While the Summer League doesn’t feature the likes of Lebron James or Kevin Durant, those who were starved for basketball finally had their fill of NBA action with the annual preseason tournament. More importantly than that, we all got a first hand look at the potential future of the NBA.
Careers aren’t made with a great run in the Summer League, but dominating and putting on a show can’t be looked at as anything but positive. Not all of these guys are guaranteed or even likely to carry their play over into the season, and they may not even have been the best players to participate, but these are the guys that made the Summer League worth watching.
Archie Goodwin: SG, Phoenix Suns
At 18 years old Goodwin was the youngest player in the entire Summer League, but it didn’t show with his play. His physicality and determination getting to the rim did not match his boyish face and still-developing body. He threw his weight around like he belonged on an NBA court, and led the most experienced team in the Summer League to the championship game.
Out of all the players on this list he is the least likely to continue to perform at this level due to how young he is, but his youth is also a big reason he made it onto this list. He stepped onto the court with these men and showed no fear in any facet of his game, and was overall very exciting to watch.
Cody Zeller: PF/C, Charlotte Bobcats
The selection of Cody Zeller with the 4th overall pick in this years draft was met largely with studio audience-style laughter, but no one’s laughing now. Mostly because the draft was a month ago and all laughing should have ceased by now anyways, but also because Zeller absolutely dominated the Summer League competition and was the only rookie to make the Las Vegas All-Summer League Team.
He got off to a quiet start in his first game, but after the initial dud he had no less than 18 points and 9 rebounds a game for the rest of the tournament. Nerlens Noel and Alex Len did not participate in the Summer League so we still don’t have any indication of whether he was worthy of being the first big man taken, but it was still nice to see Zeller silence the critics momentarily with a stellar performance in the tournament. He better enjoy this win though, because he will not be seeing a lot of them as a member of the Bobcats once the NBA regular season starts.
Victor Oladipo: G, Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo has come out of the gate running as the best player in the 2013 NBA draft class. He made everyone else look like amateurs every time he stepped onto the court, outclassing the competition with 19 points per game and a shooting percentage of over 50%.
The fact that he did it playing point guard after everyone considered him a shooting guard/small forward tweener is even more impressive, and proves just how versatile he is. His lockdown defense was also on display throughout the tournament, and he showed a clutch factor not many rookies have coming out. The Cavaliers may have made a big mistake on passing up on Victor Oladipo, as he looks the part of a superstar so far in his short NBA tenure.
Andre Drummond/Jonas Valanciunas: C, Detroit Pistons/Toronto Raptors
I am pairing Drummond and Valanciunas up together because the fact they were even in the Summer League was borderline unfair and their individual sections would sound exactly the same. These two absolutely dominated the competition and showed why they are looked at as the future of NBA centers, averaging double-doubles every game and proving to be the most dominant players on the court. Drummond ended up losing out to Jeremy Lamb for the title of Orlando Summer League MVP due to sitting out, but Valancuinas won the honors in Las Vegas.
These two are very likely to continue their success as rebound machines and excellent post-up scorers, and have proven to be ruthless enough to crush any undrafted rookie that stands in their way of absolute dominance. I’m not sure if that has any bearing on their actual NBA success, but it was seriously hard to watch these two crush the lesser mortals who foolishly attempted to stand in their way.
Jeremy Lamb: SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of MVPs, Jeremy Lamb must have replaced his blood with Wheaties during the offseason, because he looks like a completely different player from last season. After being involved in the seemingly lopsided trade that shipped James Harden to the Houston Rockets and spending time between the D-League and the bench, Lamb caught fire during the tournament and proceeded to take the Summer League by storm.
The only reason I am avoiding the obvious puns about taking the league by storm as a member of the Thunder is the fact that Lamb was truly magnificent, and has definitely earned his spot in the rotation on a deep Oklahoma City squad. Look for Lamb to get the chance to fill Harden’s shoes in the next year or two, and after what I’ve seen I expect him to take it. By storm. Because he’s a member of the Thunder.