A couple of days ago, I wrote that the player who impressed me the most in the Las Vegas Summer League was Kevin Love. After examining more evidence, I'd like to re-phrase that.
I still think that Love is the most NBA-ready prospect I've seen -- and I'll go so far as to say that he's my early pick for Rookie of the Year -- but Jerryd Bayless has been flat-out electric. He had the crowd in awe as he put up 36 points in a close game last night, including 17 in the final quarter.
All in all, he's averaged 29.8 points in four games. He warmed up for today's game with his teammates, but he's spent most of the game sitting on the sidelines with his hand wrapped in ice. (It's nothing serious -- an MRI was negative -- but after being named to the USA Select Team that will scrimmage against Team USA over the next few days, he could use the rest.)
Bayless was awarded the T-Mobile NBA Summer League Top Rookie trophy before tonight's game, which, judging by the way he filled the bucket, is an honor I completely endorse.
But is he ready to make an immediate impact for the Blazers? That much remains to be seen. I chatted with Nate McMillan after Bayless' explosion last night, and he was quick to point out that it wouldn't be the rookie's scoring prowess that earns him playing time this year.
Matt Watson: Obviously when you guys drafted Jerryd Bayless, you knew he'd be good. Did you think he'd be this good?
Nate McMillan: Well, it's summer league. I didn't see Tony Parker and some of those guys out there. We know he has a lot of potential. What we want to do is put him in certain situations this summer, playing him off the ball, playing him with the ball.
I thought tonight he started off playing with the ball, got off to a slow start. Coach [Monty] Williams moves him back to the two guard and he had a good second half. It's just showing us what his potential is at, and we know that he can do certain things out there, but there are certain areas we want him to grow at. And he'll be able to do that.
MW: What do you think some of those areas are?
NM: Just playing the point guard position. [In the regular season], Brandon Roy will be playing the off-guard. So if he can play the point position and create some opportunities and make some decisions at that position, it really will help his game and help [put him in] a position that he can see some playing time in.