(Photo Credit: Ty Norwell/Lakers.com)
NBA Summer League games began last Monday and while the competition quickly becomes an afterthought once preseason begins in October, during this short period in July, it is all NBA fans have in terms of game action. Particularly intriguing is the fact that the summer league is the first opportunity for fans to see recently drafted rookies represent their NBA teams. Now, with social media chronicling each game, each player’s highlights and lowlights will circulate the moment they occur, triggering the ultimate quick-snap judgments.
Last Monday night, during the Atlanta Hawks’ first game in the Utah Jazz Summer League in Salt Lake City, all eyes were on Atlanta’s recently drafted rookie point guard Trae Young. Young, the polarizing point guard from Oklahoma, has produced plenty of mixed opinions as to how his game will translate to the next level. Monday night, Young’s first two shots were air balls:
Trae Young’s first two three-point attempts as an Atlanta Hawk ????? pic.twitter.com/P5W8ZIW8oI
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) July 2, 2018
He ended up going 4-for-20 from the field and 1-for-11 from three point range. Some more reaction:
Trae Young trash
— Ant Henry (@OfficialAnt_) July 3, 2018
Calling it now: Trae Young gonna be a bust FOR SURE.
— Amir FLATTEN THE CURVE Talai (@AmirTalai) July 3, 2018
The next night, Young wasn’t that much better in a Hawks loss to the Spurs, scoring 12 points on 5-for-16 FGs. In Atlanta’s three games in Salt Lake City, all Hawks losses, Young shot 23 percent from the field and just under 13 percent from three-point range.
Fortunately for Young, summer league performances don’t stay in people’s minds for very long, and he may be able to find solace in certain players’ summer league outputs that did not define their eventual NBA futures. I have researched some of them.
RANDY FOYE (2006)
Foye, a shooting guard from Villanova, was drafted seventh in 2006 by the Celtics and, after a few draft day trades, ended up with Minnesota where he would play the first three years of his career. The Wolves probably felt great about their acquisition when Foye tore up the 2006 Las Vegas Summer League, taking home the league MVP award. Per NBA.com:
“[He] put on a show for fans, averaging a league-high 24.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 32.8 minutes of play over five games. Foye scored 20+ points in four of five games and poured in 30 points in one contest.”
Foye’s performance caused then NBA.TV writer (and Timberwolves fan) Rick Kamla, to “cry tears of prideful joy.” On ESPN.com, Brian Windhorst wrote that Foye showed star-like quality that all are betting will be seen again.” Foye has had a nice NBA career, averaging 10 points per game in 11 seasons, including 16 points in 2008-09 for Minnesota, but to call him a star would be overdoing it.
JERRYD BAYLESS (2008)
Jerryd Bayless, who left the University of Arizona after the his freshman year in 2008, was drafted by Indiana at #11, and then traded to Portland. Bayless dominated the Las Vegas Summer League for the Blazers, averaging almost 30 points per game, and was named the league’s top rookie. In his final game against the Suns, he scored 36 points and the game winner. According to NBA.com, Bayless “was absolutely sensational. He dazzled with his exceptional quickness and irritated his opponents with his scoring aptitude.” That hasn’t been the case in the NBA. In 10 seasons, Bayless, currently on the Sixers, has played for seven different teams and has averaged 8.5 points per game.
JONNY FLYNN (2009)
Jonny Flynn, then a rookie guard from Syracuse, who infamously went sixth in the 2009 draft to Minnesota immediately after the Wolves selected Ricky Rubio and just before the Warriors picked Stephen Curry, averaged 15 points and seven assists per game in the 2009 Las Vegas Summer League. He was also named the NBA Rookie of the Month that July. This is a blurb from a Wolves.com write-up on Flynn about one of their games against New Orleans:
“Facing a head-to-head battle against Darren Collison, Flynn scored game-high 24 points. The step-back jumper was on full display as he finished 4-for-5 from the 3-point arc. Most detractors felt Flynn needed to improve his jump shot to become a productive NBA point guard. In the loss to New Orleans, Flynn was simply fantastic and began to create substantial buzz around the NBA circuit.”
Here are some of the tweets during his games:
Jonny Flynn is the new Rod Strickland. He gets to the rim at will, he craves contact, and he makes difficult layups with ease.
— Rick Kamla (@RickKamlaSports) July 18, 2009
I know I should be writing my Kings story, but wow, Jonny Flynn is making people look bad right now.
— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) July 18, 2009
Flynn turned out to be a major bust in the NBA and has been out of the league since 2012.
MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST (2012)
Drafted second in the 2012 NBA Draft by Charlotte behind University of Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist was projected by many to be a future NBA All-Star. In his first summer game against Sacramento, “MKG” dropped 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and four steals on 7-for-12 shooting in a blowout win. Check out the tweets during the performance:
Oh my goodness, MKG. Just destroying everyone & everything in sight. #Bobcats
— Alex Kramers (@alexkramers) July 14, 2012
Kidd-Gilchrist looks like I'd want my lottery pick to look in his summer league debut … #manamongboys!
— Sekou Smith (@SekouSmithNBA) July 14, 2012
Kidd-Gilchrist is the best player on the Bobcats at 18
— Kyle Inman (@DrHoopenstein) July 14, 2012
MKG and Barnes at a far higher level than any other rook I've seen thus far. Swagger, polish, energy, skills.
— david b. thorpe (@coachthorpe) July 14, 2012
After this game, MKG was sidelined the remaining four games of the summer league with a sore knee. Like George Costanza in Seinfeld, he finished his summer on a high note, leaving everyone with the lasting impression of his one great game. His NBA career has not left the same impression. While MKG has been a productive player, he has not met the high expectations placed on him when he was drafted, averaging nine points and six rebounds through six seasons. Kidd-Gilchrist has only averaged double digits in points twice, and has never made an all-star team.
PERRY JONES III (2012)
Leading up to the 2012 draft, Baylor forward Perry Jones III was projected by some to be a lottery pick, but he slipped down to Oklahoma City at 28, resulting in him being labeled the “steal” of the draft by many pundits. Jones’ Summer League performance did not quell those opinions as he had 16 points and eight rebounds in his first summer league game in Orlando. Darnell Mayberry wrote in The Oklahoman:
“And with each point he scored and each rebound he grabbed, Jones quickly began the process of quieting the countless questions that have swirled around him since college.”
Some tweets about Jones’ performance, with the appropriate qualifiers, of course:
Perry Jones III is Wildin in summer league right now!!
— DJ JUS (@IAMDJJUS) July 9, 2012
If summer league is any indication, which it isn't, Perry Jones III can ball. People gonna be pissed they passed on him.
— Mike Singer (@msinger) July 10, 2012
Jones, like MKG, finished his summer on a high note, as he injured his ankle during the Thunder’s second game the next day and didn’t play the remainder of the Summer League. Jones’ NBA career did not turn out well, as he was traded by OKC to the Celtics after after three uneventful seasons with the Thunder. He hasn’t played an NBA game since 2015.
KYLE O’ QUINN VS. ANDRE DRUMMOND (2012)
During the 2012 Orlando Summer League, Kyle O’Quinn, drafted 47th by the Magic, had a fierce battle with Pistons lottery pick Andre Drummond. By almost all accounts, O’Quinn got the better of Drummond. Drummond finished the game with three points and three rebounds while O’Quinn had 11 and six. A survey of some of the tweets during the game:
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) July 10, 2012
Kyle O'Quinn is OWNING DRUMMOND!
— Mark Gunnels (@MarkAGunnels) July 10, 2012
Veteran NBA reporter Chris Sheridan reviewed O’Quinn’s performance:
“[O’Quinn] looked polished and played like a veteran this week. O’Quinn’s signature moment may have been the absolute dismantling of Pistons’ lottery pick Andre Drummond, who O’Quinn outworked and out-psyched.”
Fans were killing Drummond:
That one game did not end up defining Drummond. In his first six seasons with the Pistons, he has been a two-time all star and has led the league in rebounding twice. After the 2016 season, Drummond signed a five-year $130 million contract extension with Detroit. O’Quinn has had a decent career as well, but he is nowhere near an all-star. After three seasons each with the Magic and the Knicks, O’Quinn signed with the Pacers last week.
RUDY GOBERT (2013)
French big man Rudy Gobert was picked 27th by Denver in the 2013 draft and traded to Utah. Currently, Gobert, the 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is considered one of the best interior defenders in the league and one of the Jazz’s most important players. This is what SBNation had to say about his summer league performance:
“Over time, he proved to be a big, tall guy that doesn’t really move his feet well enough to play at a high level. But he at least blocked some shots and dunked occasionally, so he wasn’t a complete disaster.”
And check out this gem:
Today's Summer League Observation: Rudy Gobert is maybe 7-10 years away from being a serviceable NBA backup center #BustCity
— Chris Duerr (@ChrisDuerr) July 9, 2013
BRANDON INGRAM (2016)
Drafted second overall by the Lakers in 2016, Brandon Ingram struggled in his first four games of the Las Vegas summer league then broke out with 22 points in his last game. A little chatter during the games:
Brandon Ingram is wildly overrated
*runs away from NBA twitter*
— adam aaronson #BLM (@SixersAdam) July 12, 2016
And some fans:
Ingram averaged 16 points and five rebounds this past season.
Here are some more humorous random tweets from fans while watching Summer League games:
Make snap summer league judgments at your own risk, folks!
Fred Segal is an attorney from West Palm Beach, FL. He operates the popular Freezing Cold Takes Twitter account (@OldTakesExposed) which highlights, among other things, hilarious unprophetic and inaccurate takes and predictions.