My 2016 Vegas Weekend at The NBA Summer League (Featuring As Many Misses on Talent as Your Company)...
Went to Vegas last weekend with a few bloggers of note - Steve Boese and Matt Stollak. Our destination had a nerd quality to it - The NBA Summer League, where professional basketball hopefuls convene to prove they have what it takes to be one of 450 players who play in the best hoops league in the world.
Now - you should know that only about 20% of the players who attend and play in the Vegas Summer League are actual NBA players - the rest are draft choices and free agents who are scrapping and doing whatever it takes to impress the teams.
Why go to this event? First, we like hoops. More importantly, I go because there's a huge morality play on talent going on at the Summer League. If NBA veterans are the best 450 players in the world, what we saw is 451-1500, and the differences are pretty small between spots 350 to 450 in the NBA and the better players in the summer league. Who decides? What makes the difference between making a NBA roster and going to Turdistan to play next winter?
As it turns out, the NBA's probably no better at evaluating talent than the rest of us - and there's a lesson in that. Here's the story of the weekend as told through my Instagram account (enable pictures if you viewing this in email or just click through - captions and comments included with the picture).
Our tour begins with the summer league appearance of Josh Magette, who hails from Birmingham/Spain Park/Alabama-Huntsville. Josh is playing in Vegas for the Brooklyn Nets and has worked his *** off for the last 4 years just to have the chance here to prove he belongs. Oh yeah, he's listed at 6'1 and 160 pounds. We watched him from 8 rows up yesterday, and the fact that he's here makes him a freak of determination and grit. That plus he can ball. All you Bham kids should make this into a poster, because you have a lot more in common with Josh than most of the guys you follow.
More from the Summer League. This is Adrian Wojnarowski, known to the basketball community as "WOJ". When you're following all your free agent news in the NBA, WOJ is the guy who breaks 80% of that news. He works for Yahoo, and as evidence of how the NBA feels about both Yahoo and WOJ having the power he does, consider the scene. He's taping video segments with guests, and the NBA put him OUTSIDE THE LADIES BATHROOM on the concourse with all the fans. To his credit, WOJ doesn't care. He just powered through it and solidified his power base for further rumors/news by interviewing 200 people. If you're into Game of Thrones, he's Varys.
Welcome back to the NBA Summer League. This is Sam Hinkie in the blue blazer. He used to be the GM of the Philadelphia 76ers before Adam Silver installed the Colangeo mafia in the franchise and he was effectively fired. He's here at the summer league reminding people that the 76ers were awful not because he was bad at his job, but because that was the plan. He's hoping Ben Simmons explodes and his legacy improves as a result. He's generally available for conversations in the concourse, which is one of the endearing things about summer league. Still, only about 10% of attendees know who he is, because he looks like a Sr. Accountant at your company.
More from my visit with the 8-Man Rotation crew to the NBA Summer League in Vegas. This is Dennis Schröder of the Atlanta Hawks. I call him G-Rondo because he plays like Rondo and hails from Germany. The Hawks just traded Jeff Teague and handed him the keys to the point guard position. That's a smart money move, we'll see if it works out. I'm rooting for him, but I would say there's an inverse relationship to how much time an NBA starter spends hanging out at the Summer League (they don't play, they just watch - and it's Vegas) and how successful he is the following year. GRondo was here for over a week. Do your best employees long to hang out at job fairs you're running? I think not, it's probably a sign that there's going to be some growing pains with G-Rondo this year.
Last post from the NBA Summer League in Vegas. This is Danny Ainge, GM of the Boston Celtics and someone the Celtic faithful love. He was here this week to watch the 3rd overall pick, Jaylen Brown, from Cal, a pick that was panned by the industry as a reach. We saw Danny courtside and it was fun to watch him ride the D-League refs like a dad - still ultra-competitive. He got quiet towards the end as it became evident that Brown's probably going to be bit of a project as he had a hard time finishing - he finished shooting 32% for the week. He'll back up Crowder and get to work it out on the court, I suspect. It's like when you rep the candidate that no one else wanted to hire at your company and they struggle a bit out of the gate. You gotta support, but still, in the back of your mind you're thinking - ugh.