Progress and Improvement are Orlando Magic’s measure of Summer League success

Jalen Suggs is set to make his debut for the Orlando Magic at Summer League. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs is set to make his debut for the Orlando Magic at Summer League. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA Summer League tipped off in Las Vegas on Sunday and the overreactions are already getting a bit tiresome.

People are trying to claim Alperen Sengun is better than Evan Mobley after Sengun’s 15-point, 15-rebound game in the Houston Rockets’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. People are already claiming the Scottie Barnes’ pick to the Toronto Raptors to be a huge success after his stellar opening performance.

Pretty much everyone is going to start trying to make conclusions after one game in Summer League and just get ready for the regular season. Never mind they are forgetting the most important rule of Summer League analysis:


Yes, this is a traditionally trickly time for NBA fans and analysts. How much of what happens on the court in the semi-organized Summer League will translate to the regular season. Nobody really seems to know.

I personally find it best to go by the golden rule of Summer League: Summer League cannot tell you who can play, but it can tell you who cannot play in the NBA.

It will be easy to get wrapped up in statistics and individual games during the Orlando Magic’s Summer League run. But the real measure of success will be the improvement from start to finish.

Fans are eager to see their young players play and to put up gaudy stats. That should be some sign of a player on the cusp of stardom. Of course, those can be a bit overblown too. After all, most of these players are not going to be playing these starring and featured roles once the season begins.

The true measure of success in Summer League then should not be about statistics. It should be about progress.

Do players look more comfortable on the floor? Are they getting the concepts the new coaching staff is implementing? Can they clearly carve out their roles with the team moving forward?

These are certainly more subtle and require watching the game. Nobody wants to see a player score 20 points on 22 shots. That would not necessarily send up a red flag, but it is certainly a sign those statistics are a bit emptier.

That is why it is more important to see players like Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton play efficiently rather than put up big numbers.

Anthony averaged 12.9 points per game on a 44.9-percent effective field goal percentage last season, with 15.0 points per game on a 47.2-percent effective field goal percentage after the trade deadline. Hampton averaged 11.2 points per game on a 48.2-percent effective field goal percentage with the Magic last year.

Orlando is likely more concerned with seeing them keep their turnovers down, improve their efficiency and show some mastery and control over the team’s offense. They are probably more concerned with their defense too after both had typical roookie struggles defensively.

More than anything, the Magic want to see their veterans and then their young players understand the concepts the new coaching staff is teaching.

Jamahl Mosley talked about how he is building the foundation for his team. The Magic are going to show off how they are planning to play this season during Summer League under Mosley’s direction. He has talked about several offensive and defensive buzz words in the process. This will actually show that in action.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

There will undoubtedly be rough moments at the start. Nobody would expect to get all the concepts immediately. But especially from the team’s starting group, Orlando will want to see the team get better within the confines of their system.

General improvement throughout the course of the week and time at Summer League will be vital. This is a player development outfit, seeing improvement is the ultimate goal.

The same will go for the rookies too. The Magic just need to see them comfortable on the floor and that they can find a place on the team. Again, progress is the goal. If they look better as the week goes on, that means they are on the right rack heading into the season.

Still, it is hard to ignore the excitement of this moment. Especially for a team like the Orlando Magic.

After a downtrodden season, the reward of the Draft has been minted and now the team gets to play with its new toys.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the debuts of Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner to see what the team’s new rookies can do and how they might fit into the future. They are equally excited to see the progress of second-year players Anthony and Hampton.

Summer League is the place for a team’s future to create some national buzz and to build some momentum through the offseason (although this one will be much shorter with training camp just more than a month away). It was hard not to get wistful when Fran Fraschilla proclaimed the Houston Rockets had a bright future just off one half of one Summer League game of Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun.

The Magic are hoping for a bit of that when their quartet of players in Anthony, Hampton, Suggs and Wagner hit the floor Monday night.

Fans are eager to see how they play and already seem to be imagining statistics — gaudy statistics — for each of them. There is a belief Summer League will be some failure without these statistics to back them up. There needs to be some tangible proof of the team’s success.

Stats will be part of the equation still. But it is not the end goal of this Summer League.

Instead it is about where the team finishes compared to where it starts. Are players playing better and getting the concepts and system the team is running? Do they look like they are growing into NBA roles?

Summer League is about this subtle growth. Success rarely beats anyone over the head because of the nature of the competition and these games.

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This week will be about growth and improvement. Just like the rest of the season. This is just the first step in the process.