NBA Summer League: Sunday’s Action

The NBA’s Orlando Summer League kicked off with a five-game slate Sunday.

While we’re all NBA psychopaths at RotoWire, we also feel there should be a disclaimer about reading too much into Summer League stats and performances, so please take the good and the bad from Summer League games with the appropriate understanding that . . . well . . . I believe Bruce Arthur of the National Post said it best:

Houston Rockets vs. Philadelphia Sixers

Michael Carter-Williams was the big draw in this game, and he didn’t disappoint. Though his team lost the match-up, Carter-Williams put up an intriguing line of 26 points (8-23 FG, 0-6 3Pt, 10-11 FT), seven rebounds, eight assists, one steal, and nine turnovers in 34 minutes. MCW’s line is beautiful in many ways, even in the ways that is ugly, because what Carter-Williams showed us in his first Summer League game is right in line with what we expect from him.

He can score, distribute and rebound, but he also can’t shoot from outside the arc and will likely be a category killer in standard 9-cat leagues that count turnovers. Hopefully we see some growth from MCW in the coming games, but it’s probably best to continue explaining exactly what it means to play in Summer League early, so as to avoid the dissemination of bad analysis.

We love that Carter-Williams was attacking and got to the free-throw line 11 times, but it should be mentioned that players cannot foul out in the Orlando Summer League. Therefore, there’s really no penalty for being extremely aggressive on defense, which is potentially one reason why MCW was fouled so much on shot attempts.

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He missed all of his three-point attempts, and that’s OK. Why? Because we already knew that he couldn’t shoot, and the Summer League is the first time a lot of the rookies are getting to play meaningful — don’t laugh — and competitive games with an NBA three-point arc actually serving to force them out to the range they’ll be required to shoot from in the NBA. That’s a significant aspect of these games that shouldn’t be overlooked. It won’t necessarily be a dearth of skill that leads to rookies struggling with their three-point shot in the Summer League as much as it will be a breaking-in period of them working out the hitches in their giddy up as they are given a trial by fire. While I won’t likely waste my time over analyzing the three-point shooting trends of the rookies in Summer League, I will be taking a compassionate and understanding stance regarding the consistency with which rookies convert their three-point attempts as I look at their production from the first couple games and compare it to the final games.

Similarly, it’s silly to judge too harshly when looking at turnovers, especially in the first couple of games. These guys haven’t been playing together long. They’ve had a couple practices together and are trying their hardest to make a pick-up game product look like a professionally produced show. So, those nine turnovers Carter-Williams had, I’m taking the positive perspective here and relishing the fact that the Sixers have apparently told him to be aggressive and selfish in Summer League and that MCW has heeded that advice. There’s nothing worse for fantasy production than a talented player who doesn’t have the fire and drive to make magic happen on the court, and it’s exciting to see Carter-Williams owning the good, the bad and the ugly of the process of trying to be a point guard in the NBA.

Ultimately, what we should take away from Carter-Williams’ debut is that he’s got a lot of skills that will help him be an interesting rookie in fantasy this season, and there’s a potential for him to be an impact player immediately. When you start making your list of rookies to consider targeting in drafts this season, make sure MCW ends up on the list. He’s pretty much guaranteed the starting point guard job in Philly and should get tons of minutes.

Arnett Moultrie is entering his sophomore season and could find himself playing a significant role in the Sixers’ frontcourt this season. He started Sunday’s game and finished with four points (1-4 FG, 2-2 FT), six rebounds, and three turnovers in 24 minutes. There’s not much to see or read into here, but you’d hope Moultrie starts to assert himself more in the four remaining games the Sixers have considering that he’s already played a year in the NBA.

Arsalan Kazemi was drafted 54th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and traded to the Sixers on draft night. For some reason, the Sixers brought him off the bench in his first Summer League game and only played him nine minutes. The low minutes might have been tied to the five personal fouls Kazemi committed, giving the Sixers coaches a teachable moment to talk with the big man about on the bench. Kazemi is an interesting player thanks to the 2.0 steals he averaged in his senior season at Oregon. Advanced statisticians consider a player’s steal rate indicative of their court awareness and focus, and most big men struggle to average 1.0 steal per game, let alone 2.0.

On the Rockets’ side of this game, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones were the only terribly interesting players to look at. Donatas Motiejunas is missing the Summer League to play with his national team, and Isaiah Canaan is day-to-day with a sprained ankle that might keep him out for the entire week. 

Beverley was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft by the Lakers but never made it to the NBA until the Rockets gave him a cup of coffee last season. His do-or-die motor, tenacity on defense and general fearlessness earned him significant playing time down the stretch for the Rockets and eventually lead to Beverley starting the last five games of the Rockets’ playoff run in place of an injured Jeremy Lin. In fact, he played so well that those starts came even with veteran guard Aaron Brooks on the roster. To put it another way: Beverley earned the starts he received in the playoffs, they weren’t simply given to him.

In Sunday’s opening action, Beverley posted 10 points (4-9 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 1-2 FT), four rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks and only one turnover in 27 minutes. He also had seven fouls, but I consider that a good thing. Anyone who isn’t playing hard and collecting fouls in the Orlando Summer League hasn’t read the rules and isn’t taking advantage of the situation they’re in.

So, why did I just write so much about Patrick Beverley’s start at point guard in the Summer League for the Rockets? Because the Rockets have been making a lot of noise this offseason, and some of that noise has been about the possibility of Jeremy Lin being moved in a trade to clear cap space to acquire another star-level player to put alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden. If the Rockets move Lin and don’t bring back another point guard in the deal, there’s a chance that Beverley could be thrust into the starting point guard role for the Rockets next season, which would make him a potentially very valuable late-round pick in fantasy drafts. Put him on your watch lists.

Terrence Jones became more interesting in the last week when the Rockets were able to steal Dwight Howard away from the Lakers in free agency. With Howard set to start at center for the Rockets, the team would be foolish not to try and find a complementary player to start at power forward next to Howard. And the best compliment to Howard is someone who can both rebound well and stretch the floor with perimeter shooting.

I present, Dr. Jones. He has a PhD in rebounding from Kentucky and practices three-point medicine from the radius of the arc of the grail of hoopery — that’s a bit thin, isn’t it? Ah, well.

Jones posted 24 points (9-13 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 5-7 FT), 12 rebounds, an assist, and five turnovers in 29 minutes Sunday. While we wouldn’t put big money on Jones starting at power forward for the Rockets next season, it’s worth noting that he has the required skill set to be fill the role the Rockets need filled at power forward next season. We’re considering him a deep sleeper at this point and watching for quotes from coach Kevin McHale and general manager Darryl Morey this offseason to seen if we can gleam any insight into what Jones’ role will be next season.

Vander Blue was a DNP-Coach’s Decision, which is a little disappointing since I live in Madison, WI (his hometown), and people have high hopes for the kid here.

Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Kelly Olynyk had a good game. He put up 25 points (9-12 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 5-5 FT), seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 27 minutes. He couldn’t miss, and Celtics fans on Twitter were pretty darn excited about his performance. And they should have been. It’s a great debut.

But what does it mean for fantasy? Not much. Olynyk will likely be a bench player for the Celtics at the start of the season, playing behind Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Fab Melo and Jeff Green. The team plans on playing him at power forward next season and allowing him to play center once he shows he can handle it physically. We’re keeping on Olynyk to see if he earns a big role to start next season, but it seems unlikely at this point. Once he does get minutes, it’ll be interesting to see if he can be efficient enough from beyond the arc to become a Ryan Anderson-type player.

Fab Melo had the best plus/minus of any Celtics player, but he only blocked one shot, which is a little concerning considering that the only way he’ll be of use in most fantasy leagues next season is if he is blocking a lot of shots. He finished with nine points (3-5 FG, 3-5 FT), eight rebounds, and one block in 28 minutes.

Colton Iverson came off the bench to play 16 minutes and put up zero points (0-1 FG), four rebounds, and one block. I don’t have any comments on that performance. I like his name.

The magically delicious fantasy lineup that the Magic are running out in the Summer League is fun. Four of their five starters are sophomores, and the only rookie they’re starting is Victor Oladipo (No. 2 overall pick), whom they are starting at point guard!

Oladipo faired well in his first game at point, and the Russell Westbrook comparisons are going to be aplenty this season if the Magic truly do decide to run Oladipo at point guard for significant stretches. The team has said it’s just an experiment in Summer League, but with an underwhelming player like Jameer Nelson projected as the starter at point guard next season, Oladipo could find his way into the starting lineup at point eventually.

He posted 18 points (5-13 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 6-8 FT), six rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and six turnovers in 33 minutes. Those are tantalizing numbers in fantasy, but until the Magic clear room for Oladipo to have a role in the starting lineup by trading away Arron Afflalo or Nelson, Oladipo won’t be projected for use in anything but 12-team and deeper leagues. For now, he’s projected to be used in a super-sub role off the bench next season.

Maurice Harkless put up 15 points (6-13 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 2-4 FT), eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in 37 minutes. We already have Harkless slotted as a mid-round pick (with upside) in drafts for next season, so there’s not much to take from his performance in the Summer League. The team simply has him playing this summer to have him help Oladipo acclimate himself to the NBA with teammates he’ll actually need to develop chemistry with for next season.

Andrew Nicholson is going to be a bench player for the Magic next season, backing up the power forward position mostly, but to make himself a more valuable commodity, he’s been working on extending his range beyond the three-point arc this offseason. Unfortunately, we didn’t really see that skill applied in Sunday’s game. Nicholson finished with seven points (1-9 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 5-5 FT), three rebounds, and one assist. He’s a Brandon Bass-type player at this stage of his career, but he’s young enough to develop into a poor man’s Chris Bosh. However, his prospects for fantasy production will be limited next season as the Magic simply have too many young players on their roster (and Glen Davis) who will get minutes ahead of Nicholson in the rotation.

Kyle O’Quinn played well Sunday, putting up 11 points (3-6 FG, 5-7 FT), 11 rebounds, two assists and a block in 30 minutes as the starting center. He has a strange, yet dull, last name and doesn’t garner much attention from fantasy prognosticators, but if I had to make a player comparison for him, I would say that O’Quinn could have his career evolve on a similar path to Nikola Pekovic’s. He won’t wow the casual fan, but could slowly carve out a place in his coach’s heart and become a regular part of the rotation by playing solid minutes as an injury replacement before proving that he deserves consistent rotation minutes.

Doron Lamb is the next Jodie Meeks, and I don’t see him getting enough minutes to matter on the Magic. He can hit three-pointers, but until he makes himself a force to be reckoned with on defense, Lamb isn’t going to play big minutes.

Romero Osby
was drafted with the 51st pick in this year’s draft. He had a good game Sunday, posting 18 points (7-8 FG, 4-5 FT), five rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block in 24 minutes. While it’s great to see young guys who were drafted at the end of the second round playing well, it’s unlikely he carves out a big enough role to matter in most fantasy leagues next season. Kevin Durant seemed to like what he saw yesterday, though:

Tobias Harris sat out Sunday’s game for precautionary reasons after banging knees with another player in practice Thursday. He’s fine, but the team isn’t going to risk further injury to one of their promising young players in the Summer League. Hopefully we get to see him run with the Magic later this week.

Miami Heat vs. Utah Jazz

Does anybody else want to take over for me here? I just realized I care way too much about the Summer League and may be over analyzing these games.

Verily, we carry on!

James Ennis, the lone draft pick of the Heat in this year’s draft, put up a diverse stat line of 11 points (2-7 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 5-6 FT), three rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block in 23 minutes Sunday. He’s interesting because the Heat targeted him, but other than that, it’s unlikely Ennis offers any significant fantasy value next season unless the team suffers a slew of catastrophic injuries to their bonanza of wing players.

I’ll be watching Myck Kabongo and Jarvis Varnado during the course of the week, but there’s nothing telling from the their first day of Summer League to get too excited about. Varnado had four blocks, which is good since the only way he’d be able to push for minutes in Miami is by elevating his defense.

Rudy Gobert is a 7-2 bean pole from France with a pterodactylic 7-9 wingspan. He’ll likely slot in as a backup to Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors in Utah, but depending on the team’s development strategy this season, it’s possible we could see him sneak into the starting lineup for stretches. I’m not getting my hopes up that Gobert will be a force in fantasy this season, but based on his physical attributes, if he does get minutes, those minutes could lead to significant fantasy production. He posted six points, four rebounds, and three blocks in 25 minutes Sunday.

Alec Burks left Sunday’s game with a mild ankle sprain. There’s a good chance the team has the third-year guard sit out the rest of the Summer League to avoid the possibility of him injuring the ankle any further. Somewhat encouraging was the 10 points (4-6 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-4 FT) Burks posted in 11 minutes before leaving the game.

Trey Burke is being lauded by many pundits to be the odds-on favorite for rookie of the year for next season. Considering that the Jazz don’t currently have any other point guards under contract, there’s a very real possibility the team could give Burke the reigns and let him run the team from jump street. If they do, we’ll likely see Burke struggle some nights and wow the crowd in others. He finished with eight points (1-12 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 6-8 FT), seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and two turnovers Sunday, and while most the media was willing to write-off the poor shooting performance, Burke owned his production and wouldn’t accept any excuses for the way he shot.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers
I was able to watch a lot of this game, and Orlando Johnson and Miles Plumlee stood out, while Solomon Jones kept forcing the announcers to call his name after making deft hustle plays.

Orlando Johnson played well as a rookie last season, but the team didn’t give him too many minutes. If his play in Sunday’s game is any indication, we could see Johnson become a significant part of the Pacers’ bench rotation next season. That won’t result in big fantasy production at the start of the season, but if an injury or two were to befall the Pacers starters, Johnson could be an intriguing pick-up at some point next season. He finished with 17 points (4-13 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 8-12 FT), three rebounds, three assists and a steal in 30 minutes Sunday and is worth watching the rest of this week.

Miles Plumlee was told by his coaches to rebound and block shots in the Summer League. He finished Sunday’s game with nine points (4-10 FG, 1-2 FT), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and six blocks (tying the Summer League record for blocks in a single game). While it would be hard for Plumlee to have a significant role next season with Roy Hibbert eating up most of the minutes at center, his athleticism and motor would make him an interesting player if he stumbles into big minutes someday. Plumlee is a fun player to watch.

Solomon Jones
seemed like an odd pick for the Pacers in this year’s draft with the team already having Paul George and Danny Granger on the roster, but the Pacers’ front office thinks Jones will be able to be a part of the rotation as a rookie and provide significant contributions. He put up nine points (3-3 FG, 1-1 3Pt, 2-4 FT), four rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes Sunday.  Based on the team’s success in developing George, we’re pretty bullish on Jones’ potential on the Pacers. He’s another one of those rookies who is unlikely to get big minutes but who could produce terrific fantasy lines if he were to stumble into a large role.

Perry Jones III is unlikely to play in the Summer League. He’s sidelined after undergoing oral surgery to treat an infection.

Dwight Buycks had 13 assists Sunday (one off the Summer League single-game record).

Jeremy Lamb looked very Jeremy Lamb-ish. He moved slow and methodically. Kendall Gill called him smooth, but my personal dissatisfaction with Lamb’s lack of assertiveness and a will to dominate has left me considering him more of snail than a smooth player. I have been very critical of the Thunder for not giving Lamb more minutes in the NBA last season and developing him as a key rotation piece, but from a coach’s perspective, they’re probably left wanting more from him, and the perception that you’re not leaving everything out on the court, when your team is filled with hustle players, can be enough to convince a coach to leave you on the bench in favor of someone who appears to want the minutes and competition more.

Grant Jerret raised eyebrows by hitting his first four three-point attempts Sunday and going straight to the cup against Plumlee (when he already had six blocks) for a jam. I’ll be watching him more thanks to his performance Sunday, but I’m not ready to start dubbing him the next Ryan Anderson just yet.

Detroit Pistons vs. Brooklyn Nets

As Pistons fan, I have mixed feelings about our Summer League team. We have a pretty great Summer League squad, which inherently means that we have a bunch of young prospects, which also means that the Pistons have been so terrible that the only thing of note about them the last few years has been how terrible they’ve been.

Since I like to try and focus on the positive, let’s forgo the melancholy reminiscing and focus on the fact that the Pistons have a 6-11 man child in Andre Drummond poised to make a sizable imprint on the NBA. On Sunday, he put up 12 points (5-14 FG, 2-9 FT), 16 rebounds, five steals and six blocks in 25 minutes. Seven of his rebounds were offensive. Drummond has a nose for the ball and some of the softest and gargantuan mitts you’ll ever find on a center. Thus far, all he’s able to use those soft hands for his holding babies and masterfully tipping in offensive rebounds, but it’s the finesse with which he does these things that has NBA writers enamored with the 20-year-old center.

As much potential as Drummond has, there are some flaws to his game that are glaringly apparent. He can’t hit a free throw to save his life and doesn’t have much polish on his post moves or jump shot. Drummond is only expected to play in probably one more Summer League game. He’s outgrown the competition there, so there’s no need to subject him to it. The next step for Drummond will be the training sessions he and teammate Greg Monroe will spend time completing with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer.

Most of Drummond’s shooting issues on offense are mechanical and appear to be easy to fix with minor tweaking. He doesn’t extend his arm to follow through in either his righty-hook shot nor his free-throw shot. As soon as he gets those hitches out of his shot and learns to make the fundamental moves without thinking, Drummond should grow leaps and bounds in short order.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was drafted by the Pistons with the eighth pick in this year’s draft, and he’s currently projected to be their starting shooting guard. That may change, though, if he continues to shoot the way he did Sunday. KCP shot an inglorious 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-8 from beyond the arc. He looked much better on defense than offense, and when he struggles with his shot this season, it’ll be much easier to keep him on the court thanks to his defense. I watched this game, and KCP’s form looked fine from what I could tell. He was simply shooting the ball short. It seems as though he’ll have to find his range with the NBA three-point line, but the scouting reports going into the draft seemed to say he’ll excel shooting the ball in the NBA. I’m chalking this up to a poor debut and looking forward to watching him the rest of the week.

Peyton Siva took two shots all game, and I don’t even remember him taking them. He tried to find his teammates all game and only shot when he had to. Siva should make the Pistons’ roster, and unless the team signs or trades for a veteran at point, I think we could see him get decent minutes thanks to his aggressive play on defense and his ability to get the ball to his teammates.

Slava Kravtsov looked good, but he should look good against D-League players and rookies.

Tony Mitchell looked like the athletic freak he’s been touted as, and it’ll be interesting to see if he jumps ahead of some of the Pistons’ veteran rotation players this season thanks to his hustle and flow. He finished with seven points (3-3 FG, 1-2 FT), six rebounds and two blocks in 28 minutes.

Khris Middleton was showing off his shooting touch Sunday, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be one of the first players off the bench for the Pistons this season.

Mason Plumlee
finished with 10 points (3-5 FG, 4-6 FT), 14 rebounds and one block. He’s a big and nimble kid who should compete for minutes in the NBA, but he’s unlikely to see much action on the Nets this season with Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche commanding most of the minutes at center for the Nets this season.

Tyshawn Taylor
doesn’t do anything for me. I hope he continues to grow as a player and find his way, but I ultimately believe he’ll end up being someone who goes to Europe in the next few years, excels and then either falls in love with playing overseas or finds his way back to the NBA as a role player off the bench.