For starters, the team’s first-round picks, Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama, officially joined the squad to make their debuts. Desmond Bane and John Konchar continued to hone in their crafts as lead ball-handlers in this one. Xavier Tillman got to continue his polish as the communicative anchor of the team’s defense and a stabilizing force on the inside. Then, there’s some end-of-the-roster storylines to watch with the restricted free agency of Killian Tillie and the newest acquisition of Sam Merrill.
While we can never really get ahead of ourselves in Summer League, today’s win over the Brooklyn Nets brought us some awesome flashes and some unexpected excitement for our Monday afternoon.
First impressions from the rooks
Expectations coming into this game were somewhat tamed on my side. With the trade just being finalized Saturday, and the Grizzlies traveling from Utah to Las Vegas, Ziaire Williams and Santi Aldama only got 1 real practice with the team before this afternoon’s game. Also, it’s Summer League, you can draw too big of conclusions here.
I’ll start with Aldama. He definitely looked out of speed in this one, a product of limited practice time. However, he limited his mistakes and did a good job making simple reads within the flow of the offense. His defense was a bit concerning, getting burned a little bit on the perimeter. Defending in space will be an adjustment for him, and will likely be a developmental focus for him next season.
Williams looked more polished than expected. He displayed good functional athleticism defensively, using his length to bother ball-handlers and shooters. This was more noticeable with his steal and breakaway jam to get him in the scorers column. He also did a good job taking advantage of what the defense gave him and attacking the basket. He made good reads within the offense as well, particularly a pass he lobbed over to Xavier Tillman off a slip screen. His outside jumper wasn’t really falling, and the rotation on his shot drew some criticism on the commentary, but I’d bet he’ll find his shot as he gets back into playing shape.
Overall, there were some good flashes from the rookies in game 1. There was nothing to really be overly concerned about.
- Desmond Bane is too good for Summer League, and it’s going to pay off. The “too good for Summer League” phrase can be thrown out a lot, but it applies for Bane. He’s picking up where he left off with his outside shooting. In this stint though, and especially in this game, he really showed more poise and confidence as a live-dribble creator. These reps as a primary option are going to pay off for him in an expanded role next season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bane made a leap.
- Xavier Tillman, doing everything. Xavier Tillman has been a strong glue guy for the Grizzlies this Summer League. He’s crashed the glass and been a strong defensive anchor, as expected. However, he’s done well taking advantage of the extra creation opportunities— 7 assists.
- Sean McDermott... It was a rough outing for the only two-way player on the team right now. He was brought in with the hope the Grizzlies could eventually find their own Duncan Robinson. He didn’t find it this past season, but maybe he could find it with more reps in Summer League, and that hasn’t been the case. His shot isn’t falling, and he’s forcing the issue offensively. I don’t know what’s in store with his Grizzlies future; it’s looking cloudier after this game.
- Killian Tillie, stretch big. The incoming second-year big let it fly this afternoon, connecting on 6 of his 10 three-point attempts. With Aldama’s overseas situation clearing up, and Sam Merrill entering the fold, the restricted free agent’s future here looked a bit murky. However, he made a massive case to be on the main roster this game. It’s going to be interesting to see what Zach Kleiman does to get him on the roster — if that’s the plan.
Tune in on Wednesday at 4 PM CST, as the Summer League Grizzlies will take on the Miami Heat.