Finally, we’ve got some action to break down on the court! And what better venue than the Summer League, where raw NBA rooks and sophs go to strut their stuff and get fantasy basketballers needlessly excited. Remember all the Mario Hezonja hype last Summer League?! Hopefully I did pretty well to quash that! Wow, surprised I was right that “quash” was a word… I thought people were just saying squash too fast!
But one guy I definitely don’t want to squash/quash is second-year PG Cameron Payne. We were pretty big on this guy coming out of the draft last year, and he really surprised as a rookie overtaking D.J. Augustin as the backup to Russell Westbrook by going 14.6/4.4/5.6/1.9/0.3 in per-36 during 2015-16, with only 2.3 TO. He didn’t shoot particularly well (41%), but a lot of that was due to nearly 40% of his shots being treys. In his one start of 2015-16, he went 17/3/7 against the Spurs who shockingly weren’t resting anyone.
In the Orlando Summer League which wrapped a couple days ago, Payne led the league in scoring at 18.8 Pts a game, averaging 4 AST to only 2.5 TO. Not huge in the AST total, but that’s a ton of usage for a very few giveaways. The deep ball was still a little meh only going 4-14 from the perimeter, but he did have a 14-14 FT game in there. The Thunder squad (or quad, maybe?) went 4-0 in the games he played, and Payne looks primed for a bigger role with OKC.
With all the talk on Russell Westbrook being shopped (and even if he isn’t traded pre-season, a deadline deal would be very likely), a lot of focus has been on what newly acquired Victor Oladipo could do. No Westbrook and no other big-time creators would obviously be big for RainbOladipo. But lost in that noise is what it would mean for Cameron Payne. I think he’d all but certainly shift into the starting line-up (or at least near-starting minutes, if they still wanted to start Andre Roberson), and give a nice low-TO line with a handful of dimes and steals. The FG% might be lacking, but he would become a top-80ish asset in my mind. So while visions of sugarplums and rainbow lines for Oladipo might cloud your Christmas Eve dreams if Westy is traded, don’t forget about the huge opportunity it would give Major Payne. Here’s what else has caught my eye thus far during 2016’s Summer Ball:
Brice Johnson – Oh dear lord, get this guy some opium to calm the aggression! Had a 3-game stretch of 7, 8, and 8 fouls in Orlando. Good thing there’s no foul limit! Even Bane could play in the Summer League… BJ had some big games in those 3 though, scoring 23, 23 and 19 with an unreal FG%, but shot 1-13 in his finale and averaged 5 TO a game. The Clippers then made their faith in the rookie apparent by signing Marreese Speights. The Ace of Speights! The end of Brice…
Josh Richardson – I dunno why, but it feeels weird seeing Richardson playing summer basketball after such a good campaign last year, but alas the new J-Rich averaged 16.7/1.3(???)/4.7/1.0/0.7 in 3 Summer League games with only 5 overall TO. Got to the stripe, shot 47% from the field… He’s gonna be a popular sleeper, even though Tyler Johnson seems like he is going to get the contract the Nets sent matched by the Heat. That went past my bedtime, so stay tuned there.
Stanley Johnson – Everyone’s favorite multi-cat rook sleeper had an up-and-down debut campaign, but has looked good for the most part in Summer Ball going 16.0/7.4/2.4/2.2/0.0 in 5 games. The FG% was atrocious (35.5%, with 26.7% from deep), but he did shoot 100% from the FT line (18-18), and had only 1 TO in each of the last 3 games. Unfortunately, it’s tough to see a big role for him in Stan Van’s big-minutes rotation and lacking a starting spot.
Kyle Anderson – Mr. Anderson! Kyle has been putting up mini-Matrix numbers going an absolutely unreal 21.1/8.2/3.8/3.0/1.8 thus far in Summer League through 4 games, shooting 49%. After winning the MVP last year in the Dog Days, he’s gonna have to swallow it down and suck it up playing only garbage minutes yet again behind Kawhi.
Jonathan Simmons – Another Spur bench player that is again going nuts in the Summer League is J-Sim, going 22.0/4.0/2.7/1.3/1.0 through 3 games. Why do all the fun, popcorn numbers have to be to guys we know won’t play?!?!?!
Trey Lyles – Well, if I’m gonna rank Derrick Favors cautiously due to back-to-back seasons with back-and-back issues, I guess that makes Lyles a sleeper candidate! He’s torn up Summer Ball going 22/9 a game, albeit with some weak D stats. That said, some unbelievable 31-34 FT volume over his last 3 contests, plus 10 treys overall. He’s got the versatility to backup both the 3 and 4 positions and played pretty well as a rook last year; he’s going to be a nice last-round pick flier for me.
Ben Simmons – Numero Uno has looked the part so far, going 8/10/8/3/2 his last contest. Still not taking any 3s or shooting a ton, but he is leading Utah in assists per game. The talk the Sixers want him to become the PG I guess isn’t too outrageous… Can’t wait until they face Antetok and the Bucks! Might be the biggest starting line-ups in NBA history…
Kris Dunn – Tore it up in his first Summer game going 27/5/2/3/1, hitting 10-18 from the field and getting 10 FTA (only made 6 though…). Multi-cat and missed FT?! MCW alert!
Kelly Oubre – My boyfriend shot only 6-19 FG (2-10 3PTM) in his debut, but did go 20/8/1/4/0. He better get a big role this year as some instant O off the Wiz bench!
Emmanuel Mudiay – 23/8/6/1/1, and not too shocking he still needs Summer League seasoning. 3 TO and 6-12 FT though… MCW alert!
Thon Maker – Despite pretty much unanimously being a better porn star than upcoming NBA player, Thon had a fantastic debut for the Bucks going 15/13/0/1/2 on 5-14 shooting from the field and 5-7 FT. He took 4 treys too! Missed them all, but still… Bucks GM/Dangerous Prehistoric Animal Petting Zoo Owner John Hammond said he thinks Thon is a rotational player at a minimum out of the gate, so he might put pressure on Kidd to get Thon playing right away. The same Jason Kidd who had Khris Middleton out of his rotation a few years ago… The same Jason Kidd who benched Giannis due to lack of hustle…
Malcolm Brogdon – Only 9/11/3 in his debut, but I’m about as excited as I’ve ever been for a second rounder. Really great player for Virginia, and he lands on a team with a murky wing depth chart. Stupid Matthew Dellavedova hurt though! Ughhhhhhh! Bucks lead me to some major frustration…
D’Angelo Russell – Has a sexy 21/7.5/5.5 line thus far in Summer (albeit with a bajillion TO), and hit a game-winner to kick-off his campaign. I took a video of it on my cell phone, but decided to not put it up… Lord, he is out of control… Poor J.A. Adande…
Brandon Ingram – Yuck… 7/4/1/0/0 in his last game, shooting 3-12 with 3 TO in 28 minutes. He’s like, “Deng! I wish I was projected to start!”
Anyone else catch your interest thus far in Summer Ball, Razzball Nation? Shoot your thoughts below, and happy NBA Offseason!