The NBA Summer League standouts
What is “Summer League”?
NBA Summer League is a league where NBA teams come together to try out different rosters. Typically, these rosters include their recent draft picks, young bench players and some unsigned players. The main objective of this league is to get a brief preview of the top rookies and how they will fit their respective team. Past draftees and unsigned players also make a bid to come back into an NBA roster.
This year 22 teams participated in the Las Vegas Summer League (or LSVL), and for the first time the teams were seeded after each team had played 5 matches. Golden State won the LSVL beating Phoenix Suns in the finals; they went 7-0 overall and are now unbeaten in their last 12 summer league games.
Even though there’s a winner in Summer League, the NBA Summer League isn’t about losing or winning; it’s a players’ league, an opportunity for them to make a mark.
Although a few past Summer League standouts like Anthony Morrow, Austin Daye, etc. haven’t really excelled in the NBA, a lot of them have (Dame Lillard, Jeremy Lin, etc). So here’s a list of the best of the best from this year’s Summer League.
MVP Jonas showed that he was a class apart in this year’s Summer League; he averaged 18+ points, 10+ rebounds and nearly 3 blocks in limited amount of action. He showed a variety of very good post moves and always looked a step ahead of everybody. Jonas was always deemed to have great potential and that kind of forced Toronto to draft him at #5 in the 2011 NBA Draft, given that they already had a failed European big (Bargani 2007 Draft #1 pick). It seems like Toronto is finally bearing the fruits now. Don’t be surprised if he wins the Most Improved Player Award next season; he’ll definitely be in the mix.
2012’s draft #14 pick never got enough playing time in his first season at Milwaukee due to their stacked front court roster and the surprise improvement of Larry Sanders.
But with the new look, Bucks are set to shake things up this season. Henson knew that he needed to make a mark in LSVL to get a decent amount of playing time, and he did just that. He was amazing at both ends of the court, averaging 14.7 points and 13.7 rebounds to go along with a neat 3 blocks per game. Look out for this young Buck next season.
Kent Bazemore is a Hall-of-Fame Summer Leaguer; I even read a headline calling him the Kobe of Summer League, whatever that means. In case you missed it, Bazemore was the guy who nearly won Golden State the best game of NBA last season (Spurs-Warriors Western Conf. semifinals Game 1) when he converted a layup with less than two seconds left in OT to put his team up by 1, before Manu Ginobili went crazy on them with a buzzer-beater 3. Bazemore averaged nearly 20 ppg in LSVL and led his team to the Championship.
The Bobcats shocked the basketball world – it’s amazing how consistently they do that – when they picked Cody Zeller at #4 (the pick was even booed at the draft) despite Nerlene Noels, a deemed #1 pick, being still available. Bobcats picked a white guy and the Adam Morrison comparisons started to roll, until Cody Zeller got to the Summer League.
The big man showed a vast array of inside and outside offensive moves while moving freely in the half court and transition finding easy baskets. He also showed good rebounding skills, but the best thing about him is that he always knew where he needed to be on the court, a rarity at such a young age. Although there’s still a big question of whether he will be able to replicate his success (16.3 ppg and 9.4 rpg) among the NBA’s more athletic big men, Zeller could really prosper in the stretch four role which seems a good fit as the Cats have already signed Centre Al Jefferson to a two-year deal.
As awkward as it sounds, the Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again) might have finally made a right pick in the draft. He might not be a superstar, but he’s will definitely make the haters at the draft feel wrong.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
- DeShaun Thomas & Aron Baynes (Spurs)
- CJ McColloum (Trail Blazers)
- Jeffery Taylor (Bobcats)
- Austin Rivers & Brian Roberts (Pelicans)
- Malcolm Thomas & Marquis Teague ( Bulls)
- Dennis Schroder & Lucas Nogueira (Hawks)
- Archie Goodwin (Suns)
- Dwight Buycks (Raptors)
- Reggie Bulllock (Clippers)
P.S. – Do not confuse the LSVL with the Orlando Summer League; the OSL took place before the LSVL and consisted of only 10 teams.