Realistically, what can basketball fans and front offices really make of a rookie's performance in NBA summer league action?
In a nutshell, it's this: If you're bad in summer league, then you're really bad. You can forget about whatever potential you thought you had as an NBA prospect, because you're done, finished, kaput.
But if you're good?
It means you've got a shot. It doesn't guarantee anything, of course, but it means that if a team has the interest and the money, they should kick the tires and see what you've got to offer. In other words, you're worth taking a little gamble on.
But in the case of Luke Harangody, the Celtics are taking more than just a little gamble — they're making a big commitment to the Notre Dame alum right out of the gates after signing him to a two-year deal last week. No one knows whether Harangody's got what it takes to be an impact player in the NBA, but the Celtics have between now and the summer of 2012 to figure it out.
That shows you a little bit about where the Celtics' priorities lie — Shaquille O'Neal has a one-year deal in Boston, while Harangody's got two. Shaq has four rings, 15 All-Star selections and over 28,000 career points; Harangody's got a summer league under his belt. And look which one gets job security from Danny Ainge.
To be fair, Harangody's stint down in Orlando this summer was very, very good. The 22-year-old power forward averaged 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in his five games down in Orlando, easily leading the Celtics' summer team in both categories. He put up stat lines that made lottery picks like Derrick Favors look like nobodies. He earned his two-year contract, and he earned the satisfaction of officially being a Celtic.
"It?s a great feeling," Harangody told the Globe last week. "It?s a little bit of job security, especially being guaranteed. I can kind of sleep easy at night. And for it to be officially signed is also a great feeling as well."
Now comes the fun part: Putting Harangody on the floor and seeing what he can do. The Celtics have committed to having him around for the next two seasons, so what role will he play?
The Celtics themselves aren't yet sure.
"I don?t know," coach Doc Rivers told the Globe. "He?s a rookie, but he can play, I can tell you that. He can shoot the ball and stretch the floor. He shot the ball extremely well in summer league from behind the NBA 3-point line, which I didn?t know he could do, honestly, watching him in college. I didn?t know he had the range.
"He?s going to be a player in this league," he added. "He?s quirky offensively, and he had to figure out a way of scoring by not being dominant athletically. I love players like that, because that means they play with their heads. That?s the type of player that makes it in this league, so that will be good for us."
Harangody is a unique player on the Celtics' roster — he manages to bring both strength on the offensive glass and floor-spacing outside shooting, both weaknesses of last year's C's. Getting both in the same package, especially with a youngster taken late in the draft, is a golden opportunity.
There's a veritable mob of able big men in the Celtics' locker room this upcoming season — two O'Neals, Shaquille and Jermaine, will be joined by Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Semih Erden, Tony Gaffney and eventually Kendrick Perkins. But Harangody has earned the right to be a part of that group, and the Celtics will spend the next two years figuring out what he can bring to the table.