Title: Despite results, Pistons encouraged by Summer League play
Date: July 7, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Detroit, I looked at the Pistons’ performance at Orlando Summer League and what it portends for their prospects.
To paint with broad strokes, there seem to be two divergent approaches to interpreting results from any of the NBA’s three early-July Summer League tournaments.
1. Good is encouraging, bad is understandable – This is too difficult and random of an environment to get too worked up about anything. Teammates haven’t played together before, players have been off for weeks — or even months — from live game action, and in many cases, NBA prospects under the control of teams are working on specific skill development rather than just going to ball out. For those reasons, any shaky performances can be washed away and looked at as a learning tool to guide the rest of a player’s offseason. The encouraging signs, meanwhile, reinforce those early reasons for optimism about a pick or rookie, and skill progression is skill progression, regardless of environment. Summer league, then, is about upside – look for the positives, contextualize the negatives.
2. Good is expected, bad is a warning sign – The overall level of competition in this environment is such that players with a real NBA outlook should be dominating. It’s not necessarily encouraging that your lottery pick from a polished college program is getting his shot off against a D-League role player, because that’s expected of him here. But weaknesses exposed by inferior opponents at this level? That’s cause for major concern. The Lebanese league reserve shouldn’t be giving your up-and-coming sophomore these buckets. Summer League is about floor – contextualize the positives, look for the negative harbingers.
The reality, as in most cases, falls somewhere in between. There is a lot of noise, with summer leagues providing a small sample warped by quality of competition, quality of teammates, unfamiliarity, and specific goals that may not include winning foremost. The presence of encouraging signs is far preferable to the absence of them, the absence of glaring holes preferable to their presence. It’s imperfect information, but it’s the only new information we get between the draft (or regular season) and training camps. Good is good, bad is bad, though neither to the degree it feels like in the moment. Or something.
However you interpret summer league results, there’s no environment in which what happened to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday doesn’t leave a sour taste. Coughing up a banner – even a banner from a five-game, six-day summer tournament – stings.