LAS VEGAS — It's only Summer League.
It's a mantra that's been uttered over and over in Las Vegas over the last week while the league's highest profile exhibition has been played.
It's important context to consider when evaluating the level of play — good or bad — from the youngsters and journeymen participating. Many stars of summers past have been unable to parlay that success into meaningful NBA careers, but the level of competition and the desperation of some players who are trying to get a foot in the door has made for some compelling basketball in Vegas this week.
Steph Curry's kid brother is lighting it up for New Orleans. Rashad Vaughn showed the scoring instincts that Milwaukee sorely lacked last season and Kelly Oubre Jr. played with a drive for Washington that seemed to be lacking last season at Kansas.
The tournament championship is on Monday night, but here is a look at some of the players who have stood out in Vegas this week.
SETH CURRY, New Orleans
He has bounced around the league early in his career and played only four total games for three different teams. He came to Vegas without a guaranteed contract, but may have played his way into one after averaging 25 points per game in the first five games.
New Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry You can see a little of Steph's game in baby bro. The way he comes off screens, pulls up in transition for 3s and has worked to improve his handle.
"I think he's done great for himself. He's continued to play well within himself, within the system, playing under control," Pelicans assistant coach Robert Pack said.
TERRY ROZIER, Boston
Some Celtics fans grumbled when their team grabbed the Louisville combo guard with the 16th overall pick, which may have been a few picks higher than Rozier was projected to go before the draft.
But Rozier was solid all week, exhibiting a heady game, some toughness on the defensive end and some clutch shooting. He hit a crazy step-back 3-pointer with under 3 seconds to play against the Spurs on Saturday that tied the game before Shannon Scott won it for San Antonio with a buzzer beater.
His intensity and grit could give coach Brad Stevens a formidable backcourt rotation with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley.
"I'm a confident person no matter what I'm doing," Rozier said. "I believe in myself more than anybody. I'm just trying to help the team and do whatever I can."
DOUG MCDERMOTT, Chicago
The scorer known as "McBuckets" had a frustrating rookie season last year, missing significant time with injuries and struggling to find a place in defensive-minded head coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation.
The Bulls have a new coach this year in Fred Hoiberg who figures to bring more offensive flow to Chicago, and that should help McDermott be more of a factor in his sophomore year.
Hoiberg coached the summer team in an effort to re-familiarize himself with the NBA game after spending five years coaching at Iowa State. And McDermott averaged 18.8 points per game in five games.
"I think the biggest thing with Doug is to go out and aggressive," Hoiberg said. "He's such a versatile scorer. He didn't shoot the ball great this week, but he did everything else well. ... The one thing I know he can do is shoot, so I thought he showed some other things this week that will definitely get him on the floor this year."
JUSTIN ANDERSON, Dallas
The Mavericks have had an eventful offseason and are reeling after center DeAndre Jordan reneged on a commitment to join them in free agency and ultimately decided to stay with the Clippers.
They got some good news this week with the performance of Anderson, the burly swingman from Virginia that they picked 21st overall on draft night.
Anderson averaged 17.5 points in six games and impressed Mavs coaches with his commitment on defense and his willingness to accept coaching. As the week went on, Anderson found more space to work with than he had in college, and he attacked the rim aggressively.
"It's completely different basketball than I'm used to in college," Anderson said. "Once I started to realize that in college it's a lot slower, a lot more packed in the paint, (the NBA), you can get to the rim at ease and there's a lot of space."