Every year during the NBA Summer Leagues, three different types of players grace the courts. First, there are the summer league scrubs. The scrubs are the players who are essentially playing to showcase their talents to overseas scouts or a spot on a D-League roster. Second, their are the summer league all-stars. The all-stars are the lottery picks or second- or third-year players who are clearly better than the rest of the competition and are putting up huge numbers during the week. Finally, their are the summer league impact role players. These are the players who were selected late in the second round or not drafted at all and are scrapping and clawing for those final roster spots on an NBA team.
What makes them an impact role player? They know that once they’re on a NBA squad, the GM didn’t sign them to take those big shots but rather to make those little plays that will win games. Those GM’s need players that will take that tough charge, grab that offensive rebound, dive for the loose ball or set that aggressive pick. These are the Chris “Birdman” Andersens, Chuck Hayes, Anderson Varajeos, Jason Maxiells and Leon Powes of the League. All five of these players are role players on championship contending teams who know their role and play their game fitting to that specific niche. Below are five 2009 Summer League players that can fill those roles for other NBA teams (in no particular order) and the summer league team they’re playing for:
Jeff Adrien, 6-7 240 PF UConn Undrafted (Memphis) – A perfect power forward off the bench for a team full of stars. He has played with stars and scorers his whole four-year career at UConn and will know his role on a roster will be to grab tough rebounds, fight for loose balls and set effective screens (i.e. Maxiell, Hayes).
Dante Cunningham, 6-8 230 SF/PF Villanova Rd 2 Pick 33 (Portland) – A combo forward that can come into a game and play great defense, hit an open jump shot and grab a few rebounds. He’s the type of player that will give 110% every play and improve each and every day in practice making him a solid role player for years to come (i.e. Powe).
Tony Gaffney, 6-8 210 PF UMass Undrafted (LA Lakers) – A high intensity forward that can immediately help on the defensive end with weak side blocks/steals and will grab rebounds with the best of them despite his lack of strength. He will also leave it all on the floor every possession which will make him a fan favorite, as he will dive on the floor for a loose ball or jump over players to make a block (i.e. Birdman).
Jon Brockman, 6-7 250 PF Washington Rd 2 Pick 38 (Sacramento) – Another power forward that can come off the bench and immediately help with offensive rebounds which will lead to easy baskets for him – something he has done his whole collegiate career (i.e. Maxiell).
Robert Dozier, 6-10 215 PF/C Memphis SR Rd 2 Pick 60 (No Summer League) – Selected by the Miami Heat (although they aren’t playing in any summer leagues) Dozier is a high energy role player that runs the floor extremely well. He is also another player who has played with stars in college so he can make the transition to becoming a role player with ease. He will be a spark plug player off the bench to run the floor, help out on rebounds, block shots, and get his hands in the passing lanes (i.e. Varajeo).
Which 2009 NBA Summer League players do you think can be the next impact role player on a NBA team?