The Summer League is over, and the Wizards could not have had a better experience. The team went 4-1, and John Wall dominated as the league's most outstanding player. Not only that, but JaVale McGee showed a ton of growth, guys like Cartier Martin and Lester Hudson showed they probably deserve looks in training camp and Trevor Booker, though sometimes invisible, displayed all the characteristics that the Wizards hoped he'd show as the 23rd overall pick.
We'll have more on the Summer League this week. For now, though, I wanted to share my notes from last Friday's thrilling with against New Orleans, the last real instructive game of Summer League (since Wall and McGee sat out on Saturday). I missed the game live, so I figure this is a way to make up for it. Call it a running diary of sorts.
I'll provide timestamps and (admittedly blurry) screenshots when necessary:
-The Wizards' first offensive play is a post up on the right wing for Trevor Booker. It seems they realize they aren't involving Booker a lot in the offense and want to get his rhythm going early. Booker ends up shooting a bad fadeaway and gets bailed out with the foul. At Clemson, he seemed more adept at scoring in motion sets rather than in isolation. Something to keep an eye on.
-Cartier Martin shuts off his man, Quincy Pondexter, in the first of many Pondexter pick and rolls.
-The Hornets have begun switching John Wall pick and rolls, and Wall is having a hard time shaking New Orleans' athletic big men. This is one strategy that thwarted him for a good portion of the game.
- (7:31) JaVale McGee is an excellent offensive rebounder, mostly because he has a nose for the ball on that end. But this time, he parks his butt in the lane and pushes Craig Brackens back to secure the offensive rebound and the putback. Very nice to see.
-Booker has now twice driven right by Brackens on defense. He pump fakes a lot, but he also has enough speed to get around slower power forwards. Look at how he's able to get to the cup despite Brackets giving him all this space.
-Wall makes a nice play by coming off the pick and roll a bit slower than usual, posing just enough of a threat to drive to draw the crosscourt defender off Lester Hudson. Wall delivers the nice pass, and Hudson drains the three. I wish I could provide a screenshot, but NBATV was cutting away to a different camera angle.
-Wall shows some indecisiveness on the fast break, driving and ultimately turning it over.
-Hudson defends Maurice Ager brilliantly, sliding to cut his right-handed drive, then stripping him as he goes up for his shot. We think of Hudson as a scorer, but he is pretty quick defensively too.
-(4:22) Wall and Sam Cassell are engaged in a conversation on the sidelines, for those who think Wall isn't being coached.
-The Wizards are running fewer straight pick and rolls for Wall than they did in the earlier games. One set they ran a few times in this game is a set the team ran a lot at the end of the year, when they were playing with a two-guard offense. Here's how it works:
Wall initiates the play by feeding it to the wing. Here, Martin can pass it in the low post to McGee or in the high post to Trevor Booker. Last season, the guy in the low post was often Andray Blatche.
This time, he feeds it in the high post to Booker. This triggers the second part of the set.
Martin comes and sets a backscreen for Wall to cut to the hoop. Wall clearly shows he needs some more work practicing this play, because he comes off too wide and allows his man to cut off the passing lane. If Wall would have cut in a straight line, he would have beaten New Orleans' big to the spot. As it stands, Wall cuts too wide and Booker throws the pass out of bounds.
Still, for those who were looking to see some more elaborate offensive plays, here was one.
-There are going to be a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities for guys like McGee and Booker when Wall gets to the cup. Check out all the black shirts underneath the rim after Wall's missed floater.
-Martin commits a really, really bad foul at the 3:18 mark, bailing out Aubrey Coleman as the shot clock expires deep in the corner.
-(3:00) Wall's legs look tired on his jumper. In the first couple games, he was getting excellent elevation on his shot. Tonight, he's shooting mostly set shots and barely getting off the ground. He swished that three, but it's a habit he needs to break, especially because he's said himself that he needs more consistency.
-(2:30) JaVale forgets to box out on a free-throw attempt, allowing New Orleans to control the rebound.
-(1:2) Here's where you have to give credit for Quincy Pondexter. Pondexter threw the ball into the post, then cut around his man, something Miami used to love to do with Shaq and Dwyane Wade. But instead of cutting all the way through, Pondexter sees Martin cheating on the other side of the Hornets' post player (might have been Craig Brackens) and instead fades into the short corner for the wide open three. Great read by a solid player.
-JaVale just went behind his back from the three-point line. You won't be able to do that in the real games, son.
-Pondexter just nailed a three in Martin's face, and Martin responded with a dumb three to try to answer him. Come on Cartier, keep your head in there.
-(5.5 seconds) The referee just called a ridiculous late foul on Martin where Pondexter shoved Martin down on a baseline cut. Sam Cassell is incensed as he should be.
-Wall doesn't really finish with his left hand a lot, even on the left side.
-Hamady Ndiaye is a pleasant fellow, but he's getting pushed around out there. He had good position on an offensive rebound as a Raymar Morgan shot went up, but couldn't hold it and slowly got pushed and jammed underneath the hoop well out of the play. Then, on the next possession at the 8:40 mark, Wall whips a nice pass to him, but Ndiaye can't turn and dunk before Aubrey Coleman literally rips the ball out of his hands. I've seen Ndiaye in every Summer League game, and I can honestly say that he needs to get much stronger if he wants to contribute much next year. I like the guy, and seven-footers don't grow on trees, but he needs to get in the gym right away.
-A poor play by Raymar Morgan at the eight-minute mark. Ndiaye actually has his man pinned in the post on a switch, but instead of swinging it to the wing for Martin to enter the ball, Morgan tries to lob it from the top of the key. Turnover.
-Ndiaye's forte is his communication defensively, but here, he mostly sits idly by as Hornets center Brian Custworth flattens Cartier Martin with a transition screen. Notice how upright Ndiaye is standing here. Predictably, Maurice Ager earns two free throws.
-(6:23) I have more bad notes about Ndiaye, but here's something good to say about him - he was just victimized by a Cusworth flop of epic proportions. Screw you, Cusworth.
-(6:10) Martin makes another great defensive play, overplaying Ager to cut off New Orleans' first option. Unfortunately, the Hornets go to Kyle Hines, their second option, and Hines beats Booker to the glass for the layup.
-In general, there's too much dribbling going on.
-The Hornets are really playing off John Wall, and he's not sure how to deal with it. Check this out.
Wall missed that jumper.
-Here's another time where the Hornets switch and it frustrates Wall. That's Hines switching out onto him after Pondexter got caught behind the play.
Wall has options here. He could drive left on Hines before Cusworth (middle guy) gets back and force Nikola Dragovic (the white shirt in the back) to choose between JaVale McGee at the rim or Martin in the corner. Wall's quick, so if he's aggressive, he can do that. Instead, this happens.
Wall isn't aggressive, Hines stays with him, and the play breaks down. Wall eventually misses a terrible leaner.
-We talk a lot about JaVale McGee being "out of position" on defense. Here's what we mean. Check out these few captures of this defensive possession at the 1:41 mark. We start with a pick and roll, where McGee does his job and prevents Pondexter from turning the corner.
Unfortunately, McGee doesn't aggressively get back to his man at all. (I call this the Antawn Jamison defense, because Jamison was notorious for cutting off the drive, then slowly sauntering back to his man, forcing Brendan Haywood to cover for him. Drove me mad). Pondexter has already swung the ball to the wing, and McGee is sill outside the three-point line. This forces Trevor Booker (guy in the middle) to cheat over to McGee's man and leave his guy, Craig Brackens (21) wide open for three. Brackens is an excellent shooter.
McGee doesn't catch that Booker has switched, and suddenly Brackens is wide open. It takes some time, but he eventually gets the ball and drains a three.
McGee, as you can see, is far too late. Booker's man gets the points, but it's all McGee's fault for not hustling back after covering the pick and roll.
-Wall again shows poor elevation on a mid-range jumper and misses at 2:25. The rest of the quarter was awful. We're moving on.
-On Wall's first possession, he splits a double team and attacks the basket hard. Love to see that. Unfortunately, McGee gets in his way and Wall misses, but remember this play. It's a harbinger of things to come and a sign of the adjustment Wall has made.
-Flip Saunders is talking to the NBATV broadcasters. Among the important things he mentioned: Trevor Booker is in a "overload" situation and is thinking too much out there because the team has told him a lot of things (don't like paralyzing his mind like this, but whatever, Summer League), JaVale McGee needs to clean up the defensive boards much better (here here!) and the team really wanted Pondexter with one of their late picks.
-Booker airmails another pass on the same kind of set described above. He needs to work on his passing.
-JaVale dives down the lane very nicely and shows his soft hands as he catches a tough Wall pass for the layup.
-The Wizards are pressing, and the Hornets can't deal with it. It's getting them back into the game. The key man here is Booker, who has the kind of quickness that allows him to pick up players in the backcourt. Considering Booker did a lot of this at Clemson, and considering the other athletes on the roster, I'd love to see the Wizards go to a pressing lineup of Wall, Kirk Hinrich, Martin, Booker and McGee at some points this season.
-JaVale plays nice post defense at the 6:22 mark, and Booker comes from behind to swat away some post player's shot (couldn't catch who).
-The defensive pressure has really picked up even when the Wizards aren't pressing. Check out how far Lester Hudson is picking up Ager here.
-Wall is finally attacking. Check out this screenshot. In the first half, Wall might have pulled this out and try to go at the slower defender. Here, he curls around him and eventually sets up McGee for a lob slam.
-Hudson sets up Wall off the backboard for a dunk on a turnover. This is getting fun again. The pressure is really up.
-The Hornets have responded to the Wizards' pressure by folding a bit and shooting bad long threes. This, of course, puts Wall in the open floor, and already, we've seen some breathtaking finishes.
-I want to point to probably Sam Cassell's favorite play of the day. Wall penetrates and kicks out. Notice how both Hudson and Martin are open. Notice how Hudson is already looking to swing it one more time to Martin in the corner. Martin can't reward Hudson's faith by hitting the shot, but it's great to see players make the extra pass like this.
-Wall picks Brackens' pocket and goes in for the slam. He also goes coast-to-coast for a lefty layup before I can blink. Wizards back in it after three.
-If you needed any reassurance that Wall is super athletic, check out this shot he blocks of Aubrey Coleman's at the 9:40 mark. He's the guy on the left.
That's an insane play. For all of Derrick Rose's athleticism, he can't do that. Rose is great jumping in the air and twisting to finish a play, but he hasn't been able to use his gifts defensively like this.
-The Wizards run an isolation for Cartier Martin at the 8:42 mark. He draws a foul. Not bad.
-McGee is slow to rotate to protect the basket at the 7:50 mark. C'mon son.
-McGee doesn't have his hands up as a Hornet player drives down the lane and draws a foul on him. He spends the entire free throw attempt complaining to the referee and periodically motioning his hands to the sky as if to say he actually had his hands up. You can't turn back time. Sorry.
-Wall is playing off the ball a lot as Jerome Randle and Hudson carry it up the court.
-McGee makes a nice hard move at 6:00 and is praised for it, but it takes him from the block and back towards the free-throw line. He nails the sweeping hook, but it wasn't a move towards the hoop.
-Now this is a move towards the hoop. At the 5:18 mark, McGee turns and makes a nice hard drop step on Craig Brackens, as seen here.
McGee eventually gets inside of him and nearly gets a dunk. Instead, he misses the dunk and then misses both free throws. It was still a great power move though and a sign that he has gotten stronger.
-(5:00) Pondexter again shows his ability to come off screens, sinking back into the corner as Martin tries to shoot the gap on a curl. McGee has to help, and while Pondexter misses, McGee's man is able to get the offensive rebound, since McGee is out on the perimeter.
-Here's a rebounding scrum as Pondexter shoots a corner three. Note McGee's position. Note the presence of two white shirts, with McGee not putting a body on them. Predictably, New Orleans snares this rebound.
-(3:53) Oh yeah, there was this.
Pam is impressed.
-On the very next play, JaVale keeps his hands down and hip-checks Ager instead of going for the block. That's a play that McGee should have challenged, not a play where he should have fouled someone. It came right after his huge dunk and speaks to his struggles to play each game frame-by-frame.
-The Hornets play off Wall again, and again, Wall can't make them pay with his jumper. This one gets blocked.
-Hudson makes a great defensive play to get over a screen and force Coleman into an air ball with the shot clock expiring. I've been pleasantly surprised at all the things Hudson can do, even if he does jack up some bad shots sometimes. He definitely has a complete game.
-Martin makes a nice hustle play to tip the rebound of his missed three away and hit a bank shot. Those are the types of plays he finds a way to make. He's also guarded Pondexter well since the first quarter, except for the one play I referenced.
-Speaking of: Martin locks right into Pondexter and stays right with him coming off a New Orleans timeout. He stays with Pondexter as he comes off a screen and roll going right, then cuts him off driving left. Pondexter's only play is a 16-foot fadeaway which misses. Great job by Cartier there.
-Unfortunately, McGee loses the rebound from not boxing out.
-Ager has done a great job down the stretch maneuvering around Wall and McGee on the pick and roll. He split both for a layup earlier, now he draws a foul getting around both baseline.
-Wall finally gets some good elevation on a jumper and nails a huge fallaway.
-New Orleans turns it over, and it's none other than JaVale McGee leading the break. He somehow steps around Brackets and gets an AND-1, which gets everyone in the crowd going. That is, everyone except his mother, who realizes he should have passed it off.
- (1:03) McGee misses another defensive rebound his team badly needed.
-Another Ager layup.
-(15 sec.) Wall penetrates, finds McGee, who misses a wide open Martin and instead hits a long jumper to give the Wizards the lead. Result: ok. Process? Eh.
-(2.2 sec.) Mike Fratello is getting on McGee for not getting out on Brackens in time for three-point go-ahead shot, but I can't kill JaVale for that. It was a broken play, and he was there. Brackens just hit a hell of a shot.
-(0 sec.) Ballgame, Lester Hudson.
The underrated part of this play? Booker setting a vicious screen on Hudson's man, forcing Hines to switch onto him. All teams switch in order to avoid the situation Booker was trying to create, but Booker's screen was so good that the Hornets switch came a split second later than they wanted. That was all the time Hudson needed to create some separation from Hines and drain the game-winner.
I hope this took you inside some of the notes I take when watching a game. GO WIZARDS!