The Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Phoenix Suns in a very Las Vegas Summer League game Sunday night. The pace was frantic. The game was sloppy. The players were winded and tried to do too much.
They keep stats for summer league games. Jabari Parker finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Nate Wolters scored 16 points. Giannis Antetkounmpo scored 16 points too and he pulled down six rebounds himself. For the Suns, Seth Curry logged 24 points, on the back of a five for seven effort from 3-point range.
But summer league isn’t about wins or losses or stats. Sure, a 30-point game from Parker might be fun to watch, but it’d be fun to watch because of how it was played, not because it resulted in 30 points. Even though he shot just four of 15 from the field on Sunday night, there were still some fun moments from him. Moments that really made him seem like he’ll be a fine fit as a power forward.
His post game seems very strong. In two games I’ve seen him demonstrate more assertiveness in the post with more speed than any of the Bucks big men. I know John Henson has shown a lot of finesse and touch with his left hand in the past two seasons, but it typically takes him a few seconds to really get his move going. And after that, everyone knows he’s always going left. Parker was showing off some fakes and decisiveness en route to quick attacks often when he was catching with his back to the basket.
Parker’s play in the pick and roll game with Nate Wolters was another bright spot. They only ran a handful together, but in most cases the Suns defenders were very cognizant of Parker, which opened up a little bit of space for Nate. In the one situation that Suns defenders ambushed Wolters and attempted a trap as he dribbled away from Parker, he did a great job of finding Parker in the paint. A rotating Suns defender got to Parker quickly and forced a turnover, but the recognition by Wolters was impressive.
“When he picks and pops he’s a pretty good target,” Wolters said about Parker after the game. “His guy wants to get back to it allows me to get some easy shots. It’s fun to play with him, that’s for sure.”
If the mere threat of Parker’s presence provides space, he could be a boon for Bucks guards come real basketball time assuming he’s – you know – good right away.
But as I alluded to before, he wasn’t always very good on Sunday. His shot selection was, uhh, … brave? Does brave work here? Maybe not. But let’s roll with it. He put up some long, chucker-style jumpers, that’s for sure. But on this team, it’s hard to blame him.
And he is still learning and adjusting to the NBA. The game speed and conditioning necessary seem to be something he’s going to have to adjust to. His wind and shot-selection came to ahead with 1:42 to play and the Bucks down.
He grabbed a rebound, took the ball up the court and took an off-balance pull-up jumper. After it airballed, he put his hand up and copped to the bad idea. When the Suns came back down on the other end, he didn’t have quite enough left after a rotation to run out on forward Elias Harris (sounds like Tobias Harris) and barely challenged him on a three. Harris connected and the game was basically over.
The Bucks called a timeout and Parker’s hands went quickly to his hips and his breath was labored. Parker was tired. It didn’t affect him all game, even if it seemed noticeable, but it did seem to affect him defensively late, specifically in this example.
But conditioning should be one of the easiest fixes for a guy as talented and apparently driven as Parker is. As he improves there, the bright spots like his ability as a screener and post player, seem sure to shine through more. It’s possible the forced shots will too, but, with these young Bucks players, Bucks fans will have to take the good with the bad for a while it seems.
– Chris Wright remains an opportunistic offensive player. He’ll occasionally crash very hard and look for a putback dunk. Sometimes he sees just enough space when he has the ball to try to drive and get off a dunk in traffic too. He looks to dunk. That’s what he did late last season in Milwaukee and I suspect that’s what he’ll look to do always. There isn’t a lot else there though.
– It’ll be interesting to see how many free throws Giannis can average next season if he gets over 25 minutes per game. He was at the line eight times against the Suns and his length and angular approaches to finishing invite contact so often. Sometimes he finishes through it, but most often he draws the foul. Even in his tentative stages last season he did this a bit.
– Wolters in traffic against athletic defenders still seems like trouble. He isn’t the kind of guy who can rise up and pass over guys. He’s going to need to know where his teammates are and react before defenses get him in too bad of a position when he’s trapped or help comes over and he’s trying to drive through multiple players. His margin of error is slimmer than many NBA guards.
– JaJuan Johnson has an athleticism that seems like it could really be disruptive given his 6-foot-11 size and a bit of a soft touch. He made more plays than second round pick Johnny O’Bryant, who looked slow in rotations at times and content to fadeaway on his jumpers or just settle for 15-footers on offense.
– Kenny Kadji is tall, but seems devoid of most necessary skills to stick around in the NBA. He’s the only guy I’ve watched and really been able to notice how out of place he is, even here.