With Friday night's ugly, ugly game, a loss against the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers wrapped up this year's Summer League schedule. They finished with a 2-3 record, but that masks some very positive progress for the players who will make up a significant portion of the Blazers' bench.
What did we learn overall?
- We got yet another reminder that Summer League means little overall, and we're really grabbing small nuggets of information. Very little from these games will translate to fall expectations. It's simply one piece of a 250-piece puzzle. Not even a corner piece. It's probably part of a flower or something, it's hard to tell.
- The young guys on our bench will still be a work in progress. One day they look great, the next day they look like they just discovered organized basketball. The Blazers' Summer League Coach David Vanterpool described the team as having "arrogance" in some of their play, which was perhaps a factor in their varied successes and failures.
- There are signs of baby steps. This is an upgrade from last year's Summer League. The players and coaches made progress. This is a good thing. They can build on this over the summer.
Blazers Summer League Team Grade: B
Seriously, this team wasn't bad. Last year's team was disastrous, with an inability to play in offensive sets, and a complete lack of trust in each other. This year, the team looked organized and familiar to each other. They successfully executed offensive sets for high percentage shots. At times, their defense was far above anything expected in Summer League. If not for the terrible playoff game against the Hawks, we'd likely have a very positive view about this team. But the Hawks game happened, so let's give them a lower passing grade.
Grading caveats: These grades are purely about their performances in the perspective of Summer League, based on expectations. These should not be taken as an opinion about their skills during an NBA game. And Friday's game played a minimal role in the grades, as it was mostly played as a half-speed throwaway game. That's impressive by Summer League standards.
Thomas Robinson: A
In Thomas' third season, he's expected to look like he's almost "too good" to be there. And he had those moments. He also had moments where he was still trying to put it together. Overall, he had everything we could expect from a big man in Summer League, before exiting due to injury. Robinson is showing signs of progress, and possibly on-court maturity. A good week for TRob, ruined by a few months of injury recovery.
CJ McCollum: B
After a full year in the NBA, you really hope for CJ to dominate Summer League; this is a league built for CJ's strengths. And he didn't dominate. So he won't get an A. But he did play reasonably well, and showed some surprising defensive development, which may be the last thing you'd expect to see from a guard at Summer League. He still has a little of that Martell Websteresque "he's supposed to be a shooter, so why do I feel like I'm crossing my fingers when he shoots a three?" in him. But that can improve in time. He looks like a player who will get his chance to shine this coming season. But it was less clear whether he can take advantage of that chance.
Will Barton: B-
First, the good news: Will's showing his developmental progress. He played in control, and inside the offensive sets at various times. And when he was hot, he was really hot: He personally took over the first quarter against the Rockets. He showed the flashes of defense we've come to expect. He had some nice work in the organized offensive sets. Now, the bad news: He's clearly still working on his shot mechanics, and that leads to streaky shooting. And Summer League is basically built as an enticement to play unorganized street-ball at times, and Will took the bait a few times, reverting to the "I'll take on four players!" style we saw when he first arrived. It was rarely successful.
But still overall, he did show progress, and this is good. He didn't have a bad Summer League. And he has time to grow.
Meyers Leonard: F
To some extent, this grade just isn't fair. It's not Leonard's fault that he suffered an injury during practice, and that prevented him from really getting up to speed with the rest of the team. And he had his best performance in tonight's Summer League finale. But this is his third season. He should be way past his rookie jitters (and it's worth noting he actually had a better performance as a rookie). Big men don't tend to dominate Summer League, so that can't be expected of Leonard. And he showed various signs of solid play, such as setting screens. But he was still regularly the "lost Meyers" that has been seen many times. In fact, it often felt like the Blazers' level of play dropped whenever Meyers subbed in the game for Robinson or Freeland. Their defensive and rebounding instincts were clearly better by comparison.
As always, Summer League should be taken with the usual grain of salt. It was simply a reminder that Meyers has shown no signs that he will be slotted ahead of Freeland or Robinson this fall. His name will still be regularly used in the vicinity of the word "project".
Joel Freeland: Incomplete
During the moments where Joel was giving full effort, he showed the aforementioned "too good for Summer League" level of play. However, Joel often was a background player. With the guards doing most of the scoring, he rarely had a chance to show his post-up game. And he regularly picked up some surprisingly light fouls. Often, it felt like Freeland was there in a similar role that Wesley Matthews provided last year: a chance to gets some minutes with his teammates, and increase their familiarity. Perhaps also to simply get some court minutes after having part of his season robbed with a tough injury.
Allen Crabbe: D
Allen had the distinction of being the player that made you think, when you checked the box score, "wait, he was in the game for 20 minutes?". In the final game, he showed a bit of offensive skill, but he was the invisible man for most of the week. As a second round pick with limited NBA playing experience, expectations are lower, so he didn't earn a failing grade, but when you're billed as a shooter and you're not lighting up Summer League opponents, you didn't have a good week.
Bobby Brown: A+. Because I thought I'd get bored of the jokes, but never did. He won't make the Blazers roster this fall, that's for sure. But Don't Be Cruel, Bobby.
Rodney Carney: A++. Anyone who finds Blazersedge's own intrepid reporter Ben Golliver in the crowd and takes out his drink gets the highest possible grade. You tell Ben who's boss, Rodney.
What do you think?
Give us your grades in the comments, whether serious or otherwise. What did you think of this year's Blazers Summer League performance?