Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to resist the hype surrounding the NBA over the past few days. I spent the majority of Thursday a few steps from my computer and kept checking Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed to see if LeBron James had made his decision. Oh, what a waste of time! I felt the time as it siphoned away from me, but I couldn’t help myself. I got nothing accomplished all day other than the time-tested lesson to leave the computer off if productivity is desired.
In the end, I was fooled by LeBron. I thought he would return to Miami, even though the future in south Florida looks a bit bleak. I kind of wondered why the team had to bring Dwyane Wade back, since he appeared to be one of the weaker links on the team. The Heat had to coddle 54 games out of Wade and he did not look particularly fresh in the Finals. Why not let him go and bring in some young talent to put next to LeBron? It didn’t matter because James chose to go home, which has been lauded by everyone, including people who claimed to hate him last week. I think it even makes basketball sense for LeBron to head back to northeast Ohio because the Cavaliers have some interesting pieces – each of whom should improve in the holy aura of King James.
That said, I decided to further dilute my productivity on Friday evening by taking in a summer league game between LeBron’s new/old team and my new-look Milwaukee Bucks with my new favorite player of all time, Jabari Parker. Let me state clearly and loudly that I think there is very little actual information that can be gleaned from any summer league/preseason contest. The level of information imparted is further reduced when one has to listen to Reggie Miller. He was a great shooter, but he is a lousy broadcaster. A supposed professional should be able to pronounce Dellavedova (never mind that he didn’t even give Antetokounmpo. Honestly, it’s not that hard – click here and try it, it is fun!) However, just as I’d been glued to my Twitter feed on Thursday, I couldn’t miss the most hyped summer league game of the, well, summer. I was mainly interested in watching four players. There may be a handful of others who make their teams (including the aforementioned Dellavedova, or, as Reggie called him, Delladova).
I wouldn’t necessarily put a lot of stock into the conspiracy theory that the Cavaliers are going to trade Andrew Wiggins because he wasn’t mentioned in LeBron’s heartfelt letter. And James didn’t even go to college! While I would trade Wiggins for Kevin Love in a heartbeat (and I’d probably make that trade if I were the Timberwolves as well), LeBron was likely referencing people in Cleveland that he knows. The good and bad of Wiggins was on display even in this summer league game. The first overall pick showed off his extreme athleticism, including a missed connection on an alley oop dunk in which it looked like his head was above the rim. He also made a couple of nice mid-range jumpers, but missed badly on a number of 3-point shots. The theory is that his athleticism should help him be a tremendous defender, but I am not sure if he has the attitude to bring the D.
It was also interesting to see 2013’s top pick, Anthony Bennett on the court. He has slimmed down to a reasonable level and could be a productive player. The Canadian is a bit of a chucker, which might mean that he doesn’t get much playing time behind Tristan Thompson (also a Canadian, like Wiggins), but he has a nice skillset. If he can forge a solid role as a bench scorer, he could develop into a decent rotation player and possibly a starter on a good team. Granted, that isn’t asking a lot of a former top pick, but I don’t think he’ll end up being the worst first pick of all time (sadly, that could be Greg Oden).
Based on one summer league game, the Bucks could be in good hands with a frontcourt of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Parker. Both showed decent ball handling skills and Parker was aggressive in transition. Antetokounmpo showed off plenty of athleticism and hit a pair of 3-pointers. Like Wiggins, the Greek Freak has a long way to go, but he appears to be on the right track. Parker is a pretty amazing specimen for a 19 year old. He is quite a bit stronger than Wiggins and took advantage of his bulk when they were matched up. Parker still has room to grow and should be a really nice player for Milwaukee. With a coach who has never missed the playoffs and a young roster, the Bucks should be able to win more than they did last year.