It is fun to watch first- and second-year players show their stuff. It's great to see the high draft picks, the international players and the guys with good stories, including some who were unfortunate enough to stay in college for four years and then have doubts cast about them precisely because they might not have had the confidence to leave school earlier or were deemed not good enough to be drafted. The ingredients to this cocktail are intriguing and provide some very interesting opportunities and views.
But let's not get ahead of our skis -- you have young players guarding young players, and players who are not used to playing together, all the while trying to excel. Can we draw meaning from any of it? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Did Lonzo Ball show off a good passing vision? Absolutely. He has a gift there. Did Jayson Tatum show off some good offensive moves? Yes, he did, with the important caveat that it was not Kawhi Leonard who was guarding him. Not, of course, that you have a Kawhi Leonard guard you on most nights. You do not. Has Caleb Swanigan made a statement by putting up double doubles every night? Yes and no. Yes, because he comes in as underrated or dismissed as Carlos Boozer did years ago, and my tea leaves say he is a second-round bargain. But it isn't as though he has had Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson or Al Horford banging on him every night. He has not.
We balance, of course, the concept of "you play who you play" with "you aren't playing against all-stars." The summer league is exciting because the teams get to show off their new players, and players who might have been overlooked get to surprise the onlookers with skills that they have honed in the off-season. While the first-round picks are playing to get in better playing shape and adjust to a faster speed, most players in these games are playing for the scouts of every team in the NBA and the top teams in Europe. Fare well, and you might make your NBA team, get picked up by another NBA team, earn a spot in the now G-League or get offered a contract for an overseas team.
It depends on who you are. Lonzo, well, he's already a Laker legend and he has yet to play in a game. Alex Poythress? He's an interesting one. He gave the 76ers some good minutes at the end of last season and looks to be an NBA player. Can he force the 76ers to make a tough decision because they now have a crowded roster, or can the 76ers use him to get another 2nd round pick in a trade? He is ready for the league. How about Larry Drew II? Could he displace one of the 76ers' point guards, or is he playing for the GM in another city?
We don't see how the sausage is made, how the teams put together their rosters or how front offices scout players, inventory their reports and try to fill holes in their rosters. Suffice it to say that many sets of eyes -- multiple sets from each team -- watch these games and watch films of these games. For the average fan like me, it's basketball in July, and that's all I need, a little fix, something to carry me over until NFL camps begin, baseball pennant races heat up, the English Premier League begins. But for those in the business, their season starts now, and there are gems to mine and polish.
And they are right in front of everyone's eyes.