Say farewell to the Portland Trail Blazers’ status as Las Vegas Summer League favorites, as they were soundly defeated by the Indiana Pacers. Indy blew the doors off in the third quarter, outscoring the rudderless and plodding Blazers 27-7, before eventually winning 97-64.
The big story of the day was Kenneth Faried’s third-quarter exit due to an apparent hand injury. There was no status update before the end of the game, so we’ll provide details as they arrive.
Summer League results are generally irrelevant (Championship celebration notwithstanding), so there is little to recap about the game itself. These games are all about the players who are fighting for their futures, and their impact on the Blazers. And that’s where our focus will lie.
Portland’s Summer League experience has been a tale of two teams: The group of players who should provide immediate help, and those who are in an early step of their long-term development. Let’s review them accordingly.
Sometimes a veteran player visits Summer League to increase their visibility, but that doesn’t explain why Portland has three of them. The more likely reason? Portland is using Summer League as a method for the three “ringers” to audition for a spot on the fall roster and a very inexpensive price for the Blazers. So what did today’s performances tell us about their impact?
Kenneth Faried: We can only talk about what happened prior to his injury. You can see glimpses of prime Faried, including an exciting dunk and block, but not only has he lost a step, the game seems to have passed him by. Chapter one of the “Book of Faried” focused on his constant visibility; you always knew when Faried was on the court. For stretches of the first half, Faried’s hair was the only thing distinguishing him from other fringe players trying to make a roster.
Impact: Spot minutes off the bench to provide some rest.
Michael Beasley: Beasley was there, and he did Beasley things. He manufactured a few points, scoring 9 on 33% shooting against Summer League defense. He was invisible on the defensive end. He showed no signs of athleticism. This was not a highlight-reel performance.
Impact: Poor man’s Carmelo Anthony replacement.
Emmanuel Mudiay: It’s hard to ignore Mudiay during Portland’s rudderless third quarter. It was also tough to notice him. At a time Portland needed a leader to step up and right the ship, Mudiay was generally irrelevant. Six years after his NBA debut, he couldn’t settle down a Summer League team during their opponent’s run. Portland already has plenty of guards, so if you’re not a Summer League standout, that’s not a good sign.
Impact: Negligible in Summer League, so that’s bad news for the regular season.
Any extended analysis about “the ringers” also unfortunately buries the lede: Decent NBA players should absolutely, utterly dominate Las Vegas Summer League. If any of these players are being seriously considered to fill out the rotation with meaningful minutes, it could be cause for concern.
Of course, Portland is actually developing a few younger guys from recent drafts. Happily, we received an extended peek at them today.
CJ Elleby: Your sophomore stint in Summer League can be telling. You’ve now spent a year in the NBA, soaking up coaching, knowledge, and getting spot minutes in blowouts. In theory, Summer League should be your jam, as the lower-level game should start to slow down a bit for you. None of that seems to be the case for Elleby so far. His shot would optimistically be described as “a work in progress”, his defense is a mixed bag, and he simply doesn’t command a presence on the court. He finished with 3 points on 12.5% shooting.
Greg Brown: He’s an energy guy, and for a second-round pick, that’s all you can ask for at Summer League. He moves fast, jumps high, and is lots of fun to watch. With zero NBA experience, he already displays a stronger court presence than Elleby. He probably won’t be ready to contribute to the Blazers this season, but surprises have happened before. He had the usual high-energy moments, including a fun dunk that can let you daydream. His 12 points on 50% shooting was second-highest for the team.
George King, Trendon Watford, and Antonio Blakeney contributed some stats in garbage time, but we learned little new about them.
The last game of the preliminary round for Portland, a date with the Suns Saturday night at 6:00 pm.