• 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.

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