ESPN reported today that no decision has been made as to whether or not NBA summer league(s) will happen this year, but, really, it is more than likely that neither the Las Vegas nor Orlando leagues are going to occur in the summer of 2011.
OK, so I’d be surprised if the majority of casual fans even knew that NBA leagues existed, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t significant to some–i.e. players who aren’t surefire first round picks this year. Why? Only first round picks receive guaranteed contracts in the NBA. So if you are drafted in the second round or go undrafted, you still have to make the team. Summer league is where players in that category prove themselves. Especially for undrafted guys, summer league can very well be the last chance to audition for not only for the team they might be playing for, but for the entirety of the league. Guys like Austin Freeman, who we highlighted yesterday, are going to be sweating out the process even more, now.
I never recommend that underclassmen who aren’t definite first rounders to come out early, but this year of all years, where it is all but certain that NBA is going to have a lockout, it will be an unbelievably high risk to leave college. You feel for seniors who don’t have the option to go back for another year in this situation, but how much sympathy can you have for a guy who knew this was a risk and could have avoided it? Jordan Williams, Shelvin Mack, Chris Singleton, and other non-seniors who have declared for the draft: you’ve been warned.