Any NBA player-evaluation exercise that’s connected to summer league performance should be accompanied by a disclaimer.
And here’s that disclaimer: Some player may look tremendous in a summer league game because he really is tremendous, but probably just appears to be tremendous relative to the competition. Especially if he’s a rookie.
Or, as one of four NBA personnel employees contacted for this column explains, “You can’t always use the summer league to be certain which players can play, but it does give you a nice head start on deciding who can’t.”
With that in the air, we’re here to review last month’s NBA Draft, consider this month’s summer league results and offer up a draft lottery do-over provided by the collective reconsiderations of the aforementioned personnel quartet.
It should be noted that the altered lottery lineup may not represent an evaluation change for the teams making the picks. For example, if Hasheem Thabeet’s reality-based spot at No. 2 in the draft has been claimed on our list by another player, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fab four believe the Memphis Grizzlies should have selected that player.
We’re only using summer-ball-related fickleness to potentially alter how four personnel guys rank the best 14.
Away we go.
1.Blake Griffin, power forward, Oklahoma (Reality is No. 1 by the Los Angeles Clippers): So Griffin stays firm at No. 1 based on looking like a Stealth jet among propeller planes during the Las Vegas Summer League .
“He has a chance to be an All-Star … and not too far down the road,” said one of our panel members. “But I have to say I’m not wild about what seems to be his belief that he should grab a rebound and lead the fast break. Whoa … not good.”
2. Tyreke Evans, combo guard, Memphis (Reality is No. 4 by the Sacramento Kings): Three of our four panel members believe Evans is only masquerading as a point guard, but the consensus is that if the Kings may have something here.
“He’ll be a turnover machine early in his career,” one panel member said, “but, man, that kid can get to the cup and he’s strong as a bull.”
3. James Harden, shooting guard, Arizona State (Reality is No. 3 by the Oklahoma City Thunder): The consensus is that while he’s no threat to revolutionize the sport, Harden also seems immune from wrecking the Thunder while assimilating in the league.
“He’s really, really solid,” a panel member said. “That’s what we’ve come to … being thrilled when the No. 3 overall pick is solid enough to not screw a team up.”
4. Jonny Flynn, point guard, Syracuse (Reality is No. 6 by the Minnesota Timberwolves): All four panel members insist they were this high on Flynn before the draft. I think at least two are lying.
“Our league is made for guys like him,” one scout said.
5. Austin Daye, power forward, Gonzaga (Reality is No. 15 by the Detroit Pistons): Three of the four panel members admit being surprised by the upgraded Daye’s willingness to mix it up. The fourth did a lousy job of convincing me he saw that quality in Daye before the draft.
“He won’t win the dunk contest,” one scout said, “but we still have a place for guys who can shoot and pass.”
6. Earl Clark, power forward, Louisville (Reality is No. 14 by the Phoenix Suns): Another climber, Clark showed enough competitive spirit in Las Vegas to go with his already-impressive versatility.
“He may make me look stupid once he starts going against live bullets in the regular season,” a panel member said. “But the guy can do a lot of things with the ball … most of them good.”
7. Ricky Rubio, point guard, Spain (Reality is No 5 by the Minnesota Timberwolves): While not participating in the summer leagues, memories of Rubio led to a pair of really high scores, two really low scores and this mid-range ranking.
“Based on the quality of the rookie point guards in Vegas,” one scout said, “the issues regarding Rubio’s defense, for now at least, would have been raised in a hurry if he had played out there.”
8. DeMar DeRozan, small forward, USC (Reality is No 9 by the Toronto Raptors): The panel members agreed that the bouncy freshman was pretty much what they expected.
“The summer league was made for a guy like him,” one scout said.
9. Rodrigue Beaubois, point guard, France (Reality is No. 25 by the Oklahoma City Thunder and traded to the Dallas Mavericks): Panel members were wowed by his speed and deep range, collectively bumping him up 16 spots.
“Really makes the Mavericks locking up Jason Kidd for three years, at big money, a master stroke,” said one panel member, tongue firmly in cheek. “And don’t tell me he’s the second coming of Leandro Barbosa … although there may not be anything wrong with that.”
10. Stephen Curry, combo guard, Davidson (Reality is No. 7 by the Golden State Warriors): The panel agreed that while Curry has the chops to be very good, those rampant comparisons to Steve Nash will be put on hold until Curry starts delivering at lot more passes at the right time.
“If he really works on his body and keeps at least attempting to guard people, I might be stupid for dropping him a little,” one scout said.
11. Jordan Hill, power forward, Arizona (Reality is No. 8 by the New York Knicks): Three panel members admitted Hill’s slight drop might be corrected when he starts working with experienced players in Coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.
“In that scheme, his ability to run and jump should result in nice numbers,” a scout said.
12. Brandon Jennings, point guard, Virtus Roma (Reality is No. 10 by the Milwaukee Bucks): Two of the panel members were more impressed with Jenning’s work than they thought they would be. But the slight drop can be credited to an abundance of fluff that should be de-fluffed in short order by Bucks coach Scott Skiles.
13. Hasheem Thabeet, center, Connecticut (Reality is No. 2 by the Memphis Grizzlies): While panel members weren’t exactly shocked by Thabeet’s lack of offensive chutzpah, this relative free fall is traced to concerns about his competitive spark.
“He still could turn out to be Mutombo light when they’re playing for real,” one scout said, “but the importance of having a good big can lead to some serious reaching in the draft. It’s nice to see that hasn’t changed.”
14. James Johnson, combo forward, Wake Forest (Reality is No. 16 by the Chicago Bulls): The former mixed martial artist looked fearless, for the most part, in Las Vegas and demonstrated an ability to make plays inside and out. His performance allowed Johnson to bypass (on this list at least) the likes of Terrence Williams, Gerald Henderson and Tyler Hansbrough.
“I’m not sure the Bulls know exactly where he should play,” one panel member said. “But he certainly looked like a basketball player. If he can defend a position, that should be good enough.”