Summer League is one of my favorite parts of the NBA year. It’s a fan’s first chance to see what the rookies can do with some of the their more veteran, but still young future teammates. It’s a chance to see how those 2nd and 3rd year players have improved over the offseason. And it’s a chance to see some relative unknowns scrap and fight for the chance to make it onto a training camp roster.
Here are 5 things I’ll be for in this Summer League:
1. The “Veterans”
Four of the players on the Summer League roster have NBA experience, with 3 of them having started games for the Thunder last season. If Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Jackson are what make the Thunder great, then Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson, Perry Jones, and Steven Adams are what makes them contenders. Superstars are superstars, but they still need help. And that’s where these four players come into play. Their continued development is tantamount to the success of the team.
From Perry Jones, I would like to see some offensive aggressiveness. When Jones was on the floor last season, he seemed content with taking what the defense gave him. But his physical tools are made for an offensive attacker. Length, agility, and other-worldly athleticism would make him a nightmare for a defense. Add to that the fact that he showed the ability to knock down an open 3-pointer, and you have all the makings of someone that can score consistently in the league….if he wants to.
From Jeremy Lamb, I would like to see him attack the basket and draw contact. Lamb showed the ability to make shots from the perimeter, but settled too many times for jumpers or floaters in order to avoid contact. If Lamb were more inclined to absorb contact, he may see his scoring average jump from the increase in free throw attempts. Also, I’d like to see Lamb improve on his one on one defense.
From Andre Roberson, I’d like to see him hit a corner three consistently. But more importantly, I’d like to see him diversify his offensive game. If the shot isn’t falling, work on getting to the basket. I truly see a Tony Allen dimension to Roberson’s game, and that’s not a bad thing.
One of the reasons why people laud Steven Adams when comparing him to Kendrick Perkins is because Adams has the tools to develop an offensive repertoire. I would like to see how Adams has worked on his offensive game in the post. Is he developing a go to shot (i.e. jump hook) or a consistent jumper from 5-15 feet out? Also, I’d like to see him defend without fouling as much.
2. The Rookies
Summer league was made to showcase young players, especially the rookies. The Thunder, for the 2nd year in a row, bring three drafted rookies into Orlando. Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, and Semaj Christon will all get a chance to showcase their skills surrounded by players that will be on the roster with them. This becomes the great unknown of the summer league equation. You get a sense of what these rookies play like, but when the collegiate shackles come off, it can be an entirely different story.
I’m interested to see how McGary plays coming off the back injury. Will he be limited or rusty? I remember what he did in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but didn’t see much of him last season. As far as Huestis goes, I still can’t find a decent scouting video (shame on your DraftExpress). I have no idea what to expect from him.
But I’m most interested in Semaj Christon. Not necessarily because of him, but more because I know the other two rookies are on guaranteed contracts. I see a lot of the same physical attributes in Christon as I see in Jackson and Westbrook. Maybe not the brute explosiveness, but definitely the length and athleticism. If Christon can somehow impress, will the Thunder take a similar approach with him as they did with Grant Jerrett last season? Stashing him in Tulsa will allow the Thunder to develop him, without taking up a roster spot.
3. Grant Jerrett
Speaking of Grant Jerrett, he’ll also be on the team. The team decided not to opt into his team option for next season, but, apparently, that was just so they can give him a guaranteed raise. The team probably won’t do that until they figure out who they are signing in free agency (Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, etc). Also, the team may be wanting to see how Jerrett has improved over this past season. A great showing by him may make the need for a 3-point shooter a moot point.
4. Defend the championship
In case you don’t remember, the Thunder won the Orlando Summer League last season. They went a perfect 5-0 and got to take a picture with cool hats when it was all said and done. The good thing about it was that none of the games were complete blow-outs. The Thunder won their games by an average of 6.6 points. In my opinion, other than individual player development, the most important thing about summer league is placing the players in tight game situations, and seeing how they react to that pressure.
5. Other players
I’m a fan of the Thunder, but I’m also a fan of the league. Summer league allows me to see young players on other teams. It allows me to scout the other teams’ rookies and young players. Here’s a list of players from other teams that I will be interested to see:
- Boston Celtics – Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and James Young
- Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee
- Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, and ex-Thunder DeAndre Liggins
- Houston Rockets – Isaiah Canaan
- Indiana Pacers – Roger Mason Jr. (Why is this veteran playing in summer league?)
- Miami Heat – Shabazz Napier
- Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton
- Philadelphia 76ers – Nerlens Noel and Pierre Jackson