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Five biggest surprises from Summer League

Jul 23, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

D-League Select v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

The Las Vegas Summer League has its champion, its MVP, and its standout players. Before we move on from Las Vegas however, let’s take a look at one more group:

The surprises.

The players we didn’t expect to perform well, or otherwise did something unexpected. Here are the five guys on my list.

Russ Smith (New Orleans Pelicans). Summer League often becomes the world of point guards trying to get noticed by shooting the ball. Big men with good post position go hungry while guards pound the ball into the ground then cross-over, step back and fire away. Not Russ Smith, the Louisville guard playing for the Pelicans was a real floor general. Yes he scored 16 points a game but he had 6.4 assists a game as well in Vegas. There are adjustments to be made for him to stick in the league long term (more than four turnovers a game) but he was a second round pick who looks like a guy who could give the Pelicans some steady minutes at the point as a reserve.

• Glen Rice Jr. (Washington Wizards). We’ve covered the Summer League MVP more than once here at PBT, but he has to go on this list as well — we didn’t expect him to put up these kinds of numbers for Washington (25 points a game and did it shooting better than 50 percent until a rough last outing dropped him to 46.9 percent). He and Otto Porter showed some real chemistry together and look for Randy Wittman to give them a chance when the games matter to prove that pairing can have success outside Vegas.

• Ivan Johnson gets ejected. I’ve been attending NBA Summer League since it was in the Pyramid in Long Beach and I don’t remember ever seeing a player get ejected before (it may have happened, but I don’t recall it). Ivan Johnson changed that. A day after a classic interview with Basketball Insiders where he said exactly what he would do to anyone who got in front of him, Johnson (playing for the Mavericks) got frustrated with a non-call against the Hornets and used some words we can’t reprint here and that got him sent to the showers. Johnson is the one guy banned from the Korean league for life, at least nothing went that far.

• T.J Warren (Phoenix Suns). Warren was one of the best scorers in college last season but there were questions about whether his game could translate to the NBA. Well, it can if he gets out and runs in transition then scores at the basket — Warren averaged 17.8 points a game and shot 54.4 percent. Warren landed in the right place with Jeff Hornacek and the up-tempo Suns, if he gets out and runs with the bench players, and can keep finishing like he did in Vegas, he’ll get some points.

Anthony Bennett (Cleveland Cavaliers). Another guy from our standouts list who re-appears here because, well, who expected anything out of Bennett? After missing last summer with a shoulder injury then having a historically bad rookie season for a No. 1 pick, Bennett showed up to Vegas in shape and ready to work — he averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. More importantly, he was in shape enough to play hard and physical for a full quarter. He still needs a lot of polish to his game but he looked like a guy who can be a rotation big man, which is more than you would have said much of last season.

  1. timb12 - Jul 23, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Blame Mike Brown for Bennett’s season last year.

    I stubbed my toe this morning….stupid Mike Brown….stupid….

    • 76ersdoubletank - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      I would blame Anthony Bennett for Anthony Bennett’s season last year. The whole getting into shape thing has done wonders for his ability to actually play a game like basketball.

  2. elcaminobilly - Jul 23, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Why is Ivan Johnson banned from the Korean League?

    • jorgegnz787 - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      Because he stuck out his middle finger to a ref in Korean in a championship game.

      • time4complaints - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:13 AM

        Yeah they are a little hypersensitive about respecting the referees. Not really worthy of a lifetime ban.

      • mackcarrington - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:08 PM

        I didn’t know the middle finger was a universal international insult.
        Sometimes those kinds of things can mean something different in a mother culture.

  3. mungman69 - Jul 23, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    Another surprise of the Summer League is that so many fans were interested. Things look good for the NBA.

  4. denverhoopdreams - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Quincy Miller was asked to only go out and boss two games. One game he had a great shooting night, then another night he was what, 1-11 in the first half? LOL. Kind of awful the second night, but that first night looked good. I feel like he has some promise as a great role player for the Nuggets in the future. Or any team for that matter.

    • unxpexted1 - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      that was going to be my surprise, he balled out a couple games. He could be an above average role player/stretch four piece of the bench. Like what he showed overall.

  5. mrsingh24 - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    I have a feeling that TJ Warren is gonna be the steal of this draft. He is extremely efficient at the forgotten short jumper.

  6. asimonetti88 - Jul 23, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Russ Smith was a stud in college, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s doing well.

  7. mungman69 - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    I’m surprised that the summer league is so popular . The NBA should be exciting this season

  8. general74 - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Why didn’t the Lakers give Laquinton Ross more of a shot in the summer league. They have a lot of needs to address and he was a volume scorer at Ohio State. I feel like they should have given him more of a chance to see what he has could have been a cheap/quality bench option for them.

  9. klinickal - Jul 24, 2014 at 5:01 AM

    You will never hear about these guys again until next summer league.

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