Winners and Losers from 2013 NBA Summer League

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 23, 2013

Winners and Losers from 2013 NBA Summer League

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    The 2013 NBA Summer League won't make or break the careers of any players, whether experienced veterans or rookies playing professional basketball for the first time. However, it can get careers started down the right or wrong track, as it's done for the biggest winners and losers.

    Action in Orlando and Las Vegas often occurred at a ridiculously fast pace. Turnovers ran rampant, outside shooting was difficult and defense was virtually nonexistent at times.

    It's important to remember what we're dealing with, as there's no strict correlation between summer league performances and future NBA success. For every player who thrives against the lesser competition and continues to do so when the real action begins, there are a handful of players who can't maintain that level of impact.

    That said, summer league is what we've got, so summer league is what we're dealing with.

    The winners in this slideshow proved that they were too good for this level of competition. They thrived, both statistically and in terms of the eye test, giving clear indications that their success would carry over to the next stage of their careers in the Association.

    The losers struggled, though that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be bad forever. Some of the players included just forced us to lower our expectations thanks to their prolonged struggles.

    It's also crucial to remember that a failure to appear in this slideshow doesn't mean a player wasn't a winner or loser. Guys like Archie Goodwin, Reggie Bullock and the Morris twins were all winners, but they weren't big enough winners to earn a featured spot here.

Winner: Atlanta Hawks

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    Technically, the Atlanta Hawks were actually losers during Las Vegas Summer League action. They went 1-4, beating only the Miami Heat and finishing out of the cellar thanks to playing one fewer game than the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

    However, it was still an overwhelmingly positive experience.

    Atlanta was arguably the most entertaining team participating, throwing near-constant alley-oops, showing off multiple intriguing prospects and captivating audiences with a reckless style of play. Plus, between Ed Daniel's Ben Wallace hairstyle and Lucas Nogueira's uncontainable afro, the Hawks dominated the hair game.

    That said, it was all about the development of four players for Atlanta.

    Neither John Jenkins nor Mike Scott stood out during his rookie season, but they both looked much better against the weaker competition provided for them by Sin City.

    Scott showed off an expanded range, one that allowed him to step back behind the three-point arc and drill triples. He shot only 25 percent from downtown, but the stroke and confidence were both there, which is an encouraging sign. The Virginia product also spent plenty of time flying through the air and attacking the rim so relentlessly that he had two games where he shot at least 12 free throws and was perfect from the line.

    As for Jenkins, he was significantly more aggressive than ever before. While he shot below 40 percent from the field, he was in constant attack mode and created off the dribble better than he was able to coming out of Vanderbilt.

    However, both Jenkins and Scott paled in comparison to Nogueira and Dennis Schroeder.

    The Brazilian big man ran the court remarkably well and was a shot-blocking force. He seemed much further along than expected and should be able to remain with the team to work on his body rather than playing in a lesser league.

    Schroeder was even more impressive, and he should immediately challenge Jeff Teague for minutes. Showing off video-game quickness and a remarkable passing ability, the German floor general thrived with the ball in his hands, and he caused defenses many nightmares.

    The Hawks look like they've found a few franchise centerpieces.

Loser: Tony Wroten

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    When Tony Wroten left Washington after making the All-Pac-12 Team during his freshman season, he was an inexperienced guard full of potential. He possessed a broken jumper, but his size, athleticism, defensive skills and passing abilities were supposed to make him valuable even while he fixed the shot.

    They didn't.

    Wroten played in 35 games for the Memphis Grizzlies as a rookie, averaging 2.6 points, 0.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest. Lackluster numbers, to be sure. They were made even more disappointing by his 38.4 percent shooting from the field.

    After a full season and much of the next offseason, Wroten has taken exactly zero steps forward. His jumper is still decrepit, and he put that on full display throughout his time in Vegas.

    The former Husky averaged 12.2 points per game, but he did so on 25.3 percent shooting from the field. He lofted up 30 attempts from behind the three-point arc and made just five of them, good—err, bad?—for 16.7 percent.

    Without any semblance of a jumper to keep defenses honest, Wroten's offensive effectiveness is nonexistent.

Winner: Kelly Olynyk

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    Getting to hang out inside the scoreboard at Fenway Park is enough to make anyone a winner, but Kelly Olynyk's play also thrust him firmly into that category.

    From the first day of the Orlando Summer League, it was quite clear that the Boston Celtics had a special offensive talent on their hands. Even though the C's ultimately lost to Victor Oladipo and the Orlando Magic, Olynyk put on a show with 25 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals on 9-of-12 shooting from the field.

    The big man from Gonzaga finished his tour of dominance averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 57.8 percent. But it was about more than the numbers.

    While the concerns about Olynyk's soft and ineffective play on defense proved to be well-founded ones, he was every bit as good as advertised offensively. His range extended out behind the arc, and he dazzled with ball skills in transition, mid-range jumpers and his work on the blocks.

    Whether he was spinning around a defender, driving to the rim or using a flawless up-and-under, it was clear Olynyk was just on a different level as a scoring big man. That skill certainly appears as though it will translate to the true NBA level with ease.

Loser: Trey Burke

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    I was firmly convinced that Trey Burke was the best point guard in this draft class, but summer league didn't exactly do much to back up that viewpoint. If anything, it allowed Dennis Schroeder to insert his name firmly into that conversation.

    Burke just never got it going for the Utah Jazz.

    His shot couldn't find the bottom of the net, and there was a significant trickle-down effect that plagued the rest of his game. His per-game averages—8.8 points and 4.0 assists—look bad enough, but they get worse when paired with his efficiency numbers.

    The Michigan product had a 24.1 field-goal percentage, lowlighted by putrid 1-of-19 shooting from behind the three-point arc.

    While Burke looked smooth with the ball in his hands, the results weren't as pretty as the process. He simply wasn't able to make plays, and defenders dared him to shoot. So much for an easy adjustment to the NBA.

    Throughout his basketball career, Burke has been able to use his scoring instincts as a springboard to overcome his lack of height. For the first time, that didn't come naturally to him.

    A four-game stretch that technically doesn't even count shouldn't dissuade the Jazz from feeling like they've found their floor general of the future, but a tempering of expectations might be necessary.

Winner: Experienced Post Players

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    Summer league is a place where inexperienced players attempt to prove their worth, but that results in a lot of sloppy play and a shocking lack of defense. Guards typically struggle to remain efficient, and dominant post players can, well, dominate.

    Such was the case for a trio of emerging big men: John Henson, Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas.

    Henson, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, proved that he should be getting major minutes alongside Larry Sanders. The shot-blocking potential of that duo is so remarkable that players who enjoy attacking the rim should consider bringing a spare pair of shorts to games in case they wet themselves.

    The North Carolina product averaged 14.7 points per game, but it was his 13.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 54.8 percent shooting from the field that truly allowed him to stand out. He crashed the boards like his life depended on it, and he truly controlled the paint defensively.

    Drummond was similarly impressive, and he gave new meaning to the phrase "man amongst boys."

    No one could physically match up against Drummond, as he took full advantage of his physical tools. The result? 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per game, as well as an overwhelming feeling that he's about to enjoy a stellar sophomore season.

    Then there's the Lithuanian center who earned MVP honors in Las Vegas.

    Shooting 56.1 percent on his field-goal attempts, Valanciunas averaged 18.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 87.3 dunks per game. That last number is an exaggeration, but it only seems like a small one.

    More so than any other group of players, this trio of second-year big men truly stood out.

Loser: Ben McLemore

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    If Ben McLemore ever owns a theme park, he's going to name the first roller coaster he builds after the Las Vegas Summer League.

    His experience in Sin City was just that up and down.

    There were certainly high points: his second half against the Atlanta Hawks, one punctuated by a thunderous transition slam in the face of Mike Scott, and his 26-point outing against the Toronto Raptors, for example.

    However, the low points trumped everything else.

    McLemore never found his rhythm, and he proved that the transition from Kansas to the NBA is going to be a bit tougher than expected.

    In particular, the shooting guard just couldn't find his stroke. He shot 33.3 percent from the field and made only seven three-pointers on 36 attempts. In fact, he began his professional career by finding the bottom of the net on only two of his first 18 shots from downtown.

    While it was encouraging to see McLemore showing off an aggressive, attacking mentality, the results weren't quite so positive. Perhaps another five games would have allowed him to work his way to a more neutral standing, but the limited action left him as a loser.

Winner: Dwight Buycks

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    Dwight Buycks is what summer league is all about.

    How many people had heard of him before he started dominating in both Orlando and Las Vegas?

    The point guard went undrafted out of Marquette in 2011 and then played for the D-League's Tulsa 66ers. In fact, he played well enough to make the All-Rookie First Team, but not well enough to land in the NBA. Buycks played in Belgium and France before returning to the U.S. this summer.

    Now, he's going to be making his NBA debut in 2013-14.

    Buycks turned his offensive dominance and blazing speed with the ball into a contract with the Toronto Raptors, and he appears poised to challenge D.J. Augustin and Julyan Stone as the primary backup to Kyle Lowry.

    The former Golden Eagle was given an opportunity, and he seized it, putting up 14 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting in six summer league games, along with 6.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals. What more could you want?

    In terms of winners, it's hard to find a bigger one than an undrafted player who carved out a career overseas before parlaying summer league success into a contract with the Raptors.

    Major props, Dwight.

Loser: Otto Porter

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    Otto Porter was supposed to be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft class. His versatility all but insured he'd make an immediate impact for the Washington Wizards and help push them into the promised land of postseason play.

    Apparently, even the players with that coveted "NBA-ready" line on their resumes are prone to struggles when going to work in Vegas.

    Before a hamstring injury knocked him out and prevented him from showing improvement, Porter just couldn't get it going. He averaged 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game for the Wizards, shooting only 30 percent from the field and missing all five three-point attempts.

    For comparison's sake, Glen Rice Jr., Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Marquez Haynes and Devin Booker all averaged more points.

    Porter also struggled to make a sizable defensive impact or leave much of a lasting impression. There's plenty of time for him to prove that the "NBA-ready" tag wasn't handed out incorrectly, but he didn't exactly get off to a good start.

    When you're the No. 3 pick, you're held to higher expectations than this.

Winner: Golden State Warriors Guards

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    Coming into summer league, not many people were too familiar with what Kent Bazemore and Ian Clark could do on the basketball court. 

    Bazemore ranked 499th in ESPN's 2012 set of player rankings, something he's now using as motivation (h/t Dan Favale), and he was known exclusively for his enthusiastic celebrations on the bench.

    That was it.

    As for Clark, he was an undrafted rookie out of Belmont without much hope of an immediate NBA future.

    Now let's fast-forward to the post-summer league view.

    Bazemore averaged 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, dominating the offensive action while punctuating his performance with a few highlight slams. His athleticism was on full display, and he appears to have carved out a much larger role for himself with the Golden State Warriors.

    The Dubs can no longer keep him locked up on the bench as the game's best cheerleader. He should now have the opportunity to cheer from the hardwood instead of the pine.

    Clark was similarly impressive, averaging 12.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting a scorching 48.5 percent from behind the arc. It was his performance in the championship game that truly turned heads, though.

    En route to winning MVP, the Belmont product put up 33 points, two rebounds and two assists on 12-of-19 shooting in the 91-77 blowout victory over the Phoenix Suns. He could proudly hold up the trophy, knowing that he'd drilled seven of his 10 triples.

    Clark is still without an NBA contract, but he's sure to get a lot more attention after his stellar showing in the most important game of the summer.

Loser: Michael Carter-Williams

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    Michael Carter-Williams certainly impressed at times during his five-game stint in the Orlando Summer League, but there were too many negative aspects to his performance for him to avoid the "loser" tag.

    Only Cedric Jackson averaged more dimes than MCW's 6.8 per game, but we already knew that the Syracuse product was a great passer. He still struggled to make plays in the half-court sets, racking up the assists mostly in transition, aided by the inevitable breakneck pace of summer league.

    Carter-Williams also averaged 13.6 points per game, but he did so while shooting 27.1 percent from the field. His most efficient performance came in the first game, an 88-80 loss to the Houston Rockets. In that contest, he shot 8-of-23 from the field.

    Again, that was his most efficient performance.

    The point guard of the future for the Philadelphia 76ers, MCW also made only three of his 19 attempts from behind the three-point arc. And it gets worse as we move on past his shooting.

    How about the turnovers?

    Even when factoring in the donut in the turnover column against the Indiana Pacers, Carter-Williams still averaged 4.8 turnovers per contest. He almost recorded triple-doubles on two separate occasions, assuming that cough-ups can count as the third category.

    There were certainly positive aspects to Carter-Williams' performance, especially when he drove to the rim in transition, but there were far more negatives.