Commentary

Rookie Watch: Who's standing out in summer-league play?

Originally Published: July 15, 2008
By David Thorpe | ESPN.com

How is the rookie class faring in summer-league competition? Here are my latest observations:

Also, click here for Thorpe's Rookie 50 rankings.

Vegas Summer League

Kevin Love, Timberwolves
His game is special, but below the rim. He looked terrific in his first summer league game -- 18 points, 13 rebounds -- and now has to learn how to use his new body as an athlete. Soft layups can be turned into dunks, which will translate into more free-throw attempts.

Danilo Gallinari, Knicks
Energy and skill are a great NBA combination, and Gallinari has them both. Once he adjusts to the longer 3-point line, he will be able to spread the floor and get to the rim on hot closeouts. He has a nice midrange game too.

J.J. Hickson, Cavs
Wow. He did everything that can be asked of him, within a flow that resembles what he'll face during the regular season (unlike Anthony Randolph, who played point forward in his 30-point game). Hickson has a monster body, good activity and a mature face-up game -- pretty special for a soon-to-be 20-year-old.

Robin Lopez, Suns
Lopez looked better on offense than he did at Stanford, showing some nice finishing moves. He squared up nicely at the rim, hustled and showed he will bring energy -- dunks and blocks -- every chance he gets.

Donte' Greene, Rockets
Wow again. Greene scored 40 points in his summer-league debut. He absolutely locked in from the opening tip, cutting sharply, shooting with focus and hustling back on defense. At times he looked like Kevin Durant, both for good and bad. He needs to get more active on the backboards, but he's a special talent.

Jerryd Bayless, Blazers
He literally refused to settle for anything but a hard drive on most possessions. Love his attacking mode and his ability to absorb contact on dribble drives. Similar to Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, he's a lot more Bobby Jackson than Chris Paul; he's a scorer in a point guard's body.

Petteri Koponen, Blazers
Plays like a true lead guard. He showed he could run the show and can score from deep or on a solid drive. Looked like a quicker, better-shooting version of Steve Blake. There is a growing belief that Koponen will be joining the Blazers next season.

Nicolas Batum, Blazers
He didn't really do much or have many opportunities to show his game. He has the tendency to float. His adjustment should come fast with four more games and countless scrimmages coming this week.

JaVale McGee, Wizards
His first shot was a foot-on-the-line 3-pointer that was way short. Not a good sign for an athletic, 7-foot rookie. McGee has talent, but reminds me of Patrick O'Bryant -- they have similar bodies and irregular heartbeats on the court.

O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
He had relatively poor shot selection, but had a great-looking stroke. He might not be a great offensive player (still lots to see before I give him that), but his handle and shot ensure he'll at least be a solid scoring threat. The "expectations" game will be a factor here, too.

Darrell Arthur, Grizzlies
There is no question he should have been drafted in the top 20 based on his talent. He can shoot, make plays above the rim and bang in the paint with his well-developed body. His engine might run hot and cold, but he's very productive when it's hot.

Jason Thompson, Kings
If he had gone to a big-name college, he'd be a household name already. He has a nice combination of skill sets, body and hustle. It looks like he'll be a 4 for the Kings, but he has some small forward skills, too.

Joe Alexander, Bucks
Simply put, he had the worst performance of a first-round pick I've seen thus far in Vegas. He rushed his movements and his shots, and looked completely lost most of the time. Still, his athleticism and work hustle should help him be more productive as summer league continues. The Bucks have one of the league's best player development coaches in Bill Peterson, so Alexander should learn all season how to utilize his multiple talents.

Eric Gordon, Clippers
He clearly has the tools to be an effective player, but currently lacks understanding of how to play. Before he was shut down for the summer due to a hamstring injury, his shot selection was horrendous, as was his general awareness of the other four Clippers running around. But the comparisons to Ben Gordon are fair, except that he's quicker off the dribble.

D.J. Augustin, Bobcats
He was very crafty with his pace, changing speeds with his dribble, which is a rare skill. He knows how to finish tough-angled shots, but size and length are going to bother him for some time, and overpenetration is also a concern.

Anthony Randolph, Warriors
On draft night, he was No. 3 on my "biggest-upside list" and No. 1 on my "most-likely-to-bust list." His play in Vegas has confirmed both of those placements for me. Don Nelson is letting him play as a point forward, so Randolph has many chances to display his immense talents. But I worry how he'll respond once the regular season starts and he goes from getting "royal jelly" to "DNP-CDs."

Sean Singletary, Kings
One of the better point guard performances I've seen this summer. He's got speed and handle to get wherever he wants, but unlike most PGs trying to make a statement in the summer, he always looked for a teammate first.

Orlando Pro Summer League

Michael Beasley, Heat
He's already a master of the "Boozer Bump" (the little nudge to push his opponent forward to grab a long rebound). His energy was again too low, but his shotmaking talent is superb.

Mario Chalmers, Heat
He is really in command as a point guard, and has such a nice shooting stroke. His vision as a passer is solid, too, as is his patience.

Russell Westbrook, OKC
On Day 3 in Orlando, he really struggled with finishing and distributing, but found ways to contribute. His athleticism is showing up more in each game.

D.J. White, OKC
Against the Nets on Day 3, he did a great job banging and pushing Brook Lopez. He has a place in this league if he gets his conditioning in line to play with energy every minute.

Brook Lopez, Nets
On Day 3 in Orlando, he struggled to hold his positions inside due to his weak lower body. But he had some of the best post finishes of the week, and looks like a guy who will be a force inside as he strengthens.

Ryan Anderson, Nets
His shot looked flat on Day 3, and he produces little when his shot is off. I like his instincts, though, and his hustle.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, Nets
Terrific Game 3 attacking defenders off the dribble. He played with desire and looked like the NBA player he thinks he is. (I agree with him.)

Click here for Thorpe's Rookie 50 rankings and more observations

David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for ESPN.com and the executive director of the Pro Training Center at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., where he oversees the player development program for NBA and college players. To e-mail him, click here.