A night after dropping a close game against a stacked Knicks Summer League squad, the Spurs got their first win under Becky Hammon, thumping the Bucks 89-74 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. It was mostly a sloppy, ragged affair, with the two teams combining for 40 turnovers, but the game was memorable for the fact that the Spurs shot a blistering 66.7 percent (12-of-18) from downtown. The actual Spurs may not be able to match that mark once all season.
The Knicks game was our first look at Jonathon Simmons, and while I tried to be as extensive as I could with my amateur scouting, there's a key element that I think I missed. I think we all kind of assumed he was a typical "3-and-D" type, because he earned 3rd-Team All-Defensive honors in the D-League with Austin last season and shot 39.2 percent from three. However, the more I watch Simmons, the more I realize his game has far more in common with Manu Ginobili than Danny Green.
Please, don't get me wrong. I'm not getting carried away and claiming this guy will develop into an All-Star or anything like that. I'm just referring to his playing style. Hammon had Simmons take the ball up the floor and get the team into its sets the majority of the time he was in the game.
(Remember, originally Nate Wolters was supposed to play for the Spurs in Las Vegas, but he fractured his finger playing for the Clippers in the Orlando league last week. Who knows if Simmons would've gotten this opportunity had Wolters not gotten hurt?)
I think Simmons handled the rock more these past two nights in Vegas than Green does in a month of action. He's a combo guard, not a small-forward. I can see Simmons take over Ginobili's role on nights where he's hurt or resting.
Off the ball, Simmons seems to be very comfortable and adept attacking off the curl. He doesn't seem to have a Euro-step in his arsenal, or even that quick of a crossover, but he does have the hesitation dribble, he changes gears smoothly and he can drive in either direction and finish with either hand, which gives him an edge. He's also, as we've seen, an explosive finisher.
Jonathon Simmons is at it again! https://t.co/P7rBuE7F8g— The Spurs Zone (@TheSpursZone) July 13, 2015
I lamented last night that I couldn't get a sense of Simmons' foot-speed in transition because he always had the ball, but after he turned it over near mid-court on a trap against the Bucks, we saw his long strides in action on a chase-down block. I couldn't find a GIF of it, but it was pretty similar to a play he made last week when he suited up for the Nets.
The main difference between Simmons and a young Ginobili is that I have yet to see Simmons run the pick-and-roll. Either he doesn't have a feel for it, the Spurs don't have the personnel among their bigs to run it, or it's just something they're saving for later. I imagine it will be a point of emphasis for him with Chad Forcier and the other developmental coaches.
Simmons can pass though, that much is clear, and he can do it on the move, which again is fairly advanced stuff. He finished with six assists, mostly on kickouts to the corner. As long as he doesn't miss the open guy there, he can play for Pop.
Another thing Simmons may have in common with Ginobili? They were both late bloomers. Not only was Simmons not drafted, he wasn't even in ESPN.com draft guru Chad Ford's Top 100. (Draymond Green and Khris Middleton, who both secured extensions for bajillions of dollars with the Warriors and Bucks respectively, were ranked 20th and 48th as prospects by Ford.)
Digging around the interwebs I was able to find a couple of nuggets about Simmons. Apparently he impressed enough scouts to be invited to the "D-League Elite Mini-Camp" this past May and then did well enough there to earn a Summer League invite from the Nets.
The guard stood out, not only as a top performer, but a surprise one, across the league. Simmons was at the top of his game, and certainly picked the perfect and ideal time to shine. This comes off a steady sophomore season, which he closed out with a slew of strong playoff performances for Austin. Simmons was tied for third in maximum vertical
Also, on SheridanHoops.com had Simmons on a list of "five early-entry gems" of the 2012 draft class. (Damian Lillard, who wound up being drafted sixth, was atop the list, but whatever.)
I'm curious to see how Simmons rates at the NBA combine in terms of total athleticism, a category that allowed for Iman Shumpert to volt up draft boards. He's not the most physical of prospects, but his length and athleticism allowed for some explosive offensive performances that included makes from behind the 3-point arc. He played just one year of college ball and 6'6 athletes are a dime a dozen, but in the right situation Simmons may be able to shine over the summer and stick on an NBA roster. He's an interesting prospect for me at this point.
In the non-Simmons division, two interesting guys to keep tabs on are Shannon Scott and Jarell Eddie.
Scott, a 6-1 point guard from Ohio State, was a highly-recruited prospect coming out of high school, a quick slasher with uncommonly strong defensive tenacity for a play-maker. However, his shot never developed much in school and freshman sensation D'Angelo Russell completely overshadowed him last season.
Like Simmons before him, Scott also didn't make Ford's Top 100 for this past draft class. He did crack #86 for DraftExpress.com though, and they have an extensive scouting report on him here.
I mentioned yesterday that Scott has been far more impressive than Will Cherry and Casper Ware, the other point guards who've played for the Spurs during Summer League, and that was once again the case against the Bucks, where he paced the Spurs with seven assists and five steals. Scott's got long arms and very quick hands and he poked the ball loose from opponents from in front, from behind and by playing the passing lanes. Finishing at the rim was an issue, but he swished a pair of catch-and-shoot threes and knocked down 2-of-5 against the Knicks as well.
I bring up Scott because the trade for Sacramento's Ray McCallum seemed a curious move to me, even for the low cost of a future second-round pick. McCallum, who is slated to be the successor to Cory Joseph's role as 3rd point guard/understudy for Tony Parker, shot the ball terribly last season for the Kings and didn't bring anything else to the table. He was the 78th-ranked point guard in the league in Real-Adjusted Defensive Plus-Minus, which, obviously, is quite alarming. (Parker was 82nd, second-to-last to Wolves rookie Zach LaVine.)
If the Spurs are looking for the next Joseph, I'd submit that Scott would be a better candidate in that role than McCallum. Right now there isn't a single point guard on the roster who can be counted on to guard anybody. McCallum is a homeless man's version of Patty Mills. Scott would fill more of a traditional third point guard role.
McCallum's spot on the team is already ensured, but I'd like to see Scott brought to training camp just to give the coaches something to think about, and hopefully after that there can be a spot for him in Austin.
Bottom line, I just don't see the appeal of McCallum right now. He doesn't seem to be good at anything, though there's ample time for him to prove me wrong. At least Scott can guard people and create live ball turnovers. That is valuable.
Eddie, meanwhile, hardly set the world on fire at Virginia Tech, shooting over 40 percent just one season out of four and .365 for his collegiate career, but he lit it up in Austin last season, hitting 45.2 percent of his threes for the Spurs in 44 games and winning the D-League Three-Point Shoot-Out. Danny Green wasn't that prolific of a marksman at North Carolina, you know. He only shot over 40 percent as a senior and made 37.5 percent of them in four seasons for the Tar Heels.
Eddie got a 10-day contract with the Hawks last March but never got into a game. He hooked on with the Pacers summer league team in Orlando and averaged 9.4 points in five games, making 11-of-24 (.458) from downtown. With the Spurs in Vegas he didn't play very well overall in the first game, making just 3-of-10 shots and 2-of-6 from deep, including the "Hammer" play Hammon called for him late. Eddie's potential game-tier from the corner rattled in and out. He made 5-of-8 bombs against the Bucks though, so that works out to 7-of-14 in two games for the Spurs and 18-of-38 (.473) in Summer League.
This guy can shoot, period. If Green or one of the other wings suffers an injury, the Spurs can do a lot worse than give Eddie a call-up.