What The Summer League Taught Us

The 2016 Summer League concluded last week, an event that featured all 30 NBA teams consisted of first and second year players. Hosted in the cities of Las Vegas and Orlando, the games offered up an on slot of takeaways. For instance, it was the first chance to gauge the development of top picks Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram at the next-level. It also helped lay-out the blueprint of each team’s roster structure, evaluating which prospects to hand over or discard a contract from. Nonetheless, here’s what this year’s summer league taught us.

 Bulls may have found a young star in Denzel Valentine 

Chicago was at the forefront of one of the craziest free agencies in NBA history last month; losing veteran forwards Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah and point guard Derrick Rose, but also acquiring guards Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. In order to institute a “pace and space” style that second-year head coach Fred Hoiberg demands the Bulls drafted Michigan State’s 6-foot-5 shooting guard Denzel Valentine 14th overall in this year’s draft.

Valentine received high praise in college for his ability to score from all spots on the floor, as he tallied seven double-doubles during his senior season. During the Bulls run to the summer league title, Valentine contributed mightily by averaging 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds while shooting 32.5 percent during 29 minutes of action. Valentine’s style of play fits in with slashers Rondo and Wade on the wing. However it may just be Valentine’s strong shooting (making 40 percent of his threes in summer league) that could make it viable for Chicago to replicate last season’s success on the perimeter. As a team, the Bulls finished the 2015-16 regular season with the third highest 3-point shooting percentage in NBA – connecting on 37.1 percent of long-range shots.

Terry Rozier staked a claim for more minutes at point guard

Two months removed from an encouraging playoff stint, Terry Rozier yet again showed signs of progress in the summer league. He was the Celtics’ best player in the event, averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game through 29.2 minutes of action. In the six games he played in, the second-year pro shot 62 percent from the field (18-29), one of the more efficient shooting percentages in summer league history.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge selected Rozier 16th overall in 2015 draft, a move that at the time drew heavy criticism amongst the fanbase. However, with Rozier’s steady rise in performance he has positioned himself to help fill the void left by Evan Turner’s departure on Boston’s second unit. With a hefty dose of minutes heading his way, Rozier will seek more time behind Isaiah Thomas as Boston’s back-up point guard.

Minnesota Timberwolves find talent everywhere

Minnesota is already poised for a promising future with cornerstone pieces Andrew Wiggins, Karl Anthony-Towns and Zach Lavine whom are all locked-up long-term. Both Wiggins and Towns are Rookie of the Year recipients that hold the keys to the Timberwolves’ playoff puzzle which hopefully materializes sooner rather than later.

Minnesota only had one pick in the 2016 draft, however, they made the most of it by selecting PG Kris Dunn fifth overall. The Providence star showed no hesitation in making an impact during the summer league, leading the event in points (averaging 24.1), racking up nine boards a game while shooting 57.3 percent from the field. While Dunn is figured to be the ‘Wolves second option at point guard behind Ricky Rubio next season, Adreian Payne and Tyus Jones also flashed signs of optimism. Jones, who was originally drafted by Cleveland 24th overall in last year’s draft was sent to Minnesota hours later on draft night. Jones tallied up the most assists in the summer league (6.8 per game), as well as manufacturing 20.4 points. As the future of preserving Ricky Rubio grows, the Timberwolves are banking on Dunn as well as others to stabilize the point guard spot for the foreseeable future.

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