Mar 15, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley (45) jumps for a rebound against the Louisville Cardinals during the second half of a semifinal game of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Grizzlies Lose Second Summer League Game

The Grizzlies lost their second game of the Las Vegas Summer League and it’s a little hard to feel good about this one. The Cavaliers won by 11, 69-58, led by Dion Waiters who scored 23 points on 7-17 shooting. Of note for the Grizzlies was Jack Cooley who scored 20 on 7-13, and Tony Wroten, who looked in control and (for the most part) smart, despite only getting only 7 points and 2 assists.

The point of the Summer League isn’t really to win, it’s just to see how the new talent looks, and how much they’re likely to contribute. The Grizzlies did not look particularly good.

There are a couple of things to note first: one, Summer League games never look particularly good. We don’t expect them to. The teams are composed of talent that is mostly not NBA ready, and even the talent that is ready for the NBA hasn’t ever played together. As well, despite being the first draft for the team and a member of the roster, Jamaal Franklin — “the Grindson” —  did not play in tonight’s game.

Nonetheless, with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter, the Grizzlies had shot 2-24 from 3, and were shooting 23.7% from the floor. Here’s that number again: 23%.

It was REALLY, REALLY ugly.

It’s tempting to try and go player to player and figure out who could be of what use in the League, but it’s clear from early on that most of these players will not, and should not, see time in the league. Of real interest from tonight’s game are really only Janis Timma, Tony Wroten, and Jack Cooley.

Jan 25, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies point guard Tony Wroten (1) brings the ball up court during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at the FedEx Forum. Memphis Grizzlies defeat the Brooklyn Nets 101-77. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Timma was the last pick of this year’s draft and was interesting primarily because he had the most promise as a three-point shooter to fill that major gap in the lineup. Unfortunately, he did not shoot particularly well tonight: he only hit 1 out of his 9 shots tonight.

Granted, some of the best shooters in the NBA have struggled in the Summer League, but the real concern with Timma was that his shot selection was just as bad as the shots themselves. Almost none were taken at the rim, and the jumpshots he did take were all at least partially contested, at one point even prompting a comment of “shot selection is really the challenge with these young players” from the commentator. It’s hard to feel good about him filling any kind of shooting hole after tonight’s game.

Wroten was more encouraging…kind of. He looked really good as a passer. Right before the game, Wroten hinted that new coach Dave Joerger wanted the team to push the ball more in transition and set up sets before the opposing defense could reset. Again, Wroten did a wonderful job of grabbing the ball, moving quickly and getting the ball in a usable position early.

Unfortunately, this did not show on the scoreboard as he only had 2 assists, though his rebound numbers were alright. Remember, though, the team shot SUB 30% for most of the game, and it’s a little difficult to get assists that way. On a less positive note, Wroten’s shooting was horrific. His shot selection was pretty good, most attempts were either threes or at the rim, but he only shot 1 for 14 from the floor. That’s AWFUL. And when your shots are smart, against Summer League defense, to get real time in the NBA you need to make them. Wroten didn’t. He did, however, display the kind of smarts that may get him real bench time.

The last one of note is Jack Cooley. It’s weird to be writing about him, because, well, we didn’t expect anything from him. But he was the one shining light on the team tonight, hitting greater than 50% of his shots for 20 total points, picking up 9 boards, and making the only 2 threes for the Grizzlies. He was, perhaps, the only really efficient player for the team tonight. Weirdly, though, he didn’t really look good. As someone else pointed out:

Normally, I hate writing about the “eye test” too much, but in the Summer League it really matters. If someone isn’t athletic, doesn’t space right, etc, they probably will struggle hard in the NBA, and Cooley didn’t pass the eye test too well. A lot of his points were on awkward put-backs from passes that he very narrowly turned over. No more than, I dunno, 8% of your points should be from a near-turnover, but his percentage was higher than that. In the NBA, those were all turnovers, not points.

It’s hard to deny the impact he had though, and his spacing and shooting stroke looked really good. Just for his shooting alone he could be an impact part of the team.

That said, it’s hard to see where he might fit. Between Gasol, Z-Bo, Koufos, Ed Davis, and Jon Leuer, it’s hard to imagine that the team has any space for a 6-10 stretch 4 like Cooley.

So, the only guy who looked like he could have a positive impact for the team probably could never find playing time.


Welcome to Summer League everybody.

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