LAS VEGAS — The main event on day one of Summer League in Las Vegas on Friday was the matchup between the Cavaliers and the Bucks, one that featured the top two overall picks in this year’s draft facing each other in NBA-level action for the very first time.
Cleveland’s Andrew Wiggins and Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker both impressed in flashes, and along with last year’s top pick in Anthony Bennett and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was no shortage of exciting and athletically remarkable plays to go around.
There was also the LeBron James announcement, which had Cavaliers players and coaches giddy dreaming about next season’s possibilities.
Playing in a gym that was beyond filled to capacity — so much so that fans who had purchased tickets were given refunds, and even NBA players and personnel were told if they left they wouldn’t be guaranteed admittance to return — only added to the atmosphere, and all of the aforementioned players had multiple moments to shine.
Wiggins’ game is still raw, and his shot admittedly needs some work. But his leaping ability is scary good, in that you’re scared he might hurt himself jumping over someone for a rebound, or by flying extra-hard to the basket. He finished with 18 points on just 7-of-18 shooting, but his talent level is undeniable, as is his drool-worthy potential.
Parker’s game looks a bit more NBA-ready, which was how most scouts pegged him in advance of the draft. He showed a knack for having excellent court vision and a willingness to find the open man, but also showed an ability to score in a variety of ways. He had a smooth, sweeping drive that he finished with the left hand, and came back on the very next possession with a spinning lay-in that he was able to finish through contact for the and-1 opportunity.
Parker ended up with 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds in just under 30 minutes of action.
While the rookies were the ones in the spotlight, there was room for others to make their impact felt as the game went on. Bennett in particular showed a high level of effort and intensity throughout, and even if his overall skill set still has yet to show that it would be worthy of being taken number one overall, his performance was positive enough to gain the praise of his new head coach.
“I thought Anthony did a pretty good job,” Blatt said. “He knows and I know of course that his shot selection could be better. But I liked the fact that he was on the court for a lot of minutes competing, and he made some big plays, and he worked hard at both ends of the court. You know, Anthony’s biggest trouble last year was he never really had the opportunity to play enough, because he was either hurt or not in good enough physical shape. As you can see, he’s worked very hard at that, and that’s a good first step. And he did some good things basketball-wise. I was happy with AB, and I’ve been happy with him since the camp started. He’s really really made the effort, he’s tried to lead the guys through example. He’s a kid that’s trying to do something about his situation, and that’s the right way to go about it.”
Bennett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Antetokounmpo had one of the more athletic plays of the day, taking just two dribbles to go three-quarters of the length of the court to lead a fast break and finish it off with a thunderous slam. He was more aggressive as the game went on, and finished with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, to go along with six rebounds.
The talent on the floor, the atmosphere in the gym and the LeBron James news hanging over it all made this game a special experience by Summer League standards.
“It was crazy,” Wiggins succinctly said.