The NBA Summer League is an opportunity for newly-drafted rookies to show their new coaches what they can do, and if they perform well, they could easily find themselves competing for significant minutes once the regular season starts. Obviously, lottery picks are under the microscope quite a bit, as their performance in the Summer League basically sets the tone for their NBA careers.
This summer, various rookies have stood out while others have faltered.
Take Harrison Barnes (pictured), for example. The Golden State Warriors drafted him with the seventh overall pick, and in the NBA Summer League, he has proven to be a good scorer, and his one-on-one defense has improved as well. Yet as is the case with any Summer League season, some rookies have seen their overall stock drop immensely.
Thus, let's have a look at some of the rookies of the Summer League and answer the immortal question: Who's hot and who's not?
Kidd-Gilchrist spent one season at Kentucky and wasn't the star of the team, but impressed the Charlotte Bobcats enough for them to take him with the second overall pick. This was considered by some to be an odd move, seeing as how his unorthodox form on the court raised some eyebrows and started the debate as to whether he could be effective in the NBA.
Well, if the former Wildcat's performance in his sole game of the Summer League is any indication as to his NBA future, it looks like he could be a perennial All-Star. In one game of action, Kidd-Gilchrist had 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and even four steals. Most important of all, he picked his shots well and went 7-of-12 from the field.
Seeing as how the Bobcats are in need of an electrifying player who can take control of an offense, MKG's performance in the Summer League has raised his stock even though he only appeared in a single game. No matter how you look at it, the numbers posted are impressive.
The Boston Celtics used a first-round pick on Melo so that they could add some size in the middle, but his NBA Summer League performance has been disappointing. For someone 7'0", 255 pounds, he has played with the tenacity of someone much smaller and just looks lost on both ends of the floor.
The Brazilian center and former Syracuse Orange has averaged just four points and 3.2 rebounds in just under 16 minutes per game. I understand how the numbers could be reflective of the playing time, but the point of the Summer League is to make the most of the minutes you get.
Unfortunately, Melo has not done that, and as his NBA debut draws closer, he has a lot of work to do in the drive and passion department. Otherwise, Boston could have a glaring hole at center, at least in the second unit.
Going into the 2012 NBA draft, we all knew that Barnes could put points on the board. The only real flaw of his was defense. Could he learn to be a top scoring threat and also be a good one-on-one defender?
Well, in the Summer League, Barnes has shown that he can indeed score points. He has averaged 16.8 points per game, but his shot selection still needs a lot of work. In his five games, all of which he started, he shot just 39 percent from the floor.
Yet in the defensive department, the former Tar Heel looked as good as he ever had, averaging an astounding 1.8 steals per game. Given how his Golden State Warriors are a team that could use a lot of help on defense, his future is bright if he can take what he learned in the Summer League with him into the regular season.
Once the Golden State Warriors took Green in the second round, it was obvious that he had a future in the NBA as a defensive pest. He has good size at 6'7", 230 pounds, and he crashes the boards well on top of swarming his man.
Yet this is still the pros, and defense will only get you so far. As someone who is going to be expected to play small forward, Green's Summer League performance on offense was disappointing. He averaged just 6.4 points in 26 minutes a game while shooting a despicable 28 percent from the floor.
His defensive numbers were fine at 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest, but the offense just wasn't what it should have been for someone about to make his professional debut. That said, if he is going to get significant playing time off the bench this season, he needs to work harder on making shots consistently, not to mention picking them better.
Though he played at a smaller school in Weber State University, Lillard gained a reputation as one of the finest scoring point guards in the nation. The Portland Trail Blazers selected him with the sixth pick, and if his Summer League numbers follow him into the regular season, Portland could be in for one hell of a year.
The 6'3" point man averaged an astounding 26.5 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor, and he also averaged a respectable five assists per game. That may seem low, but keep in mind that he wasn't working with the top dogs on the team. That number should increase with time once he gets to know the regular starters.
On top of that, Lillard's shooting from beyond the arc is just plain unbelievable. He shot 38 percent from downtown in the Summer League, and while he may seem to overly rely on his long-range shooting a la Chauncey Billups, he could easily play it more conservative in that department at some point down the road.
For now, his stock is up simply because of how he took the Summer League by storm.
In his lone season at St. John's, Harkless looked like a good scoring swingman in the making. When the Philadelphia 76ers selected him, I started wondering if the plan was for him to ultimately succeed Andre Iguodala as the team's star small forward.
Yet Harkless' inexperience apparently caught up with him in the Summer League, as his performance was pretty underwhelming. In just two games, in which he averaged just 16 minutes, he put up 5.5 points to just three rebounds. Again, the low numbers could be a reflection of the playing time, but those statistics aren't what coaches expect from a first-round pick.
That said, if Harkless' stock is to rise back up, he is going to have to put in a lot of hard work to impress coach Doug Collins and prove that he can be a valuable contributor on one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
As I've said many times before, Jones is going to end up being the sleeper of the 2012 NBA draft class. He is a great imposing forward at 6'9", 252 pounds and is my pick to win the Slam Dunk Contest next season. Sure enough, the former Kentucky Wildcat had a great Summer League representing the Houston Rockets.
In five games, of which he started just two, Jones was able to get 25.2 minutes per contest while putting up 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. More importantly, his shot selection was great, as he shot 50 percent from the field.
The only real flaw against Jones was his lack of shot blocking, but that can be improved with coaching. The fact of the matter is that the Rockets' starting spot at power forward is now up for grabs since Luis Scola has been amnestied, and given how well Jones performed in the Summer League, Houston coach Kevin McHale should strongly consider starting this talented rookie at the position.
Once the New Orleans Hornets drafted Austin Rivers with the 10th pick, I knew from the start that he was going to be little more than a bench shooter for the team in his rookie season. Yet given his dismal Summer League performance, I'm starting to think that the former Duke Blue Devil and son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers may very well end up being a draft bust.
Not only did Rivers average just 10 points in 32 minutes per contest over the course of just two Summer League Games, but he shot a miserable 21 percent from the field. He was even worse from downtown, shooting just 12 percent. In an instant, the rookie went from being a lottery pick to a lottery flameout, at least by Summer League standards.
Thus, if anyone's stock is at an all-time low right now, it's probably Rivers'. He was such a talented shooter in his lone year at Duke, and to see him just choke so horribly in the Summer League was a shame. With the regular season fast approaching, he has a lot of work to do if he wants to prove that he is better than the aforementioned numbers indicate.