Summer league stars
By Jesse Pantuosco, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here DirecTV goes again, making our lives more complicated than they need to be.
The well known satellite television provider (and the creator of arguably the world's most important invention, NFL Sunday Ticket) just had a bad breakup with Viacom, and now it's affecting all of us.
This is Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's breakup, multiplied by a million.
When Tom and Katie ended things, we didn't lose any of our favorite television channels because of it. Now with DirecTV and Viacom at war, we're losing 26 of them, including Comedy Central, MTV and the timeless Nickelodeon.
Because going outside isn't an option (Have you seen the forecast this week? No thank you.) and now neither is watching "The Daily Show" or "Spongebob SquarePants," TV viewers inevitably will be flocking over to NBATV to get in on some NBA Summer League action.
For hoops fans looking to watch a polished, fundamentally sound game of basketball, the Summer League isn't for you. I'll admit, Miami's 106-56 thrashing of the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night probably wasn't what James Naismith had in mind when he was inventing the sport 120 years ago. But it's still plenty of fun to watch what some of these freakishly athletic youngsters are able to do. And who knows? Maybe somewhere down the line, some of these guys may end up on your fantasy team.
Here are a few players who have already made a lasting impression on this year's Las Vegas Summer League action:
Eric Bledsoe, Guard, Los Angeles Clippers: Criss Angel's not the only one putting on a show in Vegas right now. This summer, Bledsoe, a forgotten man in Los Angeles this past regular season (3.3 ppg in just 11.6 minutes per contest) has come back from the dead reincarnated as Magic Johnson. He scores (14.5 ppg), he distributes (5.5 apg, third-best in the league), he defends (three steals per game). Heck, he even rebounds (5.5 boards per game).
The only thing the former Kentucky guard hasn't been able to do in Vegas is shoot threes (0-4). The good news is that Bledsoe still has a couple of months to work on his stroke before training camp starts.
Jeremy Lamb, Guard, Houston Rockets: Lamb was a cold-blooded scorer when he was at the University of Connecticut last season (17.7 ppg) but we weren't sure how the skinny 20-year-old would be able to adapt to the fiercer, more physical style of play at the next level. So far, the 6-foot-5 Lamb is doing just fine.
In five games this summer, he's averaging 20 ppg on 46.7 percent shooting. We feared turnovers could be a problem for Lamb, but he's actually done a decent job of protecting the ball (2.4 TOs per game). His three-point shooting percentage fell to 29.6 percent after going 0-4 from that distance against Chicago on Wednesday night, but we'll give Lamb a pass in that category because he's been so excellent from the free-throw line (91.7 percent).
Damian Lillard, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers rookie has only appeared in two games in Vegas, but that's all it took for him to make his mark. The Weber State product put up a team-high 25 points in his first game, July 15 against New Orleans, before pouring in 27 in Tuesday night's 99-88 loss to Houston.
As expected, the 6-foot-3 guard has been excellent from the three-point line, converting on 41.2 percent of his attempts from that distance. Now, he just needs to cut down on his turnovers (he's averaging five a game).
Markieff Morris, Forward, Phoenix Suns: Morris actually had a fairly productive rookie season for the Suns in 2011-12 (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg) but so far in Vegas, the 6-foot-10 forward has been absolutely unstoppable. He's one of just four players in the league averaging both double-digit points (19.3 ppg) and rebounds (10.7 rpg) and only the Clippers' Hilton Armstrong and Denver's Kenneth Faried have averaged more blocks per game than Morris (3.3 bpg). Morris won't be nearly as dominant when the regular season starts up again but he's clearly been one of the best players in Las Vegas this summer.
Josh Selby, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies: Morris isn't the only former Kansas Jayhawk making noise in Sin City right now. Selby, who appeared in just 28 games for the Grizzlies last season, is leading all Summer League scorers with 27.5 ppg. He's been unconscious from three-point range (80 percent) and his overall shooting percentage is just under 60 percent. His 35-point masterpiece against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday might be the finest performance we've seen all summer. Now if only Selby could find some consistency from the charity stripe (71.4 percent free-throw shooting).
Jared Sullinger, Forward, Boston Celtics: Sullinger's back issues caused him to fall to the No. 21 position in this summer's NBA Draft but in Vegas, the former Ohio State star's back hasn't been a problem. He pulled down 14 rebounds in Tuesday night's 77-74 conquering of Chicago and he's averaging 10.5 boards per game overall.
Sullinger is scoring a respectable 10.5 ppg in Las Vegas, which is actually three points per game lower than his scoring average in the Orlando Summer League he participated in earlier in the month (the Celtics are the only team that competes in both leagues). Sullinger, a 73.3 career free throw shooter in two seasons at Ohio State, sank 90 percent of his shots from the line while he was in Orlando.
Malcolm Thomas, Forward, Chicago Bulls: Thomas has been the model of consistency in his two Summer League games. Seriously, look at his stat lines. They're almost exact replicas of each other. He finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds in both games (he had nine defensive rebounds and four offensive rebounds in each of those two contests) while shooting 4-10 against the Celtics and 4-9 versus Houston. He even went 2-3 from the free-throw line in both games.
Thomas scored just one point in three games with San Antonio last season, but his Las Vegas performance suggests he might be ready to break out in 2012-13.
07/19 17:44:27 ET