The NBA season ended less than a month ago, and the Detroit Pistons were done back in mid-May.
Between the NBA Draft and a tumultuous free agency, this offseason has felt even shorter than it has been. Pro ball die-hards have been eager to consume summer league games, and watch some of the highest-touted rookies make their professional debut.
Fans often use the NBA Summer League to further entrench themselves in their draft-day opinions. If you thought a player was going to be a bust, chances are, you’ll use summer league performances to rationalize that, with or without evidence. It’s simply a part of being a fan, there’s nothing really wrong with it.
In Cade Cunningham’s summer league debut, he put up great all-around numbers despite poor shooting. NBA fans (and some Detroit fans) immediately declared the first overall pick a failure, and Cade should not have been selected over Houston’s Jalen Green.
Jalen Green went off in his summer league debut, putting up 23 points on 50% shooting. He didn’t have the versatile game that Cunningham did, but there’s no denying his scoring was on full display, and outshined Cade.
While the Cunningham and Green rivalry is in its infancy, it could be one of the better basketball beefs of recent years, even if it’s perpetuated mostly by fans and media. It is early August, and one crucial fact seems to be missed by everyone watching: It’s the summer league.
Detroit Pistons: NBA Summer League is the time for wild overreactions
Responsible watching is critical when tuning in to watch this type of basketball.
Yes, Jalen Green may very well be the better NBA scorer and Cade Cunningham while be the better all-around player. Early draft predictions seemed to agree, and summer league play is proving this to be the case. It wouldn’t shock me if Green wins Rookie of the Year simply because he will average 20 points per night on a team with few other options. However, Cade could have a more successful season, if he plays a solid role in the starting lineup for a potential playoff team.
The Summer League can show us what kind of players rookies will become, but not necessarily how successful they’ll be. Previous summer league MVPs include Damian Lillard, John Wall and Blake Griffin. Elite company, sure, but other MVPs also include Randy Foye, Jerryd Bayless, Josh Selby, and Kyle Anderson.
Being a dominant player in the Summer League simply does not reflect how an NBA career will pan out.
Watching the Summer League is not a worthless pursuit at all. The sample size is small, but it would probably be fair to say already that Green will be a better scorer than Cade, but Cunningham will be a better facilitator and defender. Both have merits, and both are importantly broad descriptions that don’t dig a hole, before the real NBA season even starts.
If you’re a Pistons fan, you should absolutely watch Summer League games, maybe even a few that Detroit doesn’t appear in (they are fun!). But it’s far too early to label anyone a bust or steal until they get NBA minutes against real NBA competition.
This is just a heavily televised elevated G-League, and if that was enough to determine who an NBA star is, then Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga would have been surefire top-two picks over any of the college kids.
Watch, enjoy, but be responsible.