The current level of basketball we are seeing from a skill perspective is incredible. We have seven-footers that can dribble and shoot threes, as well as point guards that shoot and pass like veterans. This does not mean that it is right to hop on your iPhone or Android and create narratives surrounding such young players. This is never more evident than when you hop onto Twitter while watching an NBA Summer League game.
We as human beings are prisoners of the moment. I get it, especially if your team has little to cheer for. Maybe you are a fan of the Sacramento Kings and have not seen the playoffs since 2006. Perhaps you cheer for the Orlando Magic, who have struggled since Dwight Howard left for Los Angeles. The discouragement has to be very high and all you are looking for is a bit of hope. That bit of hope comes out in this game, but throwing our lofty expectations will not cure the void you may have in your sports fandom heart.
Then we have the tweet to the right. Now given I know Ersin personally, I know he was high on Chet coming into summer league play. He watched a ton of tape and felt his size would not be an issue at the next level. And when you look at Chet's first game, it could be easy to see why Ersin was so fired up. 6 blocks, multiple highlights plays on the offensive end, including an off-the-dribble three.
But to say he will "make a lot of people look like a fool" after one summer league game is quite audacious. Especially when Chet goes into the next game and struggles with said size issues that were highlighted throughout the NBA draft process. Now this writer thinks Chet will be fine, that he still is loaded with talent and oozes potential. But give him time to develop that before saying he will "expose people."
Again, this is not to say that players in the summer league will not go on to be very good players at the next level. Cameron Thomas though was the Summer League MVP
last year. And while his 8.5 points per game on 43.3% shooting is fine for a rookie, he was not exactly a rookie of the year candidate. His co-MVP counterpart Davion Mitchell
was slightly better at 11.5 points per game on 41.8% shooting. It should be noted that neither player went on to be an All-Rookie team member.
The previous three winners before that were Brandon Clarke, Josh, Hart, and Lonzo Ball. All are solid pro players, but neither truly move the needle. In fact, look all the way back to 2006 and the only truly notable summer league MVP that went on to be superstar caliber was Damian Lillard. Blake Griffin and John Wall were all-stars, but never superstars. Lots of consistent pros that would go on to have lengthy and successful careers are listed. But reacting to a one-off game or a nice highlight play and saying "this guy is a star" or "this guy needs more minutes" creates poor narratives and expectations for fan bases.
Whatever happened to just watching to enjoy the game? I am an avid WNBA fan and watch my Vegas Aces regularly. I do not have to then tweet "Iliana Rupert is a future all-star" after scoring 13 off the bench. You can just say to yourself "you know what that Rupert played really well tonight" and leave it at that.
Sometimes as an analyst you also have to take a step back and ask yourself am I perhaps blinded by my love of this player? Just because some kid from Rutgers with a huge wing span comes out and scores 20 on the Spurs Summer League team does not mean he deserves 20 minutes a night with the Jazz. It means he continues to hone his skills and until he does those same things against the top talent he may just be an average prospect. Again an average NBA prospect is still in the 0.001% of basketball players in the world.
If all else fails follow the advice of Rob Perez. Saying a player is a steal after even a full summer league campaign is foolish. Wait until they play true pros, the guys who get regular minutes at the highest level. Keegan Murray looked great when guarded by fellow rookies, but how will he match up with elite wing defenders. We saw Ben Simmons hit turn-around mid-range jump shots like a current Jayson Tatum in summer league and still struggles to shoot not. And if your team's top ten pick does not live up to expectations in summer league does not mean that they are a bust. Some rookies take time to figure things out and that is also okay.
Not every player is ready to contribute at 20 years old. Appreciate the young guys going out competing for minutes with their respective teams and let that be the end of it. The sport is in a great place without overreacting to a rookie dunking in Las Vegas in July. Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.
Thank you to everyone that gave this a read-through! Check out the other great work at the network, including my podcast the Competitive Hedge Podcast