How much stock do you really put in a guy who absolutely destroys the summer league circuit?
Well, you have to look at some of the variables that go along with being a just a summer league superstar or a legit player in the NBA.
First… Is the player a first-round pick of the team this year? If he is, then you expect him to have more trouble than success. The game is faster, players are quicker and stronger and they have a big target on their backs from players who got undrafted or want to make a name and turn some heads by crushing that team’s draft pick. Remember LeBron didn’t actually rip up summer play his rookie year, but he learned a lot about his game and what he had to improve on going into the season. This is what Kevin Durant and Greg Oden is figuring out right now.
Second… Is the player a first-round pick from last year or the year before or even the team’s second-round pick who sat the bench all season? Those players have some NBA experience, so they know a little about how the game is played, know the team’s system and usually play well during the summer. Last year, Travis Diener played incredible during the summer. Then he didn’t get off the pine during the season and now is trying to find a team. This summer, JJ Redick is showing people really how good he is and why he will make a bigger splash this season than last. Take in mind that first-round picks will get the bulk of the shots and playing time because the summer is where teams get a chance to develop these players and showcase them on the offensive end. Marco Belinelli looks like the real deal and will fit great with Golden State’s style of play. But will he get all those looks and shots that he has during the summer with Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis and the rest of the shoot-first, pass-second Warriors? The talent is there for all these guys, but they won’t have the same opportunities during the season.
Does the name Nikoloz Tskitishvili ring a bell? The next Dirk. The 5th pick in the 2002 Draft. After a great summer a few years back, he still is trying to find his way in the league.
Thirdly… Look at the competition on some of these teams. Names and faces you never heard or seen before. That’s why they are playing during the summer. Trying to get a spot in vet camp after playing overseas, in the the D-League, the CBA or any other league with three letters hoping to put up big numbers and impress one GM or coach.
Lastly… Numbers can be deceiving during the summer. Have you ever taken a look at Bo Outlaw‘s summer numbers when he participates in the Summer Pro League in California? Every year Bo is one of the best players there. He has several quadruple-doubles. Quadruple-doubles! He scores 20-plus points a game. Now, Bo is a legit player in this league for what he does: rebounding, defense, energy and leadership. It comes down to the opportunities you get during the summer (compared to during the season when the man and franchise player on the team is getting all the shots), the competition level and what’s at stake for each individual player.
I’ve seen plenty of summer league superstars over the past 20 years. Some take advantage of the opportunity and find themselves on an NBA team and really contribute, but most just fade away and keep trying to make it. The problem is that these guys are always great during the summer, but the pay is a lot bigger and better during the fall, winter and spring!