• Hey, basketball friends! It’s time for more Last Week This Morning, basketball topics, let’s go.

    Summer League Is The Best

    I love Summer League basketball. Orlando, Utah, Vegas, wherever – I love it. Is the basketball good? Of course not. I mean, in most cases it’s not horrendous, you still get to watch some of the best basketball players in the world compete, but it’s about so much more than ‘the basketball stinks.’

    I probably overrate Summer League in terms of it being a good barometer for NBA success. I take a lot more stock in how someone looks in Vegas than I probably should, but hey, differentiating opinions are good! I’m glad there are people out there who view Summer League as valueless, I’m glad there are some in the middle, and I’m glad there are others like myself who think that you can actually learn a lot from it.

    There will always be examples of players who looked great in summer league, but could never really cut it in the NBA. Donte Green scored 40 points in a summer league game before his rookie year. FORTY!

    On the other end of the spectrum, there will be players who play poorly and turn out fine, so I understand where the ‘meaningless’ crowd is coming from.

    With that being said, players frequently get signed because of their Summer League performances, so as often as coaches will try to tell you how much it does or doesn’t matter, general managers are using it as a tool to evaluate talent, so there is tangible value.

    Seth Curry is a perfect example of a player who played well in last years’ Summer League, earned himself a guaranteed contract with the Kings, and played well enough to earn a multi-year contract with the Dallas Mavericks the following offseason. Summer League told us that Seth Curry was a NBA rotation player and it was correct! He IS an NBA rotation player. If it’s valuable enough to correctly evaluate a player like Seth Curry, it’s valuable enough to evaluate your favorite teams’ rookies.

    Personally, I like to watch summer league while making a mental ‘concerns’ list. For example, the Kings drafted Ben McLemore, a big time college shooter and scorer a few years back.  From those five or so Summer League games he played before his rookie season, my concerns list has followed him around for his entire NBA career.

    His handle was bad in Summer League, his shot form was perfect but results were very inconsistent. He couldn’t create his own offense. Could he play NBA shooting guard with virtually no ball handling skills? He has great physical tools, but man does he get lost on defense a lot. Etc.

    Making those little mental notes ARE valuable! It’s not necessarily about the numbers, it’s about the ‘does this player have this skill’ and while Summer League skill doesn’t always translate to NBA skill, if a player CAN’T do something in summer league, he LIKELY can’t do that thing in the NBA yet. It needs to be worked on and improved, etc, but now you know that.

    In Ben McLemore’s case, he has the same weaknesses now as he did back then. He has improved on everything, albeit at a much slower pace than the Kings would have hoped, so while I wouldn’t advise watching Summer League and making absolute judgments based on anything you see, it’s good to keep that critical eye working. You can learn a lot.

    Kevin Durant

    A lot of people are upset at Kevin Durant, the NBA, and the Golden State Warriors this week. Durant is probably getting the brunt of the criticism for his move to Golden State, but I’ve seen all parties getting beat down by Internet bullies.

    I don’t have a problem with any of what went down during free agency, Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State included. I genuinely understand the parity argument, and that ‘angers’ me on a certain level, because in a perfect world the NBA and the NBAPA would be on better terms, the CBA would have been modified for the cap spike, and max contracts wouldn’t work the way they do right now.

    In a perfect world, a team shouldn’t be able to acquire a top-5 player when it already has a top-5 player, and two top-20 players, because the cap and CBA would work in a way where that is nearly impossible unless those players were smartly drafted by the same organization.

    But it’s not a perfect world, and the NBA doesn’t have a good relationship with the NBAPA, and the CBA is somewhat archaic. These are the rules the NBA is working with right now, and under those rules, the Warriors did a very legal thing. How can I be upset?

    In a broad sense, I like rules, and I like strict following of said rules. The Golden State Warriors are the most desirable franchise in the NBA right now, if not all of professional sports, and this is coming off of an NBA Finals LOSS!

    That is incredible but they earned that respect. They earned Kevin Durant’s interest. I’m fascinated to see what Durant does in Golden State, and I take no issue in how those two sides came together. The NBA should and probably will take a look at everything I outlined above and make the appropriate changes preventing this from happening as in the future, but right now, it’s all fair game.

Fantasy News

  • Elie Okobo
    PG, Phoenix Suns

    Elie Okobo saw 27 minutes off the bench on Wednesday, turning in a line of 11 points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.

    This game wasn't close, which could have afforded Okobo a few extra reps. It's an encouraging sign to see what he did with it, but he is likely only worth a stream at most if the Suns fall victim to injuries.

  • Jeff Teague
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Jeff Teague started on Wednesday and scored three points on 1-of-7 shooting with eight assists in 25 minutes.

    Trae Young (right thigh contusion) sat this game out and Teague was still unable to eclipse 25 minutes. The trade to Atlanta has hurt Teague's value in a big way and he is only an assists specialist for 16-team leagues.

  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Kelly Oubre Jr. was one rebound shy of a double-double on Wednesday night, ending with 17 points (5-16 FG), nine rebounds and a block to his name.

    Oubre's shooting slump continues, but remains a top-50 player on the season. He relies on steals to keep his value afloat, so nights like this really hurt his stock. No one on the Suns had a great night and he'll hope to turn things around in his next contest.

  • TJ Warren
    SF, Indiana Pacers

    T.J. Warren made his presence felt on both ends of the floor in Wednesday's 112-87 blowout win over the Suns, recording 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting with two rebounds, three assist, three steals and one block in 30 minutes of action.

    Warren isn't normally notable for his efforts on the defensive end, so those combined four steals and blocks was a welcome sight for his owners. Warren got his revenge-game face on in this one and was successful in punishing his former team. He will be a top-60 to top-75 moving forward, accounting for Victor Oladipo's return.

  • John Collins
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    John Collins broke out on Wednesday for 33 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and three triples while shooting 12-of-22 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line in a 102-95 victory over the Clippers.

    Collins carried the Hawks with Trae Young out and is a top-10 player in per game value after Wednesday's monster performance. Collins has increased his blocks from 0.6 per game last season to 2.2 per game this season. He should be a top-20 player moving forward and congrats if you bought low or held on to him through his suspension.

  • Terance Mann
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Terance Mann disappointed in a start on Wednesday with one point, two assists and two blocks in 15 minutes.

    At least he brought the blocks to salvage something for those who streamed Mann or started him in DFS. Mann got the start with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley all sitting out. Mann is out of the rotation most nights and proved on Wednesday that he can't be trusted as a streamer even when he's starting.

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Russell Westbrook stuffed the stat line in Wednesday's 121-105 win over the Nuggets, finishing with 28 points (11-of-25 shooting), 16 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block.

    Westbrook was in command of this game and has really seen his value start to skyrocket. On the edge of the top-50 on the season, Westbrook has been a top-20 player over the last two weeks. His backcourt-mate, James Harden, dropped 27 points on 6-of-13 shooting with five rebounds, five assists and two steals of his own.

  • Landry Shamet
    SG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Landry Shamet started on Wednesday and scored 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting with two threes in 36 minutes.

    Patrick Beverley (sore right groin) sat this game out, allowing Shamet to get the start. Shamet is on a hot streak over his last five games, averaging 13.4 points with 3.0 triples in 31.9 minutes per game. He's a three point streamer in standard leagues while he's hot.

  • Clint Capela
    C, Houston Rockets

    Clint Capela played rim protector on Wednesday night, swatting five shots while also scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

    Capela is a top-15 player currently. He is about as consistent as it get for double-double production and the five blocks tonight demonstrate tremendous upside.

  • Montrezl Harrell
    PF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Montrezl Harrell scored 30 points on 12-of-23 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks in a 102-95 loss to the Hawks on Wednesday.

    Harrell tanked his owners' percentage, shooting 6-of-13 from the line. The bad free throw percentage is something you need to accept if you have Harrell on your fantasy team. He will be a strong source of points, rebounds and field goal percentage but will struggle to reach mid-round value with his poor free throw percentage (.572 on 5.8 attempts per game) and mediocre blocks (1.1 blocks per game).