Keep the Receipts: How Recent Top Picks Were Judged During Summer League

Jordan ZirmContributor IJuly 17, 2017

Keep the Receipts: How Recent Top Picks Were Judged During Summer League

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    NBA Summer League is a fickle beast. Less than a month after being drafted, top picks are shuffled off to Las Vegas or Utah or Orlando, placed on a patchwork team and asked to dominate. And with less than seven games to do so, the reactions are instantaneous.

    Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball was crushed after he shot 2-of-15 in his summer-league debut, but he has righted himself nicely since. It's laughable to scroll through some of those critical tweets now, and a reminder of how dangerous it is to make sweeping generalizations based on such small sample sizes, for performances both good and bad.

    Here's a look back at how some other top draft picks played in their first summer league, with some of the worst takes that accompanied the results.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 1 overall
    Summer league debut: 2016
    Per game stats: 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists
    Questionable take: "I'm a little bit surprised to see everyone all in on Ben Simmons after Summer League. He was…fine?" - Sam Vecenie, Sporting News

    We don't yet know what Ben Simmons will become, seeing as how he's yet to step on the court for a regular-season game in a 76ers uniform. And yes, Simmons' high turnover rate during his brief stint at NBA Summer League is sure to give his coaches pause. But for four games, the former LSU star put together near triple-double stat lines, and we're chalking that up as "fine?" Look at those passes. Tough crowd.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Hornets

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 2 overall
    Summer league debut: 2012
    Per game stats: 18 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists (one game)
    Questionable take: "It was just one game, but already, Kidd-Gilchrist showed why he's the centerpiece of the Bobcats' rebuilding effort." - Mike Prada, SB Nation

    Making sweeping judgements after one game comes back to haunt you more often than not. The smaller the sample size, the more untrustworthy the results. After Michael Kidd-Gilchrist balled out in his 2012 summer-league debut, he wouldn't see the floor again as he battled a nagging knee injury. Analysts fawned over him anyway, even choosing to chalk up his virtually unfixable jumper as something that "will improve." MKG has carved out a nice role for himself in the NBA, but "centerpiece" of a rebuild he was not. 

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 9 overall
    Summer league debut: 2012
    Per game stats: 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2 blocks
    Questionable take: "I'm Watchin this NBA summer league and ... Andre Drummond, the pistons drafted is 6'11" of sorry, Kwame brown is nicer!" [NSFW] - @ferrarilyfstyle on Twitter

    While Andre Drummond had a fairly pedestrian summer league as a rookie, he still managed to put together a couple impressive individual performances. He dropped 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against Oklahoma City, and averaging two blocks a game is nothing to scoff at. Still, fresh off predraft criticism for looking "disinterested" at times, our man above went as far as to say Kwame Brown was better. Kwame Brown! The disrespect.

Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic/Indiana Pacers

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 2 overall
    Summer league debut: 2013
    Per game stats: 19 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists
    Questionable take: "Liked Victor Oladipo to win Rookie of Year since Summer League. 13.1 pts, 6.1 rebs, 4.8 asts, 1.6 stls in preseason. STEALING at 75.8 ADP." - Adam Levitan, DraftKings

    The 2013 NBA draft will go down as one of the worst in memory (shoutout Anthony Bennett), but that didn't stop most analysts from crowning Victor Oladipo as a virtual lock for Rookie of the Year after a fairly up-and-down summer-league performance. Michael Carter-Williams, playing for a 76ers team that lost 63 games that season, took home the award instead. Whoops. 

Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers/Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 1 overall
    Summer league debut: 2014
    Per game stats: 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.3 assists
    Questionable take: "Andrew Wiggins won NBA Rookie of the Year. After his 1st NBA Summer League game, clearly nobody saw this coming." - @GeoffGrammer on Twitter

    While rumors swirled of Andrew Wiggins' inevitable trade to Minnesota in return for Kevin Love, the No. 1 overall pick did his best to ball out in summer league despite knowing the Cleveland Cavaliers uniform he was sporting wouldn't be part of his closet for long. Though he didn't shoot the ball particularly well, Wiggins threw down multiple breathtaking dunks and showed off the type of athleticism that put Timberwolves fans at ease with giving up their franchise player. Still, Wiggins had his skeptics, including the dude above who just couldn't believe Wiggins took home ROY after how he looked in summer league.

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 4 overall
    Summer league debut: 2014
    Per game stats: 7.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists
    Questionable take: "If I were the Magic I'd be regretting the choice of Aaron Gordon at 4 more and more with each summer league performance. He wasn't ready" - @NbaTalk75 on Twitter

    There's no way around it: Aaron Gordon had a hideous showing during his time as a rookie in the 2014 summer league. He scored in double-digits just once in five games. He took 10 three-pointers, for some reason, and missed them all. He shot 35 percent from the field. But he also did things that most humans shouldn't be able to do, like jump and snag an opponent's shot out of the middle of the air. Despite being the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Gordon needed time to develop.

    That didn't stop Twitter from crushing him, though. One person thought Gordon had "one of the worst summer league performances of all time." Words like "trash" and "booty" were associated with his play. The internet quickly deemed him a bust. Funny how things work out.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 1 overall
    Summer league debut: 2015
    Per game stats: 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.8 blocks
    Questionable take: "Adreian Payne Outshining Karl-Anthony Towns is Huge Win For Wolves" - Ryan Heckman, Rant Sports

    For a No. 1 overall draft pick, Karl-Anthony Towns didn't exactly light up Las Vegas during his time at the 2015 NBA Summer League. He shot under 40 percent from the field and averaged a tick under 13 points per game. But his rebounding and block numbers screamed "superstar," and reviews of his summer-league performance were generally positive. Not everyone was sold on the Kentucky big man, though, including one writer who couldn't stop raving about how teammate Adriean Payne "outshined" Towns throughout summer league.

    Payne is no longer in the NBA.

Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 3 overall
    Summer league debut: 2015
    Per game stats: 18.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.0 block
    Questionable take: "Told everybody @JahlilOkafor was the best player in the draft and he's only in summer league and already proving he is the best" - @jlex15 on Twitter

    Okafor appeared in just two games during the 2015 NBA Summer League, but that was apparently enough for a lot of people on Twitter to crown him the best player of the entire 2015 NBA draft. Now Philly fans can't wait for the former Duke big man to be shipped out of town.

Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves/Chicago Bulls

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 5 overall
    Summer league debut: 2016
    Per game stats: 24 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists
    Questionable take: "If Kris Dunn can perform in the regular season like he has done in the Summer League then he is ROTY for sure, already calling it" - @TheWelshManc on Twitter

    Continuing the pattern of small sample sizes equal terrible takes, Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Kris Dunn set the 2016 summer league on fire by balling out...for two games. Dunn's play, combined with that of fellow point guard and teammate Tyus Jones, had Wolves fans dreaming of a devastating backcourt for years to come, and the Rookie of the Year trophy had virtually already been handed to Dunn. Then the regular season began, and Dunn came crashing back down to Earth.

Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Pick: No. 4 overall
    Summer league debut: 2016
    Per game stats: 8.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 block
    Questionable take: "Just watched Dragan Bender miss two FTs to win a summer league game and I've never been more confident predicting someone a future bust" - @ShinSooJew on Twitter

    Dragan Bender may very well end up a bust. Coming off the bench as a rookie for the Phoenix Suns, the Croatian 7-footer averaged just 3.4 points per game last season. But to crown the dude a bust because he missed two free throws toward the end of a tie game? In summer league? C'mon, man. That's too much.