Spurs, Cavs on different ends of Summer League spectrum
Summer League focal points are different for all teams involved in Las Vegas. It’s this bizarro world, where the best NBA teams are typically the worst in the desert sun, and the worst are best for obvious reasons. It’s an irony that manifested itself on Sunday afternoon, where a team with the last two top overall draft picks easily dropped the Spurs, 82-70, in front of a packed Cox Pavilion crowd.
They were all there to see Andrew Wiggins. Well, maybe Wiggins, and former Runnin’ Rebel and No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett. The organizational and basketball-related calamity that has cloaked the Cleveland Cavaliers since the departure of LeBron James in 2010 has resulted in four top-5 picks, including the two aforementioned No. 1 overall selections, and that product showed off its shine against the San Antonio group of rookies, random journeymen, and end-of-bench Spurs role players.
It’s a sign of the distance between the two teams at each end of the spectrum of contention — what the Cavs put on the floor is the future of their franchise; what the Spurs deployed was roster-filler, a potential draft-day steal, and a duo of possible future contributors beyond the Duncan era. San Antonio and Cleveland have different objectives, and watching them collide was as brutal as it was enlightening. The Spurs’ clock is just set on a different time than almost any other in the league.
For San Antonio’s summer roster, the most interesting prospect outside of Kyle Anderson might be the diminutive, undrafted Bryce Cotton (whose 360-degree dunk in warmups was perhaps the best part of the afternoon; he’s MAYBE six feet tall). The team’s current roster situation has created an intensive tryout, where a guy like Cotton who wasn’t pulled in by any other team has a chance to make it to the NBA.
The Spurs may have needs in this capacity, especially considering the concern that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will likely miss time.
“Obviously (the front office) got him after the draft because they liked him. He’s an interesting player, more of a point guard and not as great a shooter and scorer as Patty, so we’re not looking at him in the same mold,” Ime Udoka said. “But we do like him and we like a lot of things he does out there.
“For a lot of these guys it’s the first time playing in an NBA atmosphere; it’s only two games and they’re continuing to improve, and we like what we see from him.”
One of “these guys” is Deshaun Thomas, who’s now playing in his second summer league with the Spurs after being drafted in 2013. Thomas played for JSF Nanterre of the French League during his 2013 rookie year, but he doesn’t project to make the roster immediately going forward. Still, his mindset is to, at some point, find his way to south Texas.
“It’s some things I did over there in the game like ‘Hey, that’s the Spurs game.’ Passing the ball, cutting, hitting the open man — if you don’t (have) the shot, get rid of it, cut to the basket, hit the shot,” he said. “My focus is here.”
The difference in what Cleveland is doing and what San Antonio is doing is obvious, and it’s not really even worth talking much about. The two teams that played today are on completely different current trajectories. For the young Spurs, it’s all about getting the work in, and finally awaiting their turn.
“I put it as it’s no pressure. You just gotta go out there and be you and let your game speak for itself,” Thomas said. “We know it’s hard to get in this league, but all you gotta do is go out there and do you and let the game speak for itself and ball from there.
“As long as you feel like you did your part, anything can happen.”