That NBA Summer League is coming to an end (except for the semi-finals and finals) and…well…if you spent as much time as I did watching the games, you’re probably longing for genuine NBA action.
An illustration of the differences between summer and regular season competition:
- SL eFG %: 49.7% vs. RS: 54.5%
- SL 2pt%: 51.1% vs. RS: 54.8%
- SL 3pt%: 31.7% vs. RS: 63.1%
- SL FT%: 72.0% vs. RS: 78.2%
- SL TOV %: 17.0% vs. RS: 13.4%
- SL ast/rope ratio: 1.3 vs. RS: 1.9
Offensive efficiency this summer was 100.8 points per game. 100 possessions – 14.0 points below regular league average last season. If you watched a fair amount of games, you know the efficiency difference is does not due to superior defense.
I’ve run some numbers and I’ll share some observations and thoughts below. There are major limitations due to the small sample size and very large playing style, as well as gaps in the data. For some strange reason, none of the usual (or unusual) sources of NBA statistics think it’s worth releasing chunks like opponent data. Or even team data, except chopped and averaged in ways that are a) a pain to work with and b) borderline useless.
Why worry? I see a few good reasons:
- Game watching is an even smaller sample size than the statistics available, unless of course you watched literally every second of every summer league game.
- The “flashes” we all want to see when watching summer league may not be an indicator of overall performance. For example, we see Bilal Coulibaly make some smart passes and think it’s a sign that he can be a good player while overlooking or ignoring the bad turnovers he squeezed around those passes.
- Most of us will at some point fall into the trap of seeing what we expect to see. For example, there was plenty of chatter online that Patrick Baldwin Jr. was an excellent shooter. To able to prove to be true one day, but in summer league he was 6-22 from three-point range.
- It is always worth comparing a player’s performance with his competition. This is true even in summer league, where the style of play is sloppy and big players often have a challenge wresting the ball from their perimeter teammates. Everyone in summer league is dealing with a similar environment, and we can use observations from watching the games to consider contextual reasons for good/bad/between performances.
- It’s summer, what else are we going to do until training camp?
Let’s get to it. If I was in the Wizards front office, I’d be a little disappointed with what I saw in Las Vegas. They didn’t publicly articulate their goals, but…if it were me…I would have liked to see quality play from one or more of the youngsters they must hope will be able to fill meaningful roles. That would mean Bilal Coulibaly, Johnny Davis, Patrick Baldwin Jr., Ryan Rollins and Tristan Vukcevic.
While each had some positive moments, they also each had negatives. Their overall performance—compared to their peers participating in the summer league—was on the low side of average. It’s not particularly worrying, everyone has the potential to improve, play better and earn roles. But it’s another summer where none of Washington’s “young guns” showed up compared to other young players around the league.
A few thoughts on each of these guys, in order of total minutes played:
Coulibaly – Impressive athlete and defender. He averaged 3.5 blocks per 100 possessions in summer league. Offensively… he has a ways to go. His offensive efficiency relative to league average was -10.4 (points produced per possession x 100). He averaged 3.1 assists and 3.9 turnovers per 100 possessions. His summer league PPA (where the average is 100 and higher is better): 57.
Davis — A class’s summer league Rorschach test. Was he better than last season and last summer? Of course. Was he well? Um. Let’s start with the good: 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals per 100 possessions. He shot 42.9% on threes (though only on 14 total attempts – he started 3-10 and went 3-4 in the last game) and 83.3% from the free throw line. His defense was generally good as it was last season. The not so good: 5.0 violations per 100 possessions, which is a) a lot and b) about how often he beat last season in his NBA minutes. He also shot 40.4% on twos and couldn’t get to the free throw line. His relative offensive efficiency was -6.5. More subjectively, he didn’t have the shot or craft to get by defenders, and he lacked the strength or vertical lift to finish over them. SL PPA: 93
Baldwin — Disappeared on long distances — only 12.7% consumption. He connected on twos (55.6%), but laid bricks from deep (27.3%). His defensive rebounds and assists were good (9.0 and 4.0 per 100 possessions, respectively), and he blocked 2.2 shots per game. 100. Overall, he was slowly looking like an NBA forward. His standing reach at the 2022 combine was about the length of a center, and I more than a little think that might be his best position in the NBA. SL PPA: 92
Rollins – He was an exciting player in my draft evaluation, but his performance in the summer league was a mess. He shot poorly (and a lot) – a 43.6% efg on 26.6 field goal attempts per. 100 possessions. Yikes. On the other hand, he dished out 9.7 assists and came up with 4.4 steals per 100 possessions. On another third hand, 4.8 turnovers and 9.2 fouls per 100 possessions. It’s…absurd. His relative offensive efficiency was -7.3. SL PPA: 80.
Vukcevic — When Vukcevic came in as the team’s second-round pick, the question was whether he could do enough other things to go along with his three-point shooting. Naturally, he was a walking block (43.6% efg, 23.5% on threes), and he hit the glass (13.7 rebounds, including 4.2 on the offensive end), and he produced steals and blocks (2.1 per 100 holdings of each). He also had a staggering 4.7 turnovers and 5.3 fouls per game. 100, and his relative offensive efficiency was -4.6. Somehow, his SL PPA: 102
Lest you think I’m too negative in my assessment, compare this group to some of the more successful summer league players such as:
- Keyonte George, UTA — +23.9 relORTG, 41.8 points and 12.2 assists per 100 possessions, 65.9% efg, SL PPA: 301
- Adama Sanogo, CHI — +32.2 relORTG (on 20.1% USG), 26.6 points, 21.9 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 2.6 blocks per 100. SL PPA: 292
- Jabari Smith Jr., HOU — +25.6 relORTG (36.2% usg), 52.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists per 100. SL PPA: 260
- Chet Holmgren, OKC — +14.8 relORTG, 33.0 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 5.6 blocks per 100. SL PPA: 220
- Hunter Tyson, THE — +35.2 relORTG, 34.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists per 100. SL PPA: 249
I could go on with the likes of Hunter Hale, Duop Reath, Jared Butler, Keon Ellis, Isaiah Jackson, Jaden Springer, Dominick Barlow, Tari Eason, Javon Freeman-Liberty… The point here is not that the Wizards should have selected any of these guys — in some cases, they weren’t available when it was Washington’s time to pick. Rather, it’s that there are always young players who put on a great show and demonstrate great promise in summer league, and once again, the Wizards don’t have anyone in that group.
In my overall evaluation of the summer league, I think Coulibaly at least showed the makings of a successful NBA player. Super athletic, high motor, defender. He needs work on his shooting, ball handling and decision making to reach the advanced production his athletic tools suggest is possible.
Other than him, I’m pretty doubtful there’s anyone on the summer league roster they should expect to fill a rotation-level role when they’re good. Maybe Vukcevic in a year or two. Maybe Baldwin if he can actually shoot. Maybe-maybe Davis if he can be a 40% three point shooter.
Wizards 2023 Summer League PPA Results
- Xavier Cooks – 255
- Kyle Alexander – 184
- Dejan Vasiljevic – 131
- Jules Bernard – 118
- Quenton Jackson – 111
- Tristan Vukcevic – 102
- Johnny Davis – 93
- Patrick Baldwin Jr. – 92
- DJ Stewart – 88
- Osun Osunniyi – 80
- Ryan Rollins – 80
- Bilal Coulibaly – 57
- Donovan Williams – 24
Now let’s take a look at the best players around the league, per possession x 100 (minimum 50 minutes total):
- Keyonte George, Utah Jazz — 301
- Hunter Hale, Phoenix Suns — 294
- Adam Sanogo, Chicago Bulls – 292
- Duop Reath, Portland Trail Blazers — 272
- braxton key, Dallas Mavericks — 269
38. Kyle Alexander, Washington Wizards – 184
relORTG (usg of 20% or more)
- Hunter Hale, PHO — +40.4
- Hunter Tyson, Denver Nuggets — +35.2
- Adama Sanogo, CHI — +32.2
- Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers – +29.2
- Duop Reath, POR — +28.1
28. Jules Bernard, WAS – +11.1
- Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets – 52.9
- Keyonte George, UTA — 41.8
- Hunter Hale, PHO — 40.5
- Orlando Robinson, Miami Heat — 38.7
- Jared Butler, Oklahoma City Thunder — 38.7
25. Jules Bernard, WAS – 32.4
- Oscar Tshiebwe, Indiana Pacers — 26.8
- Reggie Perry, GSW — 5/26
- Khalifa Diop, CLE — 22.1
- Adama Sanogo, CHI — 21.9
- Isaiah Jackson, IN — 7/21
43. Tristan Vukcevic, WAS – 13.7
- JD Davison, Boston Celtics – 13.1
- DJ Cardboard, Minnesota Timberwolves – 12.7
- Jared Butler, OKC — 12.6
- Keyonte George, UTA — 12.2
- Jamaree Bouyea, MIA — 12.1
14. Ryan Rollins, WAS – 9.7
- Quinndary Weatherspoon, Orlando Magic — 6.1
- Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons – 5.9
- Omari Moore, Milwaukee Bucks – 5.8
- Keon Ellis, Sacramento Kings — 5.6
- Cam Whitmore, HOU — 5.3
10. Ryan Rollins, WAS – 4.4
- Greg Brown III, Philadelphia 76ers – 7.4
- Jontay Porter, CHI – 7.2
- Victor Wembanyama, san antonio tracks – 7.1
- DJ Wilson, ENT — 6.4
- James Nnaji, Charlotte Hornets – 6.0
22. Bilal Coulibaly, WAS — 3.5
- Yuri Collins, GSW — 9.8
- kobe bufkin, Atlanta Hawks – 9.4
- Quindarry Weatherspoon, ENT — 9.0
- Yago Dos Santos, CHI — 8.8
- Jaden Ivey, IT – 8.5
34. Jules Bernard, WAS – 5.7
This is the total number of points added by the player during the summer league, calculated by (individual ortg – league average ortg x player’s total possessions used).
- Hunter Tyson, DEN – +23.5
- Javon Freeman-Liberty, CHI – +16.7
- Orlando Robinson, MIA — +14.4
- Ousmane Dieng, OKC — +13.8
- Jabari Smith Jr., HOU — +13.4
58. Kyle Alexander, WAS – +5.7
And the bottom of the “leaderboard”
252. Kobe Bufkin, ATL — -24.2
251. Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans – -23.6
250. Brandin Podziemski, GSW — -20.9
249. Jarace Walker, IN — -16.9
248. Blake Wesley, SAS — -16.6
214. Bilal Coulibaly, WAS — -5.6