- David Thorpe, ESPN Staff Writer
There are a lot of ways a team can handle the development of its first-round pick, but the process almost always begins in the summer league before the player's rookie season. Still, attending summer play in Orlando often isn't enough -- in fact, sometimes it's not even ideal.
In 2008, when Derrick Rose was in Orlando as a rookie for summer play, he struggled in his first game for the Chicago Bulls and was shut down almost immediately. The Bulls said their young point guard had an "ankle issue," but it seemed just as likely they needed an excuse to shelve Rose. There was simply no reason to rush him at that point in time and risk his confidence in the process.
Conversely, Kevin Durant was given a green light for Seattle the moment he stepped on the floor. In his first and only season as a Sonic, Durant played with the trust of coach P.J. Carlesimo and the rest of his staff, logging quite a few minutes at shooting guard and spending a significant amount of time with the ball in his hands.
Injuries aside, both methods worked. Rose remained confident once the season began and got better as it evolved. Just a few years later, he was league MVP.
Durant, for his part, would never play the 2 again after that first season. But when he shifted to small forward, he took with him the skills and lessons learned and the experience gained in his rookie season. Indeed, the ballhandling prowess Durant developed in Seattle is one of the biggest reasons he has matured into an all-time elite scorer in Oklahoma City.
The way teams handle their prospects in the early going can be crucial to the players' long-term potential as NBA contributors. When it comes to development, every player warrants a different approach and each team has its own philosophy. After the first weekend of summer league play in Orlando, here are three players -- and their respective teams and situations -- I'll be watching closely in the coming months. How these guys are handled now could determine whether they become something special in the future.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann