With the NBA Draft just concluded, players from eight NBA squads will travel to Orlando to compete in the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League, to be held at the Magic’s RDV Sportsplex from July 5-9. Aside from the Magic, the 76ers, Pacers, Nets, Bobcats, Jazz, Celtics and Thunder will all send representatives to Orlando as the teams determine which players should be worthy of a roster spot this fall. The league also offers undrafted players a chance to prove themselves against decent competition while showcasing the talents of several high draft picks.
The best matchup may be on opening day, July 5, as the 76ers take on the Nets, pitting two of the draft’s top three picks against each other. Evan Turner, selected number 2 overall out of Ohio State and the consensus collegiate national player of the year, will star for the 76ers while Derrick Favors, whom the Nets chose at number 3 out of Georgia Tech, will oppose him. To get you ready for all the action, here’s a team-by-team breakdown of key players to watch in Orlando.
The Celtics’ top draft choice, point guard Avery Bradley of Texas, is undergoing ankle surgery and will miss the action in Orlando. Boston’s roster for the league was not that interesting to begin with, and Bradley’s absence only worsens matters. Forward Tony Gaffney and guard Oliver Lafayette were both on the Celtics’ 15-man playoff roster, but played just one game for the Celtics between them. Luke Harangody was a three-time All-American at Notre Dame and was the Big East Player of the Year in 2008. He posted averages of 22 points and 11 rebounds per game over his final three seasons with the Irish, but fell to pick number 52 in the draft, largely due to concerns about his size and athleticism. As was demonstrated in the NBA Finals, the Celtics need inside rebounding, and though the 6-8 Harangody rebounded well in college, he will need to prove to the Celtics that he can do so in the pros. Harangody is the player to watch, and it will be interesting to see if he can still score against the stronger competition. The best case scenario would have Harangody turn into a lesser version of Glen Davis. Also keep an eye on former Cornell sharpshooter Ryan Wittman, the Ivy League Player of the Year who keyed the Big Red’s Sweet 16 run.
Forward Gerald Henderson and center Alexis Ajinca are both former top 20 draft picks of the Bobcats, but neither has gotten consistent minutes for a Charlotte team coming off its first-ever playoff appearance in 2009-10. Ajinca, a raw seven-footer from France, spent time in the D-League last season and will look to make an impression alongside Henderson, who starred for Duke in college. Another player worth a look is Sherron Collins, the 5-11 point guard who went undrafted out of Kansas. Collins was a two-time All-American at KU and has won more games in a Jayhawks’ uniform (130) than any other player. He’s a decent shooter, and despite a shock exit to Northern Iowa in the second round of this year’s NCAA tourney, he has shown good leadership at the point guard position, guiding the Jayhawks to a 33-3 record in 2009-10. Collins may lack height, but his profile is similar to that of Jameer Nelson’s when he came out of St. Joseph’s, and Nelson has proven himself to be a more than capable NBA point guard. With Raymond Felton’s contract up, the Bobcats may need another point guard alongside D.J. Augustin. Darius Miles will also see time for the Bobcats, despite the fact that he was drafted ten years ago. The number 3 overall pick in 2000, Miles has struggled to produce on a consistent basis, and averaged just nine minutes per game in his last NBA season, 2008-09. Miles is the perfect example of a player who left high school too early and never found his role in the pros. Don’t expect too much from him.