What Does The NBA Summer League Actually Mean?

Ethan Miller-Getty Images

If you haven’t been able to already realize, there is an extreme amount of buzz that surrounds the NBA Summer League.  Fans get to watch their favorite team’s rookies and some of their sophomore players as well.  With all this buzz around it, is it over-hyped? What does it truly mean?

Well after Lonzo Ball‘s sub-par performance in the Lakers first game in the summer league, many Lakers fans were already jumping to the “bust” conclusion.  Then, in his second game, he recorded 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists, recording a triple-double. After that game, he seemed to make all the haters eat their words and realize this kid might be for real.

But does success in the summer league actually transfer into a Hall of Fame career? Let’s see how these future Hall-of-Famers and not so future Hall-of-Famers performed against how the 2017 rookie class is performing.

Jayson Tatum Current Summer League Stats:  18.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2 APG (Utah Summer League, in 3 games, per nba.com) 19 PPG, 9 RPG, 0.5 APG (Las Vegas Summer League, in 2 games, per nba.com)

Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics Summer League

Rick Bowmer-Associated Press

Stephen Curry Rookie Summer League Stats: 17.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, 3.6 TO (Las Vegas Summer League, in 5 games, per basketball.realgm.com)

Bam Adebayo Summer League Stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.3 BPG (Orlando Summer League, per nba.com)

LeBron James Rookie Summer League Stats: 15.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 4.3 APG (according to sportingnews.com, Scott Rafferty)

Adam Morrison Rookie Summer League Stats: 24.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2 APG (Orlando Summer League, in 5 games, per basketball.realgm.com)

Tyrus Thomas Rookie Summer League Stats: 16.2 PPG, 7 RPG, 2.2 APG (Orlando Summer League, in 5 games, according to basketball.realgm.com)

Jordan McRae Last Summer League: 24.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 2 APG (Las Vegas Summer League, in 7 games, per nba.com)

Do you see any correlation with these players? Bam Adebayo isn’t suppose to be a superstar, but he put up numbers fairly similar to the 2-time NBA MVP, Stephen Curry. And, he also should be WAY better than LeBron, right? Look at Adam Morrison, one of the biggest busts of all-time.  But going by those summer league numbers he should be a 13-time NBA MVP. (Granted, there are some players that played really well in the Summer League and are having good careers)

But I’m afraid that’s not the case.  The Summer League doesn’t prove a whole lot.  There is no way to tell if your top draft pick is a bust just by watching him play some other college stars and some washed up NBA Players trying to compete for a G-League spot. Since the Summer League usually has very little correlation to how a player’s career is going to go, then why is it such a big deal?

Kobe Bryant averaged 24.5 PPG in the Summer League (sportingnews.com, Scott Rafferty).  He showed his gift back then, putting the ball in the hole.  But, so did Jordan McRae last summer.  The Summer League provides us, the fans, a chance to potentially see into the future of our franchises, NOTHING is guaranteed, however.

Personally, I LOVE watching the Summer League, it lets these guys that are STARVING for a roster spot play and compete, while letting all the fans to also get to watch rookies that we are just waiting to bring us a ring.  But you can’t be over critical of summer league games, they might tell you how great is someone can be, but it just has no way of showing you how much of a bust someone can be.

Be safe watching the Summer League, from this year to all the Summer Leagues you choose to pay attention to.

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