The NBA’s No-Sleep Summer

Typically, after the NBA Finals conclude, the sports world takes a much-needed exhale. We have been consuming non-stop action since the clock struck 2018, with no time to catch our breath or take a shower. The Super Bowl leads into March Madness, which is followed by the NBA and NHL playoff stretches and the two-month extravaganzas leading up to their respective finales. Sprinkle in some Olympic combat this year, and we were all ready for a nap.

Still, this year's summer sports can't be dismissed. The World Cup won our hearts, and we all browsed to figure out what country we should be rooting for after America didn't make the guest list. Wimbledon graced us with marathon matches between global greats, and majors on some of the world's most beautiful golf courses had us all rethinking our life choices. And as we find ourselves at the All-Star Break, baseball is ready to heat up faster than Josh Hamilton's spoon.

But here I am on a Tuesday night, finding myself glued to the television watching the Blazers vs. Lakers summer league finals.

I absolutely love the NBA summer league, and am thrilled that it is now televised for our viewing pleasure. I mean, the Cornhole Championships were on ESPN today, so the decision shouldn't have been that difficult. Nonetheless, the AAU atmosphere and bracket format following the preliminary games is exciting, and the combination of long-shots trying to make a roster and high picks looking to showcase their top-tier value is enough to get any NBA fan antsy for October.

Okay, so it's not as anticipated as last year, with sold out arenas and Lavar Ball's vocalized delusions. Though, maybe that's what makes summer league 2018 so great.

This year's rookie class is thought to be solid, but doesn't necessarily have an anticipated star with instant expectations or mass appeal, outside of maybe DeAndre Ayton. But guys like Kevin Knox, Wendell Carter, Collin Sexton Jarren Jackson, and Trae Young — all thought to have a shot at having all-star potential — have already made headway this summer. The world won't remember your name because you had a great summer, but the correlation between summer league and regular season success in today's game is real. Just ask Ben Simmons, Kyle Kuzma, and Jalen Brown, to name a few more recent examples. Either way, there's a thin line between taking the summer for what it's worth and overreacting, so don't go too crazy.

It's often thought throughout NBA circles that the biggest jump a player makes is between his first and second years. The summer league is the perfect time to see the results. Both Josh Hart of the Lakers and John Collins of the Hawks have proven they are probably too good to be playing in July, which bodes well for their anticipated playing time and potential success next year. Even seemingly forgotten names have reminded us they could still ball. Remember R.J. Hunter? My man has showed out.

My favorite part of the summer league? It's not a foregone conclusion. I love the NBA, but the Warriors are 2k with the sliders all the way up and you're playing against your 5-year old cousin who doesn't know the controls.

Which brings me to my last point. When DeMarcus Cousins signed with Golden State, I was ashamed at the thought that popped into my head. In fact, I was disgusted. But when I read Cousins to Golden State on the bottom line, I instantly thought one thing. We need David Stern. I promise this is the only time I wished for him back, but you know damn well he wouldn't have let this happen. That dude would have been making up rules and acting like they were in place since the '70s. Kobe's still mad he went from Chris Paul to Steve Blake in a matter of 30 seconds.

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