Working all Summer Long

With the “specialist” craze taking the Association by storm, could it be okay to miss out on some of the game’s biggest names in Free Agency to satisfy the ways of the NBA?

If you’re a fan of the NBA’s Summer League you’ll understand what I’m talking about. In recent years, the Association’s Summer League has grown into a popular spectacle, bringing sold out crowds to watch a handful of guys, many of which may not make a team or will have little to no impact once the regular season arrives. That’s what makes these games so competitive and sloppy-looking at the same time. However, this New World Order in the NBA is what makes these contests so important. Some of these guys may REALLY make an impact.

Last month, we all witnessed the Golden State Warriors wreck the NBA Finals while proving that you can live without dying by the 3-point shot. But the Warriors are much more than a gang of shooters, they carry a myriad of versatility and can beat you with game-changing lineups that even the brightest of coaches fail to find a counteract to.

The Warriors have a roster full of guys outside of Steph Curry that play a different, vital role. You may say, “everyone plays a role on a team!” Well of course. It just so happens that the Warriors role players are the epitome of the trend in the NBA; small ballers, floor stretchers, two-way players and pick-and-roll maestros — offensively and defensively. Between the NBA Draft and the NBA Summer League, teams should aim to mirror the Warriors same championship approach.

With the league in this phase, it makes the NBA Summer League much more important. These young guys are trying their hardest to show their respective teams that their talent is as valuable as anyone else the team could sign instead of them, and rightfully so; it seems like the way to earn a job with a team in a league that seems to be much more particular about the players they bring on. The same holds true for the period of free agency when the pool becomes shallow. Don’t get me wrong, acquiring players because of the style that a team may play with is nothing new, it’s the most logical thing to do. It’s just emphasized a great deal more now.

It also makes the dog days of NBA free agency much more important. Once the superstars are gone, scheme fit guys take center stage.

Miss out on a big name? Employ the “team fit” approach via Summer League and the latter part of free agency to make sure you’re up on the ways of the league; to make sure you’re acquiring the type of players that fit the way of life in the NBA. It seems to be the new wave of teambuilding.

At plenty introductory press conferences one quote holds true for new additions that goes something like: “I’m here to help my team do whatever they need me to do and provide in many ways.” Guys make sure to overemphasize how they envision themselves fitting in or contributing in multiple ways.

Take the New York Knicks for example. The Knicks were awful last season, offensively and especially defensively. The first year of the Triangle Offense was atrocious and the injury bug was prevalent. Enter Robin Lopez, the curly haired, defensive minded center the Knicks have not had in forever. He is no Marc Gasol, but he’s what the Knicks needed. Then came Arron Affalo, a member of the prized two-way player club. Then fell Derrick Williams. The Knicks’ new pick-and-roll experimenter will possibly get to run a few of those sets with rookie guard Jerian Grant, whom at Notre Dame got his share of PnR opportunities. Grant is a strong guard who can dish it as well as score off the dribble. The names aren’t big, but their abilities are big for the direction the Knicks want to go in.

It seems to be no need to be bummed out because you didn’t catch a big fish. Besides, there aren’t enough superstars for every team, and some are teaming up together. Teams are acquiring specialists to attempt to offset star power on another squad. Who knows, that “3 & D” specialist you have kept tabs on during the entire Summer League could be the next star in the NBA.

So continue to enjoy the NBA’s Summer League. Be enamored at how rookie big men like Bobby Portis show that he can hit the three consistently as well as showcase his skills on the defensive end or how others advertise “point-forward” abilities. Watch how guards and wings try and prove that they can be the next highly compensated two-way players. These guys aren’t just going out to fill the stat sheet, they are out to prove that they are not one-trick ponies; liabilities on one end of the floor. Be patient, they may even play for your favorite team, GET EXCITED!

Also, in terms of free agency, try not to be upset that your team acquired Roy Hibbert instead of LaMarcus Aldridge; the former is the type of big the team (the Lakers) needed anyway.