If you’ve followed the Wizards long enough, you’d know that they have a tendency to show up well in meaningless games down the stretch of the regular season. Luckily for us, the NBA Summer League gives the Wizards yet another platform for them to produce high expectations in the form of exhibition games.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards to a decent summer league run last season, and managed to get named on the All-Summer League team. This time, Washington has improved from a roster standpoint and have a legitimate shot at making the post-season next year, which makes the summer league a crucial point in the latter stages of their rebuild.
The Las Vegas summer league is usually a place where young talent go to shine, but for Washington, the summer league has a chance to give us some foresight into Washington’s future. I highlighted some points we should consider anticipating during this years summer league campaign:
- Otto Porter will obviously be the focal point of Washington’s summer league. In the past, former top-5 picks have usually dominated in these stretch of exhibition games, but players with high expectations could also get scrutinized if they fail to live up to the hype in a few of these games. Summer league is truly a unique atmosphere for guys coming right out of college, since they’re forced to play with teammates which they won’t likely play with during the regular season, causing a bit of a hectic challenge for them right out of the gate. Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Glen Rice Jr. are probably the only guys Porter will get familiar with during the regular season, so we shouldn’t put too much stock into his performance. It’s important to see how Porter will react to the increased level of competition from the NCAA to the NBA hopefuls. How will he adjust to playing in the NBA speed? Can he keep up with some of the other up and coming forwards in the summer league? Will his increased shooting percentages translate to the NBA, where the three point line is a bit extended and where he might have to work a bit harder to find his shot? Those are the type of questions we should look to answer for Porter, instead of focusing on the statistics and how well he plays for a “top 5 pick.” Remember, if Porter struggles in certain aspects of the game, that’ll likely change when he’s paired up with John Wall. We’ve seen Bradley Beal struggle during portions of last years summer league, but that quickly changed once Wall started feeding him the rock.
- Will Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton separate themselves from the cast of characters? Both Vesely and Singleton are entering their third season in the NBA, and it’s honestly make or break time for both of the forwards. Vesely has been atrocious in the summer league in the past and he desperately needs to get better if he wants to remain in the NBA past next season. Shooting the ball with confidence and showing some of the coaching staff that he’s truly put in the work this off-season will be the key for Vesely. Singleton is probably in the same boat as Vesely. Washington is stacked at small forward with Porter, Martell Webster, and Trevor Ariza, so Singleton certainly needs to step up his game if he wants to remain a Wizard. Their play in the summer league could also give us some prevision into their futures.
- Is Glen Rice Jr. legit? Washington has nothing to lose if Rice doesn’t pan out, but from the looks of it, he has all the tools to become a steal in this years NBA Draft. Since Rice was a second round pick and isn’t guaranteed a contract, some of his questions regarding off-court issues will be put aside, leaving Rice will a great opportunity to prove himself. Shooters have become a commodity in the NBA, and I think that’s evident as some teams have went out of their way to acquire outside shooters in free-agency. If Rice can knock down shots on a consistent basis and play acceptable defense, he could definitely earn himself a roster spot. Washington was the worst offensive team in the league last season, so adding guys who could put the ball in the basket won’t hurt.
- 14 of Washington’s 15 roster spots have been filled. Could someone on Washington’s summer league team other than the main roster guys make a big enough splash to earn a spot on the team? Unlike some teams around the league that have opted to call up D-Leaguers and undrafted rookies, Washington decided to fill the majority of their summer league roster with former NBA players and guys that have played professional ball for quite some time. Sundiata Gaines is someone we should keep an eye on.
Washington tips-off their summer league season on July 13th against the Golden State Warriors. I’m sure their are tons of things I forgot to mention that could add to the narrative of things we should look out for, but as of right now, I’d like to think those are the main points.
Summer league definitely has the potential of producing an ugly brand of basketball, but for us basketball-junkies, basketball is basketball. I honestly can’t wait to watch the Wizards play, even if it’s just the shell of an organized team.