Summer League isn’t a good indicator of talent, but for second year players like Phoenix Suns guard Josh Jackson, it can be helpful in taking the next step.
The NBA Summer League is strange. Everyone knows to put little stock in its results. Play is sloppy and undisciplined. Viewers care about how individuals play but not if the team wins. Hardcore fans grow attached to players that might never make a regular season roster. And if the week ends with none of the team’s core getting injured, it has to be considered a success.
Some Summer League players hope to make a team, while others just hope to make a name for themselves. Established players don’t usually play because of the lack of value and risk of injury that comes with playing alongside sub-NBA players. But in a series of nearly meaningless games, Josh Jackson has a unique opportunity.
As a top four pick coming off a solid rookie season, Jackson’s first impression is far in the rearview mirror. His roster spot is locked up, and he’s already proven himself to be a capable NBA player. In these ways, he’s different from all but a few players in the Summer League.
Having already played in the Summer League last season, Jackson is one of the most experienced players on the team. So instead of proving he can play, this week is a chance for Jackson to prove he can be a leader on the court. So far, he’s been just okay.
While stats don’t always tell a very accurate story in the Summer League, Jackson’s poor shooting is certainly a disappointment, as are his low rebounding and assist numbers. But in a league where highlights are sometimes just as relevant as stats, his monster block and stare down of Marvin Bagley was encouraging.
Last summer, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown entered Summer League in a similar boat as Jackson. Both carried strong performances into improved regular seasons. For a player like Josh Jackson, the summer is chance to show he’s added layers to his game. Hopefully we see more from him going forward.