Josh Selby shows he’s closer to reaching potential at NBA Summer League

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LAS VEGAS — Josh Selby earned a vote for the NBA’s All-Rookie Third Team this past that many in the media felt wasn’t deserved. While that may have been the case, there’s a good chance he cemented himself a spot on the All-Summer League roster following Monday evening’s performance at the Cox Pavilion in lovely Las Vegas.

The second-year guard ignited the crowd as he scored 35 points as he caught fire from beyond the arc en route to hitting seven of his eight attempts from behind the 3-point line while also contributing seven steals. It was all for naught, however, as his his Memphis Grizzlies lost 83-77 to the Washington Wizards.

“I just come out here and knock down open shots when my teammates are able to find me and just be that scorer that they need me to be,” Selby told Pro Basketball Talk after his outstanding performance. “I’m disappointed we didn’t get that win, though … I don’t really care about how many points I scored.”

The performance showed that he might someday be able to reach his ridiculous upside — upside he realizes he’s getting closer to achieving as he matures.

“Everybody’s been trying to help me because they see the potential,” Selby said. “I just take all of the advice in, work on everything they tell me and try to better my game.”

Other standouts on Tuesday afternoon including the following players:

  • Byron Mullens looked like a competent player at times for the Charlotte Bobcats this season and, in a move that shouldn’t be surprising, it carried over to the Summer League. The big man didn’t do well as far as defensive rotations and the like were concerned, but he poured in 33 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kemba Walker couldn’t make buckets on a consistent basis as he shot 5-of-14, but he was able to rack up eight assists.
  • Shavlik Randolph never showed anything overly outstanding, but the journeyman big secured a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds in a victory for Washington against a less-than-stellar Grizzlies’ frontline. The rest of the starting lineup wasn’t quite able to play up to his level, however, as Bradley Beal, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack finished with a victory despite making just 15 of their 46 shot attempts.
  • E’Twaun Moore had 25 points and seven rebounds while Dionte Christmas had 18 points on an efficient 6-of-11 shooting performance, but it might’ve been Jamar Smith who did the most for his future. The former D-Leaguer made 3-of-6 from downtown to finish with 11 points off the bench.
  • The Denver Nuggets picked up their first Summer League victory with an 85-81 victory over the New York Knicks. Second-year pro Kenneth Faried hustled like he was playing for a roster spot on his way to 16 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and two steals while fellow former rookie Jordan Hamilton scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds in a pretty efficient manner. Rookie Evan Fournier also was pretty impressive on his way to 14 points and a couple of 3s while Derwin Kitchen rounded out the Nuggets’ standouts with 14 points and six assists as he attempts to earn an NBA training camp invite.
  • The Chicago Bulls were the last team to play in Vegas and, unfortunately, their first game ended with a loss. Jimmy Butler, last year’s first round pick, had a team-high 25 points while former D-League standout Malcolm Thomas posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.
  • The Knicks didn’t have many bright spots, but Chris Copeland and Wesley Witherspoon both played pretty well once again. Copeland scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds while showing the ability to put the ball on the floor while a summary of Witherspoon’s afternoon can be found here.
  • The game between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers was ended early following a head injury to Nolan Smith, but the players missed less than a minute to fill up the box score as that was the time remaining on the game clock. Houston was able to pick up the victory behind an excellent game from Terrence Jones (24 points, 12 rebounds) while fellow NBA rookies Jeremy Lamb and Donatas Motiejunas contributed 23 and 20 points respectively. Royce White nearly had a triple-double — and picked up the ever-elusive Summer League technical foul — with six points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and six turnovers.
  • Smith had been leading the Blazers with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists as part of a stellar backcourt performance for the Blazers. Rookie Damian Lillard scored 27 points himself as he connected on five of his 10 3-point attempts, though the sixth overall pick did have seven turnovers.
  • The San Antonio Spurs handed the Los Angeles Lakers their fourth consecutive loss in the Thomas & Mack’s first game as Spurs rotation player Kawhi Leonard exploded for 27 points and eight rebounds. Last year’s other first round pick — Cory Joseph — also played well with 18 points and five assists.
  • The Lakers were led by Darius Morris as he finished with 24 points while going a perfect 9-of-9 from the field (in between a lot of over-dribbling). Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson also played well with five points, three rebounds and a block while finishing +13 in the +/- department.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers blew out the Phoenix Suns as Samardo Samuels scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench in a very efficient 22 minutes. Fourth overall pick Dion Waiters scored 16 points, but struggled in the efficiency department once again as he missed 10 shots from the field.
  • Markieff Morris scored 24 points and grabbed an insane 17 rebounds in the loss for the Suns as he simply couldn’t make up for the lack of scoring Kendall Marshall didn’t provide. The rookie out of North Carolina was on the court for 28 minutes, but missed his only shot attempts while contributing five assists.
  • The Timberwolves got a solid showing out of Wesley Johnson with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting — though he missed a potential game-typing 3-pointer on the team’s penultimate possession — and second-year player Derrick Williams played well, but it seemed like veteran free agent Coby Karl was one of the better players on the court despite having to match up with Kemba Walker. The son of Nuggets coach George Karl had just three points on 1-of-2 shooting, but contributed seven assists and six rebounds.

The action has now reached a mid-point heading into Wednesday morning’s games.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game:

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard returns this season

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When announcing last month Kawhi Leonard was out indefinitely due to a lingering quad injury, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed the idea his star forward would miss the rest of the season:

Apparently, Popovich’s expectation has changed.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

The Spurs (35-24) are third in the West despite Leonard playing just nine games. Popovich has done a great job (maybe Coach of the Year-worthy). LaMarcus Aldridge is having a bounce-back season in a leading role. Pau Gasol leads a supporting cast of players good in their roles.

But San Antonio’s ceiling is so much lower without Leonard.

He’s an elite defender who shuts down opposing scorers on the perimeter and can comfortably switch inside. He can isolate offensively to score efficiently, and he spaces the floor off the ball with strong 3-point shooting. Those are all skills that translate to the playoffs.

Without him, the Spurs rely too heavily on older, slower defenders. That’s ripe to be exploited in the postseason.

Teams might even jockey to match up with San Antonio – the most vulnerable-appearing Western Conference team in line to get home-court advantage in the first round.

Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the possibility of Leonard returning. Popovich could just be trying to shut down speculation. He clearly doesn’t like discussing this issue.

But the Spurs are the most cautious team on injuries. If Leonard risks further injury, they’ll keep him sidelined.

This injury has already caused tension. This won’t help.

Mark Cuban’s fine third-largest known fine in NBA history

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While explaining how he told his players the team was better off losing this season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said “I’m probably not supposed to say this” and “Adam would hate hearing that.”

Cuban was right.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban $600,000 for “public statements detrimental to the NBA.” The league doesn’t announce all its fines, but that’s the third-largest known fine in NBA history.

The leaderboard:

1. Timberwolves, $3.5 million in 2000 (signing under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith)

2. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, $2.5 million in 2014 (making racist comments)

3. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $600,000 in 2018 (saying he told his players the team is better off losing)

4. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, $500,000 in 2002 (criticizing officiating)

4. Knicks, $500,000 in 2006 (fighting Nuggets)

4. Nuggets, $500,000 2006 (fighting Knicks)

4. Vladimir Radmanovic, $500,000 in 2007 (injuring his shoulder while snowboarding)

4. Pistons general manager Joe Dumars, $500,000 in 2010 (leaking confidential league memos)

4. Heat owner Micky Arison, $500,000 in 2011 (tweets during the lockout breaking rank with other owners)

I’d be on Cuban (and/or the Mavericks) getting yet another spot on this list following the investigation of the franchise for a culture tolerant of sexual harassment and domestic abuse. That one will probably be deserved – not just the league trying to preserve the illusion of pure competition amid a system that incentivizes losing.

Mark Cuban fined $600,000 for telling team “losing is our best option”

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Of all the hot water Mark Cuban is in right now with the Mavericks and the NBA league office, this is probably the smallest tub. And the least expensive fine.

Cuban recently went on Julius Erving’s podcast, House Call with Dr. J, and said:

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, “Look, losing is our best option.” Adam would hate hearing that, but at least I sat down, and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”

You were not supposed to say that — the NBA Wednesday fined Cuban $600,000 for “for public statements detrimental to the NBA.”

Cuban’s not wrong, it’s just a matter of perception. The NBA has worked very hard to lessen the image that teams are tanking for draft position (why do you think there was pressure on the Sixers to replace Sam Hinkie?), they don’t need an owner saying it’s the smart thing to do. Even though it is. Teams tank — it is still the only way for a small or medium market team to get a superstar, get high in the draft and hopefully pick one (it’s not that simple, ask the Magic) — but the league wants at least the facade that all of its teams are competitive. All the way through the end of the season.

As you read this, the bottom eight teams in the NBA are within three games of each other for the worst record — and a higher lottery slot. Does anyone think any of them are not going to roll out young, less-talented rosters in the name of development when the real goal is to lose as many games as they can the rest of the way? Most scouts think there is some real talent at the top of this draft, and teams are going to try to get up there and get it.

Just nobody can talk about it.