What can you learn from scrimmages and summer leagues?

By Steve DiMiceli

When I discuss my observations at scrimmages or a summer league game, I always feel like I need to submit an obligatory nugget of caution. "Take it with a grain of salt" is my go to expression in such situations. Since these are not real games, they have to come with a disclaimer of validity. However, they must have some value for fans. After all, Derrick Colter's break out summer league game generated more traffic to this blog than any other Duquesne driven piece including TJ McConnell leaving, Jim Ferry being hired or the build up during the winning streak two years ago. Only Jagarim Jarg and a Q + A with Dana and Victory rank ahead of it and neither were very popular with Duquesne fans themselves.

So if these games are so meaningless, why are so many people interested? Is there anything that doesn't need to be taken with a grain of salt? I thought it would be interesting to have a look ahead of the Thursday scrimmage. Here are a handful of areas where I feel you can safely assess before the season begins.

- Athleticism

Raw athleticism is often showcased in summer leagues and scrimmages and I think you can accurately assess a players physical strengths and weaknesses before the regular season begins. Mike Talley was lightning quick in the summer league his freshman year. Turns out he was lightning quick in the regular season as well.  Joel Wright was aggressive and a strong jumper in scrimmages. As it turns out, he was aggressive and a strong jumper in games. Based on this, I feel pretty comfortable saying that Derrick Colter is speedy, agile one and Quevyn Winters is springy and runs the floor well. I'd be happy to wager those attributes translate into real basketball.

- Work Rate/Tempo

If a player goes hard in summer league, chances are he's going to go hard in the regular season. You can see aggressiveness, pacing, and competitiveness in summer when the games that don't matter and assume it will translate. However, this does not mean that a guy who loafs in summer league will loaf in the regular season.

- Effort:Results ratio

Conversely, not everyone plays their hardest in the summer league. The pro players making cameo's from bigger leagues around the world play with minimal effort but get quality results anyway. They don't need to try their hardest and you can just tell they are better player than the rest of the league at 50%. Certain college players will have the same look. Kendrick Perry and Lamar Patterson fit the bill nicely. So does Ovie Soko.

- New Skills

If a player starts showing new skills in his game and successfully integrates them into his summer game, it's fairly likely that we'll be seeing that new trick in the regular season as well.

- Comfort Zones/ Tendencies

Comfort zones and tendencies are the styles of play or skills players tend to fall back on. Often times, these are perceived strengths that a player has of their own game and they regularly depend on them in less structured environments. Derrick Martin comes to mind who in spite of his frame appeared more comfortable with the basketball around the perimeter during last summer league. While we didn't see much of him last year during the season, we didn't see him look to comfortable when he had to played with his back to the hoop.

- Decision Making

Players who make good decisions in scrimmages and summer leagues tend to make good decisions in the regular season while players who force plays in summer league tend to force them in the regular season. Travon Woodall is a smart players all year round and that shows up in Greentree and at the Pete.

While it's difficult to make prognostications based on summer league and scrimmage performances, it's just as difficult to have them taken seriously. However, if you confine your analysis to a few key areas you can get a picture of what guys are like. While it's difficult to say whether a player will definitively be successful or a failure, it's plain to see attributes like athleticism, decision making, or work rate. Information we obtain from summer leagues and scrimmages is without a doubt incomplete, but it is still valuable. We can determine from these events if the tools for success are even present. Sometimes, it's easy to get carried away and expect too much based on unofficial competition, but certain player attributes can be lower sodium than others.