Just started noticing in the early '70's that players who got more minutes at a younger age matured much faster than those who got fewer minutes, which brings up another idea.
After watching the Orlando Summer League this season, it was obvious that Oklahoma City had the best team by far as they cruised through every game on their way to the Championship.
Go to the stats of last season's D-League teams, and the players that were on this Summer League team, and you see players that OKC were developing by giving them extensive minutes in the D-League, rather than having them sitting on the bench at the NBA level last season.
Remember when Olshey was asked why Barton, Claver, Freeland, Nolan Smith and Babbitt weren't getting minutes in the D-League? His response was that he felt their growth would advance more through the experience of traveling with the NBA team, practicing with the NBA team, and sitting on the bench with the NBA team. We all said, "OK", as who were we to decide which was better: Extensive minutes playing in the D-League, or the experience of traveling with the NBA team?
I don't think there is an answer to this right now as the D-League is a new experience for the NBA, at least in terms of how many players that they can try to develop through their "minor league system".
I'll take OKC's philosophy over Olshey's philosophy. Players aren't being developed in College anymore the way they used to be developed. And, to be able to control the development of a young player through an organized minor league system is an investment that's well worth the money that's put into it, especially when you consider how little the minor league system would cost in comparison to NBA salaries.
For example, Nolan Smith, Babbitt, Freeland, Barton and Claver combined for only 435 minutes in the D-League last season. That's not playing time experience. Those are cameo appearances where they didn't even take the time to get to know the first names of the players on their own team. What learning can possibly take place under those conditions.
But, OKC, now that's a different story. They picked up Jeremy Lamb last season, who flopped in his Houston debut. They placed him in Tulsa where he played a total of 844 minutes or twice as much as the above five Trailblazers played combined. In this year's Orlando Summer League, Jeremy Lamb, in my opinion, was the MVP runner-up to the runaway winner, Andre Drummond, who never belonged there in the first place. In addition to Tulsa's Jeremy Lamb, Rasual Butler played 1,181 minutes. That's great experience for Lamb, playing alongside Butler. OKC also had 5 playoff games in the D-League last year. That's a great experience.
I hope that Olshey changes his mind on his beliefs of the effect of playing in Idaho, and that they put a real effort into putting a strong team in Idaho. They're giving those fans there a pre-season game. Why not give them a roster to root for, instead of treating them like second citizens. More fans make players play better, look forward to coming to work every day. It's all a part of putting a winning atmosphere into the TrailBlazer organization. Guys who go to Idaho won't feel like they're being punished, but look upon it as part of the process.
The Blazers should also take seriously the idea of placing a full-time staff there paid for by the Blazers, such as All Coaches, Trainers, and Medical Staff. One administrator could be there compiling reports on various players. There should be an invested interest on the development of members of the Portland Trailblazer Basketball Club.
As Rashual Butler put it in an interview July 10th, "I feel like playing in Summer League is part of the process right now, having been out of the league for a year," he said. "People can see that I'm still mobile, I can move around the court, I haven't lost a step, and I can still shoot the ball." I'd love to see him added to the Blazers roster as their 15th man rather and bring him to camp to see what he can do. He just finished playing for Pritchard and the Indiana Summer League team yesterday. In the D-League last year Butler shot .347 from "3" (.480 for the 5 playoff games!...sign this guy up, Olshey!), .841 from the free-throw line, 1.40 BPG, 0.70 SPG, 5.1 RPG, 17.8 PPG, 2.0 TPG, 1.41 FoulsPG (great ratio of 2.70 Steals+Blocks/Game to 1.41 Fouls/Game!).
As we speak, Rasual Butler is a better player than half of our current roster if you're talking strictly the 2013-14 season. Why not let him be that 15th player? Butler is 6'7", 205, and will be age 34.4. His quote tells me that he's hungry, has worked extremely hard to not only keep himself in shape, but to improve his health. I wouldn't be surprised if he was season-ready as we speak. His quote also tells me he would be a positive to the team, willing to sit for stretches without playing, but also be demonstrating to the younger players how to keep yourself in shape and ready for when you get called to play. He'd be a dynamite leader for the younger players. His Summer League numbers this season were decent. Over his last four Summer League games, he showed the Veteran's propensity for rebounding (14 Reb in 55 minutes), taking shots that are available (11-25 in 55 minutes), helping out on Defense (1 Steal, 4 Blocks in 55 minutes), while playing under control (3 TO's and 3 Fouls in 55 Minutes).
If not, Rasual Butler, then how about another guy, whom I personally want to add even more. He's currently on a non-guaranteed contract, which makes him basically an Unrestricted Free Agent. He's fourth on the Center Depth Chart for OKC behind Ibaka, Habeet and Steven Adams. He'll be only 22.2 age when the season begins, yet he's had 3 years in the Pros already. He's 6/10"/255, coming from the pedigree school of Kentucky.
He's Daniel Orton.
Orton played about 870 minutes in the D-League last season, twice as much as Freeland, Nolan Smith, Barton and Claver combined, while playing alongside Rasual Butler, Jeremy Lamb, and others that made up OKC's excellent D-League team, Tulsa. He's hungry having been a former first-round pick (OKC when they were picking well) and went to another team before coming back to OKC. He's looking for more minutes, and he's not going to get them in Oklahoma. He probably won't even make the team unless Thabeet gets traded. Steven Adams is going to get the majority of backup minutes to Ibaka. Even if Thabeet gets traded, his minutes will be very few in OKC.
Why not take a shot on this guy in Portland? Orton just had a very good Summer League in Orlando. If you watched, you'd know what I mean. The nearly 900 minutes he got in Tulsa last season, along with his maturity is paying off. He has six years still before he reaches his prime years. Seems worthy of a three-year contract, with the last year two years being non-guaranteed. He would also be a great addition to our Idaho Stampede team if we want to get serious about developing a quality minor league system.
In the D-League last season, Orton averaged 12.5 pts, 2.21 Blocks, 1.07 Steals, 1.9 Assists (a good number for that league, especially for a Center), and 7.8 Rebounds. In the Summer League just concluded, he averaged 17 Minutes, 12.0 Points, .667 FG%, 5.0 Reb, an Efficiency Rating of +16.50, 1.0 Steals, 1.67 Blocks, and only 1.0 Turnovers. What I liked was his skill with the pick-and-roll on Offense. That combination of 2.67 Blocks+Steals/1.0 Turnovers in only 17 Min/Game is intriguing when combined with his age, pedigree, and experience. He needs NBA minutes, but he's young enough to still be giving D-League minutes to and get benefits from it.
Other notables from the Orlando Summer League concluded today:
Kazemi: 23 Minutes/gm, .750 FG%, 1.80 Steals/gm (14th in the League), 4.8 Reb/gm, 1.5 Ass/gm, 0.80 Blk/gm, Efficiency Rating of +10.75 (same as Steven Adams). Basically, this is the Kazemi we all know, an all-around game while he lights up the hustle board.
Gobert: 2.30 Blk/gm
Steven Adams (Daniel Orton's teammate, who was given many more minutes at the same position): Efficiency Rating of +11.00, 6.0 Reb/gm, 0.50 Steals/gm, 1.25 Blk/gm, 2.0 Turnovers/gm.
When you look at Center depth in the Pacific Division of Denver, OKC, Minnesota, Utah and Portland, Lopez and Leonard is not enough.
3. Steven Adams
4. Daniel Orton
Perkins was a disaster last season. OKC alsmost amnestied him over the last couple of weeks, but with free agency almost over, it's less likely now. He's owed nearly $19M over the next two seasons. Daniel Orton might be forcing them to make a decision, though on Perkins, that gives Perkins a ticket out of town. Serge Ibaka can also play Center. With Nick Collison and Grant Jerrett also at PF, OKC has a logjam there right now. Then there's Giorgos Printezis, acquired in the draft-day trade with Portland, who will be 28.7 age when the season begins. He can't stay in Europe forever.
2. Ronny Turiaf
3. Gorgui Dieng
4. Chris Johnson
1. Enes Kanter
3. Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert as a #3 Center is not bad at all.
1. JaVale McGee
2. J.J. Hickson
4. Joffrey Lauvergne (Eurostash)
The Nuggets 1-2-3 of McGee-Hickson-Mozgov dominates over Lopez-Leonard-Nobody.
I truly think that Olshey needs to take a different approach to the Idaho Stampede, using the Minor League franchise to maximize this organization's development of their young players. Adding Daniel Orton to the franchise would be a great start in this direction.