Portland Trail Blazers: Summer League Gives Fans Reasons to Be Optimistic

Wesley HodgesContributor IIIJuly 23, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 28:  Damian Lillard (R) of Weber State greets NBA Commissioner David Stern (L) after he was selected number six overall by the Portland Trail Blazers during the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft at Prudential Center on June 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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With the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas now over, it's time to assess what we learned from that small sample of games and figure out what can be taken into account for the upcoming regular season.

For the Portland Trail Blazers, this particular summer league was an important one. The results have to at least leave fans and management alike with a bit of added optimism for a season which is likely to feature young players, including multiple rookies, in prominent roles with the team.

It also saw a scary moment when second-year point guard Nolan Smith went down with a concussion at the conclusion of the Blazers' only loss in summer league this year. He seems to be doing okay, but it's still unclear if the injury will have any long term consequences related to his impact on this team.

Smith was one of the many bright spots on the summer league squad this year. After barely getting onto the court behind Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford last season, Smith showed us all that he can still shine, albeit against weaker competition.

Also succeeding were the Blazers' three rookies: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard and Will Barton.

Lillard ended up being named the Summer League Co-MVP, while averaging 26.5 points, 5.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. 

Leonard wasn't quite as dynamic as Lilliard, but he showed surprising quickness and mobility for a guy his size. With a couple years of growth, he could be an elite defender and rebounder in the NBA.

Barton also showed that he can score with the best of the rest, leading the Blazers to a big victory over Miami while all three of the aforementioned players were sitting out.

No one should overestimate what these numbers and performances mean, as it's not really comparable to the NBA game. Each player will likely have to go through an adjustment period before really being able to shine on the big stage.

What Blazer fans can be optimistic about, though, is that all three guys looked capable and comfortable on the summer league stage. All three also showed a lot of promise and potential. Even if that doesn't translate into wins right away, this team looks like it already has a promising rebuild well underway.