Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Come on, sports fans, you're better than this. PLEASE stop telling me there are no sports on this week.
Sure it's a bit quieter than usual with baseball on All-Star break and the World Cup being over, but there are still plenty of sports being played. You just have to know where to look for them.
Might I suggest Las Vegas?
Thursday marks the halfway point of perhaps the NBA's most prestigious summer league. You won't find LeBron James or Kevin Durant competing in Vegas but the league still has plenty of talent. In fact, three of the last five Vegas MVPs were named to the 2014 NBA All-Star Game (Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard and John Wall).
Who will be this year's Blake Griffin? Let's head to Sin City to find out.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Detroit Pistons
Caldwell-Pope actually didn't go to Vegas this year but he did play in the Orlando Summer League that finished up a few days ago. He led all players in the Orlando League in scoring with an average of 24.0 ppg. The 6-foot-5 guard was also active on the glass, corralling 37 rebounds in five games (7.4 rpg). KCP averaged just 19.8 minutes per game as a rookie but should see more playing time now that Rodney Stuckey (13.9 ppg last season) has signed with Indiana.
Gorgui Dieng, C/F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dieng is the only player in Vegas averaging a double-double (10.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg in four contests). He's also one of just four non-guards averaging more than two steals per game. Dieng played well down the stretch in his rookie year (11.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg in April) and should have an even bigger impact if and when the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love.
Shabazz Napier, G, Miami Heat
Miami is one of three teams competing in both summer leagues (Houston and Philadelphia are the others), so Shabazz has had a very busy July. The UConn product showed signs of promise early (17 points against Brooklyn on July 6) but has faded quickly, shooting just 16.7 percent over his last two contests (4-for-24). He's also been one of the most turnover-prone players in summer league, averaging 4.4 giveaways in nine games.
Glen Rice Jr., G/F, Washington Wizards
The high scorer in Vegas has been Rice, a second-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2013. He's scored at least 22 points in each of his three outings, including 24 Wednesday, in a two-point win against the Heat. Despite his strong play this summer, fantasy owners shouldn't expect Rice to see many minutes when the regular season opens. Veteran Paul Pierce and three-point wizard (no pun intended) Bradley Beal are blocking his path at both wing positions.
Russ Smith, G, New Orleans Pelicans
"Russdiculous" has made the most of his modest 27.3 minutes per game, averaging 13.3 ppg and 7.7 apg during that span. Tuesday's win against the Lakers marked Smith's first double-double and his second game with at least eight assists. Now if only he could cut down on the turnovers (five per game in his first three contests).
Noah Vonleh, F, Charlotte Hornets
Vonleh certainly isn't afraid to mix it up in the low post. The Hornets rookie has collected just under ten boards per game with his high coming Monday against Sacramento (18 rebounds in 32 minutes). Unfortunately, his shooting touch has eluded him (just 27.5 percent from the field in four games) and he can't seem to stay out of foul trouble (5.5 fouls per contest). Vonleh's ceiling may be as high as any player in this year's draft but he still has plenty of rough edges to smooth over before the season starts.
Casper Ware, G, Philadelphia 76ers
Who was this year's Orlando League MVP? You're looking at him. Ware was brilliant for the Sixers, contributing 19.0 ppg before the camp's conclusion late last week. He cemented his place as the league's top player by adding 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists in Saturday's title-clinching win over Memphis. Ware hasn't been nearly as sharp in Vegas (7.0 ppg on 5-of-17 shooting in his first two games) but he still has a good shot to open the year as Philly's backup point guard.
T.J. Warren, F, Phoenix Suns
Warren led the ACC, arguably the best conference in the country, in scoring last season. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's tearing it up in Vegas. An elbow to the face limited him to just seven minutes Monday against the Bucks, but other than that, he's been unstoppable (25.3 ppg in his other three games). A 55.6 percent shooter at North Carolina State, Warren has been just as efficient in the pros (59.6 percent shooting in four contests).
Summer league action ends Tuesday but these eight players have already made their mark. They've also given fantasy owners a lot to think about.
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