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Jennings a true playmaker
by Joel Brigham / July 16, 2009

Brandon Jennings - Steve KylerGAME 1: Detroit Pistons (0-2) 73, New York Knicks (3-1) 96

STUDS: Without question Austin Daye was the star of today’s first game. He had a double-double by halftime and finished up with 27 points and 13 rebounds. The most impressive thing about Daye’s performance today was that he scored pretty much all over the floor. Downtown, in the post, midrange, everywhere the shots were falling for him. He might only be about 80 pounds soaking wet, but he plays hard and is going to be very, very good when he puts on a little bit of muscle.

It was another big assist game for New York’s Toney Douglas, who had ten dimes today. A mere three points to go along with that doesn’t look too impressive, but for a guy to have 21 assists and 2 turnovers over the course of two games is worth mentioning.

DUDS: Morris Almond, who we keep hearing has played himself into a camp invite with the Knicks, came out of the gate hot again, scoring 7 points in the first quarter. The problem was that he only scored 4 points the whole rest of the game. For a guy that seemed to have pushed himself into the top scoring role on this summer league team, he sure put up a stinker this afternoon.

GAME 2: Milwaukee Bucks (4-0) 87, Chicago Bulls (0-2) 72

STUDS: So when you look at the Milwaukee Bucks the lines of Amir Johnson (17 points, 8 boards) and Joe Alexander (18 points, 5 boards) stand out the most, but he wasn’t the most complete player on the floor by a long shot. Today the spotlight belonged to Brandon Jennings in what was otherwise a pretty lackluster game.

He’s a very quick kid, but what’s best about him is that he genuinely wants to get his teammates involved. At Summer League a lot of guys want to dominate the ball to show what they can do on offense. Everyone’s looking for points, but Jennings only takes what comes naturally, and the majority of the time he’s trying to find a way to get his teammates involved. Finishing a game with 14 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds is pretty credible for a kid his age. If he lets Scott Skiles really teach him, he’ll be a tough little point guard.

DUDS: James Johnson was flat-out awful for Chicago today. He somehow managed 14 points despite shooting only 4-for-15 from the field, but the more disconcerting facet of his game was overconfidence and really lazy fundamentals. Lots of one-hand passes that got picked off, silly turnovers, and even a fast break where he dribbled, picked the ball up with one hand, and tried to soar for a dunk but lost control of the ball. He’s going to have to take smarter shots, work within the offense to actually get those shots, and try not to forget all those drills players get taught from age 6 at the YMCA. Two-hand passes. Take it up strong. Make smart decisions. And so on.

GAME 3: Toronto Raptors (2-2) 74, Phoenix Suns (1-1) 73

STUDS: At this point in the week we’ve seen just about everybody once, but this game was our first glimpse at Suns big man Earl Clark, who finished the evening with 13 points and 12 rebounds. For most of the first half it was very clear that Clark was struggling to get his footing and adjust to the tempo of the game. Very quickly it became clear that he wasn’t quite in the flow of things, but by the end of the game he looked much better, banging on the boards and shooting decent from the field until the last couple minutes of the game where he missed a few forced shots. Very solid output for a debut, though. The Suns made a strong pick there.

For Toronto DeMar DeRozan had another good offensive game, putting up 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He was aggressive taking the ball to the basket and showed something of an ability to actually shoot the ball, not just score on fast breaks. Not everybody agrees on whether or not this kid will be great, but through four games he’s been at least pretty darn good.

DUDS: Both Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez had disappointing games for Phoenix—Dragic by scoring only 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting, and Lopez by somehow only managing to pull down 3 total rebounds. Both of those guys are supposed to be significant contributors during the regular season, but those performances don’t really instill a whole lot of confidence in that happening. Lopez’s last game was pretty solid, but he had a power forward guarding him. Against a real center things were quite a bit more difficult for him.

GAME 4: Sacramento Kings (0-4) 89, D-League Select Team (2-0) 105

STUDS: Despite the fact that Sacramento lost the game, Jason Thompson was spectacular for them, scoring 31 points and hauling down 10 boards. He actually had 20 by halftime and looked really solid in the post, making an array of close-and-midrange shots to fill up that stat sheet.

The D-Leaguers had a couple of guys score well for them, namely Trey Johnson (20 points) and Othyus Jeffers (21 points), neither of whom started the game. Johnson specifically shot 80% from the field, while Jeffers added 7 rebounds to help fuel the win.

DUDS: Tyreke Evans may have scored the living daylights out of the ball in Tuesday night’s game, but on Wednesday things just didn’t seem to go his away. He didn’t play for the entire first quarter, but in the remaining three he only managed 5 points and 3 assists. To show you what kind of night it was for the Kings, those three assists was a team-high. Evans wouldn’t shake with his right hand after the game, guarding what may have been some sort of injury, which would help explain his issues. But whatever the case, the Kings have yet to win a Summer League game, and without Evans doing what he does, their final game on Friday might not end up any differently.

GAME 5: Portland Trail Blazers (0-2) 82, Houston Rockets (4-0) 87

STUDS: Chase Budinger got off to a really hot start for the Rockets but barely played in the second half and so couldn’t really build on a solid first half. Despite that he finished the night with 17 points, including a couple of key shots down the stretch. James White, who got over half of his 16 points by taking it to the cup and getting fouled, had a good game too. Nine of those points came from the free-throw line, which is what White needs to be doing. He’s crazy athletic and can be effective if he gets to the line. He did all that in just 20 minutes, too. Not a bad night for the leaper.

On the Portland end of the ball second-round pick Dante Cunningham played with a ton of aggressiveness tonight, scoring 22 points and hauling down 5 boards. He only knocked down about 40% of his field goals, but all in all he played a respectable game.

DUDS: Jerryd Bayless is supposed to be the best player on the floor here, and he was sort of shown up by Portland’s back-up point guard, Pooh Jeter. For Bayless to finish the game with just 2 assists in unforgivable. There are those that swear Bayless can be a superstar and be the point guard of the future in Portland, but 11 points and 2 assists against talent significantly inferior to what he’ll see in the regular season isn’t what Portland brass wants to see from him, obviously. He’s certainly much better than he showed tonight, but Jeter, by comparison, scored 15 points and dished out 6 assists. Doesn’t make Bayless look too good, does it?

GAME 6: Denver Nuggets (1-1) 77, Washington Wizards (1-1) 70

STUDS: Andray Blatche exploded on the Nuggets tonight, going for 27 points and 15 rebounds against a frontcourt that just could not find an answer for him. That’s exactly the sort of performance Washington needs from him considering they’re extremely thin at power forward right now. If he’s going to be that effective, the Wizards will have yet one more chip towards serious postseason contention. They need him to be this good.

Sonny Weems had a good night for Denver despite the loss, posting 17 points and 11 boards himself. That was probably the only standout performance for them as they put up a pretty balanced attack, putting five guys in double figures.

DUDS: Ty Lawson has been thoroughly unimpressive his first two games as a pro. Most people thought he’d be one of the more NBA-ready point guards in this class, but so far Brandon Jennings has blown him out of the water in that category. Tonight he only managed 7 points on 1-for-8 shooting, with just 4 assists to offset the poor shooting night. Las Vegas has absolutely not been kind to him. Their next game is Friday against the Blazers, so maybe he’ll have better luck then.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for HOOPSWORLD, covering the Chicago Bulls and the NBA Summer League.