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Guards Often Become NBA Summer League Superstars

With Anfernee Simons set to take the court next week, we take a look at some of the top Las Vegas Summer League performers over the years and what that success has led to at the next level.

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers Game 4 Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The NBA’s annual Las Vegas Summer League is nearly upon us, and for Portland Trail Blazers fans, this will be the first real look at high school phenom Anfernee Simons, whom the team selected with the 24th overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft. Fans are also excited to see Gary Trent, Jr., the freshman from Duke taken in the second round. But what does success at the Summer League mean, exactly? Plenty of guards have had great showings in Summer League over the years, and gone on to thrive at the next level.

A couple of notable Summer League standouts earned the event’s MVP award while playing for the Blazers—Jerryd Bayless and Damian Lillard.

Bayless averaged 29.8 points over four games for the Blazers Summer League team in 2008, averaging 34.1 minutes a game en route to being named MVP. While he didn’t see much action as a rookie in Portland, he averaged 8.5 points in just shy of 18 minutes in 74 games in his second (and final) season with the Blazers. He has proven to be a serviceable backup at the NBA level throughout his career. The former 11th overall pick has career averages of 8.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 21.4 minutes.

Lillard, on the other hand, averaged 26.5 points, four rebounds and 5.3 assists on the Blazers’ Summer League squad in 2012, averaging just shy of 33 minutes in four games. He has obviously gone onto stardom in the NBA, and is a shining example of translating Summer League success into the regular season.

John Wall, the MVP of the 2010 Summer League with the Washington Wizards, is another great example. Wall averaged 23.5 points, 4 rebounds and 7.8 assists, along with 2.5 steals in 32.3 minutes over four games. Wall is a five-time All Star and was named All-NBA third team in 2017.

Others, like Kyle Anderson of the Spurs and Tyus Jones of the Timberwolves, have emerged as solid role players on playoff teams after excellent Summer Leagues. Anderson was the MVP in the summer of 2015. In seven games in Vegas in 2015, Anderson averaged 21 points, six rebounds and just shy of two assists. While he hasn’t been able to replicate those numbers in the regular season, he’s certainly not a focal point in the Spurs offense, so it makes sense. He did have a career year this season, starting 67 games and averaging 7.9 points in about 27 minutes per contest.

Jones was the summer league MVP in 2006, the summer after his rookie season with the Wolves. He averaged 20.4 points and 6.8 assists, and has turned into a productive back-up point guard behind Jeff Teague.

Nate Robinson averaged just shy of 20 points per game in the 2007 Summer League, and went on to increase his numbers across the board in his third season in the league immediately following the event, ultimately playing 11 years in the league.

What many of these guards have in common is their exceptional athleticism, and driving ability, something that sticks out about Simons in his various highlight packages from IMG Academy. Should the youngster have a solid Summer League, there’s plenty of precedent to show that he has a good chance to parlay that into success the next level as well. It’s going to be interesting to see how he fares against future NBA talent as opposed to high schoolers, but if he can hold his own, it could very well be a sign of good things to come.

The Blazers kick off their Summer League schedule on Saturday, July 7th against the Utah Jazz and their polarizing first rounder, Grayson Allen.