I’m going to be honest, my patience with the ‘Dwightmare’ situation is growing increasingly thin.
So let’s take a step back from the free agent frenzy and turn our focus back onto the game itself, the 2012 NBA Summer League.
Now a well known fact of summer league ball is it’s impossible to tell who is going to be a legit NBA player, but it’s easy to see who won’t be. Which is the reason why the summer league league is held, to determine the men among boys.
It’s a cultivation of players trying to display their individual skills to NBA teams in the hope of getting a contract and a roster spot.
This year a record 24 teams will compete in the Las Vegas league, including 23 NBA teams and 1 team of select NBA D-league players.
There are also 8 teams competing in the Orlando summer league.
Last month 30 players were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, reaching the highest point of professional basketball. However when the dust settled there seemed to be plenty of question marks surrounding teams’ selections. The summer league gives the rookies their first chance to justify why they deserve to be playing in the NBA.
The following are ten players that I feel have the most to prove to the league, the fans and their respective team.
10.) Perry Jones III – Oklahoma City Thunder- Drafted 28th
In 2011 PJ3 looked to be a lock as a lottery pick, before deciding to return for his sophomore year at Baylor. With questions swirling about his work ethic and basketball IQ, as well as numerous health concerns raised about his knees; Jones fell all the way into the hands of the defending Western Conference champs. But at 6’11 and 235 pounds with the skill set of a guard, Jones has all the natural attributes to become a star. And in the uptempo style the Thunder love to play, Jones fits in perfectly with his tremendous athleticism. Naysayers claim he doesn’t have the mental and physical strength to live up to his potential, but I view this pick as the steal of the entire draft.
9.) Royce White – Houston Rockets – Drafted 16th
Complete boom or bust. Drafted a little to high for my liking, White is gamble at any extent but certainly an understandable gamble. Standing at 6’8 and weighing 261 pounds White not only possess the ability to score in the paint, but can handle the ball like a point guard and would often take the ball up the court and run the offense for the Iowa State Cyclones. The downfall of course is White’s past legal troubles and highly publicized anxiety problems. It’s certain White won’t have the same freedom in the NBA that he had in college and will most likely have to adapt to the true power forward mold. There’s no questioning his versatility but White has a lot to prove both on and off the court.
8.) Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons – Drafted 9th
Dwight Howard or Kwame Brown? Like Royce White, Drummond is a mystery to whether he will turn out to dominate or crumble in the NBA. His potential is unquestioned at 6’10 and 270 pounds and if he can learn to use his freakish frame to his advantage he could become an elite big man. But many doubt he has the work ethic and maturity to truly reach his vast upside. It’s worth noting in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year Drummond put up a horrible stat line of 2 points, 3 rebounds and 4 blocks in 26 minutes before fouling out. It may have been an ‘off night’ for Drummond but, ouch. Drummond really needs to work hard on his game this off-season and the summer league is a good place to begin; as well as to show Detroit they won’t regret selecting him 9th overall.
7.) Thomas Robinson – Sacramento Kings – Drafted 5th
Big man, big heart, big game. The closest player (even if the odds were 1,000,000 to 1) to threaten Anthony Davis of being selected no.1. Robinson has overcome an extremely difficult past to make in to the big stage. He averaged a double double in his final year at Kansas and lead the nation in rebounding (11.9 per game). At far as worth ethic goes, Robinson is second to none and was known as a constant gym rat in his high school years and at Kansas; which obviously bodes well for future growth. Despite this many experts believe Robinson will amass to nothing more then a solid role player because of his lack of athleticism. I disagree. With his attitude, physical tools and relentless motor I feel he could flourish and become a top power forward in the NBA.
6.) Jared Sullinger – Boston Celtics – Drafted 21st
Like Perry Jones III, Sullinger was projected as a lock as a top 5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. But a return to Ohio State and a continuously red flagged back issue saw Sullinger’s stock drop at an enormous rate. However, Sullinger could be the most complete and mature player in the draft. His post moves are dazzling and uses his extremely high basketball IQ to make up for his lack of agility. Sullinger isn’t confined to the paint either as he extended his range to 3 point land where he shot a suprising 45%. Mature, hard working and intelligent, Sullinger has the opportunity to make teams look foolish for letting him drop all the way to Boston at 21. If his back issue isn’t as bad as the hype claims it is, ‘Sully’ could be a huge pickup for the Celtics.
5.) Anthony Davis – New Orleans Hornets – Drafted 1st
The only reason Davis made this list is because he is a No.1 draft pick. And if you’re a number 1 draft pick, you HAVE to get it done. I have no doubt Davis will live up to the hype and I hope he does. For his sake
4.) Austin Rivers – New Orleans Hornets – Drafted 10th
Bust. Bust. Bust. As Doc Rivers son, Austin has received a lot of hype from the media, but when it really comes down to his physical tools there isn’t much there to deserve a lottery pick. Average athleticism, average height, average defender. Austin Rivers needed to go somewhere that would fit him and New Orleans isn’t that place. Rivers is considered a ‘combo’ guard but realistically he’s no PG, which is what the Hornets seem to be thinking of developing him into. Known as a player that views passing as a last resort, Rivers will have to curb his arrogance and selfishness to become successful in the NBA. I’m not saying Rivers isn’t and won’t be a good player, but being situated in New Orleans doesn’t show me alot of promise. Prove me wrong Austin, prove me wrong…
3.) Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers- Drafted 6th
A real mystery to many. Lillard was the nation’s second leading scorer where he poured in 24.5 a game, but he played in the lowly Big Sky Conference for small school Weber State. Questions surround Lillard in whether he can translate his game against far tougher competition. He has all the tools necessary to be a legitimate threat in the league and he’ll be eager to take the court this summer and show he can handle playing with the big boys. If he can, Lillard will thrive and could serve as great pick and roll combination with LaMarcus Aldrige for years to come.
2.) Harrison Barnes – Golden State Warriors – Drafted 7th
A potential number one pick at the beginning of the year, a disappointing season saw that vanish very quickly for Barnes. When teammate Kendall Marshall went down with an injury it was shown that Barnes struggled to create his own shot. He has a smooth knock down jumper, but lacks the athleticism for a swingman in the NBA. It will be up to Barnes in whether he’ll just be another quality jump shooter (Nick Young?) or become the potent scorer that many believed he was coming out of high school.
1.) Dion Waiters – Cleveland Cavaliers – Drafted 4th
Dion Waiters at four? Really? Didn’t we go through Marvin Willams already? Considered to be the most controversial pick in the draft, Waiters will have plenty to prove in why he was selected so high. Particularly to Cleveland fans as boos rained down when his name was announced. A definite scorer who came off the bench for Syracuse last season and averaged 12.6 points a game in 24 minutes, Waiters is a high energy player that can create opportunities for himself and teammates. His upside, or lack of upside per say, is questionable however with many believing he’s already reached his peak. Waiters will have the benefit of playing with a great point guard in Kyrie Irving, but don’t expect much more than a quality role player.