On the heels of yesterday’s mildly scathing review of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Orlando Summer League debut, it’s time to examine the purpose of these semi-formal competitions.
Summer League is NOT:
- An exact measure of a player’s projected regular-season impact
- A predictor of a team’s future success
- A display of high-quality, team-oriented basketball
Summer League IS:
- A glance at how some known, young players have added to their games
- A chance to scout some players who may have a chance to play expanded roles on their teams in the upcoming season
- A glimpse at potential meal-ticket skills or fatal flaws in previously unknown prospects
With all of that in mind, here are the winners and losers from the second day of Oklahoma City’s summer league run, which resulted in a 78-74 loss to Indiana. First, the WINNERS:
- Cole Aldrich’s Awkward Free Throw Stroke  - It may look like the evil cousin of Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes’ legendary form , but it went in four of six times today. Further investigation reveals that Aldrich has actually hit 15-18 free throws in his young NBA career, so it’s good to see him getting some reps to avoid any rust developing over the summer.
- Morris Almond/Garrett Temple - Combined for 17 points on 7-15 field goals, mostly coming on smooth-looking catch-and-shoot releases off the kind of pin-down action that the Thunder rarely ran last season. Both youngsters showed they could help fill a need for the Thunder in 2012-12.
- Kendrick Perkins’ Moving Pick Clinic - Aldrich, Perry Jones III, and newcomer Gary McGhee all showed signs of having learned the fine art of sticking out a hip when “setting” a screen. Observers can only assume Perkins gets the credit.
- Miles Plumlee’s Hair - No photos were available at press time, but his slicked-down, parted-on-the-left ‘do made him look like the world’s tallest 1930s matinee idol.
- Plus-Minus Totals - It is easy to pick this stat apart as an imperfect measure of a player’s impact, but it is also difficult to ignore the ugly numbers next to the three players on OKC’s summer team who were also part of the team’s regular rotation in 2011-12. After two games, Cole Aldrich is minus-35 in 50 minutes, Reggie Jackson is minus-31 in 60 minutes, and Lazar Hayward is minus-9 over 72 minutes. Summer League statistics may not be an accurate reflection of NBA readiness, but these totals should raise red flags for Thunder fans hoping for improved bench play next season.
- Perry Jones III’s Ankle - Hopefully okay after suffering a sprain and getting wrapped up shortly before today’s game ended.
- Defense Against Wing Scorers - After struggling mightily against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the 2012 NBA Finals, the Thunder had just as much trouble with Lance Stephenson (10-14 field goals, 28 points), who looked fully recovered from his playoff encounter with Dexter Pittman’s elbow by getting to the basket at will against the Thunder’s porous defense. Jackson was unable to stay in front of Stephenson, while Aldrich was repeatedly a step slow in help defense.
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