So here we are again ladies and gents! Summer League is fast upon us as the first game will start Monday, even though most of the work force will be at home so, surprisingly, there shouldn’t be a huge hit in work productivity because of the awesome spectacle that is the Orlando Summer League.
Now as you noticed, I’m not going to go over the Vegas Summer League but pretty much just use both events for the purpose of this article (plus, the Thunder won’t play in Vegas, unlike last year, and you’re on a Thunder site so…). And it’s not like either location has better or worse competition.
They’re both awful.
I mean just plain abysmal at times.
But, alas, in the summertime with only baseball to regularly keep you company, we will flock to any kind of organized “professional” basketball like mosquitoes to a bug zapper.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the Top 5 things you absolutely have to know/understand about Summer League before you either throw up in your mouth a little after watching a game for the first time or think that Ryan Reid will be the next Hakeem Olajuwon after he scores 20 points, pulls down 20 boards and blocks 10 shots.
1. It’s pretty bad. No, seriously, it hurts sometimes it’s so bad.
First things first, you have to go in with adequate expectations about what kind of basketball you’re going to see if you have any chance of appreciating and enjoying the NBA’s Summer League for the awesomeness that it is. And that expectation is this…
Think street ball with the world’s best basketball players, only they literally just met one another, have absolute no knowledge of the systems they’re asked to play, are hopped up on nerves and the desire to prove themselves and are being coached (usually) by anyone but the actual head coach that will train and mold them in the regular season.
The outcome? For every 1 amazing play or exciting performance there are, at minimum, 5 mind numbing, soul crushing and James Naismith in his grave turning debacles.
Every player is either trying to show that they should have been picked that high, should have been picked higher, should have been picked period or really should have gotten more playing time during the last season. Every guy is pressing and that is just a recipe for slop.
But it certainly lends itself to wide open play and an awesome number of bonehead video clips. A beautiful slop, if you will.
2. 99% of the time it really means nothing
There is always one guy who has a game where he drops 40 points, or grabs 20 rebounds or notches 12+ assists (Marcus Williams was this guy last year) and everyone freaks out and says, “Did you see so-and-so dropped 40 in Summer League. Write it down, I bet that guy is a stud next year.”
And then the individual is cut by October.
Like I said earlier, Summer League is conducive to playground basketball and some people are just better at that type of play than the play of organized, well-coached, high execution oriented NBA regular season basketball games. Thus, some people are going to look great and shine and then will never make an impact during an actual game.
The 1% exception to this is when someone displays specific skills or basketball IQ or startling athleticism that they aren’t supposed to. Case in point: Serge Ibaka. Last year we all were led to believe that Ibaka was this incredibly raw prospect who didn’t really grasp basketball concepts and was just an amazing athlete. And then in the Orlando Summer League we all witnessed a fluidity to his footwork, great timing for blocks and rebounds and, gasp, a sweet jumpshot.
But even then, we had our doubts! This is Summer League we’re talking about.
3. Don’t overreact the other direction either; he might not be bad after all
See the above mention of “playground style versus NBA regular season style.” If an individual player’s game is based on crisp movement, timing, polish and a high skill-set, I’m going to almost guarantee that they will not be as impressive in Summer League as they are/would be during the season.
BUT, if a guy shows a serious lack of fundamentals or heart in Summer League or is touted as one specific type of player, like “he’s a dead-eye shooter,” and then they can’t hit the broad side of a barn for five games even though he had nothing but open looks, or a guy who’s 7’0 and touted as a great rebounder and shot blocker prefers jacking up three’s and cringes at the thought of contact in the paint, well, that person’s going to need either some time to development or, well, another day job (like one overseas!).
4. Typically, whichever team has more returning NBA players on their roster runs roughshod over everyone else
We haven’t really got to experience this on a team-wide scale yet so I’m pretty excited for the meaningless blowout victories I expect the Thunder Summer League team to ring up in Orlando. Last year was Westbrook going off and being the best player there after his rookie season with Weaver’s steady play also chipping in. And I have a similar feeling that Ibaka, Harden and Maynor are all going to look like men among boys because of their rookie season experience AND playoff experience.
But, again, it doesn’t count in October so, um, enjoy it in proper perspective.
5. Every Summer League game should only be called by Dante & Galante
If it’s true, and NBA TV will broadcast the games without Dante & Galante being allowed to give their brilliant and sometimes captivating to the point that the only reason I’m still watching this comedy of errors is their hilarious commentary, then I may just mute the thing and call them up on the phone and beg them to watch and talk about it for just me.
Bad form, NBA TV. Bad form.
You know, if it’s true. Especially since I can’t find out if there will be a live stream on the Magic’s site because of the NBA airing it and making you pay for online viewing, which is just the perfect example of something getting too successful to the point where it kind of ruins itself because of how awesome it was.