How To Digest the NBA Summer League

NBA Summer League

How did Lonzo Ball go from the biggest bust in NBA history to Jason Kidd 2.0 overnight?

Welcome to the NBA Summer League where the primary currency is hope and it is sold to the masses in crowded collegiate gyms culminating in a tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada every summer. Here, the top lottery

Here, the top lottery picks get their feet wet in their first NBA action. Join them with other elite college and semi-pro players competing for reserve spots on an NBA roster and you have got yourself a self-driving hype machine like no other.

Digesting the Summer League is just like going to a car show. There are a bunch of shiny new concept cars all in one spot and nobody knows which is gonna be reliable. That Lamborghini sure looks great but can you fit your kids in it so they can go to school? How does it handle in the rain? Is the insurance and maintenance on it more that what you can afford? How does it age around the 100k miles milestone?

This car show is different than the others, however. Love it or hate it the Ball family will be front and center for the better part of this summer and at least into the winter time. Sunday night’s matchup between the Celtics and Lakers was the first ever summer league game to be sold out in advance. The game also broke the ratings record for a Summer League game. This is an interesting concept to those who said that LaVar Ball is bad for the NBA. The Draft ratings? Up. Summer League Attendance? Up. Summer league tv ratings? Up. Everyone wanted to see the boy play.

This is not an article about the Ball family, however, Zo’s up and downs perfectly represent what summer league is all about. Lonzo Ball largely underwhelmed in his first taste of Summer League action against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.

He had a 5-point, 5-assist, 4-rebound effort that included 1-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Hot take Twitter had a field day running away with his underwhelming performance and using the word “bust” to nauseating levels.

Flash forward to Sunday night against Jayson Tatum’s Celtics where Ball had a much better performance in a loss. 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists in a triple-double where he showed flashes of brilliance with his trademark passing ability.

This goes to show you what to take from the Summer League. Take everything and also nothing. These are 18-23 year olds getting adjusted to NBA pace, rules, and pressure in the world’s greatest basketball tryout. These men have played basketball all their lives yet no amount of drills and preparation can prepare you for the pressure of a job interview for the top level of your chosen professional field.

These men have played basketball all of their lives yet no amount of drills and preparation can prepare you for the pressure of a job interview for the top level of your chosen professional field.

Exercise restraint after big performances and perspective after struggles. Jaylen Brown is less than 2 months from guarding LeBron James and finished the night with 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and made several mental mistakes as well. These players will be as hot and cold as you can get as they continue to develop chemistry amongst themselves and get a better feel for the game.

Do you remember when Marcus Banks dropped a record 42 points for the Suns in a summer league game?

For those who do not understand the concept let’s have a look at the best Summer League performances to date:

  1. Jerryd Bayless (2009) 29.8 PPG 4.8 RPG 42% 3pt
  2. Anthony Randolph (2010) 26.8 PPG 8.5 rpg 60.9% FG
  3. Damian Lillard (2013) 26.5 PPG 5.2 APG
  4. Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2005) 25.7 PPG 6 RPG
  5. Lou Williams (2008) 25.2 PPG 5.0 APG 5.4 RPG


Next, I looked at players who averaged single digit ppg that are now solid pros.

  1. Jeremy Lin (2011) 9.8 PPG 1.8 APG
  2. Corey Brewer (2009) 9.8 PPG 3 APG
  3. Metta World Peace (2007) 9.5 PPG
  4. Nate Robinson (2009) 9.5 PPG 3 APG
  5. Kent Bazemore (2013) 8.5 PPG

So what does all of this really mean? Take Summer League for what it is and nothing more. Coaches are learning so they can hopefully become head coaches. Players are learning so that they can hopefully become solid pros. We get to watch along as a treat to see who the next budding star will be. Just remember from game to game is that Rome was not built in one night, and certainly not in 3 months.

Let the kids grow.


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