Summer league is a trap. It's a mirage in the middle of a hot summer, and it's easy to go crazy watching promising prospects dominate questionable competition. I've made the trek to Las Vegas for summer league several times, and if that was the only NBA action I'd ever seen, I'd be convinced that Jerryd Bayless was an All-Star, Anthony Randolph a future Hall of Famer and Joey Dorsey the next Ben Wallace.
That said, summer league isn't a waste of time. There's still value is absorbing the big picture view, so long as you avoid being seduced by gaudy statistics.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a revelation, not because he's averaging 27 points per game, but because he's playing with confidence he hasn't shown on the basketball court since his time at Georgia.
Mike Payne noted as much over the weekend, pointing out how vocal KCP was in his first two games. And that confidence surfaced again Tuesday in his third game when he overcame a horrible first half (and rolled ankle) to put the Pistons in position to beat the Heat in the final seconds.
All that was left was a game-winning shot. He hit it, of course, but I'm less excited that he drained the shot than the fact that he wanted to take it in the first place. From SBNation.com's Paul Flannery, who spoke to Bob Beyer, Stan Van Gundy's assistant who's coaching Detroit in Orlando and KCP after the game:
"You could just tell," Beyer said. "He wanted the ball. He had reads based on how the defense was going to come at him, but to his credit he made a big time play. I think it's great. Any time you can get a key player and put him in a difficult situation and he steps up and makes a big play like that, I think it's great."
Pope drained a three to finish with 26 points and the Pistons improved to 3-0. None of this means a whole lot in the big picture, but it means quite a bit for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
"I needed a fresh start," Caldwell-Pope said. "My summer workouts helped me get to this point right now. I'm more relaxed on the court than I was my first year. I was kind of frustrated and rushing a lot of things. Now I feel comfortable on the court with the ball in my hands making plays."
The Pistons agreed to a three-year deal with shooting guard Jodie Meeks last week, but Caldwell-Pope sure looks like he's trying his best to force Meeks into a sixth-man role. That'll be up for Van Gundy to decide, but the head coach is impressed so far:
"I like what I've seen so far," Van Gundy said. "Obviously he's putting up big numbers but what's a lot more important is he's playing at a very high-intensity level. Bringing great energy, doing a lot of other things. He's getting after it defensively, he got on the boards the other day. Those things are more important right now than the numbers he puts up. He's been very aggressive and I want to see that continue throughout the week."
Be sure to check out Flannery's entire column -- he also has interesting things to say about Nerlens Noel and Victor Oladipo.
Now, your thoughts. Who will start the most games in 2014-15: Meeks or KCP?