While most of us enjoyed some rest and relaxation with relatives over the holiday, two of the NBA’s three summer leagues kicked off. Games started in Orlando on Saturday and in Salt Lake City on Monday.
A player’s summer league statistics should almost always be taken with a grain of salt, but the game is still the game, and this is our only legit chance to watch the new rookies play before the preseason starts up at the end of October.
Since a lot of free agents have already agreed to terms on new deals, it’s time to start thinking about potential roles and rotations the NBA’s first and second-year players will have heading into the 2015-16 season.
ORLANDO SUMMER LEAGUE
Jordan Adams (2nd year) started at shooting guard and put up 20 points (5-14 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 10-10 FT), five rebounds, one assist, and three steals in 29 minutes versus the Nets on Saturday and then sat out the Grizzlies’ second game on Sunday. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the field and turned the ball over three times, but getting to the line 10 times is nothing to sneeze at. Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, and even the aging and injury-riddled Vince Carter were all ahead of him on the depth chart last season. Adams will have to work hard to earn time in his sophomore season. Still, the versatile scorer could provide a jolt to an offense in dire need of one, but with Matt Barnes acquired in June, it’s unlikely Adams plays a significant role in 2015-16.
JaMychal Green (2nd year) sat out Saturday’s game against the Nets but started at power forward Sunday against the Hornets, putting up 10 points (4-5 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-3 FT) and one steal in six minutes. He looks like a much more versatile and well-rounded forward than teammate Jarnell Stokes at this point. With Brandan Wright likely to slide into the backup center slot behind Marc Gasol, Green might have the upper hand to win the role as Zach Randolph’s primary backup.
Jarnell Stokes (2nd year) started both games at center Saturday and Sunday, averaging 13.0 points (50% FG, 67% FT), 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 26 minutes per game. His summer league has been a mixed bag thus far. His offensive efficiency is greatly improved from last summer, but his rebounding average and inability to record a steal or a block in over 50 minutes of action leaves a lot to be desired.
Russ Smith (2nd year) started both games at point guard Saturday and Sunday, averaging 11.0 points (50% FG, 0% 3Pt, 86% FT), 2.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 3.0 steals in 30 minutes per game. He has also averaged three turnovers per game. Still, the sophomore has done a decent job running the show so far, leading the Grizzlies to two victories. The one blemish is he’s yet to connect on a three-pointer, a part of his game that should be one of his main focuses of improvement if he hopes to pass veteran Beno Udrih in the pecking order.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Branden Dawson (Rookie) came off the bench for the Clippers’ first two games of the summer league, averaging 11.0 points (53% FG, 0% 3Pt, 40% FT), 9.5 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 22 minutes per game. With DeAndre Jordan leaving for the Mavericks, the Clippers will probably be playing small ball more often, shifting Blake Griffin to a lot of minutes at center. Dawson might be a long shot to hold a substantial role as a rookie, especially if Paul Pierce is going to play considerable minutes at the four. Still, it’s possible Dawson’s defense and scrappiness will lead to him playing a regular role.
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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Rookie) started at small forward for the Nets’ first two games of the summer league, averaging 8.5 points (50% FG, 33% 3Pt), 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and 2.0 steals in 25 minutes per game. He has committed two turnovers per game and hasn’t gotten to the charity stripe for a single free throw. His offense still needs a lot of work, but defensively, he’s a tough wing, and considering that the Nets gave up Mason Plumlee to acquire Hollis-Jefferson, there’s a good chance he’s a part of the rotation from Opening Night.
Ryan Boatright (Rookie) came off the bench for the Nets’ game against the Grizzlies on Saturday but then started at point guard for Sunday’s game against the Heat, averaging 15.5 points (46% FG, 54% 3Pt, 100% FT), 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and 1.0 steal in 21 minutes per game. The undrafted 6-0 guard from Connecticut has been the Nets’ surprise star of the Orlando Summer League, raining in seven three-pointers in two games. However, at his size (5-11) , he’ll need to do a better job taking care of the ball, as he has committed four turnovers to just one assist so far.
Frank Kaminsky (Rookie) started at power forward in Saturday’s game against the Thunder and Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies, averaging 16.5 points (48% FG, 55% 3Pt, 50% FT), 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 block in 32 minutes per game. He has averaged two turnovers per game without notching a single assist, but his stroke has been feathery, going 6-of-11 from beyond the arc. On a Hornets team in desperate need of spacing and scoring, he figures to have a quality shot at seeing some regular time as a rookie, but it’s also possible he gets buried on the depth chart behind the Hornets’ vets.
Troy Daniels (3rd year) started at shooting guard in Saturday’s game against the Thunder and Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies, averaging 15.5 points (46% FG, 50% 3Pt, 100% FT), 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.5 steals in 30 minutes per game. He’s already made seven three-pointers. Nic Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist figure to share the floor fairly often for the Hornets, but there will likely be bench minutes up for grabs come training camp, and Daniels has outplayed P.J. Hairston thus far this summer.
Myles Turner (Rookie) started at power forward in Saturday’s game against the Heat and Monday’s game against the Magic’s White Team, averaging 16.5 points (64% FG, 100% 3Pt, 100% FT), 8.5 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks in 28 minutes per game. He’s been terrific at the Orlando Summer League. With Roy Hibbert reportedly on the move to the Lakers and David West agreeing to sign with the Spurs, there will be plenty of frontcourt minutes available in 2015-16. Turner will likely have an opportunity to earn a prominent role as a rookie, but he’ll have to quickly show he’s more of a finished product than what most people believe if he’s going to play significant minutes.
Keith Appling (FA Veteran) started at point guard in Saturday’s game against the Pistons and Monday’s game against the Pacers, averaging 17.0 points (41% FG, 0% 3Pt, 95% FT), 1.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 3.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 24 minutes per game. He’s helped lead the Orlando White squad to a 2-0 start at the Orlando Summer League. He’s also attempted 21 free throws while averaging only 1.0 turnover per game.
Aaron Gordon (2nd year) started at power forward in Saturday’s game against the Clippers and Monday’s game against the Thunder, averaging 21.5 points (55% FG, 43% 3Pt, 44% FT), 14.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.0 block in 32 minutes per game. He’s posted gaudy totals, and his shot has looked a lot more confident and fluid at the Orlando Summer League, sinking three triples. However, having gone 8-18 from the charity stripe, it’s clear Gordon still has plenty to improve offensively.
Mario Hezonja (Rookie) came off the bench at small forward in Saturday’s game against the Clippers and Monday’s game against the Thunder, averaging 13.0 points (38% FG, 29% 3Pt, 67% FT), 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist, and 1.0 steal per game in 25 minutes per game. He’s committed five turnovers, but he’s been far from shy at the Orlando Summer League. Hezonja has hoisted 14 three-pointers already, one of which was the game-winner on Saturday. Since Tobias Harris re-signed and Magic coach Scott Skiles has a history of sticking with vets, it might be difficult for Hezonja to become fantasy relevant as a rookie. However, his proclivity to bomb from beyond the arc on a team lacking sufficient outside shooting gives him a chance to earn some minutes right away.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Mitch McGary (2nd year) started at power forward in Saturday’s game against the Hornets and Monday’s game against the Magic’s Blue Team, averaging 13.5 points (62% FG, 0% 3Pt, 50% FT), 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in 25 minutes per game. His offensive efficiency would be better without his 2.5 turnovers per game, but through two games, the mobile big man looks very comfortable. McGary has lost 30 pounds this offseason as he works to stay healthy and earn a bigger role in his sophomore season. If McGary ever gets big minutes, he should be great in fantasy, as his per-minute production is off the charts.
Stanley Johnson (Rookie) came off the bench at small forward in Saturday’s game against the Magic’s White Team but then started at small forward for Sunday’s game against the Clippers and Monday’s game against the Heat, averaging 17.0 points (70% FG, 50% 3Pt, 56% FT), 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 0.3 blocks in 32 minutes per game. Despite the loss to the Heat on Monday, Johnson outplayed the Heat’s Justise Winslow, whom the Pistons passed on in favor of Johnson. The defensive stud’s offensive efficiency has been fantastic through three games at the Orlando Summer League, and if he’s able to keep this up, it will be hard for coach Stan Van Gundy to overlook him when it comes time to assigning roles for the 2015-16 season.
Justise Winslow (Rookie) started at small forward in Saturday’s game against the Pacers, Sunday’s game against the Nets, and Monday’s game against the Pistons, averaging 15.7 points (36% FG, 13% 3Pt, 70% FT), 3.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals in 29 minutes per game. He’s committed two turnovers per game through three games, and he’s struggled badly with his shot as well. The well-rounded wing from Duke will likely have a tough time earning a ton of minutes on a team with Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, but the Heat bench is one of the weaker second units in the league, and Winslow could end up seeing considerable time off the bench. The Heat have been using him to initiate the offense a lot at summer league which could lead to minutes as a backup point guard for Winslow as well.
Tyler Johnson (2nd year) started at point guard in Saturday’s game against the Pacers and Sunday’s game against the Nets before getting the day off for Monday’s game against the Pistons, averaging 10.5 points (44% FG, 33% 3Pt, 75% FT), 4.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 22 minutes per game. He’s coughed up the ball 2.5 times per game through two games, but he has been a big part of the Heat’s 3-0 start to the summer league. His game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds left versus the Nets was spectacular, and Johnson showed last season he has the tools to be a solid contributor off the bench.
Willie Reed (Veteran FA) started at center in Saturday’s game against the Pacers, Sunday’s game against the Nets, and Monday’s game against the Pistons, averaging 12.3 points (56% FG, 56% FT), 8.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists, and 1.0 block in 25 minutes per game. He was one of the top D-League players in 2014-15, and this is the second straight summer that he has played well at the Orlando Summer League. The Heat already have enough able big men to get by, but if Reed keeps pumping out performances like this, it’s likely he’ll receive an invite to an NBA team’s training camp.
SALT LAKE CITY SUMMER LEAGUE
Jahlil Okafor (Rookie) started at center Monday against the Spurs and put up 20 points (10-22 FG, 0-4 FT), nine rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks in 29 minutes. He turned the ball over four times and stepped out of bounds on one of their final opportunities to tie or take the lead during regulation. Still, the third-overall pick nearly notched a double-double in his NBA debut at the Salt Lake City Summer League. If Joel Embiid’s foot injury lingers into the 2015-16 season, Okafor will likely be the unquestioned first option for the 76ers on offense.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Dairis Bertans (Free Agent, International) started at shooting guard and put up 19 points (6-10 FG, 5-8 3Pt, 2-3 FT), two rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 26 minutes versus the 76ers on Monday. He certainly wasn’t bashful in his debut at the Salt Lake City Summer League. With plenty of open roster spots remaining on the Spurs, Bertans has a chance to make a serious impression on a team with limited money to spend in free agency.
Kyle Anderson (2nd year) started at power forward Monday against the 76ers, putting up eight points (2-9 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 4-6 FT), nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in 27 minutes. The 6-8 forward with the ability to handle the ball had two turnovers Monday but nearly recorded a double-double. The Spurs are filling their roster with guys who are willing to take less money for a chance at a championship, and it’s possible that Anderson will spend another year struggling to earn minutes in coach Gregg Popovich’s lineup if they’re able to sign a veteran. However, the sophomore from UCLA got a lot of burn in the D-League last year, and he’ll likely receive every opportunity to become a part of the Spurs’ deep regular season rotation, especially given his ability to play nearly every position.
Livio Jean-Charles (International) started at small forward Monday against the 76ers, putting up six points (3-11 FG), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and six blocks in 24 minutes. In one amazing sequence, the Spurs’ 2013 first-round pick blocked T.J. McConnell’s drive, sprinted the floor, and slammed home what proved to be the game-clinching alley-oop dunk in his Spurs’ Salt Lake City Summer League debut. Jean-Charles showed agility sliding with guards on the perimeter, and it’s possible he’ll be in consideration for one of the team’s final roster spots in 2015-16 if he keeps up this level of play.
Cady Lalanne (Rookie) started at center Monday against the 76ers, putting up 12 points (5-14 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 2-3 FT), five rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks in 27 minutes. He did a decent job of sticking with 76ers center Jahlil Okafor, but he committed eight fouls. The 6-9 center from Haiti showed a willingness to let his shot fly from anywhere on the floor, and even though he came up empty on the majority of his attempts from the field, Lalanne was confident, and his stroke looked steady.
Marcus Smart (2nd year) started at shooting guard in Monday’s game against the Jazz, putting up 26 points (6-20 FG, 2-10 3Pt, 12-13 FT), five rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and one block in 30 minutes. He provided his usual hustle and hard work defensively, but most impressively, he attacked the rim consistently, as evidenced by his 13 free throw attempts. Though the Celtics lost by a large margin and Smart struggled from the field, he sank his free throws and committed only two turnovers.
Jordan Mickey (Rookie) started at center in Monday’s game against the Jazz, putting up 16 points (7-8 FG, 2-2 FT), four rebounds, one steal, and three blocks in 28 minutes. The 6-8 forward from Louisiana State has a 7-3 wingspan, which allows him to man the center position and protect the rim. Overall, it was an extremely efficient and exciting debut for Mickey.
Dante Exum (2nd year) started at point guard in Monday’s game against the Celtics, putting up 20 points (5-11 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 9-10 FT), five rebounds, and five assists in 29 minutes. Exum had to be helped off the floor and into the training room late in the game after he turned his ankle. Hopefully it’s nothing serious, as he looked extremely comfortable playing with more aggression than we saw from him as a rookie last season. Exum usurped the starting point guard job from Trey Burke last season, and there’s no reason to question his role going into the 2015-16 season.
Rodney Hood (2nd year) started at shooting guard in Monday’s game against the Celtics, putting up 23 points (9-17 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 4-6 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 30 minutes. He was a question mark heading into the game with a strained shoulder, but Hood looked fine and played well with fellow sophomore guard Dante Exum. Hood did commit three turnovers, and with Alec Burks (shoulder) returning to full strength next season, there might be a timeshare in the backcourt unless the Jazz make some trades or decide to run smaller lineups that feature Gordon Hayward at power forward more. If the minutes were a lock to be there, Hood would be a great sleeper pick going into next season.
Jack Cooley (2nd year) started at center in Monday’s game against the Celtics, putting up 13 points (6-11 FG, 1-2 FT), 13 rebounds, and one block in 16 minutes. He delivered a double-double despite seeing only 16 minutes of action. Cooley is unlikely to warrant much attention in fantasy during 2015-16, but this was a promising showing nonetheless.