Commentary

Rookie Watch: The best summer-league performers

Originally Published: July 23, 2008
By David Thorpe | ESPN.com

Here are my latest observations of the top rooks in summer-league action:

Also, click here for my Rookie 50 rankings.

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
Turns out he's a better offensive player than he showed at UCLA. And he is already a top-10 athlete in the NBA right now. His defensive efforts, though, are what got him drafted, and he'll improve his team on that end immediately. The best rookie point guard of the summer.

Jerryd Bayless, Blazers
He's dynamite as an attack man, and his shooting ability makes him even tougher to defend. He's unique among guards because he craves contact and paint drives. He's ready to contribute off the bench for Portland, but he might get caught behind veterans at the start of the season. The best rookie combo guard of the summer.

Anthony Randolph, Warriors
If teams drafted players based solely on upside, Randolph would have been a top-5 pick. He showed more pure talent than anyone, Michael Beasley included, this summer. Played five positions and made every play imaginable on both ends. He has so much to learn about being an NBA player, with much of it relating to off-the-court growth. The best rookie small forward of the summer.

Jason Thompson, Kings
Scouts rave about his speed. I love his hands. He mixes it up well around the rim and looks like he'll be an effective player out on the floor. The best rookie power forward of the summer.

Kevin Love, Timberwolves
Not just a brilliant outlet passer, he also makes quick, perfect passes from the pinch post. Al Jefferson will love running high-low action with him. And yes, Minnesota's athletic wings will dunk more (as long as they race the floor), thanks to Love's uncanny ability to survey the floor and deliver a perfect 30-foot pass. The best rookie center of the summer.

Derrick Rose, Bulls
Wish I could have seen him more -- and healthier -- in Orlando. I still think he'll be an excellent lead guard who will make things happen for his teammates on both ends of the floor.

O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
I don't see a lot of upside with him, but I don't see much of a downside either. His ability to get open jumpers off the dribble is nice, and he competes pretty hard. But he's not special as an athlete, so his ability to blow by people is average at best. Learning the "shot-fake attack game" will help him a great deal.

Brook Lopez, Nets
Showed some immaturity in Utah that I didn't see in Orlando; he played with a scowl and lacked bounce. He'll soon learn that without intensity and passion in his play, he's going to be a liability to his team. If he can combine his skill set inside with an energetic effort level, he'll be a huge help to the Nets.

Marreese Speights, Sixers
I worked out Speights one time two years ago and thought he was the closest thing to Amare Stoudemire that I'd ever seen. I still think that. He is incredibly agile and explosive for such a big man, and his skill game is superb. He throws the ball in, period. Sitting behind so many players in Philly will not help spur development, but I suspect his coaches understand that and will work to keep him engaged.

Donte Greene, Rockets
The Kevin Durant comparison is an accurate one. When he settles for being just a long-range shooter, he's an ordinary player (at the NBA level). But if he's active as a cutter, sprints the floor in transition and looks to make plays inside, he's a special offensive talent. Just like KD.

Courtney Lee, Magic
The Magic drafted him largely because of his ability to defend and shoot from outside. During summer league, he didn't disappoint on either end. Stan Van Gundy needs his guards to be aggressive offensively, creating open lanes for Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard. Seeing Lee average 20 points per game -- along with the addition of Mickael Pietrus -- has the Magic faithful feeling great about their team's offseason moves.

Kosta Koufos, Jazz
Coordinated, but slow, with a good frame. Looks like he likes to face up and shoot, but his shot looks flat now. Does an excellent job absorbing contact on shots inside; keeps his shoulders square on finishes. His capacity for work is very high, so rapid improvement is a fair expectation.

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.