Very few NBA prospects burst onto basketball’s biggest stage without proving their mettle in Summer League play. For many of the players in Las Vegas attempting to earn a roster spot this week, this will be their only chance.
While every player in the NBA Summer League still has something to prove, some are under a little more pressure than others. Even first-round draft picks are far from being guaranteed an NBA future, and every one must show he belongs at the highest level of the game.
For the following players, the Las Vegas Summer League is absolutely crucial to their NBA future—or, at the very least, their prospects of making a splash this season.
Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats
Jeffery Taylor didn’t enter Summer League play with overly lofty expectations, but his performance on Day 1 was enough to warrant a little added pressure.
The second-year shooting guard was tremendous in his first appearance with the Bobcats this summer, tallying 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 30 minutes of action.
Considering Charlotte’s relative lack of depth at the shooting guard and small forward positions, Taylor has an opportunity to earn plenty of minutes with a good performance in Summer League play. If he can add on to his 24-point performance from Day 1, Charlotte may have to give him a closer look as the season approaches.
Taylor hasn’t exactly been yoked with lofty expectations—and one performance isn’t indicative of his NBA future—but the 24-year-old Vanderbilt product has set the tone for an eye-opening Summer League campaign. With another solid outing on Sunday, the Bobcats will have to keep a close eye on Taylor going forward.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Former Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum entered the draft with several question marks. He’s shown the scoring ability to make an impact at the NBA level, but McCollum doesn’t exactly fit the traditional NBA mold for perimeter scorers.
At 6’3”, McCollum is a little undersized for the 2-guard position, but he hasn’t shown the ball-handling and passing skills to be considered a viable point guard candidate—not to mention the presence of 2012 Rookie of the Year point guard Damian Lillard on Portland’s roster.
For McCollum, the Summer League is an opportunity to prove the Trail Blazers made the right choice in selecting him in the first round to team up with Lillard as a deadly NBA scorer.
McCollum got off to a good start on Saturday with a 22-point outpouring, but he wasn’t exactly efficient in doing so, shooting just 9-of-19 from the field.
If he is to be a viable option next to Lillard, he’ll have to show a little more efficiency and consistency. He’ll have an opportunity to do so Sunday in the team’s contest with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Vander Blue, Memphis Grizzlies
Marquette product Vander Blue shocked everyone when he decided to declare for the NBA draft following a breakout junior campaign.
Unfortunately for the combo guard, he went undrafted and is now fighting for an NBA future as a part of the Memphis Grizzlies’ Summer League roster.
At 6’5”, Blue has the size to play either guard position in the NBA, but his shot isn’t nearly as consistent as the Grizzlies would probably like to see—and a 2-of-12 performance from the floor in the team’s opening contest probably didn’t help matters.
If Blue hopes to make it onto an NBA roster this season, he’ll have to show a lot more at the offensive end. No undrafted player has quite as much to prove, and Blue will need to step up on Day 3 if he is to prove his detractors wrong.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards
Otto Porter isn’t in any danger of losing out on a roster spot this season, but he certainly faces an opportunity to garner additional minutes from the onset with a good Summer League showing.
Unfortunately, Porter got off to a slow start in Washington’s first contest, going just 3-of-13 from the field and finishing with just seven points in 30 minutes of action.
The Georgetown product earned the No. 3 overall selection with his versatile, do-it-all skill set and strong work ethic, but that won’t be enough to survive at the professional level. Porter also has to prove he can put the ball in the basket.
Every rookie faces jitters, and Porter is probably no exception. His first-game struggles probably won’t continue, but he still has plenty to prove as Summer League play continues on Sunday.