Last summer, Kevin Pelton of ESPN analyzed summer league statistics and how they translated to the regular season. To do this, he looked at a player’s stats historically in the summer league to their first five games in the league, which is more-or-less the same sample size.
He found that the only stats that are truly consistent are defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage. A player’s shooting percentage in the summer league generally had no correlation to their regular season shooting efficiency, which is good news for fans of Tyler Ennis, who went 7-32 (21.9%) this summer.
Obviously, some players can put up incredible numbers during the summer league and not get a shot during the regular season because they’re on veteran playoff teams. For example, ex-Arizona star Nick Johnson had a very impressive outing this summer after being selected 42nd overall by the Houston Rockets. He was tied for second in total points and displayed his athleticism. However, he’ll be behind Patrick Beverley and James Harden on the depth chart, meaning minutes will be scarce at the beginning of his career.
So let's look at some players who excelled in our two statistical categories and have a shot at playing time.
Defensive Rebounding Percentage
Former Oregon State Beaver Eric Moreland looked good out in Vegas, suiting up for the summer league champs Sacramento Kings. He went undrafted back in June, but will likely get signed by some team before the season, if not the Kings. His 31.60% defensive rebounding percentage was third-best in Vegas, and he grabbed an impressive 8.83 boards per game in only 19 minutes of action. He also posted a high block percentage and displayed good defense, something the Kings could sorely use.
Noah Vonleh somehow fell to the Charlotte Hornets at the ninth pick, and they gladly scooped him up. At only 18 years old, he's still a bit of a project and struggled with his shot this summer, only shooting 28.4% from the field and 12.5% from the three-point line. However, rebounding was a big focus of his and it showed, as he grabbed 24.38% of the total defensive boards and averaged double-digit rebounds over Charlotte’s seven games. Vonleh might not be a huge part of this season’s Hornets squad, but he is a huge part of the future and there are definitely some positive signs.
Jabari Parker’s most popular comparable in the NBA is Carmelo Anthony, who is an excellent rebounder for his position. Parker is already showing that he has those same skills. He rebounded 23.85% of the available boards on the defensive side of the court, which is good news for a Bucks squad that ranked 29th out of 30 in that regard this past year. Parker will definitely get minutes right away, and his game translates to a quick jump out of the gate.
Eric Griffin had the third-best block percentage during the summer league, despite being the only player in the top 15 that wasn’t a big man. Griffin was eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft out of Campbell University, but was not selected. He averaged 11.4 points, 2.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game in just 20 minutes of action in Vegas, and showed enough production and explosiveness to earn a contract with the Mavs. With Chandler Parsons on board, he won’t get a lot of playing time, but you have to appreciate an undrafted guy from a small school staying with it and making the most of his opportunities.
Walter Tavares is a 22-year-old prospect selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. He is listed at 7’3’’ and is still fairly new to playing basketball. He is definitely a project for some team, with the Hawks still having his rights at the moment. With his size, he has potential as a role-player with the ability to rebound and protect the rim, the latter increasing in importance in the modern NBA. In the summer league he blocked 7.11% of shots while on the floor, and could perhaps work out in the long run for the Hawks if they choose to give him a shot.
Andrew Wiggins blocked 4.08% of shots while on the floor, which is quite an impressive number for a guy playing the shooting guard spot. For reference, that mark in the NBA this year would’ve ranked 10th in the entire league, just in front of Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard. This is not to say Wiggins will be up on this list once the regular season rolls around, but it does show his immense defensive potential. The Miami Heat relied on LeBron and Dwyane Wade to protect the rim from the wing positions, and Wiggins might be one of those unique talents as well.