Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer League Game 1: Trail Blazers vs. Raptors

The Portland Trail Blazers lost their first summer league contest of the year, 92-87 to the Toronto Raptors, but that's not the point of this discussion. After each game, HolyBackboard will provide a report on how Bayless, Cunningham, and Pendergraph performed, looked, and what they can improve on for the next game. Jerryd Bayless: He said this summer he wanted to pattern his game after Chauncey Billups, and outside of a few hurried turnovers on the fast break, he looked very Billups-esque. He was in control of the offense and was very efficient. The stat sheet read 22 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds on 7-17 shooting. More important than just the incredible stat sheet was the fact he looked like a point guard out there on the floor. He took the scoring opportunities when they were presented, but he always kept his head up and eyes open for teammates. One play that exemplified this new Jerryd Bayless was early on in the 1st quarter. After a failed pick and roll, the Raptors kept the double team out high on Bayless, but he quickly knifed through the double team. Last year, he would have shot the floater in this situation from about 10 feet out, but he kept his eyes open and threw a beautiful lob for Pendergraph for an And-1. As amazing as he looked at times, a few problems still need to be ironed out throughout summer league. 7 dimes looks and sounds great but not accompanied by 6 turnovers, many coming on the fast break as he lost his dribble trying to split the defense. He will learn to slow down and set up the offense. Although his jumper looked great in the 1st half, it wasn't falling for him in the 2nd half. All but one or two were good, open looks and should be knocked down in the future, but his jumper isn't quite back....yet. For Wednesday's game, Jerryd should keep doing what he is doing in the flow of the offense. If the jumper is there, take it. If they are up on him defensively, blow by the man for the layup. I'd like to see more consistency out of the jump shot as well and try not to force anything. Finally, the turnovers should be targeted at 3 and below, that was really the only aspect of his game tonight which really needs working on. Overall grade: A Dante Cunningham: Rarely when you go to YouTube and search for a highlight mix, does that mix actual exemplify how the player actually plays. I encourage everyone to watch this Dante Cunningham Mix, because that's Dante for you. Athletic, hard working, smooth jumper, and tenacious on the boards sums up Cunningham in a nutshell. He finished the game with 21 points, and 9 rebounds on 8-17 shooting. It was a quick start for Cunningham as he scored 10 of his 21 points within the first 8 minutes of the game. Nearly all of his buckets came off of mid-range jump shots and it wasn't as if he has a "sweet spot" on the court either, because he was drilling them from all around the perimeter like he was playing Around the World. Bayless found him a lot off of the pick and roll and unfortunately, for whatever reason, the team went away from Dante in the 4th period which likely lost the game for Portland down the stretch. I see a lot of Brandon Bass in his game. He flat out will out work his man for the rebound and is much more athletic than I think is given credit for. A play that stood out in my mind was how high he got up to break up an alley-oop thrown for Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan and DeRozan can fly. Another plus is his smooth free throw stroke. Many times a big can be active around the hoop and always getting hammered on, but they can't shoot foul shots to save their lives but not Dante. His smooth shooting jump shot doesn't desert him at the charity stripe as he went 5-6, which is a big plus if he is going to keep being lively around the hoop. Finally, his best attribute is he sticks to his strengths and doesn't do anything out of his skill set. As for next game, seeing more of the same from Dante would make me feel comfortable that if Utah matches Millsap, he could be given a few minutes a night. Overall grade: A+. Jeff Pendergraph: It's tough when you put up 12 points, grab 9 boards, and shoot an efficient 5-8 from the floor and it would be considered the worst night of the bunch, but Pendergraph showed flashes why he was taken 31st overall in last month's draft. If there's one thing that jumped out about Pendergraph, its that you must put a body on this kid. He attacks the glass hard and is athletic enough to finish strong around the hoop. Like Cunningham, he is very active around the hoop and something to take notice is the lack of fouls he committed, only 3 in 26 minutes of action. I don't know what it is, the follow dunks, the similar stature, or his ability to crass the glass, but when I think of an NBA comparison, Tyson Chandler comes to mind. Although he only shot it once, it appears that Jeff has a nice, soft baby hook. Unfortunately for Jeff, there weren't many chances to go back in the post and take that shot. He got it down low only one more time the rest of the way and threw up an ugly fade away. The position of the ball being so close to his face needs to be changed quickly, because that shot is getting sent back in his face in the NBA. The next time I see Jeff, I want to see him on the low block and let him bang away and shoot the jump hook. It was a pretty good debut for Jeff, he was just in the shadows of Dante and Jerryd tonight. Overall grade: B-.

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