5 Little Known Summer League Stars Who Will Make an NBA Roster in 2012
Damian Lillard may not have been one of college basketball's most recognizable names last season, but the Portland Trail Blazers knew what they were doing when they drafted him sixth-overall in June.
It wasn't just that Portland desperately needed a point guard, although that surely entered into their thinking at the time. But, the decision had even more to do with this kid's incredible potential and a scoring ability that stands out from just about anyone else in his draft class (save maybe someone like Bradley Beal).
As unknown as Lillard remains, he's a veritable superstar compared to some of the other guys lighting it up in the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League, including his co-MVP of the league Josh Selby.
We know Lillard will have a job this season. In fact, he'll have a prominent role starting and running the Trail Blazers' offense.
But, what about the other guys, the ones like Selby?
Here's a look at some Summer League stars who've earned the chance make an NBA roster this season.
Josh Selby, G–Memphis Grizzlies
Yes, Josh Selby is already on a roster, but it's worth mentioning that he won't be going anywhere.
Besides, he saw very little game time in his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
That should change in his sophomore campaign thanks in large part to an exceptional Summer League display than earned him co-MVP honors. Selby averaged 24.2 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 steals while averaging just 27.4 minutes over the course of five contests.
In other words, he was quite productive.
It also helps that the Grizzlies let sixth-man shooting guard O.J. Mayo walk, so Selby could actually meet an important need for Memphis. His ability to score in bunches off the bench would help ensure the offense doesn't fall flat when guys like Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph take a breather.
As rosy as this picture looks, keep your expectations in check. The 21-year-old has worlds of individual talent, but he still has a lot to learn about the things that make teams successful. Additionally, he's a shoot-first 6'2" guard, and those types have an incredibly mixed record of success at the pro-level.
There's reason to be hopeful. Just don't be too disappointed if Selby's minutes are once again somewhat limited.
Josh Akognon, G–Sacramento Kings
There are more than a few red flags associated with Josh Akognon, so it's no surprise that his professional career has been relegated to overseas play.
He's just 5'11" and far more interested in scoring the ball than distributing it. That usually isn't a winning combination, but of course there are exceptions to every rule. This 26-year-old set out to prove exactly that in his Summer League play with the Sacramento Kings' team.
He averaged over 19 points in just over 18 minutes through three games. And, he did so while making over 53 percent of his field-goal attempts.
His ability to pull up and hit quick mid-range shots was reminiscent of a young Damon Stoudamire. Whether his career will take that kind of turn is another question, and it's hard to imagine him getting a chance with the Kings given his similarities to Isaiah Thomas.
Nevertheless, a team in need of a John Lucas III kind of scorer could very well look Akognon's way.
Dionte Christmas, SG–Boston Celtics
No need to speculate about this one.
Dionte Christmas signed a contract with the Boston Celtics after an impressive Summer League showing that saw him average 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and two steals through five games.
The 6'5" guard has been making the Summer League rounds since going undrafted in 2009, and his persistence paid off. So too did his 2011 play in Greece. The Temple standout is a solid long-range shooter with the kind of frame and upside that should draw comparisons to the similarly late-blooming Wesley Matthews.
And with a name like Christmas, you have to hope this 25-year-old makes the best of his golden opportunity in Beantown.
Chris Copeland, F–New York Knicks
Here's another one you don't have to wonder about.
The New York Knicks have already locked up 28-year-old Chris Copeland after an impressive Summer League showing.
The 6'8" forward could see some time behind both Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and could hope to become NYC's next "glue guy" with Landry Fields and Jared Jeffries leaving town. He averaged 13.8 points, four rebounds, 0.8 steals and one block per game for New York's Summer League squad.
He's spent five seasons polishing his game overseas, so this is a long-awaited opportunity for Copeland.
Bobby Brown, PG–Toronto Raptors
No, not that Bobby Brown.
This Bobby Brown is drawing interest from the Toronto Raptors, the team he played for at the Las Vegas Summer League. While Toronto acquired Kyle Lowry to upgrade its point guard play, Jose Calderon is in the last year of his contract, and there's always a chance the Spaniard will be dealt before the deadline.
Brown could provide some insurance.
He averaged 13.2 points and 4.2 assists through five Summer League outings despite playing under 23 minutes per game.
That kind of efficiency bodes well for a guy who won't be a starter any time soon, even on the Raptors.