It's that time of the year, everybody. The Finals are over and prospects have joined their teams. Outside of free agency, there's been a lull in NBA action. Until now.
Welcome to the NBA Las Vegas Summer League: Where everything is made up, and the points don't matter!
This year's Spurs summer league squad is filled with familiar faces we've seen in Vegas before. Deshaun Thomas, Durand Scott, Marcus Denmon, and Ryan Richards are back; all of them trying to impress enough to get out of Europe, and into an NBA organization. Thomas was the leading scorer on the team last year, and is the most notable returnee. His ability to fill it is well-noted, but his lack of versatility and slight build have kept him from finding a role in the league. After spending the year overseas, it'll be interesting to see if he's added anything to his game, or built up his weight.
As for new faces, we have to start with Kyle Anderson, the Spurs' first round draft pick this year. This will be his first taste of NBA-ish ball, and his first shot at running an NBA offense. The Spurs have said that Anderson will see time at the 1, 2, and 3 in Vegas, so we'll get an early indication of how well he fits into each role. Another newcomer to keep an eye on is Bryce Cotton, who recently signed a contract with San Antonio. The deal is non-guaranteed in the first year, making summer league and training camp a glorified try-out for the undrafted rookie combo guard out of Providence. He will be a focal point of the offense, running pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll to get used to the system, and show off his great quickness and finishing ability at the rim. The rest of the newcomers include guys like Vander Blue and Melvin Eim, who wereboth stars at their colleges and looking to impress NBA scouts. There is also Viktor Gaddefors, the forward from Sweeden, who is worth paying attention to if only because his name makes him sound like a vampire.
It should be noted that Austin Daye and Jeff Ayres are both on the Spurs' summer league roster. However, because they are older veterans, already on contract, I don't think they'll see the court that much. More than anything, this will serve as more scheduled time to work with Coach Ime Udoka, and become more familiar with the extensive amout of information that is the Spurs' systems.
As for the Kings, they have one of the more fun Vegas summer league rosters. The excitement begins with Nik Stauskas, their first round pick, and a guard that can obtain mass amounts of buckets in little time. They also have the uber-athletic quartet of Ray McCallum, Ben McLemore, Jared Cunningham, and Derrick Williams, who are all sure to terrorize the rim in transition. The Kings roster also includes MarShon Brooks, who will attempt to thrive as a summer league gunner; and the 7-5 mountain of a man, Sim Bhullar. No doubt, this team has a cast of characters that will be fun to watch, even as an opponent.
Of course, as noted before, points don't matter much now. Results of games don't matter now. Summer league is a process-oriented event, used for evaluating how guys fit into different roles. Don't concentrate on the box scores. Concentrating on the box scores id how you fall into the trap of buying into Josh Selby in 2012. Concentrating on box scores means you miss how well Hollis Thompson played for the Spurs last year. Instead, pay attention to how Cotton and Anderson look leading the offense. What is their job on defense? Is DeShaun Thomas doing anything other than shooting wide-open jumpers? Has Ryan Richards learned any discernible skill?
And now, your Las Vegas Summer League experience starts. There will be some good. There will be more bad. It is a 10-day sprint, where the winner is irrelevant. It is madness. It is bad basketball. It is fans only cheering when it's time for the t-shirt toss. It is summer league.