How much stock can one put in NBA Summer League? Many would argue not a ton. I tend to agree with that sentiment but for some players it’s a chance to prove to their organizations what value they can bring in game-like situations. For a good chunk of these players, they haven’t stepped foot on the court for a regular season game — an likely never will. When evaluating NBA Summer League, you often only need to be looking at a handful of players on each team.
Relatively speaking, our Charlotte Hornets have an experienced roster with the likes of Briante Weber, Treveon Graham, and Johnny O’Bryant. In addition to Dwayne Bacon, it’s these three that fans need to be paying closest attention to. After a 74-66 win over Miami and 84-77 loss to Indiana, the Hornets sit in 3rd place in Orlando. But, in the grand scheme of things, winning is not what we should be paying attention to.
It’s a shame that our first round pick, Malik Monk, has been unable to play because of an ankle injury he sustained in the pre-draft process. The silver lining — more of our attention can be spent watching potential contributors to the ’17-’18 season.
Bacon has plenty to prove coming in as a second round pick on an non-guaranteed deal. He will likely make the team, partially because we have limited flexibility in roster spots. His performance so far this Summer League has been what you expect out of second round pick — shaky for the most part but flashes of potential.
Coming into the league, Bacon needed to prove his worth on defense and with his outside shooting. If he wants to avoid Greensboro — which wouldn’t be all that beneficial — he’s going to have to show more than he has so far in Orlando. There have been many occasions on the defensive side in which Bacon has been caught ball-watching. This mental aspect of the game will come in time but it has led to numerous open shots. Even in Summer League, oppositions will make you pay.
Where he should make an immediate impact is taking advantage of his size. He’s not an explosive athlete but has good strength for a wing. Along with his anticipation, he uses his build to battle on the defensive boards and can push Charlotte in transition. This forces the defense to account for any secondary offense that may be created off of Bacon’s ability to push the ball. We haven’t seen a ton of this, but from glimpses, I know this option is there.
Bacon is shooting 33% after two games, which isn’t all that surprising, but would love for him to hunt his spots more to see that efficiency climb.
Sumer League Grade: C+
The biggest issue facing Weber — and what we observed this past season — is his inability to run an offense. Creating for others and distributing the basketball seem to be a prerequisite for a point guard. This is something that Briante still hasn’t fully developed and possibly never will. This has been on full display in Orlando as he is often seen dribbling the air out of the ball. I understand if off-ball players aren’t getting open, but you must have a back-up plan in mind and move with the basketball. On plenty of occasions, I’ve noted that Weber excels playing off-ball, cutting to the basket, and getting scrappy weak-side offensive boards.
Weber had a much better game against the Pacers yesterday compared to his ordinary performance against the Heat. He was much more confident in his ability to knock down the midrange shot, something that will need to improve, and did less standing around with the ball. Where you will see his impact the most is with the energy he brings on the defensive end. He’s averaging 2.5 steals per game, placing him 4th in Orlando Summer League (1st out of players that have played 2 games).
If he can knock down his shot with consistency, something he did against the Pacers, he will become much more of a factor on both ends. As of now, Weber will have to scrap his way in becoming Charlotte’s third point guard.
Summer League Grade: B-
Graham has been, by far, the most impressive Hornet in Orlando. He showed glimpses of his game on the NBA level last season with his ability to defend, shoot the three, and bully his way into the paint. These same traits are on display in Summer League.
Graham gets it done on both ends of the court. He’s got a chance to develop into a 3-and-D type on the NBA-level. But that’s not to say that he just stands in a corner for his chance to launch a three-ball. That’s far from the truth. While it’s not pretty, Graham bullies his way into the paint, showing off his 225 lb. frame. He’s done a good job of this in Orlando and has shown great control when driving to the basket. With this has also come his ability to finish around contact and draw fouls. One facet of his game that must improve is his free throw shooting. For a player that draws the whistle (has a team high 13 FTA), he must shoot better than 69% from the charity stripe.
All-in-all, Treveon has proven his worth to this team and I expect to see him play significant minutes with Charlotte this season. He’s averaging 17 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.5 spg, while shooting 46% from the field.
Summer League Grade: A
O’Bryant has been an interesting case so far in Orlando. He’s a 6’9″, 260 lb. power forward, who’d much rather spend his time facing the basket than putting his back to his opponent and scoring in the restricted area. This is fine, but with that, comes less efficiency and long rebounds.
With not much luck, O’Bryant has taken a ton of perimeter shots. He’s attempted a team-high, nine three-pointers, and has only converted two of them. This is where O’Bryant will try to make his mark in the league — working outside-in.
He is surprisingly skilled with the ball in his hands and can often out-maneuver his defender off the dribble. I would love to see more of this from O’Bryant as he can get quality looks at the rim. Also, because he is facing the basket so often, he sees the floor better and has actually shown an ability to be an adequate passer. He’s tallied 5 assists over two games, which may not seem like a lot, but it happens to be second on the team.
O’Bryant has been a high-volume shooter through two games and inconsistent on defense. For these reasons, my grade will come in a little lower than I would’ve expected heading into this. Having said that, he’s got a good chance of making the team as an end-of-the bench player because of the tight financial situation Charlotte is in.
Summer League Grade: C+