The Summer League Doesn’t Matter and Lonzo Ball Is Proving It

The summer league is NBA nerd heaven, but let’s not pretend it means anything


Mid July usually signifies the beginning of the most boring parts of the off season. All big name free agents have found new homes, staff positions have been filled, the dust has truly settled. So when the NBA summer league begins, it’s easy to sink your teeth into it. It’s easy to over analyze, it’s easy to put value in what you’re seeing; but you shouldn’t. The summer league is not insider trading, don’t buy your stocks on these prospects just yet.

It goes without saying that these prospects are playing inferior talent to what they will end up facing in the NBA if they make it there. It’s a league full of quality college players, but most are just roster fillers. The talent level is not comparable. So the top end guys are still going to excel. Whether it translates to the NBA has yet to be seen. Some great NBA players have won the NBA summer league MVP (John Wall), and some not great ones have too (Josh Selby.)

All the summer league does is teach us things we already knew. Lonzo has great court vision? Dennis Smith Jr is really fast? The Bulls shouldn’t have drafted Markkanen at 7? Who didn’t know this already? We haven’t really learned anything new, even Lonzo himself showed us how useless it is to over analyse these meaningless games.

The highly acclaimed UCLA product laid an egg in his first summer league game. He went 1–11 from three, got torched by Bryce Johnson, and was just overall disappointing. The critics and skeptics came out of the woodwork in packs like wolves after his first game in Laker colors. His following game Ball had a double trouble, and the game after that…

Lonzo’s trajectory so far is proof that none of this holds any substantial weight. He went from terrible to incredible in three games. It was easy to say that Lonzo would bust after his first performance, and now it’s just as easy to say he’s the next Jason Kidd. What we’ve really learned is that these two extremes that we’ve experienced balance out. We’re back at square one.

The problem with Summer League is that it was never meant to be seen, but much like the NFL scouting combine it’s become a spectacle for fans; which in turn defeats its purpose. The whole point of having a summer league is for teams to evaluate their own prospects including those who haven’t been drafted. It also gives those who haven’t been drafted an opportunity to show NBA teams that they are worth a shot. This isn’t for us, it was never for us! so to try and take anything away from it and treat it like concrete evidence is a gamble.

Take Kris Dunn for example. Dunn played excellent in his summer league debut a year ago, and followed that up with an atrocious rookie year. Dunn found himself a new home this year as Minnesota shipped him in part of the Jimmy Butler trade after just one year. For every player that makes a name for themselves in July, another one loses their cred when they don’t live up. (Should be noted though, that Kris Dunn was a highly touted prospect and still has loads of potential. I wouldn’t get off the Dunn bandwagon just yet.)

It’s nice to see the positives, so if a prospect on your favorite team is playing well that’s great! It could mean a great NBA career is in store, or it could mean absolutely nothing. Time will only tell, but lets try not to reach too hard.

Cough Cough

Yeah I’d probably hold out a bit on that one.

Mike Mayock tells a story on NFL Network that I feel applies to what I’m trying to get across here. Every year when the subject of Quarterback Pro days comes up Mayock always throws this tidbit out. “The best Pro Day I ever saw as a quarterback was JaMarcus Russell. . . . I’ve never seen a quarterback throw the football like that in my life.” Russell would go on to be drafted first overall by the Raiders. He played three years in the NFL compiling a record of 7–18 as a starter and is widely considered one of the biggest busts in the modern era of sports.

I’m not comparing JaMarcus Russell to Lonzo, god no. I’m not comparing Russell to anybody for that matter, it just seems as though people are getting swept off their feet a bit early. Realistically, one of these prospects has to not live up to the hype. There’s an Evan Turner in here somewhere, and it’s going to hit us like a train. I just want to make sure we’re all prepared.