Biggest Hidden Gems Who Boosted NBA Stock During 2013 Summer League
The 2013 NBA Summer League, both the Las Vegas and Orlando portions, presents a multi-week opportunity for players to transition from unknown to, well, known. Many players did so, but these seven players should be able to remain in the latter category.
Not all of them will, and that's the problem with summer league in a nutshell. For every handful of players who emerge against the weak competition, only one or two manage to remain prominent NBA players. Many more flame out against the sport's highest-quality players.
It's important to take everything about summer league with a grain of salt, but these seven players have broken out and should continue to remain quality players (to varying degrees, of course).
For the purposes of this slideshow, I'm focusing only on the true hidden gems. Members of the 2013 draft class—even those who went undrafted—are not eligible, and there's a strict ban on players who are already familiar to NBA fans.
Even guys like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are considered too well known for the purposes of this piece. They may be gems, but they're not hidden. Jackson broke out a bit during the postseason and was expected to thrive in summer league. Lamb is still only one year removed from being a lottery pick.
These guys are flying under the radar, but they won't be for long.
7. Jeremy Evans
Team: Utah Jazz
Orlando Summer League Stats: 10.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks
Jeremy Evans' athleticism allowed him to shine brightly this summer. The uptempo style in both Orlando and Las Vegas leaves players gasping for air, but it also lets this ridiculously athletic 6'9" big man outrun the competition over and over.
Last year, Evans had a ridiculous block and dunk during preseason action, then won the 2012 Slam Dunk Contest. However, he didn't make much noise on the court, playing only 5.8 minutes per game for the Utah Jazz. It was the third season in a row that his minutes declined.
Now he's hoping to actually make a name for himself because of his play, not just his highlights when the action doesn't count.
Summer league was a good start for Evans, who stuffed the stat sheet in Orlando while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Athleticism is still the big man's primary calling card, but he turned those hops into productive play over the four-game stretch.
Given the rebuilding nature of Utah's roster, expect Evans to turn this success into some more playing time during his fourth pro season.
6. Jarvis Varnado
Team: Miami Heat
Orlando Summer League Stats: 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.0 blocks
In eight games with the Miami Heat during the 2012-13 campaign, Jarvis Varnado averaged 1.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes. Those aren't even per-game stats, and they're still pretty putrid.
However, he's turned around his career this summer to such an extent that the Heat have to seriously consider bringing him back.
The 6'10" Varnado was a solid defender in Orlando, and he swatted the ball away more frequently than any other player. He and Miles Plumlee tied for the lead in blocks per game, which is only fitting for the NCAA's all-time leading shot-blocker.
The biggest positive sign, though, is his expanding offensive game. Varnado was way too much of a liability in the past, but he's shown positive aspects on that end of the court. The highlight was a 19-foot jumper against the Utah Jazz. That's 11 feet longer than anything he made as a rookie.
5. Kent Bazemore
Team: Golden State Warriors
Las Vegas Summer League Stats: 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.2 blocks
Kent Bazemore may actually be the most well-known player featured in this article, thanks primarily to his ridiculous celebrations on the Golden State Warriors bench last postseason. The shooting guard is nothing if not enthusiastic while supporting his teammates after every single positive play.
However, Bazemore has gotten a chance to make the positive plays himself during summer league, and he's excelled. Only six players have outscored him, and he's broken into the 20s on three separate occasions.
With an opportunity to showcase his athleticism, Bazemore has taken advantage. This lefty slam and this posterization of Jackie Carmichael (wasn't going undrafted enough for Carmichael? Did Bazemore have to rub it in?) will remain enduring highlights from 2013 summer league action, and they're proof that he can play.
On one hand, it would be great to see Bazemore use this as a springboard toward more playing time with the Dubs. He's certainly earned it with his undeniably positive energy for the team. However, Bazemore spending less time on the bench would be a major loss for NBA fans everywhere.
4. Mike Scott
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Las Vegas Summer League Stats: 18.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.4 steals
The Atlanta Hawks absolutely have to find a spot for Mike Scott on the regular-season roster. He's earned that right, even if he was embarrassed by Ben McLemore during his final game.
Atlanta's second-round pick in 2012, Scott averaged 18.6 points, leaving him trailing only Dwight Buycks, C.J. McCollum, Andrew Goudelock, Jeffery Taylor and Jonas Valanciunas in the category. Even more impressively, he did so on only 13 shots per game.
With constant aggression, the Virginia product was always able to work his way to the charity stripe when he wasn't displaying his impressive mid-range shooting. He shot 91.2 percent from the stripe, highlighted by 12-of-12 and 13-of-13 outings.
Scott also displayed expanded range on his jumper, stepping behind the arc and still making his shots. He only drained a quarter of his looks, but the stroke and confidence were noticeably improved.
Known as one of the most efficient shooters in college, Scott is now looking to let that talent shine through in the big leagues. So far, he's doing exactly that.
3. Marquis Teague
Team: Chicago Bulls
Las Vegas Summer League Stats: 18.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.5 steals
On the heels of Nate Robinson's signing with the Denver Nuggets, per USA Today's Sam Amick, maybe the Windy City residents shouldn't be too worried about the depth behind Derrick Rose. Kirk Hinrich is a capable backup, and Marquis Teague seems to be rounding into form more quickly than expected.
When you impress Tom Thibodeau, you're doing a good job. Said the head coach of Teague, per ESPN's Nick Friedell:
I think the big thing for him is to build confidence. This is really the first step toward next season so as we saw with Jimmy [Butler] last year, Jimmy did the same thing. Season ended, he came in, started working, had a great Summer League, came back to Chicago, continued to work, great fall practice, great training camp and was ready to roll. Hopefully that will be the case with Marquis.
If Teague can follow in Jimmy Butler's blueprint, something tells me that Bulls fans will be thrilled.
The 20-year-old point guard (yes, you read that correctly) showed signs of major offensive improvement during his time in Vegas. He was the No. 7 leading scorer, and many of those points came from behind the three-point arc.
Teague looked more confident firing away from downtown, and he scorched the nets by hitting six of his eight attempts throughout the four-game stretch. This is the same guy who went 4-of-23 behind the arc during his first season out of Kentucky.
If Teague's recent showing isn't just a mirage, he's going to figure into Chicago's plans with a much larger role.
2. Jeffery Taylor
Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Las Vegas Summer League Stats: 20.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks
Jeffery Taylor sat out the Charlotte Bobcats' final game in Las Vegas, but that was only because he'd already proven himself. There was nothing more for him to show after four games of dominance during his second summer as a pro.
The 6'7" swingman entered the league as a lockdown defender with some offensive potential, and that potential is now being realized. He's showed tremendous range with his jumper in recent showings, even making seven of his 19 attempts from downtown.
But it was his aggression—notice a theme here?—that truly allowed Taylor to stand out.
Ever since his time at Vanderbilt, the small forward has been a cerebral player. He doesn't try to make too much happen; rather, he plays to his skills and stays far away from his weaknesses. That remained true in Vegas, as Taylor always looked to be in perfect control. Plus, he can do this.
Charlotte's future continues to look brighter, and Taylor could end up playing a larger part in it than originally expected.
1. Dwight Buycks
Team: Toronto Raptors
Orlando Summer League Stats (OKC): 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals (with Thunder)
Las Vegas Summer League Stats (TOR): 23.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.0 steals (with Raptors)
So, where exactly did this guy come from?
Dwight Buycks went undrafted out of Marquette in 2011, played well enough in the D-League to make the All-Rookie First Team, then left to play abroad. He spent time in Belgium and France before coming back stateside this summer.
It was a fantastic decision, as he was able to parlay his skills as a floor general into a two-year contract with the Toronto Raptors. Think about that for a second: After playing just two games for the team, Buycks was signed.
His constant aggression and speed with the ball in his hands has paid large dividends, and he'll be a journeyman no longer. Instead, Buycks will be battling D.J. Augustin as Kyle Lowry's primary backup north of the border, with the ability to carve out an even larger role down the road.
This is what summer league is all about.