In the run-up to the draft, I talked about one point guard generally omitted from draft day discussions. I said he was a better shooter than Mike Conley, Jr. as good or better defender, and exhibited more heart than Conley because, unlike Conley, he was the primary-mover of his college team’s run through the regular season and in the Big Dance.His name? Aaron Brooks.
The slight 6′1″ 161-pound Brooks proved my point (at least for the moment) during the Las Vegas portion of NBA Summer League ball that ended Sunday. While New York Knicks point guard Nate Robinson was named Vegas Most Outstanding Player, Brooks was named Rookie of the Month.
Brooks was dominant in Summer League play averaging 21.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, and 5.2 apg in only 31.8 minutes of play per game. Conley, on the other hand, averaged 11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 5.2 apg in 39.8 minutes per game.
Of the rookie point guards in Vegas, those who appear most NBA-ready are Brooks, Rodney Stuckey (Detroit Pistons), and Javaris Crittenton (Los Angeles Lakers) top the list. For Crittenton, though, the transition will be tougher. Phil Jackson’s triangle offense can be difficult for veterans (ask Gary Payton) to grasp, let alone a 19-year old rookie.
In the final Vegas Summer League game Seattle played Portland and Kevin Durant looked, for the first time in five games, worthy of being the number two pick in the draft. KD scored 28 points on 8-19 shooting from the floor (11-13 from the free throw line) and is grabbing most of the headlines for his performance. The only problem is Durant wasn’t the best rookie on his own team last night and for much of the five-game schedule.
That honor goes to Seattle’s #5 pick, Jeff Green.
Green shot 10-18 from the floor and converted 10-14 from the charity stripe. When Green lined up at power forward. the responsibility for stopping him was tasked to journeyman Zendon Hamilton and Green treated him like he was fresh meat in a lion’s den. Then about midway through the third and fourth quarter Green vacillated between point forward and shooting guard and remained the game’s dominant player.
Green exploited Hamilton in every possible manner; took him off the dribble from both the wing and the top of the key and shot jumpers in his face from both spots on the floor. Green then took Hamilton down on the block and further exposed the Trail Blazer rookie and whoever else decided to play help-side defense.
Those defending Green as he played point forward and shooting guard fared no better. Former Duke all-ACC rookie Josh McRoberts took a turn at Green and suddenly appeared too slow for NBA play. Even Finnish player Petteri Koponen and Florida’s Taurean Green, both guards took turns at stopping Green to no avail. Green scored easily on both. McRoberts vacillated between looking like a cardboard cut-out and a “Pop-up” as Green took him off the dribble from every imaginable spot on the floor. Green simply posted up and shot over Taurean and Koponen as if they were small children.
All said, between Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, Green appears to be the more NBA-ready of the two rookies. Durant is knocked off his spots too easily on the offensive end and is not as versed in defensive nuance as he appeared to be in college. Green, at 6′8″ and 235 pounds, has an NBA body, is quicker than most thought, handles the ball nearly as well as Durant, and is already a better than average defender.
It will be fun watching the two grow up in the Pacific Northwest.
The Summer League First-Team roster looked like this:
- Aaron Brooks – G, Houston Rockets
- Al Thornton – F, Los Angeles Clippers
- Craig Smith – F, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Javaris Crittenton – G, Los Angeles Lakers
- Jose Juan Barea – G, Dallas Mavericks
- Kevin Durant – F, Seattle SuperSonics
- Kyle Lowry – G, Memphis Grizzlies
- Louis Williams – G, Philadelphia 76ers
- Marco Belinelli – G, Golden State Warriors
- Rodney Stuckey – G, Detroit Pistons
- Rudy Gay – F, Memphis Grizzlies
- Randy Foye – G, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Spencer Hawes – C, Sacramento Kings
- Von Wafer – G, Denver Nuggets