• 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

  • Emmanuel Mudiay
    PG, Utah Jazz

    The Jazz have officially announced the signing of Emmanuel Mudiay, Jeff Green and Ed Davis.

    All three project to come off the bench this season with Green and Davis part of the frontcourt second string while it is unclear if Mudiay or Dante Exum will assume the backup point guard duties. Davis is coming off a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game in only 17.9 minutes last season while Mudiay enjoyed his best year as a pro with the Knicks but all three players can be left undrafted in standard leagues for the time being.

    Source: NBA.com

  • CJ McCollum
    SG, Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum has withdrawn his name from the Team USA training camp and 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Following the trend, McCollumn is the fourth player to withdraw his name this week in order to focus on the upcoming season. The original 20 invites are now down to 16 with the final 12-man roster expected to be announced on August 17.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Frank Mason
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have agreed on a two-way contract with Frank Mason III.

    Mason did not get much opportunity with the Kings last year and sat out all of Summer League with a sore hip. He projects to spend most of his time in the G-League and called up only if Eric Bledsoe or George Hill need to miss time. The Bucks recently signed Cameron Reynolds to a two-way deal and still have Bonzie Colson on one from last season so they are one over the limit. They still have an empty roster even after signing Kyle Korver so maybe one of their two-ways gets a standard deal instead. Otherwise, one of them will need to be waived.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Kyle Korver
    SF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Kyle Korver has agreed to a one-year deal with the Bucks per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

    This is not the worst landing spot for Korver but he will strictly be a backup and entering his 17th season, he should not be relevant in standard leagues. He was able to knock down 2.1 triples per game in only 20.1 minutes last season so he may have value as a specialist in super-deep leagues however.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Chris Paul
    PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Chris Paul has reportedly settled on the idea of starting the season for the Thunder.

    Although Oklahoma City and Miami did not have formal discussions regarding a Chris Paul trade according to Brian Windhorst, the Thunder were willing to discuss giving back the Heat some picks but the Heat would have also wanted Paul to decline his $44 million player option in 2021-2022, which is not going to happen. The Heat want to remain flexible in the next big free agent class of 2021 and adding Paul on his current deal would take that away. Paul's usage rate will likely increase on the Thunder but keep in mind that he has missed at least 21 games in each of the three seasons before drafting him as the 9-time All-Star enters his 15th season in the league.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Eric Gordon
    SG, Houston Rockets

    Eric Gordon withdraws from Team USA training camp for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Gordon is the third player to withdraw this week after James Harden and Anthony Davis. The original training camp list of 20 is now down to 17 and the official 12-team roster will be announced on August 17.

    Source: Shams Charanis on Twitter

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    The Bulls have officially announced the signings of Luke Kornet and Shaquille Harrison.

    Kornet can provide threes and blocks as a backup big for the Bulls. He is currently behind Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Wendell Carter Jr. but may be able to carve out some minutes for deep-league owners. Harrison will be fighting for minutes with the Bulls' plethora of point guards at the moment. If he can find some minutes during the season, he can be a source of steals as a player to stream or for deep leagues.

    Source: Bulls.com

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Raptors.

    Hollis-Jefferson's deal was originally reported as a minimum contract however it is now a $2.5 million contract which comes out of the Raptors' non-taxpayer mid-level. He will likely play some minutes behind Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. He is capable of defending multiple positions and might be able to provide some deep-league value in rebounds, steals and blocks.

    Source: Jeff Siegel on Twitter

  • Mike Muscala
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Mike Muscala has signed with the Thunder on a two-year, $4.31 million deal with a player option.

    Muscala could step in with the Thunder to be their stretch four behind Danilo Gallinari or back up Steven Adams. He could potentially earn some minutes especially with Jeremi Grant no longer on the team. He averaged around 20 mpg in his last two seasons with the Lakers and Hawks, providing threes and blocks that were useful to deep-league owners.

    Source: OKC Thunder Wire

  • Russell Westbrook
    PG, Houston Rockets

    Mike D'Antoni "would be disappointed" if Russell Westbrook didn't improve his 3-point percentage this season.

    D'Antoni added, "I think we can do that. I think that just by knowing that that's kind of how we play and him having the green light to (shoot) and not worry about it." Westbrook shot just 29.0 percent from deep last season and has been under 30.0 percent in four of his last five campaigns, so there is definite room for improvement. It's possible that Westbrook will find more catch-and-shoot looks available next to James Harden, and moving away from pull-up threes could help him improve his efficiency, but we won't be able to tell for sure until we see the duo take the court in preseason. Improving his deep shooting would definitely help, but there are serious questions about the rest of Westbrook's stat set. Rebounds and assists may not be as available in a system that isn't specifically tailored to him, and free throws and turnovers still look like problem areas. It's not a bad on-court fit but Westbrook seems unlikely to return to his former top-30 glory.

    Source: Salman Ali on Twitter