Five unexpected impressive players from Las Vegas Summer League

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Heading into the Las Vegas Summer League, it was expected Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and some other big names would impress.

But part of the fun of Summer League is lesser known guys who unexpectedly jump up and grab your attention — and the attention of teams. Myself and Sean Highkin of ProBasketballTalk were in Vegas, and here are five guys that unexpectedly turned our heads.

1) Jonathon Simmons (Spurs). He won the MVP of the championship game scoring 23 points that night, but he had been playing well all Summer League averaging 17 points a game on 51.9 percent shooting. He beats guys off the dribble and knows how to finish inside — he did that well at the D-League level last season also. He just signed a guaranteed contract for this coming season with the Spurs, he may not get a lot of playing time (Kawhi Leonard will get the bulk of the minutes at the three, Simmons Summer League teammate Kyle Anderson may get some run there) but he will get a chance to prove he can keep scoring efficiently at the next level.

2) ScottieWilbekin (Sixers). The former Florida Gator, who spent last season playing in Australia, turned heads with his hustle, averaging 14.4 points per game and playing good defense. He did the same thing at the Orlando Summer League (playing for the Magic), and between the two Summer League’s he shot 42 percent from three. He just signed a four-year contract with the Sixers,  with the first two years guaranteed. The Sixers are crowded at the point guard spot, but he will get his chance.

3) Maurice Ndour (Knicks). He fit well in the vague attempt at the triangle offense New York ran at Summer League. He averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, and he shot 51.2 percent. He’s got good footwork, hustles on defense and uses his length to be disruptive, he can score in around the basket, and he plays with constant energy. In a game against the Sixers he had six straight points late in a close game, the team turned to him to get buckets. He impressed Knicks management, but coach Derek Fisher said the team might not have a roster spot to give him.

“I don’t know if there’s any more he can do,” Fisher said of Ndour making the Knicks roster. “I think he’s doing everything that’s at least in his control to be a guy that — whether it’s our team, hopefully so, but there are 29 other teams — he’s giving teams a look that he can play at this level and be pretty good at it.”

4) Jordan Mickey (Boston). He looked like a potential great second-round pick (33) by the Celtics. Mickey averaged 13.8 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting, plus pulled down 9.6 rebounds a game. Defensively he was a strong rim protector, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Mickey just signed a four-year deal (the first two years guaranteed) with the Celtics, which is a fantastic deal for Boston, Mickey could develop into a reliable rotation player for them up front.

5) Alan Williams (Rockets). Loved by the stats guys but undrafted out of UC Santa Barbara (I saw him play in person multiple times in college and would not have predicted this), he looked fantastic in Las Vegas. Williams averaged 20.5 points per game on 50 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 11.5 rebounds a game. He’s a free agent and while Houston may not pick him up it would be shocking to think nobody is going to give him an invite to training camp and a chance to make a roster.

Al Horford calls Celtics’ reported tampering allegations ‘ridiculous’

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The Celtics have reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford.

Horford opted out, and it seemed he could return to Boston. But more than a week before free agency officially began, a report emerged he’d leave the Celtics while expecting a four-year, $100 million contract elsewhere. He committed to the 76ers on the first day of free agency, getting $97 million guaranteed and up to $109 million over four years.

What did Horford make of tampering allegations coming from Boston, where Danny Ainge runs the front office?

Horford on The Dan Patrick Show:

It’s pretty ridiculous. But it is what it is. Danny – I love Danny. Danny was always really good to me. I know that he’s definitely frustrated with things didn’t work out with us.

Notice the lack of a denial.

But Horford is right: It’s ridiculous. Because the Celtics are hypocrites who locked up Kemba Walker before free agency officially began.

Though Boston’s specific complaints don’t hold water, there are legitimate issues with the wider landscape.

Rockets sign Ben McLemore

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The Kings couldn’t figure out what to do with Ben McLemore, the No. 7 pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Now, the Rockets will try.

Rockets:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The link in the Rockets tweet leads to an inaccessible page, which is pretty fitting.

McLemore has talent, athleticism and size. He probably doesn’t have as much talent and athleticism as it seemed when he became a lottery pick. But he still has some. He also plays shooting guard, a common position of need throughout the league. Maybe Houston can find a way for the 26-year-old to become productive for the first time in his career.

It’s a low-risk bet considering the cheap cost, and the upside probably isn’t that high. But it’s still an interesting attempt considering McLemore’s stature when he entered the league.

Report: Clippers tried to trade for James Harden before landing Paul George

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Kawhi Leonard tried to recruit Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Leonard eventually got Paul George to join him on the Clippers.

Two other stars the Clippers tried to land? Bradley Beal and James Harden.

Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

The Clippers inquired about Washington’s Bradley Beal and Houston’s James Harden, according to league sources, but neither star was available.

Beal fits the most obvious parameter of an available star: He’s on a bad team. But the Wizards aren’t interested in trading him. For most of the summer, they didn’t even have a general manager to negotiate a potential deal.

Harden is the far more interesting target. The Rockets have built around him, but they reached a rough spot with Harden and Chris Paul. Houston could have viewed that as the end of the road. The Clippers parted with an elite package for George – five first-round picks, two pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. That’s the kind of offer that can open many doors. Instead, the Rockets went the other way by acquiring Russell Westbrook.

Still, a Leonard-Harden pairing would’ve been quite interesting. Both work best as offensive focal points, not contributing much off the ball. Harden’s defensive deficiencies would’ve put more pressure on Leonard. But the talent level would’ve been astronomical.

I think the Clippers are just happy with Leonard and George, who fit better together and still carry elite talent.

Report: NBA opens investigation into tampering following ‘tense’ owners meeting

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Kyrie Irving (Nets), Kemba Walker (Celtics) and Derrick Rose (Pistons) appeared to have their next teams lined up before free agency officially began. The Celtics reportedly complained about the 76ers tampering with Al Horford. Several other players agreed to terms so quickly after free agency began 6 p.m. June 30, it’s impossible to believe the deals weren’t pre-arranged.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said free-agency rules should be revised and enforced.

The league will also investigate.

Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Within days, the league opened an investigation centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30, sources familiar with the matter told ESPN.com. The scope of that investigation is developing. It is expected to include interviews with players and possibly agents and team employees, sources say.

The investigation followed a tense owners meeting, which multiple sources described to ESPN.

In the midst of it, Rick Buchanan, the NBA’s longtime general counsel, issued an evenhanded but sobering message to the room, multiple sources said.

Buchanan told the governors that as partners they were entitled to expect all teams to abide by a common set of enforceable rules for free agency — and that the league office would come back with a proposal for a revised set of rules that would then be strictly enforced. He asked the group if they were comfortable with the league “seizing servers and cellphones,” a line that stuck with many in attendance, according to sources who recounted the scene later.

It’s unclear whether this investigation will be punitive, exploratory or both.

Teams and players are absolutely violating the written rules. Some teams occasionally get punished. The rules are arbitrarily enforced, which is unfair. This investigation could lead to widespread punishment, though proving which teams did and didn’t tamper would be difficult. If it goes this route, expect uneven enforcement.

I’m with Silver: The rules should be enforced. An easy way to do that is writing the rules to match what currently occurs. As much griping as everyone does, the system mostly works. It’d work even better if everyone were on the same page about what is and isn’t allowed. So, this investigation could uncover details of how free agency actually happens. Then, the rules could be tailored around that.

This is clearly trending toward allowing contact with free agents sooner. That’s already happening, anyway. And billionaire team owners sure don’t want their privacy invaded for strict enforcement of a more-prohibitive system.

Tricky questions remain, though.

How will the NBA handle players tampering with each other? That’s forbidden by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but Silver has practically said he’ll allow it. And it happens plenty. I’d prefer it becomes officially allowed. Having unenforced rules can lead to selective enforcement.

When will teams and free agents be permitted to contact each other? Seasons end at different times, depending how far teams advance. Even with the starting period moved up, some teams will still seek an edge.

So, there’s no perfect solution.

But there are obvious problems with conditions now. It sounds like the NBA might finally be addressing them.