LAS VEGAS — When you win the NBA championship you get to hoist a gold trophy, receive a $100,000 ring, and enjoy a championship parade. When you win the Las Vegas summer league you get to hoist a gold trophy, receive a cherry flavored ring pop from Rick Mahorn, and if the team is extremely generous there could be a parade at the buffet line.
The Golden State Warriors may not be greeted with a championship parade when they return to the Bay Area, but they accomplished something special this summer by going undefeated and winning the inaugural Vegas summer league tournament title.
Two players who truly benefited from the summer circuit were Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green.
Both are second-year players who saw a lot of action during the 2013 playoffs, especially Green. The former Michigan State standout was part of a frontcourt rotation that powered the Warriors to a Western Conference first-round playoff series win over the Denver Nuggets and pushed the San Antonio Spurs to six grueling games in the conference semifinals.
Green looks fitter and slimmer this summer and it showed on the court, bumping his point average from 6 to 12 and appears quicker to the ball. His defense is what earned him major playing time for the Warriors as a rookie, and that part of his game has only gotten better. Look for head coach Mark Jackson to rotate the 6-7, 230-pound Green with David Lee and Harrison Barnes at the forward position.
Prior to emerging as one of the stars of the Vegas summer league, Bazemore was mostly known for his towel waving skills from the bench and token appearances on the court. He did make a memorable reverse layup that put the Warriors ahead during Game 1 of the Spurs playoff series, but was overshadowed by Manu Ginobili’s spectacular 3-pointer in overtime.
With supersub Jarret Jack now in Cleveland, the 6-5 Bazemore should get a long look as the backup point guard as well as shooting guard, and may even play some small forward if Jackson decides to go extra small. The Warriors coach told NBA TV’s David Aldridge that Bazemore will be ready when called upon.
“He’s gonna get a serious look,” Jackson said of Bazemore, who averaged 18 points a game in 30 minutes and was named to the Vegas all-tournament team.
“At the end of the day we’re loaded. We’ve got five perimeter players that are better basketball players today,” Jackson said. “Kent’s a guy who continues to improve, works extremely hard, and he’s gonna stay ready. We’ll see how it pans out, but he’s a guy with a lot of confidence and he has separated himself this summer.”
Bazemore was overlooked coming out of Old Dominion. He went undrafted in 2012 and was the 499th ranked player in 2012-13 according to ESPN.com. To put that into better context, there were only 450 active players in the league last season. That wasn’t lost on Bazemore as he marked “499” on his shoes to remind him of that insult.