Before the San Antonio Spurs’ Summer League team departed for Las Vegas, Summer League coach Ime Udoka had this to say on Wednesday.
“I’ve got orders to see what certain guys can do at certain positions.”
“Obviously we’ve got some guys we want to take a look at,” continued Udoka Wednesday, “see them in different roles, in different aspects.”
Friday in Vegas, it seems some of those “orders” may have been carried out in the form of three players, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo, and Deshaun Thomas as the Spurs defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 69-68.
Udoka mentioned that the Spurs would be looking for Joseph to be more aggressive in scoring and in his leadership role. For De Colo, San Antonio wanted to see how productive he could be at the shooting guard position and De Colo even said when he was told he would be going to Summer League; it would be to see how efficient he would be at the two-guard spot.
Joseph did just what his coach wanted, came out aggressive on the offensive end, specifically scoring, and delivered in the leadership role. Joseph was aggressive offensively taking the ball from one side of the court and pushing the pace to the other side before the defense could get fully set. He’d attack the defense when the opportunity was presentable and would go back to running a play when there wasn’t an opportunity to attack.
Shooting wise, he had confidence in his jumper as well as he hit mid-range jumpers off screens and knocked down 3-pointers from beyond the arc in his catch-and-fire stance.
As far as the leadership, Joseph was poised throughout the night from keeping the Spurs’ run-and-gun pace going throughout the game to making the game winning shot in a non-hesitant manner.
Joseph finished with a team-high 19 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 4 turnovers in 34 minutes. Joseph’s effective play showed statistically as he made 7-of-14 attempts from the field and the aggression was there as he was able to attempt 6 free throws.
De Colo mainly played the shooting guard role Friday though he did get a small stretch of running the point. As a shooting guard, he had his ups and downs against the Bobcats, but again it’s just his first game with San Antonio playing the two-guard role for heavy minutes.
De Colo had trouble finding consistent rhythm as had to be prepared to shoot most of his shots coming off of screens, which is where shooting guards usually get their shots from. An area where he can be a plus is that he’s a secondary option with the point guard as a player that can run a play, or create some offense through the use of the pick-and-roll.
Defensively however, De Colo will have to remember that shooting guards are usually a team’s first or secondary scoring option. Jeff Taylor scored 24 points and put up 17 shots most times with De Colo defending him. De Colo looked as if he wasn’t used to defending a player with so many different ways of attacking, whether it was off the pick-and-roll, iso situation, or chasing Taylor through screens. In fact, it was bad pick-and-roll defense between De Colo and Thomas that allowed Taylor to hit a critical open 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game to give the Bobcats a 68-67 lead before Joseph delivered his game winner.
De Colo finished scoring 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting, throwing 3 assists, gathering 1 steal, and turning the ball over 3 times in 33 minutes. Friday was just one game for De Colo playing the shooting guard position and he should continue to play the position while in Vegas.
But remember, De Colo has experience as a two guard. In fact, with Team France, he is the starting shooting guard and most likely will get more repetitions at the position with France this fall as they will participate in Eurobasket.
On draft night, Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford has this to say of selecting Thomas with the 58th pick in the second round of the NBA Draft.
“He’s a scorer,” said Buford. “He’ll make outside shots, you can put him in the post, he can slash. The package is pretty good.”
By the time Friday evening came to an end, media members on Twitter were already calling Thomas a “steal” and even the commentator covering the game kept praising Thomas as an NBA ready player other teams missed out on.
Thomas impressed in his debut with 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, he made 2 of his 4 three pointers, had 2 steals and just 2 turnovers.
Even though Udoka said the Spurs would like to see him play small forward, Thomas played power forward throughout the night. It looked evident the Spurs wanted to see what Thomas could do in his comfort zone, the 4-position, as he took the second most shots behind Joseph and one more than De Colo. Thomas looked like he was given the green light to score.
Thomas showed he is a natural scorer as he used a variety of methods to put the ball in the basket. Whether it was shooting mid-range jumpers, driving in for a layup, attacking the defense, or hitting open 3-pointers, Thomas showed poise on the offensive end. Another area where he excelled was in running the pick-and-pop plays. When he did that, he could shoot the jumper or pump fake, put his defender on his heels, and then attack the defense.
As Project Spurs’ own Trevor Zickgraf noted Friday, defensively Thomas did show some deficiencies. For one, when defending the pick-and-roll, he looked confused often and the result was usually an open jumper for the player he was defending. His 6’7” height also puts him at a disadvantage in the NBA in grabbing rebounds.
In the next two games, the Spurs will probably give Thomas some minutes at the small forward position to see how effective he can be. If he doesn’t show any drastic production, he’s already shown that he could be an effective power forward in a small ball lineup due to his scoring ability. But if Thomas wants to make a bid for the vacant 15th roster spot on the Spurs, he’ll need to improve his defense in the next two games.
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