Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What will you be looking for at Summer Leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll be looking for the guys who cannot play at the NBA level. And then swiftly blotting them from my view. Sounds harsh, but it’s important when so many players are invited to these July sessions merely to flesh out the workouts for key draftees and free agents. Someone on Twitter suggested the other day that the guys who matter should wear specially colored jerseys for the folks viewing at home and I like the idea. These are not equal-opportunity auditions. They’re exploration, validation and confirmation of the players teams already consider to be worth their massive commitments in time, scouting and salaries. It doesn’t matter which of them is MVP in Orlando or Las Vegas, just that they separate themselves from all the future Euroleague, D-League or rec league participants running the courts with them.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m interested in seeing if Victor Oladipo will be able to live up to the Magic’s desire for him to be able to play significant minutes at the point. Also keeping an eye on the young crop from OKC. With the departure of Kevin Martin, it will be an opportunity for Jeremy Lamb to step into that wing shooter’s role. Can Reggie Jackson take another step forward at the point? Does rookie Steven Adams have a chance to contribute this season? Due to their financial constraints in the small OKC market, the Thunder need to keep infusing young blood to run with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Well, we’ve already seen Jason Kidd‘s coaching debut and his first technical, so… like everyone else I like to see how the top picks handle their first NBA exposure in Vegas, especially the guards, the guys that will be handling the ball a lot or getting plenty of chances to put it up. Players like Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo. How poised are they, how confident, how smooth, do they make good decisions? Another fun aspect of Summer League is that there’s usually a sleeper that jumps up. Nothing was more exciting than a few years ago when Jeremy Lin stole the summer from John Wall.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Shifts, good and bad. Who has improved from last season to be in position to really help their team, and who is still trying to find their way? What second-rounder could unexpectedly push for a spot in the rotation? What once-upon-a-time name is seeing the last best chance to catch on somewhere disappear? Summer League should come with sedatives because inevitably someone will do well in Orlando or Vegas and then fade into the background when the competition gets real in November.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I will be scrutinizing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s jump shot. He’s got the makings of a great defender and playmaker, but has the ugliest shooting form that I’ve ever seen, with a turn to the side and a nasty hitch. It needs to be totally broken down and built back up again. Right now, the results don’t matter. But I’m curious to see if the work he’s been putting in with new Bobcats assistant Mark Price has produced a noticeable difference in his form.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ve already seen some of what I’m looking for from Victor Oladipo, who has been even better than I expected him to be in Orlando. I wanted to see if the top picks in the Draft would stick out on a Summer League floor the way you want them to, the way the teams that drafted these guys need them to stick out. I’m most curious about Anthony Bennett, but we won’t see him due to the shoulder surgery and four-month rehab he’ll need before he’s game ready. But I need to see the same things from Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams and several others. There’s always a few rookies who will surprise us in Summer League. But this is our first glance of the most high-profile rookies in a truly open and competitive atmosphere since they were in college or playing overseas. I want to see how they respond when some journeyman desperate to make an impression and a NBA roster is trying to snatch their confidence with all those eyes watching. Do they respond to the challenge like a future star? Or do they curl up and melt in the moment? This is our first chance to find out.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It’s hard for me to watch these Summer League games and not remember the live blog I did last season, when guys like Dionte Christmas went off for huge games. Dionte Who? Yeah. So if anything I’ll watch these games with not just a grain of salt, but with my head buried in an entire box of salt. Summer League is a place where dreams can come true, but we can also get so wrapped up in the potential these guys possess that we overlook flaws. There are reasons, after all, these guys are playing in the Summer League to begin with.