NBA Summer League is filled with prospects who are currently on the outside looking in. The ultimate goal, of course, is to impress enough to make a team believe they have what it takes to break into The Association.
As fate would have it, many of these aforementioned players come about with D-League roots, After a season or two in the minor league, the summer session in Las Vegas provides them all an opportunity to show the growth in their respective skill-sets over time.
The D-League is certainly a massive hub for potential NBA talent. As the minor league continues to develop, the NBA hopes to see it progress into a spot where guaranteed future talent is found, rather than simply those young guns with "potential."
As time goes by, the NBADL is becoming a more traditional minor league of sorts. Proof of this very notion can be found in the respective stints of P.J. Hairston and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Each player declared for the NBA Draft following a year spent in the D-League, and were successfully and subsequently selected by big league teams.
As a guinea pig of sorts for such a (still) relatively new method, would Hairston recommend the D-League route to other incoming NBA draftees in the years to come?
"I would recommend it," Hairston told RidiculousUpside.com while playing for the Charlotte Hornets at NBA Summer League. "If they feel as though they need to take another path, the D-League would definitely be the way to go. You can take the opportunity to improve and then simply start your journey early."
Playing in the NBADL proved to be a worthwhile experience for Hairston, who emerged as a total stud for the Texas Legends this past season. Asserting himself offensively and experimenting with different ways to score the basketball, the young gun averaged 21.8 points (on 45% from the field and 36% from deep), 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. What's more, he also participated in the D-League Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend.
Discussing some of the main benefits to spending time in the minor league (as opposed to the NCAA) before entering the NBA Draft, Hairston asserted, "You play against guys who have been in the league for so long and have knowledge of the game. These players have played against some of the best athletes in the NBA. It definitely helped me in ways more so than I expected."
Of course, things worked out for the swingman in the end. Upon being drafted by the Miami Heat, his rights were subsequently traded to the Hornets on draft day.
As he now hopes to make an impact for a Charlotte squad that looks poised to make the playoffs, the young gun put it simply, adding, "Hopefully I'll be able to score the basketball and win some games."