NBA Vegas SL: Saturday Review, Sunday Preview

BY CHRIS LEWIS

LAS VEGAS – The first Saturday of Vegas Summer League is done. The first Saturday might be the most busy day of the entire event. As typical with Las Vegas, Saturday is always the day that brings the most people to town. That includes media members, NBA players, team execs and fans of basketball.

t’s the only Saturday of Summer League where there are five games at the Thomas & Mack Center, as well as five games at the connected Cox Pavilion. The Lakers also debuted Saturday, and their fans love to make the journey from Los Angeles to Vegas.

Speaking of debuts, Chandler Hutchison made his NBA debut with the Chicago Bulls.

That marked a significant moment for Boise State basketball, as Hutchison is the school’s first ever first-round pick (22nd overall). The public hadn’t seen Hutchison play basketball since the loss to Washington in March. Most prospects navigate their way through the pre-draft process with team workouts, but Hutchison decided to decline meeting with teams prior to the combine. It didn’t take long for the Broncos’ standout to remind everyone what made him an intriguing prospect.

In my mind, the most impressive part of Hutchison’s debut was his minutes load. After not playing a real game in about three months, Hutchison played 18 of the 20 first-half minutes. His assistant coach at Boise State, Phil Beckner, was in attendance, and told me that he could notice Hutchison was a bit winded. But, that didn’t stop him for draining this three right before halftime with a quicker release than what we saw at Boise State.

Hutchison played another 18 minutes in the second half (team-high 36 minutes for the game). He finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. What stood out to me was how much he handled the ball as a lead initiator. Boise State fans are familiar with Hutchison in that role, as he was the top scoring option on the team his final two seasons. I was surprised he was given that task with the Bulls Summer League team in the opener. I think his NBA role early in his career will be mostly as a versatile defensive player and an off-ball wing. However, coach Randy Brown wanted to see what he could do with the ball in his hands, and it seemed to go well.

Physically, Hutchison looked like he belonged. He’s clearly worked on his body in the pre-draft process and looks more developed than some of his younger counterparts. His competitiveness along with fellow first rounder Wendell Carter Jr stood out, as they looked like a tag-team of energy, making sure Chicago got the win (Carter looked excellent on defense). After the game, Hutchison discussed his first NBA-SL appearance. Also, Brown assessed his play (plenty of praise).

Hutchison wasn’t the only former Bronco to take the court Saturday. James Webb III is back in Summer League after seeing some NBA time with the Brooklyn Nets last season.

Webb III is in a much different situation than Hutchison. Webb III comes without the pedigree of a fresh first-round pick, making every game a “prove it” game. Webb III is entering his third season post college, making him one of the older players in Summer League. In fact, he’s the second oldest player on the Nets summer squad. In the NBA, Webb III is a big wing, or a stretch 4, which means he plays on the perimeter. Players who live on the arc need to be able to make threes consistently. Webb III brings size, quickness, and athleticism, which makes him versatile on defense, but his long term value will come down to shooting. Unfortunately, he struggled shooting early, and Brooklyn was getting worked.

Things did get better for Webb III and the Nets in the fourth. Webb III drained back-to-back threes and had a transition layup to give him 12 points, 6 rebounds, on 5-12 shooting (2-8 from 3-point) in 20 minutes. The Nets erased 16 points off the deficit, losing by 14 points. The biggest observation from watching Webb III was that he seems to be “leader guy” now. As one of the older players, he was one of the main communicators before and during the game. He sets hard screens, rolls with a purpose, and is an active body on defense and on the glass. Despite the time that has passed since he’s worn a Boise State jersey, Webb III still reps the Blue and Orange.

After the game, Webb III and I had a conversation about his NBA career, the adversity he’s faced, his thoughts on Hutchison, and more.

Brooklyn has an off day Sunday, and returns to the court at 9 p.m. MT Monday against Minnesota. Hutchison and the Bulls take center stage Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center when they face the Lakers at 9:30 MT (the last game of the night). Follow me on Twitter at @ChrisLewisTweet for updates on Hutchison and the rest of the goings-on Sunday at Summer League.

Chris Lewis, the play-by-play voice of Boise State women’s basketball and Olympic Sports, co-hosts Idaho Sports Talk with Bob & Chris weekdays from 1-3 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @ChrisLewisTweet (Twitter).

 

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