Oklahoma City’s first summer league game is today at 4 p.m. and like reader Lefty said in the comments, “It’s only like five weeks until college football, and I don’t even care, because we get to watch the NBA summer league this afternoon. How messed up have I become?” I hear that. Here I am waiting for four o’clock to roll around so I can watch me some summer league basketball. Dedicated fan or over-obsessed nutjob? You tell me.
But there are things to be excited about. I’m psyched to see James Harden in action and also to see Serge Ibaka for the first time. But there’s some other interesting names on the roster, most of which have as much chance to make it to fall camp as I do, but nevertheless, it should be fun to watch some basketball again.
Russell Westbrook (PG) – Thunder
We all know he’s good. But what kind of progress has he made so far this summer? He’s been working on his jumpshot and decision making this summer so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s made any progress. He’ll be one of the elite players in the league and it’s hard to say how much playing time he’ll get. But he’s not participating in the Vegas league, so I’m guessing anywhere between 20-25 minutes a game. He’ll probably be able to get just about anywhere he wants, but the main think to look for is for more consistency on his mid-range jumper, a better ability to finish around the rim and also if he seems to have more control of the offense with the ball in his hands.
Shaun Livingston (PG) – Thunder
Livingston’s play at the end of the year was extremely encouraging for Thunder fans and extremely discouraging for Earl Watson. If Livingston continues to progress, Watson may be left on the end of the bench next to trainer Joe Sharpe. What’ll be most interesting to watch is if Livingston’s side-to-side agility has improved any and if he looks even more comfortable on his knee than he did at the end of the year.
Serge Ibaka (PF) – Thunder/Ricoh Manresa
With news coming out that Ibaka is going to be on the Thunder roster next year regardless of what happens in Orlando, this week became a lot less important for him. But he’s still the most interesting player to watch this week. Really nobody has seen much of anything from Ibaka and he’s a major unknown. We don’t know what to expect from him. Shot blocking? Rebounding? Post game? Any semblance of a jumpshot? We know he can dunk, but can he play defense? His unreal athleticism and length get me giddy and I know when he’s on the court, my eyes are only going to be on him.
D.J. White (PF) – Thunder
White has been working this offseason to add some of the weight he lost as a result of his jaw surgeries. The Thunder would love for him to be a quality mid-range big man off the bench that can rebound and play solid post defense.
Kyle Weaver (PG/SG) – Thunder
This is a big camp for Weaver. He showed last year he’s capable of contributing on an NBA squad, but he’s kind of caught in a tight spot right now on this roster. James Harden will likely cut into any and all playing time and Thabo Sefolosha does basically the same thing as Weaver, but better. Weaver needs a consistent 3-point shot and the ability to slide over and play a little point guard in order to be able to contribute to this team.
James Harden (SG) – Thunder/Arizona State
Second to Ibaka in players I want to see. How does he look shooting the NBA three? Passing skills? How does he look playing alongside Russell Westbrook? He played almost always in a 2-3 zone at Arizona State. How does he look defensively playing man-to-man? Can he get to the rim any time he wants? Harden was picked because he was the perfect fit. I want to see how he gels with Westbrook and Livingston and how far he’s got to go defensively.
DeVon Hardin (PF) – Egaleo AO/Cal
Hardin was a nice player at Cal and a guy that has NBA-type athleticism and an ideal NBA body. But his game is incredibly raw and there’s no real rhyme to to his offensive reason. He battled a foot injury in Turkey last year which cut into his playing time and ended up getting him released by the team. He caught on with another in Greece and played well for the rest of the year. He’s big, very strong and very athletic, but he’s got little to no offensive game. A good week could earn him a spot on Tulsa’s roster.
Robert Vaden (SG) – Thunder/UAB
He was added for one reason and one reason only: to shoot. If he does that well in Orlando, he may have a chance to make this roster. If he struggles and presses, he might be headed overseas or to Tulsa for the year. He’s exactly the type of stretch player the Thunder needs. That is, if he can actually shoot.
B.J. Mullens (C) – Thunder/Ohio State
This is a pretty big week for Mullens. Granted, you can’t totally judge and evaluate properly based on these summer leagues, but this is the best opportunity so far to get a sense of these players. With Mullens you want to see how he matches up on the interior with other big men. Is he strong enough to hold his own? Can he score in the post? Does he have any offense outside of four feet? If not, I think we’ll see him at the end of the bench or in Tulsa to start the year. Mullens is an extremely gifted young man for his size, but it’s about harnessing those gifts and working hard to refine them. He’s got the skill to play in the NBA, but does he have the desire to?
De’Angelo Alexander (SG) – EnBW Ludwigsburg/Charlotte
The former Midwest City star and Oklahoma Sooner has bounced around quite a bit in his short professional career. After transferring from OU to Charlotte, he earned All-Conference honors, averaging 17 ppg and 6 rpg. He was a deadly shooter in college, leading the Atlantic 10 in 3-pointers made as a junior. He then played a year in Germany where in 14 games, he averaged 20 minutes a game and scored 6.2 ppg hitting 59 percent of his shots from 2-point range, but just 16.1 percent from three.
Kyle Hines (PF) – UNC-Greensboro
An undersized power forward from UNC-Greensboro, Hines is one of only six players in NCAA history to score 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and block 300 shots. A four-year player at Greenboro, Hines averaged 18.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg including 19.2 ppg his senior year, second in the conference to Stephen Curry. Hines became just the fourth player in the Southern Conference’s 62-years of all-conference selections to become a four-time First Team selection and the first in 20 years. He scored in double figures in each of his last 81 career games, which was the longest active streak in the nation.
Moses Ehambe (SG/SF) – Tulsa/Oral Roberts
The only player on the summer league roster from Tulsa. The former ORU standout averaged 10.1 ppg for the 66ers last year, hitting 41 percent from both the field and from three. Ehambe is 6-foot-6 swingman and had highs of 26, 25 and 22 last year and one game where he hit seven 3s.
Marcus Dove, Keith McLeod, Doug Thomas and Richard Roby are only competing in the Vegas summer league. We’ll take a look at those four next week.