The Trail Blazers will return to the Las Vegas Summer League Championship after narrowly defeating the Grizzlies 97-92. Caleb Swanigan finished with a double-double after dominating Memphis’ thin big man rotation. Jaren Jackson Jr. sat this one out for the Grizzlies, and Anfernee Simons also observed the action from the sideline. Despite the absence of both 2018 first-round draft picks, Portland’s victory provided plenty of takeaways.
Calm Down, Swanigan Is Just Fine
After a string of less-than-stellar outings, Caleb Swanigan looked like a first-round pick with a year of NBA experience under his belt. Portland’s coaching staff did an excellent job of getting the big fella the ball early in the shot clock, which helped Swanigan stay patient in the post. The former Big Ten Player of the Year executed a handful of successful post moves, and converted a three-pointer from the corner. Swanigan complemented his 21-point outing by nabbing 16 rebounds.
Despite a strong night on offense, defensive questions still remain. Portland’s guards struggled to corral Memphis’ backcourt for most of the game, which put Swanigan’s slow-moving help defense in the spotlight.
Rough Night For The Regulars
Wade Baldwin IV couldn’t get things going against his former team. After missing a few shots early, it was clear that Baldwin was trying to do too much on the offensive end. Baldwin couldn’t buy a bucket, and compounded his problems by committing nine turnovers. The former Vanderbilt guard has done an excellent job of finding open teammates this summer, but he routinely dribbled himself into trouble against the Grizzlies.
Luckily for Baldwin, he will get another outing before the Blazers make a decision on his contract situation.
Zach Collins’ double-double looks good on paper, but the 20-year-old big man struggled to score from the post. Collins failed to capitalize on a handful of favorable matchups against smaller opponents in the paint. To make matters worse, Archie Goodwin collided with Collins’ already broken nose in the fourth quarter.
Trent Jr Showcases His Defense
One of the biggest questions surrounding Gary Trent Jr is his defense. Trent’s outing against the Grizzlies will help alter that narrative. Memphis’ backcourt was on fire, but Trent held his own when he faced Brandon Goodwin. Trent’s defensive performance was highlighted by steal that led to a dunk in transition.
Portland’s sloppy offense was the key factor behind Trent’s quiet six points. Look for him to get more catch-and-shoot opportunities against the Lakers.
The Unsung Heroes
Barring a series of unexpected roster moves, Archie Goodwin and KJ McDaniels won’t be on Portland’s regular season roster. But that shouldn’t discount the versatility that the duo has displayed in summer league. Goodwin creates his own shot, and can run an offense for stretches. McDaniels has played multiple positions for the Blazers in Las Vegas, and he is always just a step away from a highlight-worthy dunk.
John Jenkins, Goodwin, and McDaniels are all players that should garner training camp invites prior to the 2018-19 season.
After today we’ve had 7 different players score 20 points in a game during summer league which doesn’t even include Zach Collins. Do you think that can be credited to the experienced players the Blazers brought in or high level coaching and rolling with the hot hand?— Gabriel Stovall (@Gabester907) July 17, 2018
It is hard to pick one or the other, but I will give the credit to the players. Portland has received steady contributions from veteran players looking to get back in the NBA. The Blazers’ success in Las Vegas is directly related to those players’ willingness to buy into the team game. Without that willingness, this squad could have easily turned into a pack of stat chasers.
Which player from the summer league roster is going to have the biggest unexpected impact this season?— Lonnie St John (@LonnieStJohn) July 17, 2018
He didn’t play tonight, but I think Anfernee Simons is a lot closer to contributing than most people think. Simons has a beautiful shot, and he could easily find a home in Portland’s rotation as a floor spacer.
The Blazers will return to action Tuesday night to face the Lakers in the Las Vegas Summer League Championship.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com