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December 22, 2014

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NBA SUMMER LEAGUE:

The second annual ‘And the winners are …’

NBA names Griffin summer league MVP, but we’re going with Randolph

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Sam Morris

Golden State forward Anthony Randolph drives for 2 of his 42 points in Tuesday’s 95-83 victory over Chicago. Randolph was the Sun’s pick for 2009 NBA summer league MVP honors after averaging 26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2.2 steals per game for the 4-1 Warriors. He also shot 60.9 percent from the floor through four games before sitting out Golden State’s Thursday finale.

The sixth installment of the Las Vegas NBA summer league drew to a close on Sunday night at the Thomas & Mack, when the Suns and Clippers dueled to wrap 10 days of hardwood action. This may have been the most talent-rich field the Vegas league has seen of yet, with plenty of memorable performances and moments to show for it. While the NBA doesn't put together official post-summer league awards other than an MVP, the Las Vegas Sun certainly does. So here it is, honoring both the great and the not-so-great.

First Team

PG -- Marcus Williams -- Memphis Grizzlies

The Vitals: 5 games, 13.4 ppg, 8.2 apg, 4.6 rpg.

The former UConn standout and first round selection of the New Jersey Nets has become a journeyman of sorts. After stints with both New Jersey and Golden State, Williams spent last season playing in Puerto Rico. But after a strong showing in Vegas with the Grizzlies -- where he lives and trains in the offseason with Joe Abunassar -- surely someone will take a strong look at keeping him on the mainland this fall. His stellar week was highlighted by a stellar opener against Oklahoma City last Sunday, during which he had 17 assists and just one turnover in an 86-57 victory. For the week, he had 41 assists and only 11 turnovers. As a capper, his difficult driving layup with :00.4 left in the Grizzlies' final game against San Antonio helped secure a 5-0 record.

SG -- Chase Budinger -- Houston Rockets

The Vitals: 5 games, 17.8 ppg, 68.1 FG%, 72.7 3-PT%

Budinger didn't do a whole lot outside of scoring the basketball for the 5-0 Rockets, but he was more efficient at that than almost any shooter in the summer league. Especially from the outside. His percentages (68.1 from the floor, 72.7 from deep, 94.4 from the line) were incredible, as he took a huge step toward securing a roster spot in Houston after sliding into the second round of the draft. His best showing came in Houston's finale against the Lakers on Thursday, when he scored 25 points by going 7-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-3 from long range and 8-of-8 at the stripe.

SF -- Anthony Randolph -- Golden State Warriors (Our choice for MVP)

The Vitals: 4 games, 26.8 ppg, 60.9 FG%, 8.5 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 2.2 spg

Randolph was good in last year's summer league as a 19-year-old rookie, averaging 20.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but he'd obviously added some strength to his lean 7-foot frame. After paying his dues as a reserve for Don Nelson during his rookie season, he looks primed for a breakout year, if his summer showing is any indication. Randolph was efficient, shooting 15 percent better from the floor this summer than he did last. All of it was highlighted by a 42-point showing against Chicago on Tuesday. In the other three games? He had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Don't expect to see him back in Vegas next summer.

PF -- Gary Forbes -- D-League Select Team

The Vitals: 5 games, 17.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 47.8 FG%, 45.5 3-PT%

Even though the former UMass standout was playing for the only team in Vegas without names on the back of its jerseys, several who had never heard of Forbes left with a pretty good idea what he's all about. The Select team played maybe the best team basketball of any squad in this year's summer league, and Forbes was truly its spark. He shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and scored consistently in all five contests. The most important stat, however, was the three wins the D-League team recorded, when many didn't expect it to win any coming in. The best way to sum that up came from his teammate, Marcus Hubbard: "Being a D-League team, we give them what they don’t think we can do."

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No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers pumps his fist in celebration during a break in the action Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Oklahoma product registered 27 points and 12 rebounds in his pro debut at the NBA summer league.

C -- Blake Griffin -- Los Angeles Clippers (NBA's choice for MVP)

The Vitals: 5 games, 19.2 ppg, 50.0 FG%, 10.8 rpg, 3.2 apg

The top pick in last month's draft was nowhere near being a bust in his first week of professional basketball. It began with a 27-point, 12-rebound performance in his Monday debut against the Lakers, and it concluded with a 16-point, 8-rebound, 4-assist showing against his brother, Taylor, on Sunday. After dropping the finale to the Suns, he was genuinely mad that the Clips lost the game ... and in summer league ball, that says something. Griffin displayed the entire package that made him the national player of the year last season at Oklahoma, displaying his freakish athleticism and bevy of offensive moves to go along with his intimidating size. Every member of the Clippers organization who came to check him out -- from owner Donald Sterling to coach Mike Dunleavy to teammates Baron Davis and Marcus Camby -- left with smiles on their faces.

6th man -- Nick Young -- Washington Wizards

The Vitals: 4 games, 23.8 ppg, 50.0 FG%

After averaging just over 10 points per game in the regular season for the Wizards, the third-year guard's presence in Vegas was just as much a mystery as Knicks guard Nate Robinson's was last year. The Wizards rested him for their final game Sunday, but he was a scoring machine in the first four. His best performance was Tuesday, when he had 36 points on 13-of-19 shooting against Cleveland. Plus he gets style points for his mohawk. True, the mohawk is now the 'in' thing among ballplayers, but Young was one of the first to bring it back in the public eye back at Southern Cal in 2005. Credit to him for not ditching it even after it became too trendy.

Second Team

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Milwaukee guard Brandon Jennings shoots over Dallas rookie Rodrigue Beaubois on Monday night during his pro debut. Jennings scored just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting, but bounced back to have a solid week overall, averaging 14.6 points, 8.2 assists and 3.6 steals for the 4-1 Bucks.

PG -- Brandon Jennings -- Milwaukee Bucks

The Vitals: 5 games, 14.6 ppg, 8.2 apg, 3.6 spg, 42.9 3-PT%

Jennings may have had the most anticipated debut of any rookie in Vegas, and last Friday, he certainly looked nervous, dropping 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting with three assists in his first showing. The rest of the week? He was pure magic. Displaying his blistering speed, he also showed that a year of pro ball overseas made him more of a pass-first point guard than in his prep days. His best game was in a Monday victory over Sacramento, when he finished with 13 points, 14 assists and seven steals. Most important was the fact that his team just flat-out won. The Bucks were just one point away from going undefeated. That had to make the down-trodden Milwaukee fans grin just a bit.

SG -- Jodie Meeks -- Milwaukee Bucks

The Vitals: 19.0 ppg, 55.7 FG%, 53.3 3-PT%, 2.2 rpg

Like Budinger, Meeks left school following his junior year thinking that a spot in the first round was in the cards for him come June. Like Budinger, he slid into the second round. And Like Budinger, he responded by coming to the summer league and doing what he does best -- shooting the basketball. Meeks was on-point all week, finishing with 29 points in a one-point loss to Toronto on Thursday. More important, though, was that Meeks moved well without the ball and created openings for himself. That's what Milwaukee's brass wants him to do down the road.

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Adam Morrison of the Los Angeles Lakers (left) talks with Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw at the NBA Summer League in the Cox Pavilion.

SF -- Adam Morrison -- Los Angeles Lakers

The Vitals: 4 games, 20.8 ppg, 42.1 3-PT%, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg

There may not be anyone who had more at stake in this year's summer league than Morrison -- the third player selected in the 2006 NBA Draft, whose career has fizzled from the start with a knee injury in the middle. Morrison came to Vegas fighting for his spot on the defending champs' roster, and left with a bit more of a secure feeling. He hit difficult, guarded shots left and right, and did so while making it look effortless.

PF -- DaJuan Summers -- Detroit Pistons

The Vitals: 5 games, 18.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg

Another second round early success story, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man out of Georgetown looks primed to fit in with Detroit's blue collar hoops reputation. Summers banged inside when he needed to, and also showed soft outside touch. He turned some heads with 24 points and seven boards in his debut against Sacramento, and duplicated that showing with 26 points and eight rebounds five days later in a blowout victory over New York.

C -- Joey Dorsey -- Houston Rockets

The Vitals: 9.8 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 2.6 bpg, 3.0 apg, 62.1 FG%

Dorsey's 2008 summer league ended in embarrassing fashion, when he earned a technical foul while in street clothes from the Rockets' bench. He was taken much more seriously in 2009 after scoring just a hair under double digits per game and leading the summer league in rebounding. His offensive game also looked more polished.

6th man -- Tyreke Evans -- Sacramento Kings

The Vitals: 5 games, 19.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.2 apg

The one-and-done from Memphis still has a ways to go in terms of transitioning into a pure point guard, but he showed that his athleticism will certainly help him score the ball right from go in the NBA. Evans found a nice groove in his second and third games in the summer league, totaling 58 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists in two narrow losses. The Kings went 1-4 in Vegas, but Evans was a bright spot. Plus, his double-pump one-handed dunk in traffic early in the week was one of the showcase's top highlights.

Honorable Mention

James Johnson (Chicago), DeMarcus Nelson (Chicago), Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas), Ty Lawson (Denver), Coby Karl (Denver), Austin Daye (Detroit), Othyus Jeffers (D-League), Anthony Morrow (Golden State), Stephen Curry (Golden State), DeAndre Jordan (LA Clippers), Nik Caner-Medley (LA Clippers), Darrell Arthur (Memphis), Joe Alexander (Milwaukee), Jonny Flynn (Minnesota), Marcus Thornton (New Orleans), Julian Wright (New Orleans), Dante Cunningham (Portland), Jerryd Bayless (Portland), Jason Thompson (Sacramento), George Hill (San Antonio), Quincy Douby (Toronto), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Andray Blatche (Washington).

Coulda used another week -- Every rookie from the Mountain West Conference

While last year was one of the best years yet for Mountain West hoops from top to bottom, former league standouts venturing into pro careers didn't find the summer league to be very forgiving. UNLV grad Wink Adams only appeared in one game for the winless Knicks, grabbing two rebounds and missing his only shot attempt in seven minutes played.

San Diego State products Lorrenzo Wade and Kyle Spain didn't fare much better. Wade played 11 minutes combined in a pair of appearances for Milwaukee, while Spain spent the last two games in street clothes for Washington.

Lee Cummard, the motor behind last year's BYU squad, played briefly in two games for Phoenix, but was nowhere to be found -- literally -- in the Suns' final two contests.

The only one of the group to see an extended run was last year's MWC player of the year: Luke Nevill out of Utah. He went 8-of-14 from the floor with five rebounds and four blocked shots in four appearances.

At least they'll all get to be world travelers now. Get your passports ready, fellas.

Most Exciting Team -- Golden State

Four of the summer league's top 25 scorers -- Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow, Stephen Curry and Cartier Martin -- were on a Golden State squad that went 4-1 over the course of the week. This team just had a bunch of individual components that were fun to watch. Between Randolph's swooping drives from the wing, Curry's frantic pace and Morrow's sweet outside stroke, someone different stepped up big for this team each day -- the mark of a great team. And while dunks are what get crowds going more than anything, two incredible individual scoring performances by Randolph and Morrow had the fans at Cox Pavilion completely into it, clamoring for one of the two to break the league's single-game record of 42 ... which Morrow did. Runners-up: Milwaukee, LA Clippers.

Least Exciting Team -- Cleveland

This is our second straight year giving the Cavs the nod here. They didn't really have a roster that generated much excitement, and just didn't do anything all that memorable. Then again, elite-level NBA teams probably don't need summer league teams loaded with enticing prospects, since they're already pretty much good enough. They wound up going 1-4. Runners-up: New York, Portland.

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Golden State guard Anthony Morrow leaves his hand up on a follow-through after hitting one of his 18 shots in Thursday's 104-84 victory over New Orleans at Cox Pavilion, as teammates Stephen Curry, left, and Anthony Randolph celebrate on the bench. Morrow scored a Las Vegas NBA summer league record 47 points, including 7 3-pointers.

Best Performance -- Anthony Morrow

While Blake Griffin's debut last Monday provided plenty of oohs and aahs, Anthony Morrow's record-setting 47-point assault against New Orleans on Thursday provided one of the most fun atmospheres in summer league history. After scoring 17 points in the first quarter, the second-year Warriors guard turned up the swagger and was burying shots over everyone. The crowd pushed him over the top in the fourth quarter, rising for every shot he took and exploding once his baseline jumper late in the game set the new mark. They even clamored for him to try and score 50 after he hit a 3-pointer on the next possession. If the NBA wants to continue to generate more and more fan interest in its Vegas summer league, moments like that certainly don't hurt.

Worst Performance -- Robin Lopez

The 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, the six rebounds and the four blocked shots looked nice on the stat sheet in a 95-89 victory for the Suns over the D-League Select squad. But Robin Lopez fouled out. And it's not like fouling out in your ordinary game. In the summer league, players are allotted 10 personal fouls per game, and the second-year center out of Stanford used 'em all. His family was on-hand for all of this, and at least found humor in the 10-foul showing, as his mother said 'A new double-double!' from her courtside seat. He followed it up with a 1-point effort in 23 minutes during a 97-60 loss to Memphis the next day. A tough 48 hours, indeed, but it should be pointed out that he started summer league play with 24 points and 16 boards in a win against Dallas. So we're not completely throwing him under the bus here.

Best Dunk -- Jonny Flynn

The sub-6-foot rookie point guard from Syracuse was one of the most charismatic players to suit up for the 2009 summer league. He, like every rookie in Vegas, had his ups and downs, but finished his week off on Sunday by putting a smile on several faces. In the closing moments of a loss on Sunday to Chicago, the diminutive guard with the thick, strong lower body rose up for a vicious throw-down on the baseline, with a solid 4 feet between the soles of his Nikes and the floor. It brought up visions of Spud Webb and Nate Robinson. That will be what many remember about Flynn's week, but his 15 points and 7.4 assists per game weren't too shabby, either.

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Toronto Raptors forward Ekene Ibekwe is looked after by medical personnel after falling hard on his face Wednesday night in an NBA Summer League game at Cox Pavilion.

Most Inspirational Moment -- Ekene Ibekwe

In the closing moments of a 74-73 victory over Phoenix, the 6-foot-9 Toronto forward -- who played his college ball at Maryland -- skied under his own hoop to swat away a last-second Goran Dragic layup attempt which could have won the game. However, Ibekwe's legs got cut out from under him and he came crashing to the floor, landing squarely flat on his front side. Ibekwe was on the ground for several minutes before being taken off on a stretcher with his neck immobilized. He was taken to University Medical Center, where tests came back thankfully negative. Ibekwe wound up with two chipped teeth, stitches on his chin and splints on both wrists. In what would be his final game of the 2009 summer league, he finished with his best stat line in three games -- seven points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Best Quote -- A three-way tie ...

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Sacramento Kings head coach, Pete Carril, left, watches the action during the NBA summer league at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"You have to love what you're doing ... I have a doctor who operated on me and he loved what he was doing, thank God. Saved my life." -- 79-year-old former Princeton coach and current Sacramento assistant Pete Carril, who had heart bypass surgery in November 2000, on loving your job.

"I like the steaks in the U.S. They are better than in Europe. But I don't think anything else is better than my country ... I stand behind that." -- Croatian point guard Roko Ukic, who plays for the Toronto Raptors.

"He can fight up top, he can choke you out, he can do it all ... That's kinda like my basketball game." -- Bulls rookie forward and seven-time world kickboxing champion James Johnson, talking about his favorite MMA fighter -- Las Vegas native and UFC heavyweight Frank Mir.

Sun reporter Rob Miech contributed to this story.

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