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Evaluating the 2016 Summer League Spurs through two games

The 2016 NBA Draft is over, and the 2016 Summer Leagues have started. The July 2-8 Orlando Summer League is nearing completion, as is the July 4-7 Utah Summer League, before the “Main Event” begins in Las Vegas on July 8.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Here's a look at how the Summer Spurs doing, how the Spurs' previous draft picks are performing, and how the potential draft picks reviewed in the Spurs Prospectus Part III and IV are faring against (almost) NBA competition.  Keep in mind that the NBA Summer League is not the real NBA , and evaluating the 2016 draft using play in the 2016 Summer League is not wise.  The Summer League can provide an early indication, but those indications are often incorrect (see George Hill for example!).

San Antonio Summer League Team

Led by Kyle Anderson, the team is performing well as a "three-headed monster" of Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons and Bryn Forbes.  The team has won their first two games in Utah, which is a "warm up" Summer League before the main Las Vegas event.  The first game against the Utah Jazz was a 90-69 rout for the Spurs, as was the majority of the second half against Philadelphia, which played without number 1 draft pick Ben Simmons.  The Summer Spurs appeared to run out of energy in the fourth quarter of the second game of the back to back, but Bryn Forbes converted two late free throws to seal the win 95-91.  To date, none of the big men have had a substantial impact on the court.  Erazem Lorbek has been injured, and Cady Lalanne has not lived up to expectations so far, but it is early.  Below are some early observations of Spurs players:

Kyle Anderson: Clearly the best Summer Spur.  Probably doesn’t need to be in the Summer League, but he is being a good Spur and working on his game and helping the rest of the team.  His 3-point shot seems to be improving as well.  The chemistry between Anderson and Jonathon Simmons is again on display, demonstrating that these two players are very complementary and possibly not so interchangeable.  Their games are completely different, with Kyle’s slow, methodical and cerebral approach versus Jonathon’s athletic, frenetic and aggressive style.  They fit naturally together on the court.  Anderson’s continued progression made Boris Diaw more expendable than he might otherwise have been, and if he continues to develop he may remain a Spur for a long time.

Jonathon Simmons: Despite setting a Utah Summer League "record" for points scored (a meaningless accolade if there ever was one), Simmons has more work to do on his game.  Jonathon has never, ever been short of talent.  The issue has always been consistency and decision-making.  In particular, watch how he does or does not take care of the ball, and look at his defense.  Some of his turnovers are NOT his fault though, as most of his teammates are still learning where they are supposed to be when he kicks the ball out to them after penetrating.  His 3-point shot still needs work as it is not as consistent as one would like, but he is clearly improving as an NBA player.

Bryn Forbes: Has had an excellent first two games making a high percentage of his shots, and is probably the biggest "surprise" of the Summer League so far.  This is not a fluke.  Bryn is a mature, undrafted college senior from Tom Izzo’s program at Michigan State, and has always been an outstanding shooter.  So why wasn’t he drafted in 2016?  The "book" on Bryn is that for a shooting guard he is short, short-armed, of slight build, and is clearly a below-average athlete for the NBA.  He isn’t particularly fast, is definitely not strong, and is not a good leaper.  He lacks explosion and burst.  The question prior to the draft was whether he could guard anybody.  So far, he has been decent, but this is an area for further observation, particularly against better players and teams in Las Vegas.  The maturity and polish from playing for Tom Izzo clearly shows.  RC Buford knew what he was doing and signed Forbes to a 1 year guaranteed deal prior to Summer League.  Some Spurs fans have been comparing him to Patty Mills, but he is probably more comparable to a lighter, slower Gary Neal.  Should get a training camp invite, and might hang around for the final cuts.  He is possibly Austin bound, but if he keeps shooting this well …

Ryan Arcidiacono: Ryan is of acceptable height for a PG, but has short arms, is a below average NBA athlete, and isn’t a great shooter.  So why would RC Buford sign him to a two-year partially guaranteed deal prior to the Summer League?  Because he is a smart, disciplined point guard who can create for others and will defend with consistent effort.  Ryan’s attributes don’t show up very well in a box score, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player.  He is new to the Spurs defensive scheme, and this has highlighted his lack of lateral quickness.  Can he defend NBA point guards?  Can he score?  He has only taken 2 shots in 2 games thus far.  As he gains confidence, expect this total to increase.  Given the presence of Kyle Anderson as a "point forward", he really isn’t being asked to run the team. He is almost certainly Austin bound.

Erazem Lorbek: Played extremely well for Barcelona a few years ago, but hasn’t played in two years.  The concern was conditioning and health.  He has yet to make his debut as a Summer Spur due to a calf injury.  A healthy, active Lorbeck could make this team much stronger.

Ilja Gromov: A young Latvian, Ilja Gromov is not particularly long or athletic for a F/C.  He is learning about basketball in the United States, and will likely return to Europe to work on his game.  He has never been exposed to this high of a level of basketball, and it is a shock.  He has some ability, but it isn’t clear if he has NBA level talent or not.  Perhaps he wants to play in the D-League rather than Europe?  Based upon his performance thus far, I think he should go back to Latvia, or possibly a Serbian (but not Adriatic) League team.

Cady Lalanne: Has not yet lived up to expectations, but he did a decent job in Austin last year.  He might take a little longer to adjust to the level of play.

Quenton DeCosey: Hasn’t had too much playing time, but may have some potential.  Keep an eye on the defensive end first, and his shooting second.  Potential 3-And-D player.

Dejounte Murray: Has not yet made his debut due to the sequencing of free agent contract signing.  If he can play, his performance will be VERY interesting!  The case can be made that he might perform great and be confirmed as a draft "steal", or he could really show just how much he needs to improve to be a decent NBA player.  (Yes, it would be bizarre to declare Murray a "steal" based upon a few Summer League performances, but if he plays well just watch!)

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I would love to see Davis Bertans, Livio Jean-Charles, and maybe even Nikola Milutinov in Las Vegas too, but odds are long on the last two in particular.  My pipe dream is that Boban Marjanovic signs with the Spurs on Thursday, and also plays in Las Vegas.  I think this would be an outstanding opportunity to develop some chemistry between Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons, and Boban for the Spurs second/third unit.  There is nothing like playing time with teammates, and this would seem to be a great opportunity.  But it isn’t likely.

Other Austin/San Antonio Spurs: DeShaun Thomas is playing for the Charlotte Hornets.  He is doing OK, but I’m not sure he is an NBA player.  My suggestion to him would be to go to Europe rather than trying to be a 14th or 15th man on an NBA roster.  Make some money for your family, win a bunch of games and maybe a EuroLeague title and enjoy life as a professional basketball player rather than always worrying if you are about to be signed or released.  Youssou Ndoye is not playing for Senegal, and hasn’t yet appeared on an NBA Summer League roster.  Keep an eye out for him.  Julian Washburn is on the roster for the LA Clippers, but only got a few minutes of playing time.  Brandon Fields is playing for Orlando in the Orlando League and perhaps for a different team in Las Vegas.  Shannon Scott from last year’s team is playing for the Phoenix Suns.

Other Players: Many of these players have yet to play in Summer League.  Damien Inglis, an athletic wing from France, is playing for New Orleans.  He was a rumored Spurs draft target a few years ago that was released by the Milwaukee Bucks.  Fred Van Vleet is playing for the Toronto Raptors.  It will be interesting to see if his game translates from Wichita State to the NBA Summer League.  Ron Baker, his teammate, was stuck with the New York Knicks Summer League team which has lost three games so far and looked quite poor in doing so.  That could be as much a team issue as a reflection on Baker however, as he personally has improved.

Guerschon Yabusele is playing for the Boston Celtics, and seems to be adjusting.  I pegged him as a "Dejuan Blair 2.0" that was a possible Spurs selection at 29, but Boston drafted him at 16.  His rebounding and shooting percentages are of particular interest.  Also playing for the Celtics is Jaylen Brown.  The matchup between Jonathon Simmons and Brown could be very, very interesting as both are excellent athletes in transition.  Brown of course is the #3 pick this year, and Jonathon Simmons was undrafted.  Michael Gbinije was playing well but picked up an ankle injury and will need surgery.  Brice Johnson is playing well for the Los Angeles Clippers, and is both scoring and rebounding.  His teammate, Branden Dawson from Israel, is also an interesting prospect.

Joel Bolomboy is an uber-athlete, but is struggling to adjust with the Utah Jazz.  He is a long-term developmental prospect, and the early results are not a surprise.  Spencer Butterfield is a very similar player to Bryn Forbes.  He was among the best NBA prospects playing in Lithuania this year, and seems to project to be a potential NBA role-player as a shooter like Gary Neal.  Dakari Johnson, a 7’ center from Kentucky is playing well for the OKC Thunder.  He worked on his game last year in the D-League, and it seems to be paying off.  The Sacramento trio of Papagiannis, Gudaitis, and Luka Mitrovic will also be interesting to watch, like the entire organization (chuckle!).  I suspect Gudaitis might be the best of the three, despite Papagiannis being the 13th pick in the 2016 draft.  Others of interest are Wade Baldwin, Malik Beasley, Denzel Valentine, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Zipser, Ivica Zubac, Isaiah Cousins, Malcolm Brogdon and Pascal Siakam.  Zipser in particular may play well for the Chicago Bulls.