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Takeaways from Game 1 at the Summer League

It’s best not to read too much into Summer League games. Even when a team plays a lot of potential rotation players, as the Bobcats did Friday night, it’s still a cobbled-together squad of young guys forced outside their usual roles. It’s better to focus on the micro than the macro: just ignore the team results and individual box scores, and focus on the skills each player is showing off. Along those lines, here’s what I (jokingly) tweeted before the game:

If I see MKG dunk on someone, Cody Zeller hit one mid-range shot, and Biyombo turn the ball over less than five times, tonight will be fine.

1. MKG did not dunk on anyone, though not for lack of trying.

2. Zeller did not make a mid-range shot, though not for lack of trying.

3. Biyombo only turned the ball over four times, though not for lack of trying.

Using that random tweet as a guide, Friday was not a good night. (And it wasn’t a good night on the scoreboard either, as the Spurs eked out a 69-68 win.) But let’s put each of the important players under the microscope:

Cody Zeller was a bit of a mixed bag, though he made a positive impression overall. The big question mark going into this game (and moving forward) was his mid-range jumper. It wasn’t a part of Zeller’s repertoire at Indiana, but his shooting range impressed Charlotte’s front office during workouts. They envision him working out of the high post at power forward in the pros.

In terms of production, Cody’s jumper was a failure. He had four attempts from mid-range by my count, and missed all of them, including one particularly bad airball. But I wouldn’t write off that experiment just yet: his form looked very good, and he didn’t force the shots at all. As mentioned above, jumpers weren’t a big part of his game in college. Incorporating it will take some time, and there’s no point in hyperventilating over four missed attempts, anyway.

Other than that (and a mediocre rebound total), Zeller looked pretty sharp. His speed and agility aren’t hype. In particular, he looked very skilled at running out on players and recovering on defense. That hustle resulted in a spiffy block early in the first quarter, as he stepped out to defend Nando De Colo. Another wrinkle I liked was his passing out of the high post. Zeller found cutters on a few plays and was able to throw entry passes without much of a problem. It’s easy to imagine that complementing Al Jefferson very nicely. His low-post game also looked solid, as he made four of his five shots close to the basket. He finished with eight points on 4-of-9 shooting, five rebounds and two assists.

Jeffery Taylor was the star, scoring 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Taylor looked aggressive and angry, carrying the scoring load on a team without much punch. He also showed off a nice step-back jumper and threw down a few thunderous dunks, giving the Bobcats some of their only highlights of the game. That kind of activity would serve him well in the regular season, since he occasionally looked passive last year.

That’s also been a problem for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Friday night was a prime example. For the most part, it was the MKG we saw in 2012; his jump-shot is hideous (though he did connect on a few attempts) and his handle is still suspect. Four turnovers, one of which came after he dribbled the ball off his own foot, is too much. He finished with a quiet, efficient 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

Bismack Biyombo‘s game felt very familiar, as well. He fumbled away a few easy boards and was a non-factor on offense, but his rebounding overall was solid and his awareness on defense is much improved from his rookie year. He finished with three points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

And the rest: The collection of Abdul Gaddy, Jerome Dyson, Patrick Ewing Jr., Henry Sims and Troy Daniels didn’t do much to distinguish themselves. The five combined to shoot 32 percent on 25 shots, and none scored in the double digits.