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Weakside Eyes: It’s Summer League
Jimmy, did ya see dat move? Did ya see what he did? The kid is gonna be a star, Jimmy!
Calm down kid, it’s the Summer League . . . plus, ya see who was guarding him?
— Uncle Jimmy giving advice to Lil’ Nicky Bops
Resist the emotional pull of the moment
NBA Summer League Basketball can be fun to watch if you observe it with a keen eye and don’t invest too much emotion into it. The overall talent level does not produce and environment abrasive enough to thoroughly reveal the depths of a dreaming hopeful. This message is more suited to fans of the games that, while their joy of the game is to be applauded, bite from the apple and fall for a moment, mistaking it for the legitimate talent one could fall in love with.
One must properly observe the evidence.
Can he rebound in a crowd, shed the blockout, rebound outside of his area (can he go get it), jump off two feet or one? Is there 2nd and 3rd effort? How does he change ends of the floor . . . offensive rebounder, defensive rebounder or both? Does he blockout?
Can he take contact, make free throws?
What about his playing personality? Is he coachable? What’s his on the floor attitude . . . how does he react to a bad call or a negative moment?
Don’t let total rebound numbers fool you . . . how many of those came to him, and how many did he get in the crowd?
Some nights it’s like shooting into a rain barrel; other nights it’s like a teacup
OK, let’s talk about the ultimate “must have” in basketball: shooting the ball.
If you can’t shoot, you better be damn good at doing something else in the game. Having a non-shooter on the floor puts a clown smile on the faces of the defense. So how do you evaluate a good shooter? What are we looking for?
You want technique or results?
The first tough teaching point a coach must face is: “Do I change a player’s technique if the results are positive?”
Don’t over-coach this . . . if that certain player is shooting for a high percentage, would you change his style? Young coaches have the toughest time handling this question. Dean Smith, the Hall of Fame former Head Coach at the University of North Carolina, explained this to me after one of his practice sessions. I never forgot that lesson.
So as you evaluate a shooter you want to see how / where he gets his shooting chances.
“Coach, I’m always open, nobody’s guarding me, why won’t they pass me the ball?” Coach says,”Cause you can’t shoot.”
Players need to learn early: shooters will shoot and must shoot, but they need to earn their bones by spending an endless amount of time with repetition, repetition, repetition . . . shooting must become 2nd nature, a part of who you are.
Can the kid shoot?
I don’t know lets check him out
- Whats the release look like? Is it consistent?
- Does he have lift in his shot?
- Quick release?
- Foot speed?
- What is his range?
- Can he put the ball on the floor to “escape the defender” and get into his shot?
- More than one dribble?
- Can he go left or right into his shot with the dribble or just one way?
- Can he catch and shoot w/o the bounce?
- Is he a stationary shooter? Does he move w/o the ball to get into his shot?
- Use screens? Is he easy to guard w/o the ball?
- What type of offensive moves does he have with the ball to get his shot? Does he create separation?
- Does he have savvy? Knows how to play the game?
- Get to the lane / rim type or pure jump shooter?
- Streaky shooter or steady performer?
- Is he tough? Confident? Does he make big shots during pressure moments?
Is he a splasher or a clunker?
Does he shoot as if the basket is a rain barrel or a tea cup?
Terrific shooters can disguise many weaknesses, and you must have them or the game will become very painful for you.
The list above does not mean they must be able to perform all the skills I mentioned, but a player that can’t score is a gift for any defense.
Practice is for learning games are for evaluating.
You can’t hide from my weakside eyes
Gerry V is a 21-year NBA analyst, 17-year talk radio host, a 16-year coach, and current anchor for “Fox 8 New Orleans Morning Edition”, 5 a.m. – 9 a.m. and “Fox 8 News at Noon.” Follow Gerry V on twitter (@GVTalk).