Takeaways from the Portland Trail Blazers Las Vegas summer league

Are you impressed?

Entering the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, Portland Trail Blazers fans had plenty of room for optimism. Sure, there were a number of questions that needed to be answered, but a successful offseason had many believing that we would see a new squad with new life.

As it turned out, the team went just 1-5 and showed that there’s a lot of room to grow even on an improved roster.

Following the six games, it’s clear that the bench isn’t miraculously going to be the best in the league overnight. Not all takeaways were negative from Vegas, but we’d be remiss not to start off with one of the most glaring observations of the entire showdown.

Meyers Leonard Lakers

This is what Meyers Leonard should be doing. (Photo Credit: Reed Saxon/ AP)

Meyers Leonard is not a Three-point Shooter

This one should go without saying, but it had gone public before summer league began that Meyers Leonard has been working on extending his game out to the three-point line. The Blazers are always looking for players to spread the floor, but following what we saw in Las Vegas, Leonard needs to re-focus his efforts and develop himself as an NBA center.

Through five games played—the starters sat out the final contest—the big man attempted seven three-pointers. He made just two of them, and while 28.6 percent isn’t awful for a seven-footer, it’s not enough to justify a regular theme in the regular season.

Thomas Robinson is an ‘Energy Guy’

Thomas Robinson recognizes that he is an energy guy for this roster. He knows that he has a long career ahead of him, and his mindset has shifted to that of a player who is ready to get back to business and take advantage of a fresh start in Portland.

When Robinson was at his best is when he was dominating the glass and scoring off of hustle plays. He was at the rim on a number of occasions, and whether it was off a miss or off of an assist, he proved he can dominate down low when given the chance.

Where Thomas gets himself in trouble is when he’s trying to do too much on offense. Step-back jumpers and spins to the rim shouldn’t be in his arsenal just yet; but then again, you can’t knock a guy for trying new things in summer league.

The hope here is that those optimistic offensive occurrences stay in summer league. If he truly recognizes that he’s an energy guy for the Blazers, he’ll stick to what he does best, and he’ll be embraced for it when it comes to the Rip City crowd.

Was Allen Crabbe Really a Steal?

Consider me one of the guilty people who fell into the belief that Allen Crabbe was one of the biggest steals of the draft. He was a potential first-rounder who Portland nabbed with the 31st pick, and his scoring ability was supposed to transfer to the NBA immediately.

As it turns out, his summer league showing was underwhelming at best, and he’s proven to be a bit more one-dimensional than most fans hoped.

Crabbe has the natural shot to make it at the professional level, but outside of open jumpers, he didn’t show it in Las Vegas. Like Will Barton the year before, he came in looking to prove that Portland was right to take a chance, but as it turned out, he did a much better job justifying why teams passed on him during the first round.

CJ McCollum Can Score

CJ McCollum is entering the Association as a score-first point guard. He was an elite shooter at the collegiate level, and if summer league showed anything, it’s that he’s not afraid to be a primary offensive option.

In the five games Portland played, McCollum averaged 21 points per contest. That’s more than anybody in the Las Vegas league thus far, and as a result, he began commanding double teams in the team’s first matchup.

CJ McCollum must find a balance between scorer and facilitator.

CJ McCollum must find a balance between scorer and facilitator.

The question becomes whether or not the kid from Lehigh University can do it in the regular season. That question has yet to be answered, but he left us feeling hopeful about his ability to score moving forward.

CJ McCollum Needs to Facilitate

It goes without saying that a player in summer league can still improve. However, McCollum’s shot simply wasn’t falling, which means his average of 21 points per game came on way too many shot attempts—shots that could have been assists had he looked to make plays for his teammates.

The jury is still out on whether or not McCollum can be a distributor. He averaged just 3.4 assists per game while shooting 36.6 percent from the floor, and he turned the ball over more times than he assisted during the five-game stretch.

He still has time to learn the point guard’s game, and that’s going to be essential when it comes to earning time alongside former Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.

The caveat in all of this is that summer league means virtually nothing. A 1-5 record has no influence on the year to come, and there’s plenty of time for the youngsters to grow.

But while the team’s record is a mere footnote on the exhibition event, we must ask ourselves if the group we saw will complement or crowd what the starters look to accomplish during the 2013-14 season.


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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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