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What Are the Values of NBA Teams During Summer League?

Plenty of top notch D-League players are sitting on NBA Summer League benches in favor of players already under contract. Are NBA teams getting the most out of participating?


Between Orlando and Las Vegas, NBA teams are able to welcome an array of intriguing players (whether they be veterans on the comeback trail or promising prospects) to come play for their Summer League squads in order to get a closer look at what such players have to offer. With the opportunity to shine and open the door to a potential training camp invite, perhaps there for the taking, these athletes usually jump at the chance.

But once they arrive, they're then at the mercy of the team's coaching staff. Of course, going through the motions simply to compete and participate in practices under NBA coaching is certainly worth something too, but so is actually getting onto the court.

To say a player (one that craves any and all decent opportunities) is at the "mercy" of a coaching staff is an assertion shouldn't be taken too seriously. NBA Summer League is the chance of a lifetime for most aspiring NBA players. Just sometimes, perhaps, the teams fail to really explore the talent available to them in this short amount of time.

And that's because the teams have other priorities, as well. Working out and providing some of the already existent young guns on a roster extra exposure often becomes an NBA team's number one objective during Summer League. Such a strategy certainly makes sense for rookies and/or players who have previously spent time overseas, because this may be a team's initial opportunity to see them compete against other NBA-level players.

Still, in the case of players who have spent a year or two (or even three) in the league already, how much is there to gain by playing them more minutes through Summer League? With a year or two in the NBA under a player's belt, shouldn't teams hope they'd be able to compete at a higher level than simply just Summer League?

Take Jeremy Lamb and/or Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder, for instance. With Kevin Martin off to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, both players will be expected to step up and make meaningful contributions off the OKC bench. The Thunder, of course, are a team with NBA title aspirations, so how does what either one of those players can do against Summer League competition mean anything at all?

Instead, teams should be giving other players a chance; ones that are currently competing for potential open roster spots. If Summer League is the only place a team will get to see them play against similar competition, then perhaps such an opportunity should be maximized to the fullest.

OKCis simply just one example of a team potentially missing the mark when it comes to Summer League. All throughout Orlando, there are plenty of players who tore up the D-League last season simply sitting on Summer League benches and/or alternating playing in games with other players already under contract. What's the point?

Summer League should be about those players without contracts, because such sessions essentially serve as tryouts of sorts anyway.