NBA Teams with Most Riding on Summer League
Many view the NBA Summer League as an opportunity for young prospects to land full-time jobs. But it's also an opportunity for teams to find talent without having to overspend or give up assets.
A lot of these teams made significant investments in young players. It's important for these prospects to be properly developed, and it all starts during the summer.
The following are teams with investments in the Summer League—investments that'll need to pay off in the NBA sometime soon.
Oklahoma City Thunder
It's not very often you see a title contender with a lot riding on the Summer League.
But the Oklahoma City Thunder's offensive attack took a blow in free agency when Kevin Martin signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Thunder could rely heavily on young prospects Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson, two of the more high-profile Summer League participants.
Jackson, who played big minutes during the 2013 NBA playoffs with Russell Westbrook on the shelf, went for 35 points in his second Summer League game.
Jackson's 35 set up Lamb, who closed out Orlando with a nifty step-back jumper to seal it in the final seconds.
The Thunder also have a few others to watch who might crack the rotation earlier than expected. Andre Roberson (No. 2 in the country in rebounds per game at Colorado last season) has been a constant presence on the glass, while Grant Jerrett's jumper looks as sharp as advertised.
Don't expect to see many NBA minutes for lottery pick Steven Adams. He'll likely spend the majority of his rookie year in the D-League, as he's clearly still figuring out his role in the game.
Still, there are plenty of storylines and names to follow here. If the Thunder want to be the team to beat in the West, they'll need some of these Summer Leaguers to emerge as routine NBA contributors.
The Utah Jazz have officially entered the youth movement. Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans are now the longest-tenured members of the team.
All eyes this summer will be on rookie Trey Burke, whom the Jazz moved up to get in this year's first round.
He's the guy the team is hoping becomes the future of the franchise. They don't want to be in the market for another point guard in two years. Utah has a lot invested in Burke, considering they let their two-best players in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk in free agency.
So Jazz management probably wasn't too thrilled when Burke opened the summer with a 1-of-12 performance.
On the bright side, late-first-round pick Rudy Gobert has shown some real promise through his first few games. At 7'2'', he's converted some strong finishes inside and soft jump hooks around the key.
Still, Gobert is likely to spend some time in the D-League, while Burke should have the chance to earn the starting job right away. Burke will hopefully use this time to adjust to the speed and size of the pro game, which should be his biggest obstacle throughout the transition process.
Alec Burks is another name that the Jazz will hope comes around in year No. 3. He looks much-improved through a few Summer League games so far.
Orlando has two members key to its future playing on this Summer League team.
The microscope will be focused on Victor Oladipo, this year's No. 2 overall pick, and Moe Harkless, a second-year breakout candidate.
Oladipo is the more interesting storyline to follow. The Magic have been experimenting with Oladipo, an off-guard and wing at Indiana, running the point.
This experiment seems like a long shot, as he lacks the handle and instincts of a true facilitator. But Orlando's goal here is evident: They want the ball in Oladipo's hands.
Oladipo doesn't seem to mind, given his 17-point average through three games. He's getting to the rack like we saw him do in college, and he's hitting jumpers like we envisioned he'd do in the future.
Harkless has also been impressive, showing a more-refined offensive game as opposed to relying on athleticism. At 6'8'', he's got that coveted small-forward size to go with the bounce and fluidity of a star.
His jumper is still shaky, which is likely to keep him from reaching stardom early on. But he'll eventually figure it out. He's only 20 years old.
Harkless and Oladipo are expected to be part of Orlando's nucleus, along with Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic.
By trading away its top player and asset in All-Star Jrue Holiday, the Philadelphia 76ers have put a lot of eggs in Michael Carter-Williams' basket.
On draft night, the Sixers sent Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel, who's likely to miss a major portion of his rookie year rehabbing from a torn ACL.
Carter-Williams will use this Summer League to quickly get acquainted with a new breed of competition. Based on Philadelphia's current roster, he's expected to get thrown immediately into the fire as a starting rookie without weapons.
If Carter-Williams struggles, this could be a disaster year for Philadelphia, given the lack of talent on the roster.
Although, with two first-round picks in 2014, disaster appears to be part of the plan.
Still, Philadelphia has a lot riding on Carter-Williams, who had a wacky line of 26 points, seven boards, eight assists and nine turnovers in his first Summer League game.
Decision-making and jump shooting are the clear-cut weaknesses for him to work on.
2012 first-round pick Arnett Moultrie is another name to watch. At 6'11'', he has tremendous mobility and athleticism. He scored 17 points during his second Summer League game, and should be a guy who emerges as an everyday contributor.
The Pistons have a number of young prospects playing for their Summer League squad, most notably Andre Drummond, a potential breakout NBA stud.
Drummond missed a chunk of last season with a back injury, so just seeing him compete without restrictions is a promising sign.
He's been relentless on the interior through his first few games this summer. At 6'10", 270 pounds with supreme athleticism, Drummond is capable of taking over a game without using a dribble. If he emerges as the star it appears he might, you can't help but wonder what that says about Greg Monroe's future in Detroit.
This year's No. 8 overall pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, should be expected to get some burn as an NBA rookie. He opened up the summer 1-of-14 from downtown, though he did drop 19 points in game No. 3.
He's got some consistency issues to work through, but Caldwell-Pope has starting 2-guard potential based on his perimeter scoring and defensive strengths.
Detroit's second-round pick, Tony Mitchell, might be another threat to crack the rotation. His blend of size and athleticism is nearly unmatchable, which could help negate the fact that his offense lacks structure.
Between Drummond, Caldwell-Pope and Mitchell, along with Peyton Siva and Kim English, the Pistons have a number of young players you should expect to see this year.
New York Knicks
With holes in the rotation, a need for depth and minimal cap room, the Knicks will count on some of their Summer League prospects.
Not only do they not have a backup for Tyson Chandler, but if Carmelo Anthony stays at the 4, they won't have a natural 3.
And if Iman Shumpert moves to the 3, that means Pablo Prigioni moves to the 2. The Knicks essentially have needs at every position on the floor.
Tim Hardaway Jr., who went No. 24 overall this past draft, will be the highlighted name on the Summer League roster. Depending on how Shumpert is used, the Knicks might need Hardaway Jr. to provide some firepower off the bench.
But I actually think the most interesting name for Knick fans to watch this summer will be C.J. Leslie, whom the Knicks handed a partially guaranteed contract after he went undrafted this past June.
At 6'9'', Leslie could give the Knicks a jolt of athleticism up-front that they won't get from Amar'e Stoudemire, Chandler or Andrea Bargnani.
Leslie has the natural talent. The big question will be whether he finds a position.
Either way, Leslie was better off going undrafted and landing with a team like the Knicks than he was getting taken in the second round by a deep team with no openings.
Expect Leslie to be a hot topic in New York over the new few weeks.
It's not unreasonable for the Bobcats to expect more out of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who struggled offensively as a rookie.
They have a lot riding on this kid considering they took him No. 2 in 2012. M.K.G. hasn't proven to be much of a threat with the ball in his hands, which really limits his upside or impact as a scorer.
This summer will be a great time for him to experiment with his jumper and shot-creating skills, now that he's got a year under his belt and these game outcomes are irrelevant.
Cody Zeller will be another name to watch. The Bobcats surprised many by selecting Zeller No. 4 overall, as there are questions surrounding his toughness and strength.
But nobody questions his size and skills. Zeller in an incredible talent at 7'0'', and has the chance to become one of the better frontcourt scorers in the league. Showing he can knock down that 18-footer this summer should help open up the rest of his offensive game and increase his scoring opportunities.
Jeffrey Taylor and Bismack Biyombo are two other former draft picks who should look to make an impact in Charlotte's rotation.
In order for this team to compete now and in the future, they'll need these four guys to break through as NBA contributors.
After losing O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison in free agency, the Dallas Mavericks are all of a sudden searching for assets.
However, they might have a few gems on that Summer League roster if they can tap into their talent.
Shane Larkin is the marquee name on the list. He should get substantial playing time as a rookie, even with the team signing Jose Calderon. Larkin is the type of guy who can provide a spark off an NBA bench as a playmaker.
Ricky Ledo is another interesting name. A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Ledo was ruled ineligible as a freshman, though his reputation and physical tools kept him on NBA radars all year.
He's one of those boom-or-bust prospects, and though the boom might not come for a while, the wait could be worth the reward.
Gal Mekel should get an opportunity as well. The former Wichita State guard had been playing in Israel for the past few years before Dallas decided to scoop him this summer.
2012 second-rounder Jae Crowder also showed some promise as a rookie. There's a good chance he sees his role expand given Dallas' lack up depth up-front.
The Mavericks are in a strange position right now, and would really benefit from some youngsters emerging this summer.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland might have the majority of its second unit playing for its Summer League team.
The No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 draft, C.J. McCollum is expected to play a big role for the Blazers, likely as the sixth man.
McCollum was one of the top scorers in the country over the past four years, but in the Patriot League, his success has always come with an asterisk.
Now, he'll get the opportunity to showcase his skills against NBA-level competition.
Allen Crabbe should also have a chance at cracking this year's rotation. Crabbe was the first pick of the 2013 second round, and was a dynamic off-ball scorer at the college level.
The other big name to watch for is Meyers Leonard, last year's lottery pick who showed some promise as a rookie. At 7'1'', Leonard has fluid athleticism and a strong upper body to go with a developing post game and mid-range jumper.
After losing J.J. Hickson, Portland could really use Leonard for offensive production at the 5 spot.
The Blazers will be looking to make a move in 2013-14, but they'll probably need the help of these three young players.