Even after winning the NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors, Patrick McCaw still felt it was necessary to compete in the Summer League this year.
McCaw was asked to step in for the injured Kevin Durant for a stretch of time this season and he even played meaningful minutes for the Warriors during the NBA Finals. Given what he accomplished in his first year, it’d be easy to see him decide to skip the Summer League.
Instead, McCaw was excited for the opportunity to compete against some of the top picks in this year’s draft.
“I feel like I’m still the underdog,” McCaw told reporters in Las Vegas. “Coming out in Summer League, everybody is talking about all of these top picks. I’m just coming to show that I’ve got a year under my belt, I’ve grown as a basketball player and I’ve been around some of the best players and best coaches ever. To be able to grow and come out and show guys that I’ve been getting better that’s all I want to do.”
Based on his play so far in Las Vegas, McCaw has definitely been getting better.
So far in four Summer League games, McCaw is averaging 20 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. McCaw is currently ninth in scoring among all Summer League players and has three performances with at least 20 points, including a summer-high 26 points on Wednesday night.
McCaw averaged four points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 71 games last season for the Warriors. In 20 starts in place of Durant, McCaw averaged 6.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.4 minutes per game. His numbers weren’t flashy, but he saw each game as an opportunity to grow and improve his game.
The Warriors acquired McCaw on draft night last year from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for cash. With so many other talented players on the roster ahead of McCaw, many didn’t expect to see much of an opportunity for him. After all, most teams positioned for an NBA Championship don’t necessarily have a lot of minutes available for an unproven rookie.
“My rookie year had a lot of ups and downs,” McCaw said. “I learned so much. Nobody can really take that from me. I started for Kevin Durant, not necessarily filling in his role, but to get that experience early in my rookie year to play against some of the best players ever and to be inserted that early as a rookie was just a shock to me.
“I was prepared for it all. A kid like me, who was not highly recruited out of high school, I didn’t have that many accolades and things like that. But to now be an NBA world champion, a lot of guys that were in my class and under me are very cool with me now because they see that I know how to play the game the right way.”
With so few minutes available, McCaw just stayed ready and made the most of each of his chances on the court. There would be games throughout the season in which he didn’t play at all, but would come in the next game and be asked to make an impact. The process was a learning experience for him as he was admittedly unsure when to shoot sometimes.
“I’m playing with arguably the best shooters to ever play the game in KD, Steph and Klay,” McCaw said. “When I get catches and I’m wide open, I’m not certain if I should shoot or not. It’s year one. I’m definitely getting a better feel for it; getting more comfortable. Definitely feel like I’ve grown in my first year.”
While so much hype has been placed on Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson and others as the top picks in the draft, McCaw is showing why he became such a valuable piece to the Warriors’ championship run. It’s that experience that he gained during his first year in the NBA that has allowed him to play with a lot of confidence.
“When you have guys like Steph and K.D. telling you to play the game and have fun, it makes it that much easier,” McCaw said. “These are the best players in the world so if they have faith in me, I can only go out there and do what I know I can do.”
As the Summer League begins to wind down, McCaw will be coming up on an important season. He’ll enter his second season with the Warriors and can become a restricted free agent next summer. As a second-round pick, he’ll become a restricted free agent two years before first-round picks can. In a time where teams are paying players massive amounts due to the rising salary cap, McCaw figures to benefit next summer.
McCaw said to be on a Championship team during his rookie season was a shock. If he continues his strong play in Year 2, it could become even more shocking to him when he sees the large contract offers start to roll in next summer.
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