How did Charlotte’s rookies & sophomores get on in game 3 of the Las Vegas Summer League?
Despite Charlotte’s “Big Three” of Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and PJ Hairston combining for 49 points, it was another somewhat underwhelming performance for the Hornets summer league team. Charlotte lost their third straight game to the Knicks 95-72, they were down by 40 at one point but managed to win the 4th quarter 28-14 saving them from a truly embarrassing score line. At half time the entire Charlotte team had just five rebounds, showing a distinct lack of effort. However, the result means little, the performance of the three key guys is what Head Coach Steve Clifford cares about. So how did they do?
18 points (FG 6-14 FT 6-9)- 4 REB – 1 AST – 4 PF- 1 STL – 3 TO – 1 BLK
There were many “Cody is still hung-over from Tyler’s wedding” jokes from Charlotte fans. Patrick Ewing even had something to say in his post game interview , when asked about Zeller’s performance he said “ He played like he just came off the plane…We need him doing it on both ends not just looking to score”.
I understand this was his first game, so it is important to not overreact but it appeared Zeller had made little progress in his development. One of Cody’s big goals for the offseason was to get stronger so he could improve his post defense and finishing around the rim. If Zeller has gotten any stronger it isn’t obvious and he certainly didn’t showcase it in the game.
In his first two possessions he took one of his signature off balance twist layups which was swatted away, he then was out of control driving to the basket and got called for a charge. Not a great start but hey, it will get better right? Cody went 1-3 on jumper shots, one miss was an air ball and the other almost went down before rolling out. In the post, Cody had some nice finishes around the basket, he showed good patience when defenders went to blocks his shot and managed to duck under them and score. However, he still looked a little rushed and out of control with the ball, a stark contrast to 18 year old Noah Vonleh who already looks to better footwork in the post than Zeller.
During last year summer league Cody handled the ball quite a lot making a number of smart basketball plays. Fast forward to this year and you saw Cody forcing a number of passes, looking more like the “Deer in headlights” Cody we all know from December/January last year. With it being his first game with his new summer league teammates it could just take him some time to adjust. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible performance, but certainly more of a side step than a step forward.
13 Points (FG 4-6 FT 5-9) – 5 REB – 2 AST – 2 PF – 0 STL – 2 TO – 1 BLK
Vonleh didn’t have a great game, but he showed some really nice flashes. Like I previously mentioned, his footwork in the post is pretty remarkable for someone of his age. There were a number of times where he moved his defender out the way but then somehow failed to finish, I have no doubt these will go down eventually. At times Vonleh looked ambidextrous, he almost seemed more comfortable finishing with his left hand, this could end up making him a real handful to defend. Despite hitting a three in his last game and connecting on 48% from beyond the arc at Indiana, his shot looks a little streaky right now. Vonleh air balled a free throw, the first Hornet to do so since DeSagana Diop. Some of his set shots sometimes look a little flat, he needs to try and use his legs a little more to get extra lift.
On the defensive end Vonleh is a work in progress, he has shown the ability to be an elite rebounder with 18 in his second game (highest of anyone in summer league so far) and leading the Big Ten conference in rebounding with nine rebounds per game. However, like most young he is inconsistent. Despite having an enormous 7ft 4inc wingspan Vonleh has struggled to alter shots thus far. I noticed that when he’s defending his man a lot of the time he faces the opposing teams player and can’t always see the ball, this means he is very slow to react with help defense. Ewing has already said “I don’t care how old you are you have to fight… He’s going to have to learn to protect the basket”. I have no doubt this will be an area of emphasis for the coaching staff this season, especially if they see him as the “stretch four/shotblocker who would fit nicely next to Al.
18points (FG 6-14 3PFG 3-6 FT 3-7) – 4 REB – 2 AST– 4 PF– 2 STL– 4 TO – 1 BLK
Hairston had an all-round solid game, it was the first time he managed to shoot a somewhat respectable percentage, this was largely due to improved shot selection. Obviously PJ has shown he can shoot from anywhere, but he showed yesterday the ability to curl of screens and drive the ball as well. Hairston has good size and strength for a shooting guard so once he gets in the league he tends to finish or get fouled. However, anything more than a straight line drive and his handle looks loose. One play I really liked was when he posted up the opposing guard, using his bulk to draw a foul and get to the line. Contrary to reports I have actually been impressed with his defense this week. It hasn’t always been consistent and he has fouled too much, but he’s shown potential on that end of the floor. Hairston had a very nice strip on Hardaway jr and a huge block on Greek Freak junior Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The main two things Hairston needs to improve on is his shot selection, which like I said already looked better in the last game and his on court body language. Every time he gets called for a foul PJ looks up to the sky as if god is punishing him. Get on with the game PJ and get back on defense! Overall, I think Charlotte fans will be happy to be talking about Hairston’s ability to make shots and not his off the court issues.
What do you think of the Charlotte Hornets summer league performance so far? Leave your comments below and tweet us @QCHBlog.