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NBA Orlando Summer League Review: Celtics, Jazz, Magic, Nets, Pistons, Sixers, Thunder
After 20 games in five days, eight NBA teams now know a little more about what potential youthful assets they have on their roster. Overall, the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons tied for the best record in the five-day stretch of competition, each finishing 4-1.
Boston Celtics, 4-1
One of the teams to finish 4-1, the Celtics got excellent play in the post and paint areas from their young big men. But on the perimeter, a pair of young guards showed potential value as backups in Doc Rivers’ backcourt rotation. E’Twaun Moore—a second-round selection last year—led the Celtics in scoring at 14 ppg while starting four of the five games at point guard, and Dionte Christmas—undrafted out of Temple in 2009—scored 12 ppg and posted a team-leading 4 apg, also good for fifth in the league. In the post, the Celtics’ first-round choice from this year, Jared Sullinger, started his journey toward proving his draft-day doubters wrong by scoring 14 ppg and pulling in 8 rpg, the league’s second-best rebounding average.
Among the other talented players in the Celtics’ frontcourt, Kris Joseph posted 9 ppg and 6 rpg, which included a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double against Detroit. JaJuan Johnson, another selection from last year, also averaged 9 ppg and 6 rpg. Boston’s other first-round pick, center Fab Melo, played solid defense in the middle and pulled in 5 rpg. An unfamiliar name on the Celtics roster, and one from a few years ago, also turned some heads at this year’s league by coming from nowhere to score 9 ppg for the Celtics; Jamar Smith. Smith was a talented player at Illinois back in 2007 but, due to alcohol-related issues, was dismissed from the team and has bounced around in international leagues and the D-League ever since. If he doesn’t latch on with Boston, another team around the league is sure to pick up the once-promising player for some bench support.
Detroit Pistons, 4-1
The other team to go 4-1, Detroit’s main draw this year was the highest-drafted player to play in Orlando this year, No. 9-overall choice Andre Drummond. Although Drummond played a solid batch of games in his first quasi-NBA action, posted 7 ppg on 50% shooting, 5 rpg and a league-leading 2 bpg, Drummond was not the star of the show for the Pistons. That role was played by Austin Daye, who averaged 16 ppg on 51% shooting and 7 rpg,—both the fourth-best summer league totals—and more importantly, got the jumpstart he needed to get his career back on trac after suffering through his worst season in the league to-date.
Also putting on a show for the Pistons was point guard Brandon Knight who, coming off a stellar rookie campaign, posted 15 ppg and led the Orlando circuit with 7 apg. His signature performance was a 17-point, 14-assist game against Boston, the highest single-game assist total this year. Other notable players for Detroit were guard Kim English and forward Kyle Singler, who averaged 10 and 11 ppg, respectively.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 3-2
Finishing a game back of the two best teams, OKC may have found a couple of players to assist coach Scott Brooks and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden off the bench. Lazar Hayward scored 16 ppg—good for fifth-best among all Orlando league participants—and Reggie Jackson put up 15 ppg and 4 apg to show off the possibility of providing depth off the bench, both in the front and backcourts. Perry Jones III, arguably the most enticing factor to attend any of the Orlando Summer League, only played in two games for the Thunder squad. But, he posted a 16-point, 8-rebound performance against Boston matching up against a very good unit that featured players like Sullinger, Johnson, and Melo. In the paint for the Thunder, a draft choice from two years ago—Cole Alrdich—pulled in 7 rpg and is a player the Thunder hope can develop into an option off the bench down the line.
Utah Jazz, 3-2
Featuring two of the most talented players in the Orlando league, the Jazz finished as the fourth and final team with a winning record at the Amway Center. Leading the way for Utah was their sharpshooting guard, Alec Burks. Burks, a first-round pick from last year, scored 17 ppg—fourth-best in the league—which included a 31-point performance on 10-14 shooting against the Philadelphia 76ers squad. In the post, last year’s No. 3 selection Enes Kanter scored 10 ppg and led the league with 9 rpg. Flanking Kanter was Jeremy Evans, the NBA’s defending Slam Dunk champion. Evans finished fifth in the league in rebounding, pulling in 7 rpg, and also scored 10 ppg. Utah’s most recent draft pick, Kevin Murphy showed he can score the basketball as well with 9 ppg.
Orlando Magic, 2-3
For the host Magic, a number of players gave strong performances to bolster cases for minutes in this upcoming season. Andrew Nicholson, the No. 17 pick in this year’s draft, led the Magic in scoring and rebounding at 13 ppg on 47% shooting and 7 rpg. The power forward kicked off the summer league with a dominant performance against Brooklyn in the first game of the schedule, posting a 24-point, 12-rebound double-double. Also in the paint, Kyle O’Quinn showed he can contribute in the paint as well, with averages of 9 ppg on 54% shooting, 6 rpg, and 1 bpg. Justin Harper, entering his sophomore campaign in the pro ranks, posted 12 ppg and 5 rpg at the power forward slot as well. On the perimeter, undrafted free agent point guard Maalik Wayns led the team in assists at 6 per game, and scored 12 ppg to make his case for a look at a roster spot with Jameer Nelson’s departure from Orlando.
Indiana Pacers, 2-3
The Pacers of this year’s summer league showed that they can at least do one thing—score. Lance Stephenson, a year removed from being drafted out of Cincinnati, led the summer league in scoring at 20 ppg while shooting a very efficient 53%, and posted solid assist totals averaging 5 per game. His big numbers featured a 28-point, 7-assist performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Flanking Stephenson in the backcourt, Orlando Johnson averaged 12 ppg, 5 rpg, and 3 apg after being drafted in the second round this year. Both players figure to see minutes off the bench this season. In the post, Indiana’s first-round draft pick Miles Plumlee showed off his abilities as an interior enforcer with 13 ppg, 7 rpg, and 1 bpg.
Philadelphia 76ers, 1-4
Unlike the Pacers, the Sixers really could not find ways to score the ball efficiently at all during the Orlando Summer League, and especially to score more than their opponents, winning only one game. However, one player who had no trouble scoring was former Kansas State standout guard Jacob Pullen. For the 76ers, Pullen averaged 14 ppg and posted shooting totals of 42% overall alongside a razor-sharp 44% from downtown. In the even Pullen gets called up to the big show after spending last year bouncing around Europe as an undrafted free agent, his presence could possibly help to offset the loss of Philadelphia’s leading scorer, Lou Williams. Another bright spot for the Sixers was forward Justin Holiday, undrafted last year out of Washington and brother of Philadelphia’s starting point guard Jrue, averaging 12 ppg and 5 rpg. In the frontcourt, Devin Searcy led the way for the Sixers, posting 7 ppg and 8 rpg, third-best in the summer league. Moe Harkless, the Sixers’ first-round pick this year, only p;ayed in two games and put up averages of 6 ppg and 3 rpg.
Brooklyn Nets, 1-4
Although the Nets finished tied for last in the Orlando league, a couple of players did stand out as among some of the best playing in Orlando for those five days. In the backcourt, MarShon Brooks finished league play third in scoring at 17 ppg, after tying a league-record scoring performance with 34 points in the final game of the summer league schedule. Flanking Brooks was Tyshawn Taylor out of Kansas, who the Nets acquired in a draft-day trade. His averages of 16 ppg and 3 apg show he is a viable candidate to back Deron Williams up at the point guard position. In the frontcourt, journeyman Al Thornton had a nice slate of games, scoring 14 ppg and pulling in 6 rpg. The games he played could serve as the spring board Thornton needs to get his career back in motion, as he could bring some scoring punch to a team’s reserve unit. Tornike Shengelia out of Georgia (the country), Brooklyn’s only draft-pick this year, also played well, showing off a versatile game while averaging 10 ppg and 4 rpg. If he decides to play in the NBA this season, he will also be a nice addition to the Nets’ bench.