Grades: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Lakers – Summer League Game #2

The San Antonio Spurs authored another strong performance in summer league. After demolishing the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, the Spurs followed that up by waltzing past the Los Angeles Lakers by a final count of 109-99.

When San Antonio’s starters were on the court, the Spurs were clearly the better team. The Lakers were able to make up a little bit of ground against the bench — but any momentum ceased once the starters returned to the court for the Spurs.

All in all, the good guys have to be thrilled with how they played in the California Classic. Now, they take their undefeated summer league record to Las Vegas to play another five games. In Vegas, the Spurs will be reinforced by the addition of Sir’Jabri Rice — oh, and some guy named Victor Wembanyama. 

Malaki Branham

26 minutes, 32 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers
12-for-24 from the field, 3-for-6 on threes, 5-for-5 at the line

After missing the first summer league game, Branham was back with a bang. All of his shots were smooth — from catch-and-shoot threes to mid-range attempts off the dribble. His patience, craft and glimpses of athleticism were a deadly combination on the offensive end. In the fourth quarter, the Spurs were clinging to a two-point lead until Branham returned. When he stepped on the court, he took full command of the game and finished the fourth with 17 points. He was at his best when it mattered most. That said, there were two areas of concern tonight: First, his defense was underwhelming, particularly against penetration. Secondly, he had a number of his shots blocked, which is a somewhat worrisome storyline for Branham due to his low release point.

Grade: A-

Julian Champagnie

27 minutes, 28 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
8-for-17 from the field, 5-for-10 on threes, 7-for-7 at the line

Champagnie had 30 in his summer league debut and followed it up with 28 more against the Lakers. He made scoring look effortless. He nailed five more threes and his stroke from distance is pure. Champagnie deceptively has really good size for a wing, which allows him to do damage in the paint. His drives were always under control and he was thinking the game at a high level. I also thought he did well defensively. Champagnie did good work on the perimeter and his deceptive size allowed him to challenge shots near the hoop.

Grade: A

Blake Wesley

27 minutes, 18 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls
7-for-9 from the field, 4-for-5 at the line

Much better, young man. After a chaotic outing against the Hornets, Wesley was much more under control against the Lakers. Sure, there were still a few head-scratchers when it came to his passing decisions — but, for the most part, he did well. I loved his shot-selection. In pick-and-roll sets, he masterfully took what the defense gave him. He was a blur in transition, defended with gusto and was also felt on the boards. Wesley obviously has a lot of room for improvement but this was definitely a step in the right direction.

Grade: A-

Dominick Barlow

23 minutes, 3 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, 3 fouls
1-for-6 from the field, 1-for-2 at the line

Coming off of a monstrous performance, Barlow came back down to earth. That said, I thought he was better than his numbers indicate. He had a couple fantastic blocks, he was sturdy in the lane and tried hard on the glass. Barlow’s passing, which has never been a strength of his, was actually really good in the first half. At intermission, he had already tallied five assists. Despite the struggles, Barlow remained confident — and that, for him, is usually half the battle. 

Grade: B-

Sidy Cissoko

23 minutes, 1 point, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 fouls
0-for-4 from the field, 0-for-2 on threes, 1-for-2 at the line

The bad: Man, Cissoko’s touch is gruesome right now. His bricks are echoing through the arena. Is he nervous or does he legitimately have really bad touch? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The good: For only scoring one point, Cissoko sure impacted the game a lot. His defense was stout. A few times, he sniffed out plays and ate them up. Cissoko seems to have quick feet and a strong body. He needs to do a better job of not fouling but the physical traits are there to be a solid defender. Plus, for someone who rebounded poorly last year, his effort on the glass was much better than expected. Offensively, Cissoko’s passing was impressive. He has good court vision and good timing, especially when he’s on the move. I’d even qualify a few of his passes as being Diaw-esque.

Grade: B

Javante McCoy

16 minutes, 3 points
1-for-4 from the field, 1-for-1 on threes

I had high hopes for McCoy coming into summer league but he has done very little right after two games. He dribbles too much and his shots are flat. His defense hasn’t been bad but he’s primarily an offensive player so he needs to come to play at that end to give himself a chance at a two-way contract.

Grade: C-

Erik Stevenson

13 minutes, 3 points, 2 turnovers
1-for-4 from the field, 1-for-3 on threes

I like that Stevenson isn’t shy on either end. Unfortunately, that was about the extent of his positive attributes on this night. Defensively, he was poor in transition and had trouble keeping players in front of him. Offensively, he didn’t love the idea of passing the ball and wasn’t good at running fast breaks.

Grade: C-

Seth Millner

13 minutes, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
2-for-6 from the field, 2-for-4 on threes

A couple of Millner’s shots were questionable but he played decently well overall. His mechanics look good and he makes quick decisions. Millner doesn’t strike me as a great athlete, which hurts him defensively.

Grade: B-

Chaundee Brown Jr.

12 minutes, 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 fouls
0-for-4 from the field, 2-for-2 at the line

Brown is a powerfully built player but he didn’t do much right against Los Angeles. Putting his head down and barreling his way to the rim wasn’t working out for him — and he didn’t really have an alternate plan.

Grade: D+ 

Josh Carlton

11 minutes, 6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 fouls
2-for-4 from the field, 2-for-3 at the line

Carlton doesn’t have enough athleticism to make it in the NBA but he’s a fun player to root for at the summer league level. There were a few plays where he just willed his way to success. Like we saw last year in summer league, Carlton gives maximum effort at all times.

Grade: B+

Charles Bediako

9 minutes, 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 fouls
3-for-4 from the field, 1-for-2 at the line

I thought Bediako was terrible in the first half. He was weak in the lane on both ends and was getting pushed around. To Bediako’s credit, he snapped out of his funk after halftime and was actually really good in the final two quarters. At his best, he’s a really good interior defender who can rebound and, if necessary, switch a little bit. Offensively, he hasn’t been a total disaster. He can’t catch anything but basic passes and he fouls on almost every screen he sets but Bediako has some mobility and decent touch.

Grade: B

Matt Nielsen 

Honestly, I thought Nielsen could have done a better job of distributing the minutes. The Spurs usually either had their starters in or their bench in. Staggering the starters’ minutes would have been beneficial, both in terms of winning and evaluating the talent on the team. Other than that, Nielsen is doing good work. The summer league squad is actually running their plays quite well and the effort on defense has been consistent. 

Grade: B-