Lessons, insights and knowledge from behind the curtain of the NBA Summer League
Updated: Apr 13
PICTURED: NBA Summer League is hosted at Thomas and Mack Arena (UNLV's home gym) and is very well attended by the whose who of American basketball at all levels. A great networking event as well as the basketball.
Coach Liam Flynn runs an annual tour group to the NBA Summer League. This event provides a very small group of basketball people from around the world with a “behind the curtain” look at the NBA. Bringing various disciplines in to the tour has always appeared to us to be one of the big benefits of this small group tour. In past years he has had experienced coaches, sports agents, player development coaches, physiotherapists, sports scientists, strength and conditioning coaches etc on the tour. The knowledge sharing amongst the tour group is one thing but the opportunity to be a part of knowledge sharing meetings with NBA team staffers in all areas is also certainly a great opportunity.
This year Coach Kyle Brown has agreed to update www.HighPerformanceHoopsNetwork.com readers on the tour, what he learned that can be passed on, the type of meetings on the tour and any insights on Summer League itself will be of value to our readers. In the past we’ve had great articles on the NBA Summer League from:
PICTURED: Tony Casella who provided us with a blog from his past tour. Pictured here with Tom Crean who was at Indiana at this time, now with Georgia in the SEC.
Coach Brown has had many years of coaching experience (15 years), predominantly at the Division 3 NCAA level, coaching in some highly successful programs, progressing to the NCAA tournament a number of times. With so many years of experience he has been a big part of recruiting in his programs, perimeter player development, academic supervision, scouting and of course… gameday, and practice coaching. With such in depth knowledge and experience of all components of a basketball program it is going to be interesting to read Coach Brown’s perspectives of his CLF Tour group, as well as meetings with NBA front, back office and basketball operations staff.
PICTURED: Up close to the Spurs timeout during SUmmer League.
How did you hear about the 2019 CLF NBA Summer League tour?
I have been following Coach Liam Flynnon twitter for years (@coachliamflynn) because of the great content he produces so I was very familiar with his work. The thing that made me email Liam was his podcast appearance on the Basketball Immersion podcast with Chris Oliver.
Who were your colleagues in the tour group?
PICTURED:The tour group with Special Assistant to Head Coach Quin Snyder, Chris Darnell, Utah Jazz
We had an awesome group of guys. It was so much fun to talk basketball, enjoy meals, and split uber rides around Vegas.
My Group was: Mason Rogers – Women’s Coaching lead at Werribee Basketball Association, Melbourne.
Mark Eaton – Junior basketball boys coach at Nunawading Spectres, Melbourne
Paul Schwartz- A player development coach from Indiana who works with high school, college and pro players.
Diccon Lloyd Smeath- A U15 national team coach for Wales and a writer that covers the FIBA Basketball Champions League.
Mike Duffy- Assistant Coach at Western New England University and previously scout for NetScouts.
Which NBA games did you see?
I enjoyed the games and thought that they were a fun add on with all the meetings. I was able to pick up some new sets and offensive ideas.
We were all at the Zion game. The crowd was all standing during warmups waiting to see what he would do. The energy in the building was crazy during that game.
I was also at the Spurs vs Magic game in Cox Pavillion when the earthquake hit.
I tried to watch all the international teams because they just do things a little differently and ran some unique sets.
I watched the Nets, Bucks, and Jazz the most. Those are all teams I really like to watch and tried to see what little things I could pick up.
What is your impression of the style of play at Summer league?
I enjoyed the intimate setting (Especially in Cox) to watch the games. The style of play was a more basic NBA style. I always enjoy seeing how the coaching staff gets their players to execute various parts of the system in such a short time.
I also liked to see all the staffs and how they interacted on the bench. Sitting in Cox pavillion, I could here huddle conversations. It was such a cool experience to really listen to those coaches.
It is a very physical game and I like how they let the players play. I thought that players were usually allowed 1 bump and then after that they would call fouls.
Did you get to see any practices at all?
We were able to see an ‘big man’ workout from the Boston Celtics, as well as, another individual workout featuring New York Knicks forward, Marcus Morris.
If so, what were your thoughts on the practices and what were you key takeaways?
I thought the Celtics workout was very efficient and organized. They really wanted the player to have game like shots that he would be seeing in the game. They worked with a post player on setting a ton of ballscreens and dribble handoffs.
The takeaways were:
How specific they were on certain skills. One drill they had the player set a ballscreen or DHO 4 separate times before he could finish.
How much you can get accomplished in a short time if you are organized as a coach.
How good of shape the assistant coaches were in. They were running around and very active.
What were the various meetings you took part in, in Summer League and what was their roles?
PICTURED: Tour group with Assistant Coaches from the Philadelphia 76ers, Kevin Young and John Bryant
We met with a wide array of people across the NBA. It was awesome to hear from people in so many different areas.
Chris Darnall-Asst to the head coach for the Utah Jazz
Really enjoyed his ideas on player development and how Quin Snyder uses him. Biggest takeaway from his talk was how they decompress after games and then they take those notes (Mostly from Snyder) and use them in prep for the next time they play that team.
He also used a term I really liked. “Layering of sets” basically that they take an action and then build counters on top of that action.
Vance Catlin-Player Personnel scout with the Indiana Pacers
In evaluating the players get a talent grade and a character grade. They really look at the fit in the team, work ethic, and background.
He also talked about how “Organization is efficiency
Phil Beckner- leading NBA Player development coach (Damian Lillard’s personal trainer)
We live in a world of comparison and distraction.
I really liked how he talked about the approach into your shot. Posture, body positioning, use of dribbles.
Instead of using the word “but” try to use “now”. That was a good move but work on extension= That was a good move, now work on extending your finishing hand.
Adam Harrington- Director of Player Development for the Brooklyn Nets
Own the moment you are in.
Treat every player you work with like you are working with Kevin Durant
Shooting is all about feet, fingers, and faith. Basically that he wants to focus on the stuff that is really important to a shot going in or out. Your feet connect you to the ground and are a major source of power and balance. Your fingers are the thing that control the ball as it is released. He talked about a “Power V” with the 2 main fingers (Index & Middle finger) needing to be spread out wide on the ball. Faith is just your confidence as a shooter in your preparation and ability to make shots.
PICTURED: Tour group with Director of Player Development, Adam Harrington, Brooklyn Nets
Somak Sakar- Analytics Manager with the New Orleans Pelicans
There is a direct correlation to the amount of info you have on a player and the amount of risk. If you have a lot of information on a player, there is less of a risk for what he will do at their level (this also applies to me in recruiting). But there is always risk in the evaluation of a player because no matter how much you do, you can never fully know how they will adjust to your team/system.
Transition offense is everything. Being 29th in transition offense is better efficiency than the number 1 team in half-court offense
You can get lost if you don't have a purpose.
Kevin Young & Jon Bryant-Assistant coaches with the Philadelphia 76ers
“Show 5 and trust 2” in ballscreens. I liked this concept a lot and will use it for my team. They want to show all 5 guys guarding the ballscreen but really want to guard it 2 on 2.
3 part of offense: after makes, after miss, special teams. They divide their offensive asst coaches into these 3 parts of offense. I like the idea of having different offenses depending on how it starts. After makes is usually a little slower and they will run flow or a set. After a miss it is transition into guys making a play. Special teams has to do with deadballs, ATO’s, and special situation
Coaches should dive deeper into special team Defense. This was something that a couple of the coaches talked about. Basically, that we spend all this time talking about different sets to run, what ATO’s to use, etc. However, we should look into ways to use special teams on defense.
Luke Loucks (Asst coach with the Golden State Warriors) and Michael Lee (Assistant Coach Santa Cruz Warrioirs)
“Joyous Intensity”- The way they want to do everything
Players need to see success of what you are teaching. Film!
How do you give players info? Have to mix the medicine with the sweet.
Jim Kelly-Scout with the Dallas Mavericks
Looks for athletics ability first, can he play a position, 1 skill that can override his position; effort.
whoever is running the room, has to be able to run the room. This was in context to scouting directors and how they run meetings/groups. You have to be prepared and confident in these settings
Looks for weird stats based on position. IE a big that has a lot of steals
Head Coach of G-League team (name withheld on request)
Wants to recreate environments that players will see in games with decisions.
Professional habits that lead to winning.
An asst GM in the NBA (name withheld on request)
Communication dynamic is everything
Have to apply the context to what the numbers are saying. You can’t just look at numbers and make determinations about what they mean. You have to look at everything. Injuries, role, off the court issues, work ethic. All those things could affect what is going on during the game.
Moody guys don't make it.
When evaluating IQ he watches all pick & Rolls, shots off the dribble, and assists.
Brett Greenberg-Asst GM with the Washington Wizards
Have to study the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and really understand it
Find context to numbers It is important to really dive into the numbers and why the numbers are the way they are. This could be a way to find value in a player or determine a role.
PICTURED: Tour group with Assistant General Manager, Brett Greenberg, Washington Wizards
Matt Whinrey-Advance Scout for the Portland Trailblazers
Weed out the fluff. Don't send me 20 clips when you can send 5 clips. Tell the story in as few clips as possible
How is the game going to need to play out for us to win?
In scouting other teams they are looking for a vulnerability.
You have a strong interest in scouting from your professional role, what did you learn about scouting from your meetings that can be applied at other levels?
My biggest takeaway from a scouting standpoint was how much information and data they have to go through, and how little of it they actually share with the players. There is a huge difference in what the coaching staff is given and what the player is given. The reason for vetting info to players and spending time on selecting the right information is they play way too many games that they do not want to overload their players.
I really liked how much they focused on personnel for opponents and then would try to focus on guarding actions instead of plays. They believe that they can help their players in game by knowing the calls and calling out the action rather than remembering entire plays.
In the regular season, they do not change a lot (or try not to), they want to build a belief in the system and don’t want to overcomplicate things. For specific matchups and in the playoffs they can change coverage.
We were also lucky enough to see a “coaches scouting report” that is given to the staff. I loved all the detail in the report. They would break down every play type and how the opponents play in every situation. Some of these examples would be: Transition, P&R (middle, side), Catch & Shoot, Post, iso, etc.
Another major takeaway that I had was how they approached scouting. Multiple coaches talked about guarding common actions within a shell drill early in the season. I love this idea because we can spend a ton of valuable time late in the year guarding actions that we have seen all year. I think establishing how you are guarding a common action early would pay huge dividends in time spent on it later in the season. Everyone runs some version of a screen the screener play from different angles/alignments, so if we can establish how to guard it early then it's just a review later in the season.
I am planning on completely changing our scouting process this year because of what I learned.
What are the key new trends you picked up from in your meetings happening in the NBA? (can be front/back office or basketball ops).
The importance of player development and how they approach it everyday on such an individual basis. Every team has their daily vitamins and these things vary by player. They look at each player and decide what things they need to focus on to help that player and help him help the team.
Video everyday with players. Showing them what they are working on, how they can improve, or even other players. All big parts of the player development process.
Use of stats, video, and intel gathering in scouting players. There is a direct correlation between the amount of information you have and how much of a risk that player is. The more info they have on a player, the more they can predict the success of that player. If they have a high draft pick, they need to have all the information that can help them determine if they should draft that player. They want to know everything in the draft and free agency so they can make the best decisions. This is exactly what recruiting is all about.
2 of the speakers talked about having a google doc that they write in every day with running thoughts and ideas from that day. Another uses that in scouting and has a google doc for every team. The idea of having a single place to dump your thoughts and ideas makes so much sense to me.
We had multiple coaches talk to us about trying to teach defense like we teach offense. Being able to make game reads and adjustments, instead of being predetermined.
Evaluating Basketball IQ. Anticipation, passing, help coverage. Have to be able to evaluate how they will play and how the game looks for them. P&R, Shots off the dribble, assists, blocks, steals are all good indicators.
Any interesting learnings just in your conversations with the other tour members?
We had some great conversations and even some great conversations about basketball.
Mason and I debated ball screen defense for the entire trip. ‘Mostly drop coverage vs hard hedge.
One of the biggest takeaways from our group was that Mason said that he does all his shell drill 5-5 with a “No paint” rule. Basically that you can’t allow the offense to get into the paint. I love that and plan to implement that into our shell drill this year.
One of the best things we learned was how to test a player dominant eye and how that effected shooting for players.
We had some great discussion about the “Tagging Up” system of offensive rebounding.
One of the themes that seemed to constantly pop up was scouting reports and how to best share information with our players.
Mike & I talked a lot about recruiting at our level and how our programs are run. It was great to talk with someone that is at a similar level.
Throughout the trip, I was constantly talking to Diccon about european basketball and the champions league. He has a really good perspective on the pro game because he coaches at a high level and is also a member of the media.
Before we finish up, you’ve had an extremely successful time at St Norbert College. What do you feel were the key components of the success of that program?
The head coach of St. Norbert was an excellent coach. He played for Dick Bennett at UWGB and we adopted a lot of the principles that Dick & Tony Bennett have used to have all of their success.We recruited really high character guys that were skilled and tough. Basketball wise we were built on a culture of toughness, defense, and team offense. We ran true motion which had our guys constantly working to get each other the best shots possible. We had a very special group of people in that program. It was such a unique culture and it was a lot of fun to be around.
I will always remember how tough and competitive our practices were. Our guys had to compete and be at their best everyday. Practices became so competitive because we always had a good group of young kids that were hungry to beat the “top group”. I always thought that it was truly “Iron sharpening iron.” We didn’t necessarily bring in the 5 star blue chip guys but we brought in guys that were good fits for the program and coach. They were guys that were committed to getting better and wanted to be a part of it.
We were always at the top of the league for our defensive numbers. It was truly everything in our program. We practiced closeouts and transition defense every day. I think we did a really good job of preparing our players through scouting reports. Our guys bought into the gameplanning part of the scouts and we
The biggest takeaway was that our system was extremely simple. It didn’t change much, but we worked on it so much that our guys were fully bought in. Also, because they knew our system so well they were able to play much faster. We would make little tweaks through the season like trapping a ballscreen or changing a pickup point but it was totally about “doing what we do”.
** For more information on the 2020 NBA Summer League Tour contact Coach Liam Flynn (Email: email@example.com)**