More often than not, NBA Summer League isn't filled with the most polished and/or flashy athletes The Association has to offer. Instead, the slew of NBA squads competing in Las Vegas look to experiment and take chances on intriguing young guns who may catch their eye. Do such players have potential? Can one or two be considered a worthwhile project? Is there something present in such players' abilities to warrant a training camp invite?
All of these questions are surely ones that cross the minds of NBA executives when putting together and/or subsequently reviewing their respective rosters for Summer League. Las Vegas provides an opportunity for the sport's up and coming athletes to get looked at once and for all.
Of course, many of the D-League's most promising prospects happen to fit that exact mold. But for others, (such as Ron Howard and Tre Kelley for example) the objective becomes proving they have what it takes to help an NBA team right now. While such players aren't exactly youngsters anymore, the experience they've happened to gain is perhaps sometimes more valuable than a higher potential ceiling moving forward. Being a proven player can ultimately trump the otherwise unknown, depending on what an NBA team is looking for.
With that in mind, perhaps the D-League Select Team, made up of some of the more talented players the league has had to offer in recent seasons (Howard and Kelley included) has more to prove. As the pressure mounts, it's clear there's a certain sense of urgency for some players.
Going on to beat those athletes who are already hitting hardwoods across the NBA probably goes a long way towards proving something.
Coach Steve Gansey, the recently crowned D-League championship winning assistant coach, is serving in a similar capacity for the Select Team under Coach Conner Henry. He happens to agree that the pressure to succeed is quite high.
"I think so. It is Summer League and a lot of NBA teams are looking at certain players. But for the D-League [Select Team], just because we have veteran guys, we expect to win these games," the assistant told RidiculousUpside.com. "They're not rookies or college guys that have just gotten drafted. They have experience and they should feel pressure. They've been there before and know the rules. We expect to win."
But from a player's prospective, this past season's co-M.V.P., Mad Ants guard Ron Howard, happens to disagree with such a suggestion. He asserted, "There's pressure for everyone here. I think it's the same amount of pressure. Andrew Wiggins has plenty of pressure on him because he's a number one pick. You look at a guy like Anthony Bennett, and he's someone who people are expecting to see improve." Discussing his situation more closely, the veteran added, "For D-League guys like myself, the pressure continues to be simply impressing general managers and convincing them that we deserve the shot that we've been working so hard for."
In need of a tiebreaker in such a debate, RidiculousUpside.com turned to Coach Henry to be the deciding vote in this instance. As fate would have it, he downplayed the notion as well. This past season's Coach of the Year recipient added, "I think there are people who believe we take this opportunity much more seriously than other teams. That's absolutely ridiculous."
Coach Henry concluded by saying, "As far as I know, last I checked, they keep score. Whenever there's a score to be kept, people want to win. Having said that, we have four or five guys that have a shot. I just try and put guys in the position to be successful. They don't need to score a lot of points. They just need to look like basketball players. If an NBA executive thinks a kid has a chance because he can do all the little things, maybe he'll get invited to camp."
With Coach Henry and co. leading the way for this deserving group of guys, there's certainly reason to be optimistic.