Why Basketball Fans Should Watch NBA Summer League
NBA free agency is in full effect as we wistfully wait for the 2016–17 season to begin. Despite my premature proclamation 12 hours in, by no means has this offseason been uneventful or boring.
Kevin Durant shocked the world with his decision to join the Golden State Warriors, the New York Knicks decided to retool their lineup instead of rolling over and dying per usual, and the San Antonio Spurs added the savvy big man Pau Gasol as we all still eagerly wait for The Big Fundamental to make his final career decision. All that happened in five days.
Now fans are even more anxious to see how things will play out next season, and the story lines remain plentiful.
How will KD fit in with the Warriors?
Can the LeBron and the Cavs repeat?
Is Dwyane Wade actually going to leave Miami?
How am I supposed to get through this whole summer without watching any NBA games?
I don’t claim to know the answer to the first three questions, but I can offer an alternative to the fourth question: NBA Summer League.
Before you come at me with Summer League is bush league, only one or two guys will make the actual team at best — and you’re the shittiest writer ever, take a second to think about it:
Is Summer League filled with the most experienced and talented players? No.
Will only a couple guys on the Summer League teams actually make it to the NBA? Probably.
Am I the shittiest writer ever? I was a business major, give me a break.
Hear me out.
Instead of wasting your time and refreshing your Twitter feed every two seconds to see what the latest move or comment is, you can spend your time watching the future of this league.
The games are on NBA TV and ESPN3, so do not make any excuses that it’s too hard to find the games. Hell, even some of the Las Vegas Summer League games are on ESPN2. (I have Warriors/Spurs on Saturday July, 9th marked on my calendar.)
As a Spurs fan, I am going to show you the stories I’ve been following so far this Summer as an example of what you can do with your favorite team or player this year during the NBA Summer League.
I make it a priority to watch 26-year-old Jonathon Simmons and 22-year-old Kyle Anderson.
These two project players are billed as part of the Spurs future and, so far, I like what I am seeing. Against the Philadelphia 76ers yesterday (sans Philly’s starters), Simmons filled up the box score with 35 points (13-for-18 from the field), seven rebounds and five assists. Although he did commit nine turnovers due to some sloppy play in the second half, it was nice to see the young guard attack the rim and show why San Antonio think so highly of him.
Kyle Anderson has some big shoes to fill with the recent trade of Boris Diaw to the Utah Jazz. So far, the 2015 Summer League MVP has not disappointed. Anderson is averaging 24.0 PPG (60 FG%), 7.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 3.5 SPG, and 1.5 BPG. The sample size is only 2 games, but he looks comfortable and experienced out on the floor.
In addition to these Summer League vets, I’ve kept a close eye on two undrafted rookie guards: Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono (4.5 APG) and the surprisingly impressive Bryn Forbes out of Michigan State (19.5 PPG on 60% shooting from three).
Forbes’ long-range shooting is certainly making him stand out; He plays well off the ball and is practically automatic from long range. His style and size are similar to sharp-shooting-but-undersized shooting guard, J.J. Redick. However, Forbes’ style does not include whack tattoos.
This summer will also offer a great opportunity for the Spurs’ first-round draft choice, Washington’s Dejounte Murray, to get his first taste of NBA-level competition. Unfortunately, he is not on the Utah Summer League roster, but he will be joining the Spurs’ Las Vegas Summer League Roster.
Murray, who some considered the “steal of the draft,” could be an important piece to help the Spurs aging backcourt.
Not only have Anderson and Simmons led the Spurs to back-to-back victories, but also their chemistry is growing, which is just as important as the wins. It’s certainly something any fan wants to see from the team they support. Simply put, the whole team seems to be enjoying themselves, but it’ still evident they’re putting in the work. The post-game interviews are full of praise that each player has for their teammates.
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I can talk about the Spurs all day. To me, the Summer League is another opportunity to watch my favorite team.
Fortunately for you, the Summer League isn’t just about the Spurs.
It’s a hotbed of young talent, and it gives you a glimpse into the younger members of your team’s roster who may not get the playing time they deserve in the regular season. Most of these guys are fighting for the very few open roster spots, so you know they’ll be giving their best effort at all times (unlike the NBA).
My advice to you:
- Find your team’s schedule.
- Watch the strengths and weaknesses of your team’s prospects.
- Find the surprising hidden gems in the roster.
- See how the players complement one another on the court.
- Learn what players’ skills will translate to the league and what they can specifically offer to your team’s rotation.
Congratulations, you’re R.C. Buford!
You may like what you see, or you may hate it; But at least you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect from the young guys when the season finally begins.
Some analysts are already labeling Ben Simmons as the next Magic Johnson, just sayin’.
He also left the first game early with cramp, so I think a better comparison for him would be LeBron James.