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You’re Nuts: Should rookies play in the Summer League?

In light of recent events, let’s have a little chat.

2022 NBA Summer League - New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Believe it or not, we’re just a little past the halfway point of the college basketball off-season. Kansas was crowned national champions just over three months ago, and pre-season practices/scrimmages will be starting here in about three months. Certainly you’ve all been entertained by soccer and baseball lately, but if those things don’t quite tickle your fancy, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week, Connor and Justin made their case for which team will emerge victorious in TBT 2022. Connor picked The Money Team, who knocked off Carmen’s Crew last summer and have since added Jimmer Fredette to the roster. Justin picked Sideline Cancer, who have the most well-rounded roster in the tournament and play for a great cause, but weren’t able to get over the hump last summer after reaching the championship game two years ago.

It was a close vote, but the people sided with Justin’s Sideline Cancer pick to get him a win. Adding that Marc Loving option may have skewed the vote, however.

Here are the updated standings after 58 weeks:

After 58 weeks:

Connor- 26
Justin- 23
Other- 7

(There have been two ties)

This past week, E.J. Liddell — a second round pick by the Pelicans in the 2022 NBA Draft — tore his ACL in his first Summer League game of the year. ACL surgery rehab typically runs 10-12 months, so it’s looking like Liddell will miss his first season completely. Additionally, E.J. has yet to sign his rookie contract with New Orleans, meaning that technically they do not have to offer the injured former-Buckeye a contract. The Pelicans could raise their hands and let Liddell walk, not paying him a dime. It is still yet to be seen how Liddell’s contract situation will be resolved.

A large number of fans on Twitter responded to tweets about Liddell with, “Just stop the Summer League!” and, “The Summer League just isn’t worth it.” So it got us thinking.... should teams send their draftees to summer league? Is it worth the risk?

Today’s question: Should rookies play in the Summer League?

Connor: Yes

2022 NBA Summer League - New Orleans Pelicans v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite E.J. getting hurt this week, the NBA Summer League is still for the most part a good, helpful event. Ohio State and New Orleans fans are understandably upset about this, as Liddell is a good person and player who fell farther in the draft than we expected, and we were all excited to see him shove it back in people’s faces.

Not only will he not have the chance to do that now, his career and financial situation are both murky. Will the Pelicans still sign him, or will they move on? Will he catch on somewhere next year, or will he wind up overseas or in the G-League? Will he make any money at all this season, or will the Pelicans still pay him some portion of his rookie contract while he rehabs with their medical team?

But if we’re being honest, the Summer League is for rookies. Some second-year players get minutes in Summer League, but it’s mostly for teams to see what they’ve got with their rookies. It’s only a few games, and it’s the only time they’ll see their rookies play until pre-season. More than anything else, it’s a showcase to see young players.

Additionally, how often do we see draftees suffer season-ending injuries in the summer league? We all had a knee-jerk reaction to this injury because it hit so close to home, but I can’t recall many — if any — rookies getting hurt during Summer League and missing their entire rookie season. If teams stopped having their rookies play, then there’s really no point in having Summer League at all.

As a topper — and I’m not even a big NBA fan — basketball fans absolutely lap up Summer League results. People are already talking about Chet Holmgren as potentially the best shot blocker in the NBA after just two games that don’t count.... the fans don’t want this three-week league to go anywhere.

Justin: No

2022 NBA Summer League - Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

To be very honest, I have been wavering on this question for years as a big fan of the Summer League. It is similar to the preseason question in the NFL. However, in the NFL you have veterans and guys with league experience playing, so the decision to sit them out is easier. With this, all of these guys are first or second year players or G-League Affiliate players looking to get their shot at a contract or a 10-day deal in the league.

As I said above, I am an honest person. Honestly, this is not going to be my most compelling argument because I think there are layers to this and I am still peeling those back myself. It sucks on another level to see things happen like they did this week with E.J. Liddell, but when watching the Summer League, it is hard to argue that is does not provide a strong value to the players.

The Summer League has an undeniable value to the players that play in it. You get to play against NBA competition, get a slight feel for the speed of the game and you get to play some competitive basketball that likely hasn’t been played since March. The combine isn’t that, and is instead more of a skill and intangible showcase.

However, and call me an overreactor, but what we saw with Liddell this week is a good example as to why maybe at least rookies shouldn’t play in Summer League.

On one hand, it is a chance for the rookies to prove themselves and get a good first glimpse into what they can do against other top young players in the league. On another, a lot of these rookies already have spots on their respective teams and can risk injury playing in the Summer League.

This season, we have seen second year guys like Austin Reeves, Jalen Green and others skip the Summer League. They too could benefit from playing in these meaningful games, but they don’t want to risk it.

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this question because it is a complicated situation. But for now, I will say rookies shouldn't have to play in the Summer League, especially if they were a first round pick.


Should rookies and high draftees play in the NBA Summer League?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Yes (Connor)
    (11 votes)
  • 31%
    No (Justin)
    (5 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now