D.J. Strawberry was far from the most polished offensive player in this years Summer League, but he showed immense potential and was one of the best players on the defensive end. The things that Strawberry lacks in offensive skills he makes up for in intensity. What makes Strawberrys Summer League numbers so impressive is that he still managed to score almost 16 points per contest with no remnants of a jump shot. Defensively, Strawberry was one of the most well rounded players in attendance, and easily the most impressive.
The first thing Strawberry needs is a shooting coach, which is something that has always been known about him. His stroke isnt consistent enough for him to be a good shooter, but his shots fall when it looks smooth. This is indicative of a need for extra practice and game reps. Outside of Strawberrys lack of consistency from mid and long range, he showed some nice tools this week. Strawberry doesnt have the most refined handle, but he is big enough that he can blow by most point guards due to his length and athleticism. The moves he utilizes around the rim are predictable, but they got the job done for the most part. The only player to really cause Strawberry problems around the basket was another player on this list, Louis Amundson
, who blocked him repeatedly due to Strawberry not being able to explode to the rim around the quicker Louis Williams
As a point guard, Strawberry looked surprisingly crisp, moving the ball well and getting his teammates open looks. He did a spectacular job creating offense in transition, and wound up leaving Vegas as its 2007 assist leader. Unfortunately, he committed quite a few turnovers because he isnt a threat from the outside. There were numerous situations where Strawberry was forced to drive or hesitate when he had ample time and space to shoot a jump shot. Once Strawberry gets comfortable with his range, he will no longer have to force the ball into the paint, or pull up for a mid-range shot he really doesnt want to take.
Strawberry lands this high on this list due to his defense, since no one stood out more in this aspect of the game than he did. Strawberry gets in a low defensive stance on every play, and doesnt give his man any space. He hawks the ball from the opening horn to the final buzzer, and generally makes things miserable for his opposition. His hands are tremendous, and he started using them much more intelligently after recording 8 fouls in his first contest. Strawberrys ability to guard three positions, rotate effective from the weakside, and help out on the glass make him significantly more valuable than his numbers indicate.
As Strawberry embarks on his first NBA season, he should look to teammate Raja Bell
for guidance. Early in his career, Bell found himself in much the same situation as Strawberry is in now. He was a great defender who didnt have a good enough jump shot to garner minutes. Strawberry is in a little bit different of a situation considering he is more athletic and versatile than Bell was, but he desperately needs to transform his shooting ability the way Bell did. Strawberry could play some spot minutes this year for Phoenix, but wont make a legitimate impact on the NBA level offensively until defenders have to respect his jump shot.