pipe dream.
It wasn’t all bad for Portland’s defense in the post. Zach Collins and KJ McDaniels both showed off their skills as help defenders.
Guard defense (Baldwin, Simons, Trent)— Ben Fredrickson (@BenjFred) July 13, 2018
Portland’s perimeter defense has been solid throughout summer league. Led by Baldwin’s instincts and wingspan, opposing point guards have struggled to gain traction against the Blazers.
Both Simons and Trent have displayed positives and negatives (like any pair of rookies). I’ve seen some overzealous close-outs from the duo. Luckily for them, they have the athleticism to recover against this level of competition. Their ability to recover against actual NBA competition might be another story, but it is a problem that can be corrected with proper coaching.
We very likely have the most experienced summer league team. We should actually be disappointed if we lose it. 7 people from the team on it? Bit of an overkill, don’t ya think?— Tad Smith (@Blazersn2009) July 13, 2018
I know it is nitpicking, but let’s call it six players from the Blazers roster (sorry Georgios Papagiannis). That aside, it is hard to disagree with the thought behind this tweet. Portland’s cohesion on both ends of the court has led to four solid victories.
With expensive veterans at the top of Portland’s rotation, coupled with the lack of a G-League affiliate, this summer league roster shouldn’t come as a surprise.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com