It Is RJ Barrett's Destiny To Stink (And 10 Other Summer League Overreactions)

The NBA Summer League is important to me because it’s all I have in the summer. For those of us who aren’t huge baseball guys, the time between the NBA Finals and football is a chasm of nothingness, a vicious withdrawal from a nightly addiction to live sports. So I do NOT want to hear that it’s just Summer League.

I know it’s just Summer League. And I won’t relax. I know these are reactions based on small sample sizes. But I need this. The sweet, brief escape from the unrelenting, monstrous claws of real life.

So, my 10 egregious and biased overreactions to the NBA Summer League, that might not be true in the future, but were definitely true in the amber of some moment during this summer.

1) R.J. Barrett Stinks

This dude is terrible. Airballs, missed layups, terrible turnovers, atrocious defense, trying to steal rebounds from teammates; this guy has fucked up in every way imaginable. Even worse, his actions are directly leading to Knicks losses. Throw his 17,10 and 6 at me, I don’t care. Throw the 21, 10 and 3 at me, it doesn’t matter. Considering his draft position, there have been times that Barrett has looked like the worst Summer League player of all time, statistically. Guys like D’Angelo Russell have bounced back from embarrassing summer performances, but if I were a Knick fan, it would be hard to get excited about this one.

2) I am furious to have missed on Carsen Edwards

Carsen Edwards seemed so obvious before the draft. Sure he was short but he rose up and got buckets. He was thick. He was stout. He wasn’t some Jawun Evans who would get bullied. Then sure enough, Edwards goes to Vegas and spends every day there doing cosplay as a bucket. I’m not proud of my take that Edwards was going to be good because it’s basic; it seemed so clear that it feels like some GMs talked themselves out of how obvious he looked. Grant Williams, with all his yelling and positivity, is another guy you hate to have on a rival squad.

3) Zhaire Smith will be a contributor on a championship basketball team

This dude looks like he can fucking ball. We knew he’d play good defense, but the handle, the stepback and the three in general have been a strong touch to the Sixers lineup. Not to mention that Matisse Thybulle looks like a nice shooting option (and terrible ball handler) and Marial Shayok looks like a real scoring threat (who probably will get no burn on the big squad). This week James Ennis said that the Sixers were going to waltz through the east to the finals and I have chosen to believe him. As big as this squad is, we’re gonna need Zhaire playing meaningful minutes as a stopper.

4) Keldon Johnson should have been a top 5 pick

And if he had made it to the NCAA Final he would have. THat’s no indictment of Jarret Culver and DeAndre Hunter, but playing later in the tournament does wonders for a young player’s draft stock. Still Keldon should be pretty excited where he wound up. As the a forgotten face in the West, the Spurs have quietly been building what will be their future core. Keldon’s running mate has been an enthused Lonnie Walker IV. In a couple years they’re going to be paired with Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, a promising stable. I don’t know how everyone collectively decided to sleep on the Spurs and I don’t understand it.

5) Iggy Bradzeikis has the new most punchable face in the league

You probably thought I was gonna laud Iggy for his 30 point performance, but I have too much hate in this heart. I didn’t see the ball going through the net when I watched him, I was too focused on him being out of position, running into his teammates and carrying the most punchable face this side of my face. As someone who jacks 3s and talks shit, he’s a guy who you love to have on the home team, but hate if he’s on any other team. Clem called him the white J.R. Smith and I don’t hate that comparison at all. I see him more as the next Ron Baker; someone Knicks fans will love and fetishize disproportionately to his actual production.

6) Hot prospect alert: this Cam Payne kid could be somebody

Cam Payne is playing in the Summer League no fewer than 18 years after he was drafted. This might be Cam Payne’s son at this point, a full new cycle of Cam Payne. Cam Payne was dancing with Russ Westbrook three co-stars ago, back when the Thunder played in Seattle. But somehow, Cam is still trying to cobble together a career against green D-II stars in their first crack at collegiate action. Plenty of Summer League ballers feel like they’ve been around forever. Amile Jefferson started his career at Duke two administrations ago. Hollis Thompson was a process era Sixer who feels like he started alongside Mo Cheeks. And Jimmer? Come on.

7) Tyler Herro will be All-Rookie

This boy is splashy. Some people might have convinced themselves that Herro was just a shooter, perhaps because of his status as a hwhite. His offensive acumen is way more well rounded, and since the Heat’s cupboard is relatively bare in the wake of the Jimmy Butler trade, his role this season could be a significant one. Or we could take this one wrinkle further. If Herro proves himself to be a competent offensive option, he could be the centerpiece of a trade that brings another star to the Heat, a la the Landry Shamet-centric trade that the Sixers made for Tobias Harris last season. Could Herro be the centerpiece of a Russ trade? If he continues this direction, he might be interesting to eventually pair with SGA.

8) Omari Spellman is fat again

This man is a hoss and should be protected as such. He’s cut from the Tractor Trailor cloth. The Ron Rollerson cloth. This is a big man and his body is intended to be thicc, so when he spent his time at Villanova and his rookie year last year chasing a more lithe body type, he was doing himself a disservice. Be who you are Omari! It will just make his nimble-feet that much more impressive, when he’s throwing around pirouette drop-steps at 300 pounds with breakneck torque. Big men become stars in the Warrior’s system because of the space they are afforded, just ask Kevon Looney. I could see Omari going this direction with Golden State, a cheap grinder who will thrive alongside Steph and Draymond.

9) The name parade is magnificent

Consider this list of names. It sounds like the Key and Peele skit:

Shizz Alston
Alize Johnson
Goga Bitadze
Travin Thibodeaux
Jakeenan Gant
MiKyle McIntosh
Edmond Sumner
DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell

Then consider that this these players are all on the Pacers. What a mellifluous parade of names. This isn’t quite a Summer League overreaction, but more an ode to the left brain creativity of the parents naming the babies who grow up to be NBA prospects.

10) Anfernee Simons has taken over as the number one Anfernee in basketball

Anfernee Simons didn’t play much as a rookie for the Blazers last year, while Anfernee Hardaway took over as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers, maintaining his domineering grip as Top Anfernee. Simons wasn’t deterred and it’s showing in the Summer League. He dropped 35 points and at 20-years-old he’s poised to be a luxury addition to a backcourt that is already flush with undersized scoring. Both Anfernees are poised to have a big year, but the torch might fully be passed to the young Trail Blazer, who now represents the standard-bearer for a name that was one of the most important cultural artifacts of the 90s.

So there it is. I take no responsibility for any of the things I’ve said, unless, of course, any of them come true.