The End of Stockton’s Run

ImageDavid Stockton may have surpassed all expectations and become a successful point guard at Gonzaga, but there is one simple reason that this year will not be his year: Kyle Dranginis.

Gonzaga has been spoiled by great guards and the 2011-2012 season was no exception; fans were spoiled by the early emergence of guards Gary Bell and lights-out shooter Kevin Pangos. David Stockton looked to be the go-to guy after Steven Gray graduated and Demetri Goodson decided to transfer to play football; instead Stockton’s minutes went from an average of 15.6 per game to an extremely charitable 16.8.

During that time Stockton’s stats grew progressively worse in almost every category. His PPG fell from 4.2 to 3.7, shooting percentage dropped from 46% to 38%, turnovers went up from 1.1 to 1.5, and even his free throw percentage plummeted from 83% to a paltry 59%. The only two stats that Stockton improved were his assists (2.1 to 2.4 per game) and 3-point percentage (33% to 39%), which was certainly expected with his increased role. The question remains, with Stockton’s decline why would Coach Mark Few continue to play him? He shouldn’t.

Instead, in the 2012-2013 season Gonzaga fans should expect to see another figure stepping out of the shadows and into the Gonzaga guard lore: Kyle Dranginis. Dranginis is a three-time Idaho Press-Tribune player of the year (POY) and two-time Idaho Gatorade POY (which is something Gonzaga legend Violette only managed once). Dranginis’ great size and length should allow him to play at both guard positions without being a defensive liability, something Gonzaga fans have complained about since Stockton started getting significant playing time.

While Dranginis has yet to prove himself at a collegiate level, he huge upside potential and an opportunity for greatness. Rarely has Gonzaga ever had the potential for three guards at this elite level. Dranginis is the type of heady intelligent player who could have an incredible career under Mark Few: he plays smart, smooth, and calm.

The question remains, however, will Few give him the chance?

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Summer League Shines on Former Zags

As the lights go down on Vegas, at least until the Zags return for the WCC tournament, its important to remember that this is just summer league. That no titles are won in Summer League, that no one worries about winning or losing,  and no real stories are made in summer league. It is just a bunch of scrubs who can barely make teams fighting to show the executives that they deserve to sit on the bench for a season.

Or at least that is what many critics of the NBA Summer League would have us believe. The truth of the matter is that in the 6 short years the summer league has been around there have been numerous success stories, from an undrafted free agent making a name for himself on a Dallas summer team in 2010 who just got signed by the rockets for $25 million dollars ( Jeremy Linn) to the overall number 1 pick in John Wall who averaged 23.5 ppg and 7.8 assists during summer league and transitioned those stats to 16.4 ppg and 8.2 assists during his rookie year.  The simple fact is that the summer league can be a springboard into the NBA for stars and vagabonds alike, but in NBA summer league scoring is King. Of the top 32 scorers in 2010, only 4 didn’t play in the NBA during the 2011-12 season, (Jermaine Taylor, Sonny Weems, Derrick Caracter, and Gani Lawal) and over half of them are recognizable NBA players that play good minutes for their respective teams.

In 2012 6 different former Zags played roles in summer league, with each making a different contribution to the league.

Adam Morrison: Summer league executives snubbed Morrison by denying him from the all-star team, even while the fans were chanting MVP in his final game. His summer started slow as he played 5 games with the Brooklyn Nets where he averaged just 5.2 points on 36% shooting, although he did show off a little more rebounding with 4 rpg and become the first Brooklyn Net to score a basket. Adam’s summer didn’t start till he got to Vegas where he averaged 20 ppg on 55% shooting including 62% from the 3. He is just trying to stay positive and make a place in this league. He even spurned some reporters saying “You know why I didn’t want to talk to you before the game last night? All of these (interviews) are just so negative. It’s ‘How come your hair’s so long?’ and ‘How come your career’s been so shitty?’ I don’t want to be thinking about all of that before I have to play.” It appears to have worked as the Los Angeles Clippers have requested him to attend their 2012 training camp. Odds are his summer league all-star snub does not repeat with an NBA snub, Morrison will be on a team this next season.

Austin Daye: While many were impressed with what Morrison did in Vegas, Daye may have outdone him in Orlando. Daye cracked the First Team in his third summer league action thanks to averages of 15.8 points on 51-percent shooting (35-percent from three), 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 2 blocks in 26-plus minutes per game. While it remains to be seen if he can make a break in the pistons organization, it does serve as a reminder that he has all the skills necessary to become one of the NBA elite.

Jeremy Pargo: Pargo spent this summer constantly working on his game into the wee hours of the morning with current Gonzaga PG Kevin Pangos in the McCarthy Athletic Center. His summer league was just average as he put up 12 ppg with 5.5 apg, but there were bright spots with his ball control as he cut down on turnovers and stole the ball 2.5 times per game. Pargo has always had an amazing level of athleticism which he displayed while making the top play of the Vegas summer league (here) and has since been traded to the Cavs who have been quietly rebuilding. Look for Jeremy to have an increased role with the Cavs as he backs up Irving.

Micah Downs: Downs was hoping the 3rd time was the charm as he headed back to summer league once again. Unfortunately it looks like Downs will be with Sidigas Avellino playing overseas. Downs made the most of his time while at Vegas playing for two different teams (Dallas and Milwaukee) but only had two games where he got playing time. he scored 9 points for Dallas  on 4/9 shooting in 25 min and 21 points for the Bucks on 7/10 shooting in 32 min. It ultimately will most likely not be enough but it was nice to see downs go off while he was there.

Steven Gray: Gray played in three of Washington’s five games and averaged 7.3 points, 2.0 assists and 18 minutes off the bench. He set out to show the coaches he was more than just a shooter which he did by hitting only 2 of is 11 3-point attempts. Gray wasnt even included in 2 of his teams summer league outings, but the team won every game he played in. Steven says he expects to sign a contract with his new team within the next two weeks, but the team will be overseas; he believes another season overseas will benefit him more than playing in the NBA Development League. Gray’s ultimate goal remains the NBA, but most expect him to end his basketball career overseas.

Robert Sacre: NBA’s Mr. Irrelevant was quite a presence starting down low for the Lakers, but not always in a good way. Sacre had a plus minus ratio of -50 in their 50 point loss to the heat and grabbed just one rebound in 32 minutes, he shot only 35% and averaged only 9 ppg during his 31 mpg. What we did see from Sacre was an increased pursuit of the ball with 6.2 rpg (including his atrocious 1 rebound game against Miami), a continued excellence from the stripe 89.5%, and the coaching staff seemed dedicated to giving him his opportunity. Unfortunately with the Lakers still big man heavy, Sacre will end up getting very little playing time with the Lakers if he gets signed by them at all. A year to adjust may serve him well as it did during his red-shirt year, but being picked up by a team without quite so many big men would probably be “Big Rob’s” best hope.

It remains to be seen where all these players will end up and what there roles will be, and one has to remember that this is just summer league, but it is always great to see former Zags succeeding on a bigger stage.