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Strong Points

July 27, 2009
July 27, 2009

Table of Contents
July 27, 2009

LEADING OFF
GOLF PLUS
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
BRITISH OPEN
BASEBALL
PRO BASKETBALL
COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Departments

Strong Points

Early showings by Jonny Flynn and his fellow playmakers suggest the rookie class may exceed expectations

One-and-done is a phrase used to describe college players who treat the NCAA like a one-year stopover on their way from high school to the NBA. The term could also have been used by many executives to describe the 2009 draft—beyond consensus top pick Blake Griffin, they didn't see any surefire stars on the board. After the week of summer league play in Las Vegas, however, that thinking is changing, and it is because of the point guards. While five playmakers were taken in the top 10—Tyreke Evans (No. 4 by the Kings), Ricky Rubio (No. 5, Timberwolves), Jonny Flynn (No. 6, T-Wolves), Stephen Curry (No. 7, Warriors) and Brandon Jennings (No. 10, Bucks)—there was no consensus on which one, if any, would emerge as an elite player. "No one doubted these guys had talent," says an Eastern Conference coach. "But a potential All-Star? That was a bigger question. But I think the opinions of a lot of people are starting to shift."

This is an article from the July 27, 2009 issue

With dominant big men an endangered species in the league, teams need quality point guards more than ever. "The pick-and-roll has become such a major part of today's game," says Kings G.M. Geoff Petrie. "Point guards are most adept at making those kinds of plays and decisions." Four of the top five point guards competed in Las Vegas—at week's end Rubio remained unsigned while he negotiated a buyout with his Spanish team—and each was impressive. Jennings (8.2 assists per game) was the best pure playmaker, dazzling crowds with what one scout called "Allen Iverson--like speed." The 6'5", 221-pound Evans (19.2 points) was unstoppable in the open floor. And the sharpshooting Curry showed flashes of why he will flourish in coach Don Nelson's run-and-gun system.

But the class of the class was Flynn, whom some scouts doubted because of his size (6 feet) and shooting touch. On draft night it was widely believed that guard-starved Minnesota selected Flynn as insurance should Rubio not sign. In Vegas, Flynn showed he was a natural floor general, averaging 15.0 points and 7.4 assists. He penetrated with ease and made sound decisions when defenses collapsed on him. And despite having played zone at Syracuse, the 185-pound Flynn was an aggressive man-to-man defender, using his strength and quickness to make up for his lack of height. "He's a future All-Star," says an Eastern Conference scout. "He's so skilled and he plays with so much confidence."

The question now isn't whether any of these point guards can flourish, but which one will stand out the most. With four playing in the Western Conference, there will be many chances to compare their talents. "We're all competitive guys," says Evans with a smile. "We'll definitely get up for playing against each other to show who's the best."

Now on SI.com
Scott Howard-Cooper names his summer league standouts, at SI.com/bonus

FAST BREAK

Fresh Start

It wasn't just the rookies who impressed at the NBA summer league last week in Las Vegas; former UConn star Marcus Williams may have performed well enough to revive his career. Drafted No. 22 by the Nets in 2006, he was waived by the Warriors in March after appearing in only nine games. But he dropped 10 pounds while playing this spring in Puerto Rico, then averaged 8.2 assists for the Grizzlies to tie for the lead in the summer league. He also set a Las Vegas record with 17 assists against the Thunder. "I needed to refocus," says Williams (below). "Last year was tough, but I feel like my game is coming back." Williams is hoping to earn an invitation to Memphis's training camp, where he would compete for the backup position behind Mike Conley.

PHOTOGARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGESCHOICE WORDS Flynn's precocious play in Las Vegas prompted one scout to call the No. 6 pick a future All-Star.PHOTOGARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES