Vegas is Not Aaron White’s Kind of Town
The consensus among Washington Wizard’s observers at summer league is that Aaron White is not ready to make the leap from Europe to the NBA. He is often tentative, passing up open shots, and is a split second too late redirecting the ball on the perimeter and making entry passes. White just seems to be thinking too much on the court. However, there is reason to believe we have not seen the best version of Aaron White in Vegas.
After Washington’s third summer league game against Brooklyn, White spoke candidly about his performance thus far and—reading between the not-so-subtle lines—it is apparent he is not a fan of summer league:
“It’s just a weird setting, to be honest, for all players. Especially when you are trying to play the right way, trying to move the ball. So, I’m just trying to do what coaches tell me to do and play hard and do the little things.
“It’s an AAU almost type of game, it’s just a little bit difficult to get used to. Especially with a lot of guys coming from college where it’s very organized, coming from Europe where it’s very team-oriented. So many different players that never played together.”
White understands he has not made the best impression in Vegas but he also believes he can play better:
“This is summer league, this is important, but this isn’t the end all. This isn’t the best indication of what kind of player I am, in my opinion. I’m trying to do things within the system and play my game. Some people might watch and be like, ‘I thought he was this type of player or that type of player.’ It’s just the games go a certain way and I’m trying to play my game and play the right way.”
White is correct. Summer league is a glorified pick-up tournament and it is difficult for a system player to stand out. If you are waiting for a teammate to make the right cut or run a set play, you will often look passive and lost when the play does not materialize.
But that does not mean White can’t do a better job showcasing his talent. Take Danuel House, for example. House went undrafted out of Texas A&M and has only averaged 19.3 minutes in the Wizards’ first four games, but he has turned heads with his aggressive defense and shooting stroke. After sparking Washington’s big comeback win over Atlanta on Friday with 15 points in 16 minutes, head coach Sidney Lowe declared “He can play in this league.” (Washington later gave House a partially guaranteed two-year contract.)
For White, the key is staying aggressive. He knows that is the only variable he can control in Vegas:
“As long as I assert myself and I’m aggressive, I think the rest will take care of itself. It’s those games like [the first game] against Atlanta when I wasn’t aggressive that’s when I really get pissed at myself. Assert yourself into the game and make some plays.”
As White matter-of-factly concludes, “Some guys are good summer league players, some guys aren’t.” Success in Vegas, as guys like Anthony Randolph, Glen Rice, Jr. and P.J. Hairston can attest, does not necessarily equate to success in the NBA. The difficult part is identifying which players’ skills will translate on the big stage. It is possible that the very things that make White a poor summer league player will actually benefit him in a more structured setting. But the pressure is on White to convince the front office of that possibility—and time is running out.