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Ten Year Summer League History of Top Point Guards

A look at the statistics of the first point guards taken in the NBA draft over the past 10 years.

How will Trey Burke respond to a poor summer league performance?
How will Trey Burke respond to a poor summer league performance?

CTrey Burke didn't have the best performance in summer league. He didn't have an average performance in summer league. He had a terrible performance. Now that does not indicate he will have a terrible or mediocre career. But it is disheartening to see the best point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft class have a rough time in summer league. But how bad was his performance in retrospect?

I made a list of the first point guards taken off the board in the last ten drafts. I wanted to go back further but 2004 is the furthest I could go back and find summer league stats. I also wanted to compare apples to apples. I wanted to compare the first point guards taken in every draft. These are supposedly the best of the best not the 2nd best of their draft class, not the 3rd best, but the best of the best. So I am going to compare Trey Burke with the best point guard taken of every draft. It is disingenuous to Trey Burke to compare him to any less. He was billed as the best point guard and so I will compare him as such.

Summer League Stats
1st Point Guard Taken Year Position Taken FG % RPG APG SPG PPG
Trey Burke 2013 #9 24.1% 3.5 4.0 0.2 8.8
Damian Lillard 2012 #6 43.8% 4.0 5.3 0.5 26.5
Kyrie Irving* 2011 #1 - - - - -
John Wall 2010 #1 37.7% 4.0 7.8 2.5 23.5
Johnny Flynn** 2009 #6 48.0% 2.4 7.4 0.8 15.0
Derrick Rose*** 2008 #1 29.4% 4.0 5.5 2.0 9.5
Mike Conley, Jr. 2007 #4 36.4% 3.0 5.2 1.0 11.4
Rajon Rondo 2006 #21 56.4% 4.0 5.8 2.2 10.4
Deron Williams 2005 #3 40.4% 1.8 3.7 1.7 9.3
Shaun Livingston 2004 #4 25.0% 5.0 2.0 1.0


*Lockout prevented summer league and training camp

**Ricky Rubio was selected before Johnny Flynn but never played in a summer league game.

***Played only 2 games. Had right knee tendinitis.

Rookie Year Stats

Player Name Draft Year MPG FG % RPG APG SPG PPG
Damian Lillard 2012 38.6 43.0% 3.0 6.5 0.90 19.0
Kyrie Irving 2011 30.5 46.9% 3.75 5.4 1.10 18.5
John Wall 2010 37.8 41.0% 4.6 8.3 1.75 16.4
Jonny Flynn 2009 28.9 41.7% 2.4 4.4 1.01 13.5
Derrick Rose 2008 37.0 47.5% 3.9 6.3 .0.81 16.8
Mike Conley, Jr. 2007 26.1 42.8% 2.6 4.2 0.83 9.4
Rajon Rondo 2006 23.5 41.8% 3.7 3.8 1.6 6.4
Deron Williams 2005 28.8 42.1% 2.4 4.5 0.75 10.8
Shaun Livingston 2004 27.1 41.4% 3.0 5.0 1.07 7.4

Top Summer League Performers

The top three summer performances of the last 10 years by the 1st point guard taken were:

  • Damian Lillard
  • John Wall
  • Rajon Rondo
I will readily admit it is a close margin between Rajon Rondo and Johnny Flynn but I ultimately selected Rajon Rondo for the last spot of the top three because he had a higher field goal percentage, more rebounds per game, and more steals per game. He affected the game in a number of ways and was efficient in what he did. Damian Lillard and John Wall both had epic summer league performances.

Now all three of these players have become starters in this league and stars. Not quite superstars but stars none the less. Opposing teams must gameplan around these three players whenever they face one of them. But while Damian Lillard and John Wall had exceptional rookie years, Rajon Rondo's rookie year was less than desired.

Worst Summer League Performance

The worst summer league performances by the 1st point guard taken were:

  • Trey Burke
  • Deron Williams
  • Shaun Livingston
  • Derrick Rose
It should be noted that Derrick Rose was dealing with tendinitis while in summer camp and only played two games. Derrick Rose went on to win Rookie of the Year. His summer numbers look indicative of a player that is injured. Deron Williams summer numbers almost mirror his rookie year numbers. It is not surprising then that Chris Paul won rookie of the year in 2005-2006 and not Deron Williams. Shaun Livingston's career never got off on the right foot. Chronically injured for most of his career he never reached his potential.

That brings us to Trey Burke. Trey Burke has the worst summer league numbers of any 1st point guard taken on a draft night in the last 10 years. Let that settle in for you. Out of any 1st point guard taken in the draft Trey Burke had the worst summer league. Worse than Shaun Livingston, worse than Jonny Flynn, and worse than Mike Conley. That's unnerving. Yes, summer league is not a sign of future success. Just ask Nate Robinson or Anthony Randolph. Just because you dominate in the summer league doesn't mean you belong in the league. It just means you don't thrive in a situation where you are surrounded by D-League talent while cramming a playbook amidst a chaotic environment of basketball.

But there's the other part to this equation that becomes unnerving in Trey Burke's situation. It's that of Raul Neto. His performance in summer league was astounding. So much so that during Summer League interviews his name was the first to come up whenever they interviewed a member of the Utah Jazz. Tyrone Corbin, when asked about Raul Neto in his NBAtv interview, started brimming with a smile ear to ear. His grin was so noticeable that the announcers doing the interview even commented how much his demeanor brightened when asked about him. Raul Neto got the prime interview after the first summer league game. I repeat, Raul, 2nd round pick, Neto got the PRIME TIME interview. Not Trey Burke, top rated PG in the lottery, not Rudy Gobert, also a 1st round pick, but Raul Neto. No one knew about this kid before the draft and here at the Orlando Summer League he's getting the star treatment day 1.

That is not to say Trey Burke can't improve. Deron Williams improved massively from his rookie year to year 2. Derrick Rose had a phenomenal rookie year. But there is cause for alarm with Trey Burke. He didn't look comfortable in summer league. He had trouble commanding the offense. He had trouble in the pick and roll. He had trouble on defense. The game looked as though it was going a thousand miles an hour around him. If Raul Neto averaged the same amount of minutes a game as Trey Burke did his averages would have been as follows:
  • 6.5 PPG
  • 5.25 APG
  • 3.5 RPG
That's not amazing but it is on par with the #9 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Less points, more assists, and more efficient. Luckily for Burke it does not appear that Raul Neto is going to get bought out from his European team this season. But it does put pressure on him to improve which is exactly the desired result.

I am in agreement with Amar when he says we must be critical of the youth on the Utah Jazz just as much as we are with the veterans. To sugar coat Trey Burke's performance in the summer league is to ignore a host of shortcomings. It, by no means, determines his future in the league as a bust or star. A bad or good summer league performance is as much an indication of failure in the NBA as having a cough is an indication of cancer. But like any terrible cough it is a symptom. Sometimes it's a symptom of something minor like allergies or the common cold. It soon passes and it is nothing to worry about. But sometimes it is a symptom of a much larger problem. At this stage it is an unknown, a symptom. Only time will tell if this summer league was just a hiccup in Trey Burke's future as a star or if it was precursor to future problems.