5 Takeaways From the 2015 NBA Summer League
It's the NBA offseason. It's boring.
Or is it?
I'd be the first one to tell you that the NBA offseason is nothing compared to the regular season. And it doesn't even compare to the excitement of the NBA playoffs. So while the NBA offseason is boring in comparison, is it really boring in and of itself? No.
We get free agency, trades and even new jerseys. Don't forget the NBA Summer League though.
To casual NBA fans, the Summer League can be seen as nothing but worthless exhibitions with the aim to produce more revenue and viewership for the NBA. However, it may be the most valuable piece of the puzzle for some NBA teams, and it's most definitely the most valuable to young players. It gives rebuilding teams a look at their young roster and how their players fit together. It also gives players the chance to earn a contract and a spot on an NBA roster.
For us fans, though, it's all about the unknown.
Summer League games give us just a glimpse of what players can be. It doesn't say much for teams, unless they're rebuilding, but we get to see young pieces of a franchise -- some who will play immediately on bad teams, and others who will come out of nowhere down the road to contribute on a title-contending team.
Now nothing is for certain -- these players are young, undeveloped and some really inexperienced. On the other hand, we've seen a small sample size of things to come so there are some storylines to take away from Summer League.
1. Emmanuel Mudiay is this year's Michael Carter-Williams.
We can see it happening right before our eyes. It's the 2013 Sixers all over again. The front office selects a young, talented point guard in the draft -- already with an established point guard running the show -- and then trades away that veteran shortly thereafter.
In this sequel, a 19-year-old Emmanuel Mudiay plays a 22-year-old Carter-Williams. Much like Carter-Williams (6'6"), Mudiay is a physical specimen of a point guard at 6'5" and 200 pounds, and will be handed the reigns to a franchise at an early age.
The incumbent, Ty Lawson, was shipped to Houston on Sunday in a five-player trade. As a result, Mudiay has the inside track to start for the young Nuggets this season and should put up some big stat lines this year. (Keep that in mind for your fantasy teams.)
So what are the negatives of being compared to a MCW? Poor shooting and lack of efficiency. Carter-Williams has shot a touch over 40% for his career and makes just over 25% of his three-point attempts. To say he's not a marksmen would be a severe understatement. The same goes for Mudiay as he shot just 38.5% from the field and 2 of 14 from three (14.3%).
It's also easy to see the connection between each player's inefficient player thus far in their respective careers. Carter-Williams finished this past season with the third-worst nERD (-8.2) in the entire NBA and is averaging 3.7 turnovers per game. Mudiay's shooting problems, coupled with his five turnovers per game, might not add many wins to his team's total this year.
2. D'Angelo Russell needs to learn how to be an NBA point guard.
After looking at his Summer League play, we can see how D'Angelo Russell's strengths and weaknesses translate to the NBA game. For starters, the number-two overall pick has the ability to score. This isn't to say that Russell's 11.8 points per game is completely encouraging (it's not). What was encouraging is how he finished off his Summer League campaign.
After scoring a mere 8 points per game in his previous two contests while shooting 33.3% from the floor, Russell put up 21 points against the Utah Jazz on 10 of 20 shooting. He finished on a high note with 4 rebounds and an assist to go along with his highest-scoring NBA game thus far.
To be more efficient and more consistent, however, the former Buckeye must shoot better from all areas of the court. He hasn't found his stroke and has struggled on his way to shooting 37.7% from the field, 11.8% (2 of 17!) from beyond the arc and 68.8% from the charity stripe. Just a year ago, while at Ohio State, Russell shot 41.1% from three and 75.6% from the free throw line. Where else can he improve?
Russell didn't have a problem showcasing his passing skills in the Big Ten last year. Now, he's quickly learned that easy passes are hard to come by, and that he needs to take care of the ball better in order to become the point guard he's expected to be in L.A. The rookie's averaging a measly 3.2 assists per game compared to his 5.0 per game at the collegiate level. But that's not the worst part -- Russell turned the ball over five times per game.
The highly-regarded prospect has to get in the gym and get some work done if he wants to play his game on the next level. He'll have to learn how to be a full-time NBA point guard in order to contribute positively rather than negatively to his squad.
3. Aaron Gordon could have a breakout season in Orlando.
To say Aaron Gordon didn't have a productive rookie season a year ago would be an understatement. Gordon was limited to 47 games when he fractured his foot and underwent surgery on it in November. Of the 47 games he played, Gordon started just eight times and played an unpromising 17 minutes per contest.
Now you may be thinking, "Well, he just didn't get on the court." That may be the case, but while on the court, Gordon didn't do much at all to positively impact his team. In fact, Gordon had a slight negative impact on the Magic as he finished with a nERD of -1.3 on the season. He also earned a mediocre PER of 11.4 while tallying a single Win Share. The numbers behind the metrics tell the whole story.
Gordon scored a mere 5.2 points per game on an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 47.8% and a three point percentage of 27.1%. He didn't display any kind of shooting touch, as he struggled from all areas of the offensive end. Not only did he score little and do so inefficiently, but Gordon also pulled just 3.6 rebounds per game despite his ridiculous athleticism. In no way did Gordon take advantage of his first year in the league.
Fast forward to the now -- Gordon is hurt again and underwent surgery to repair a fractured jaw on Friday. But that's just a side story to Gordon's offseason.
The second-year man has shown a lot of promise in this year's Summer League. By the looks of it, his numbers, efficiency and overall game have improved leaps and bounds from a year ago. In three games and 32.6 minutes per game, Gordon scored 21.7 points per game on 50% shooting from both the field and from three (6-12). The young power forward also showed his athleticism we've all been waiting to see by grabbing 11.7 boards and blocking 1.7 shots per contest. Now fully healthy, Gordon may be primed for a breakout season on a young and promising Orlando Magic team.
4. The Phoenix Suns have two really good young scorers.
Warren, the second-year man and elder of the two youngsters, does his damage from inside the arc. Warren finished 0 for 4 from three in seven games, but 54 of 100 from the field as a whole. He has a solid mid-range game, and isn't afraid to take it to the hole. Warren shot 4.4 free throws and made 3.3 per contest on his way to shooting 74.2% from the line.
The rookie, former Kentucky standout Devin Booker, has done his damage in a whole different way. Per RealGm.com Booker put up 13.1 field goal attempts per game with 4.3 of those being fired up from deep. And Booker makes them count -- he finished summer roundball with a three-point percentage of 40%, which is a mere 0.2% lower than his overall field goal percentage. So, while Booker hasn't exactly cashed in from inside the arc, he's been a sniper from beyond it.
What may be the most exciting part about these two is the fact that neither of them will be asked to do much more than score from the bench this year. The combination of Eric Bledsoe, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris will take on most of the minutes at the two and three positions on the floor, which will take some much appreciated pressure off of Booker and Warren, who are 18 and 21 years old, respectively. We could be in for a real treat on League Pass this year, courtesy of the Phoenix Suns.
5. The Spurs are at it again.
It's no secret that the Spurs have retained three future Hall-of-Famers this offseason. It's also no secret that the Spurs' offseason additions of David West and LaMarcus Aldridge have catapulted them to the top of the Western Conference title conversation.
But if you haven't seen the Spurs' run to the Summer League title and Becky Hammon's historic mold-breaking victory, then you may be out of the loop on the Spurs' future. Spurs -- future? What? Yes, the future for the San Antonio Spurs looks bright.
We know Aldridge and mainstays Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green will be the Spurs' leaders for years to come, but who else is going to round out the roster after the trio of Hall-of-Famers sail off into the sunset?
We might have just figured that out.
Jonathan Simmons and Kyle Anderson tore up the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas on their way to the league championship and MVP honors. Simmons, out of the University of Houston, won the Championship MVP as he tallied 23 points off the bench on 7 of 14 shooting. He finished Summer League with 17 points (on 51.9% shooting), 4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
Kyle Anderson, an NBA sophomore out of UCLA, was awarded the League MVP. The lengthy guard-forward combo averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per contest while shooting 45% from the floor in a little over 27 minutes per game. Last year, Anderson played just 10.8 minutes per game and produced a nERD of -0.8, but look for him to contribute a little more off the bench this year and especially with years to come.