What To Watch For In Trail Blazers Summer League


The Portland Trail Blazers have been Summer League champions two out of the last four seasons. And this season, according to Draftkings, the Trail Blazers have the second best odds to win the Summer League down in Las Vegas.

That’s not what I care about.

Summer League has no affect on how a team will be in the regular season or the postseason — which is what really matters.

Around 50% of players playing in the Summer League never play a regular season minute in the NBA. I like to start all Summer League conversations with that. Most of the players playing we will never see again in the league. For that reason, I don’t put much stock into what happens in Vegas.

Of course I want to see Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe do some great dunks and have some highlight plays. More importantly, I want to watch their defensive intensity. Can the new faces of the franchise get in a stance and play tough defense. I don’t expect great defense — young players in the NBA very rarely are good defenders — but I want to see them in the correct spots on defense. Whether it’s help defense or on-ball, if they give up points it’s O.K., nut I want them to be sharp on the mental side of the game.

Scoot and Shaedon are a different breed. They are the faces of the franchise now. I want to see some domination but I also want to see them get better at the little things.

For the “non stars”: Jabari Walker, Kris Murray, Rayan Rupert, and Keon Johnson. I want them to show they have one NBA skill that can translate into the regular season. The easiest skill to gather is spotting up and knocking down catch and shoot three pointers. Now more than ever, to be able to play on the biggest stages, you need to be able to make a jump shot, especially for guys that aren’t going to be stars.

I want to see progression from Walker behind the arc. He showed last Summer League that he belongs in the NBA by rebounding and finishing. Now to get on the court in a regular season game, he needs to make threes. Same with Keon Johnson. This is a make or miss season for Johnson. Entering his third season, he hasn’t proven he can play on the NBA level. Now with Scoot, Sharpe, and Anfernee Simons there aren’t a lot of minutes. The fastest way for the athletic Johnson to get on the court is to make shots. Rayan Rupert is a young player known for his defense. There are some comparisons to Nicolas Batum, who developed a three point shot and became a very well paid player. I’m not expecting much out of Rupert in the Summer League, but is he is making shots, he could find the court earlier then expected.

To reiterate, don’t take Summer League very serious. If Scoot Henderson shoots 20% in four games, it’s not a big deal. Instead, look for skills that can get these guys on to a NBA regular season court. Because about half of them never will.