In the fifth and final game of summer league, the Nets enjoyed their easiest victory yet, securing a winning record by defeating a depleted Boston Celtics roster 86-68. Despite Luke Harangody’s excellent play (18 points & 8 rebounds) and the absence of Damion James and Terrence Williams (who sat for the game after a short stint in the first), the Nets had a great all-around game from start to finish. Many of the role players played well – Jakim Donaldson was active all game and finished with 15 points on 5-6 shooting from both the field and the line, Brandon Heath showed off an impressive touch, and Connor Atchley attacked the boards – this fifth summer league game was won because of the excellent play of the guy we’ve all been waiting for to break out: Derrick Favors. Let’s see what it was he did so well.
Obviously, Derrick Favors was the star of this game. He finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, easily his best game of summer league. His previous high for points was 12, and he had 13 in the second quarter alone. The first thing that you could see in this game is that Favors was immediately more aggressive. He was looking for his shot right away, both taking mid-range jumpers and attacking in the post. Kudos to Popeye Jones, who must have gotten in his ear and told him to attack, attack, attack. His jumper was not falling, and it didn’t look pretty – most of his misses were of the brick variety and the only one he did make was a bank shot that I’m sure he did not call. But when he got down in the post, he was visibly more aggressive and looking to put the ball in the basket. In the video below are five of his post moves that resulted in scores. They all look great, and the last two are the most impressive. You see him ripping the ball across his body and instantly attacking from a faceup position over two defenders for a layup off the backboard. On the next move he executes a perfect spin move for an athletic reverse. The and-1 is also a pretty play – he gets hit as he’s going up but is able to maintain control and will the ball into the basket. (Correction: had the wrong video up originally. Fixed now to include final move.)
The most important thing to take away from this is that Favors both showed an excellent feel for the post and also did not turn the ball over once all game. While he had been plagued by traveling issues in the post in the previous four games, Favors’s aggressiveness helped out tremendously with this and it’s a very good sign that he was able to finish this strong. If he can work on tweaking the flaws in his jumper, he can be a dangerous asset much sooner than expected. However, one concern to keep in mind is that all five moves were from the left block, where he is obviously more comfortable. Hopefully this is only trivial, but it would be good to see him making shots out of the right side as well.
Now, the best part of this game was a two-minute stretch in the second quarter where the Nets made four dunks on four offensive possessions. One was by Jakim Donaldson on a fast break, but the other three were by Favors, and all of them were great to watch. The first one is the first video in this post, and it’s a monster – he plants his feet far from the basket and rises over Slava Kravtsov for a huge two-handed flush. The commentators immediately named it the best dunk of Summer League, and I agree. Below are the other two – the first one is a nice two-hander off a feed, and the second one is a huge one-handed dunk from the left side. Like the poster, it really shows off his elite athleticism.
Favors was also aggressive defensively, often showing on pick & rolls and rotating effectively back to his man before any lanes opened up. He was snaring rebounds high off the rim, getting excellent position and bringing them down strong. He looked far more comfortable in this game than he had all of Summer League, and it’s a good sign moving forward that he was able to show off his skill level.
Now, the other players: As noted previously, Jakim Donaldson had another quietly good game – he was attacking at all times and taking smart shots. After his impressive play this week I expect an invite to training camp for him. Connor Atchley also showed off his aggressiveness a few times, although his offensive game wasn’t pretty – he only shot 4-11 and threw up a couple of airballs in the process. Brian Zoubek had a very forgettable game. I was rooting for him to make the team out of summer league, but he looked nailed to the floor on defense and was completely lost offensively. On one play in the first quarter, he had post position with 2 seconds left on the shot clock and decided to kick it out instead of looking for his own shot. This resulted in a shot-clock violation. The Petro signing today should effectively end Zoubek’s chances at making the team out of training camp, although his “make-good” contract assures him an invite at the very least. Tweety Carter and Ben Heath were both solid, showing a sound ability to run the game and take good shots while setting up the post players well.
All in all, this was by far the best all-around game for the Nets, and it came with Terrence Williams sitting the last 35 minutes and Damion James out with a thumb injury. I don’t think the two are connected – those are two of the best players on the summer league roster – but it’s a very good sign that the other guys (read: Derrick Favors) were able to step it up.