Memphis Grizzlies: What to Make of Josh Selby's Great Summer League Play

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Memphis Grizzlies: What to Make of Josh Selby's Great Summer League Play
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Memphis Grizzlies' guard Josh Selby was the talk of Las Vegas while earning co-MVP honors for the NBA Summer League along with Trail Blazers' guard Damian Lillard. The second-year man carved up the competition at the rate of 24.2 points and 2.4 steals per game, while connecting on a staggering 64 percent of his three-point attempts.

While Grizzlies' fans have reason to be excited about Selby's eye-opening two weeks, they need to keep it in perspective.

Summer League competition isn't comparable to the NBA regular season. The players who suited up in Las Vegas were inexperienced, lacked cohesion with their teammates and the vast majority of them won't be on an NBA roster come November.

Selby played in just five games, a very small sample size from which to extrapolate a meaningful assessment. Any standout college player can get hot for a few games. What separates NBA players is their ability to perform on a consistent basis.

Grizzlies' fans need look no further than Selby's new teammate, Jerryd Bayless, to see how meaningless a stellar showing in the Summer League can be. The 6'3'' guard took home MVP honors at the 2008 Summer League after averaging 29.8 points per game, but has scored just 8.1 points per game over his four seasons in the NBA.

One major distinction between Bayless and Selby is the expectations that were placed upon them when they entered the league. Bayless was drafted 11th overall by the Pacers in 2008 and immediately dealt to Portland, where he was expected to be the Blazers' point guard of the future.

 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Jerryd Bayless's Summer League dominance didn't carry over to the NBA.

Selby, on the other hand, was lucky to be drafted at all last summer after one controversial and disappointing season at Kansas. The Grizzlies selected him late in the second round and he was no lock to make the team.

Yet, there's reason to believe that Selby's spectacular Summer League run was not a complete aberration. The Baltimore-native had been ranked the No. 1 2010 high school prospect in the country by Rivals.com.

Then, his stock plummeted. Selby was suspended for the first nine games of his freshman season at Kansas for receiving "improper benefits." Upon his return, injuries kept him from developing a rhythm and he struggled to find his role in Coach Self's offense.

Selby's astounding Summer League play was a reminder of why college coaches were knocking down his door just a few years ago. The second-year guard showed off his superb athleticism, infinite range and lightning-quick release, all while raining down threes in bunches.

On July 18, he connected on seven of eight three-point attempts and finished with 35 points against the Wizards. A few days earlier, he hit four shots from behind the arc in the span of a few minutes in the second quarter of the Grizzlies victory of the Knicks

Perhaps most impressive about Selby's Summer League play was his tenacity on both ends of the floor. He attacked the basket with a fury and used his athleticism and quick hands to harass ball-handlers on the other end of the floor.

Jason Szenes/Getty Images
Selby will contend with rookie Tony Wroten for playing time.

Obviously, Selby will not replicate his 64 percent shooting from three-point land during the regular season, though the 2-for-15 he shot from behind the arc last year was not representative of his abilities either. Nor was the 35 percent he shot from the floor last year.

 

Selby was thrown into the mix in Memphis after playing just 26 games in college, without the benefit of Summer League or a training camp, due to the NBA lockout. He also wasn't able to develop any kind of rhythm in his rookie season, while playing sparingly behind several veterans.

The scrappy guard did showcase his ability during a short stint in the D-League. Over eight games with the Reno Bighorns, he averaged 25.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals, while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from behind the arc.

With the departure of veteran guards Gilbert Arenas and O.J. Mayo, there are minutes available in the Memphis backcourt. Selby will face some stiff competition from Bayless, who shot a career-high 42 percent from three-point land last season, and the Grizzlies first-round pick in the 2012 draft, combo-guard Tony Wroten.

Bayless and Selby's games are similar. They're both shooting guards stuck in a point guard's body. Bayless has the advantage of experience, though Selby has a higher ceiling due to his athleticism and feisty defense.

It doesn't help Selby's cause that he's too small to share the backcourt with starting point guard Mike Conley (6'1''). But, he could form an intriguing tandem with Wroten, who at 6'6'' can run the point and defend bigger guards.

Expect the 21-year-old Selby to be inconsistent during his second NBA season. His playing time will likely vary, as Memphis coach Lionel Hollins will ride the hot hand among his young backup guards.

If Selby continues to work on his game and play with the same intensity he brought to Summer League, he could develop into a potent offensive weapon off the bench, in the mold of another second-round draft pick, Lou Williams.

Not bad, for the 49th pick in the draft.

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