What happens in Vegas…
The Portland Trail Blazers are set to kick off the Las Vegas Summer league against the New Orleans Hornets Sunday night at 7:30 PT.
The team will play five games in the next week, as they prepare to make the final roster moves heading into the 2012-13 NBA season.
Here is a look at what you should be watching for from the Trail Blazers in the Las Vegas Summer League:
5) Was Will Barton the Steal of the 2012 NBA Draft?
Will Barton saw himself fall to the 40th overall pick in June’s NBA draft despite numerous projections that had him landing somewhere late in the first round.
Either the Trail Blazers got one heck of a steal, or the other teams ahead of them knew something Portland didn’t.
Expect the former to be the case, as Barton is a dynamic scorer and a great rebounder for his 6’6”, 174-pound frame.
Barton certainly needs to add strength and consistency to his game, but with the potential to be a high-volume scorer, his athleticism and aggressiveness could propel him into the rotation as early as next season.
4) Can Meyers Leonard Bang With the Bigs of the NBA?
Meyers Leonard isn’t going to see the Dwight Howards or Andrew Bynums of the league in Las Vegas, but the Summer League will be a good starting point when it comes to comparing him to his competition.
Leonard is an athletic big man who can run the floor well, and at 7’1”, 250 pounds, he measured in as the tallest prospect of the entire 2012 draft class.
A soft touch around the rim and solid shooting ability from mid-range makes him a versatile scoring option, but a raw offensive game will make it interesting to see where he fits in on many of Portland’s offensive sets.
A good defender in college, watch for the impact he can have on the defensive end near the rim against the Summer League competition.
3) What Will Wesley Matthews Gain From Playing in the Summer League?
The three-year guard, who has found a mostly-consistent spot in the team’s starting lineup, averaged 13.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and shot 38.3 percent from the three-point line last year.
While the summer league doesn’t usually play host to players of Matthews’ accomplishments, the decision to play shows the dedication to getting better that we’ve seen throughout his two seasons with the Trail Blazers.
Expect Matthews to work on areas of his game that you haven’t seen on display thus far, and expect him to work closely with those most likely to be on next year’s roster, such as Leonard and Damian Lillard.
2) Does Damian Lillard Have the Court Vision of an NBA Point Guard?
We all know Lillard can shoot, and we all suspect he’ll bring his score-first mentality with him as he transitions to the NBA Game.
However, whether or not he has the court vision to become a true facilitator has yet to be seen.
Lillard is a better passer than many people give him credit for, as he can run the pick and roll with ease due to his high basketball IQ.
You don’t want him to lose his scoring edge, but at the same time, you’d like to see him make the effort to get his teammates involved and help the other players develop their own games throughout the summer.
1) Who Will Make The Final Cut?
The ultimate goal of every Summer League is to find out who will make the roster and how well they play together heading into the new NBA season.
The Trail Blazers have a decent idea of which Las Vegas participants will be on the 2012-13 roster, but how well they play together and what their roles will be are very much up in the air.
Will there be any surprise players to make the roster? Maybe, maybe not.
But following the Summer League schedule, we will have a much better idea of who will be on the court next season.