The Pacers will send all three players they acquired on draft night to Orlando, and they are probably the only players worth watching on Indiana’s roster. Paul George, whom the Pacers drafted at number 10 out of Fresno State, has a lot of upside but is still very raw. He has been favorably compared to current Pacer Danny Granger, but George did not dominate a weak conference the way you would expect a top-10 pick to, as he was named second team All-WAC. After years of conservative drafting, Pacers president Larry Bird took a risk in the draft, and it will be up to George to fulfill his potential for Indiana. Bird took a similar risk by selecting Lance Stephenson out of Cincinnati. Stephenson, the all-time leading scorer in New York high school basketball, was much-hyped coming out of Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School (the same one as Sebastian Telfair), but failed to live up to his potential in his one season with the Bearcats. Stephenson is a good dribbler and is strong for a 2-guard, but is not a very good shooter (44% from the field, 22% from three, 66% from the line) which is a big problem at his position. Magnum Rolle was acquired on a draft-night trade after the Thunder originally selected him in the second round. Rolle, a 24-year-old big man from the Bahamas by way of Louisiana Tech was, like George, only second team All-WAC last season. He averaged over two blocks per game at La Tech, and will not be counted on to produce as much as George, who was selected over forty picks ahead of him. Former Duke forward Josh McRoberts will suit up for the Pacers, but he has played just 83 games in three years in the league. McRobrets will be fighting to prove that he is more than just an 11th or 12th man on a team.
New Jersey Nets
Favors will obviously be the star for the Nets in Orlando, as the 6-10 forward/center has fantastic athleticism and can score, rebound and block shots. The Nets will team several undrafted players with Favors, most notably Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas, who were last seen winning the national title with Duke in Indianapolis. While both filled roles nicely for an experienced Duke team, neither really seems to have the talent to play in the NBA. Thomas is decent in all areas, but nothing about his game stands out. Zoubek is a gritty rebounder whose insertion into the starting lineup midway through last season propelled the Blue Devils to the national championship. But Zoubek faces severe limitations in other areas of his game (though he played on a Duke squad with several scoring options, he still averaged under six points per game). Zoubek probably has the better chance to be a pro, as he has impressive size (7-1, 250 lbs), but teams cannot rely on much from him offensively and he must improve his defense. Terrence Williams, a lottery pick last year, and Damion James, whom the Hawks chose at number 24 this year before shipping him to New Jersey, will also be worth watching. James in particular merits attention because of his athleticism and versatility. He struggles to create his own shot, but he will only benefit from playing with someone such as Favors, who will command plenty of attention down low.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder features the best roster of all the teams in Orlando next week, despite the fact that Cole Aldrich may not feature at all (the trade that brought him to OKC cannot be finalized until July 8, the penultimate day of competition). Expect OKC to win most of its games behind players such as Eric Maynor, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, all of whom saw significant minutes for the Thunder as rookies last season. Maynor, who starred at VCU in college, backed up Russell Westbrook at PG last season after landing in OKC due to a midseason trade with the Jazz. Ibaka, a 6-10 forward from Congo, saw over 25 minutes per game in the playoffs and gave the Thunder energy and rebounding off the bench. Harden was selected third overall in last year’s draft out of Arizona State, and still has the talent to develop into a good NBA shooter. Finally, former Ohio State big man Byron Mullens, who saw limited action in 13 games last season, will try to prove he doesn’t belong in the D-League, where he played 27 games last season. The Thunder may need one more player to round out their rotation, but it will likely be a veteran and not an unproven young gun from the Orlando Summer League.
The Magic’s roster will focus primarily around their two draft picks, Daniel Orton, whom they got at number 29, and Stanley Robinson, the second-to-last pick of the entire draft. Orton, a 6-10, 260-lb freshman center from Kentucky, averaged just three points and three rebounds for the Wildcats in just 13 minutes per game. Not only that, but Orton missed his senior year in high school due to a knee injury suffered in November 2008! Even on a team as deep as Kentucky, it’s generally not a good sign when you’re the fourth-best player in your class, as Orton was. It’s an even worse sign that he hasn’t seen major minutes since his junior year of high school. He has the size and strength to become an NBA big, but would definitely have benefited from another year or two in college. Had he stayed, he could have become a featured part of the Kentucky offense and become a potential lottery pick instead of a late first-rounder. As it is, he is unpolished and will not receive much playing time in Orlando stuck behind Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat. The Summer League will provide coaches and scouts to see Orton in game situations for extended stretches and will give the Magic something to go on when evaluating his role. Robinson is an explosive athlete that rebounds extremely well for a 6-8 forward (he averaged 2.7 offensive boards per game as a senior). Robinson has issues focusing, but if Stan Van Gundy can get him to buy into his philosophy, he could provide the Magic with energy and athleticism off the bench in short stretches. One other Magic prospect of note is Patrick Ewing, Jr., who played with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League last year. Ewing’s Hall of Fame father, Patrick Sr., tutors the Magic’s big men.
Evan Turner of Ohio State will obviously be the main draw for Philadelphia and with good reason. Turner destroyed opposing defenses last season to the tune of 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists per game. He should have no trouble moving into the Sixers rotation and should feast on the Summer League opposition. Philly’s roster also features Jrue Holiday, the second-year guard out of UCLA. Holiday didn’t get the chance to shine for the Bruins in his sole season in Ben Howland’s methodical offense, but was one of the top recruits in the high school class of 2008. Holiday could be a piece of a rebuilding Sixers squad, so it will be important to see how he does next week. Guard Jodie Meeks, another second-year pro who averaged 24 points per game at Kentucky in 2008-09, will also suit up for the Sixers. Meeks is a fantastic scorer who can shoot, but is an unreliable ball-handler and sub-par defender. Marreese Speights will be entering his third year in the league and is a regular member of the Sixers’ rotation. It is a little odd to see Speights in the Summer League, but new coach Doug Collins may want him to gain experience in the new system.
The Jazz’s Summer League talent is led by their top draft choice, Butler’s Gordon Hayward. Hayward, the number 9 pick, has been overhyped by the media due to the Bulldogs’ Cinderella run to the national title game. You know it is a weak year for talent when a school such as Butler is a running three-pointer away from a national title and a player such as Hayward is a top-10 pick. Hayward lacks the upside of his fellow lottery picks, and while he may fit well for the Jazz, he is not terribly interesting to watch. The only other Utah draftee was late second-rounder Jeremy Evans of Western Kentucky, but the Jazz do have a couple of D-Leaguers worth watching. The first is Sundiata Gaines, who hit his first three-pointer in just his fifth NBA game to sink the Cavaliers last January. Gaines played just 32 games for Utah last season and will be looking to catch on. The other D-League prospect is Rod Benson, who has toiled in the D-League for the past four years, totaling 186 career games. Benson, who also writes a popular blog called Too Much Rod Benson, is a 6-10 forward who posted totals of 14 points and 10 rebounds per game last season for the Reno Bighorns. He could help Utah if they end up needing rebounding off the bench.