By DWIGHT JAYNES (@dwightjaynes)
LAS VEGAS -- OK, we can learn things from the Las Vegas Summer League. We just have to be careful about how much we get carried away with what we see.
The competition is closer to college level than it is to the NBA. The teams don't get enough practice time to mesh real well, either. And you have to be careful not to get carried away with strong positive or negative conclusions.
Sometimes the summer league is as big a tease as anything you see walking The Strip on a Friday night.
This IS Las Vegas, remember. What goes on here is supposed to stay here. It's a real-life fantasy island. The concessions serve tequila and vodka smoothies with your choice of fruit flavors in the concourse of Cox Pavilion so keep in mind, hallucinations are always just a couple of slurps away.
That said, you can't blame the Trail Blazers for being very pleased with what some of their key people showed over the five games.
Damian Lillard? Off the charts. He came out of the summer league ranked as the summer's No. 1 rookie by NBA.com and deserved it with the way he played here. I believe when the award is announced, he'll be the league's MVP. He showed that the team's confidence in drafting him and immediately proclaiming him a "franchise point guard" has some merit.
It will be interesting in the fall to see him working that pick-and-roll with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Meyers Leonard showed a world of promise with his athleticism and good hands and he's good enough to draw regular rotation minutes. I believe there's a chance he could even start at the center position.
Will Barton came on strong in the team's final two games and has a shot at off-the-bench playing time if he continues to work hard and defend -- especially if he shows, as he did in the team's final game, that he can make three-point field goals.
Nolan Smith will be ready to claim back-up point guard minutes when camp opens and it will be fun to see if his new-found aggression will carry over to the regular season.
I think the only Blazer negative was the play of Luke Babbitt, who still seems hesitant with the ball and a bit lost on defense.
All in all, though, the summer league was just about everything the Blazers could have asked it to be -- which means, full of great promise.