Victor Oladipo was not even considered a prime prospect when he entered college. It could be a warning that all the projections from high school might be wrong. Players can still vastly develop in college, even in the pros. Oladipo could be a blue-collar player’s model. The working man’s Rookie of theYear pick.
Orlando boasts of a couple of good performers in their home SummerLeague. The real games will be much different, but they look promising. Who knows, with the situation in the East, they might even sneak in the..nah, who are we kidding, the Orlando Magic will be a lottery team next year. The centerpiece of their team awaits in the draft.
Victor Oladipo, Magic
Rookies aren’t supposed to be this poised, this polished. They’re not supposed to display a defensive savoir faire far beyond their young years, and they’re certainly not supposed to be as comfortable taking the shot to win the game as they are the one to open it. And yet, Oladipo is all of these things. He wasn’t perfect in Orlando, with turnovers plaguing him in every game, but every other aspect of his game was either as good as advertised or better. Averaging 19 points, five assists and three steals per game while shooting 53 percent from deep and 82 percent from the line, Oladipo’s only main areas of worry were his oddly low field goal percentage (37 percent) and his turnovers (nearly five per game, which is to be expected of a rookie just now learning the point guard position).
Kelly Olynyk, Celtics
Will he be able to get his shot off against NBA-caliber athletes? Can he rebound dependably despite his Tyrannosaurus Rex-rivaling wingspan? Will he be anything more than a complete liability on defense? While Olynyk might not have completely eased these concerns, he’s well along the path to doing so after his stellar week in Orlando. Olynyk did so much more than just score the ball (though he did that, too, quite a bit); he rebounded very well, averaging eight rebounds per game — fourth overall out of all players — and displayed surprising court vision. His defense, specifically his lack of strength, will be a hindrance, but it wasn’t as if he was a total sieve on that end of the floor.
Solomon Hill, Pacers
Give credit to Indiana’s draft strategy: Hill might have been a reach, but he was the player they wanted, so they took him regardless of where he was projected to go. Likewise, credit must also go to Hill for coming here and outperforming the expectations many had for him. The Pacers rookie was tremendously efficient this week, averaging 14.5 points on just 9.5 shots per game and shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc. As I wrote in Thursday’s dispatch, his shooting is going to be the key to him finding the floor in Frank Vogel’s offense.
Andre Drummond, Pistons
Drummond’s averages of 15 points, 15 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game were effortless — even a little underwhelming — as nobody could hope to match his gargantuan blend of mass and athleticism. One cause for concern — though certainly not a new one — was Drummond’s putrid production from the free throw line. He shot just 23 percent from the charity stripe in his three games. Presumably, Detroit sent Drummond to summer league to further polish his game in a competitive setting against something at least resembling NBA talent. But Drummond was so thoroughly dominant, his size so wholly overwhelming, that one has to wonder if he really got anything out of this week.
Terrence Jones, Rockets
Jones used his time in Houston to make the case to his onlooking coach and general manager that he deserves more playing time and a larger role with the Rockets. Supporting Jones’ argument were his 16 points and seven rebounds per game, 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc and terrific defense in the paint and on the perimeter. He was aggressive, yet under control, assertive, but rarely forcing the issue. If his improved dribbling, face-up game and shooting prove to be more than just summer sizzle, Jones will be a valuable contributor to an already exciting Houston team.
Maurice Harkless, Magic
This final spot was a tough choice between Harkless and Jeremy Lamb of Oklahoma City, but Harkless takes the trophy because of the noticeable myriad improvements to his game. Last season, per MySynergySports.com, Harkless scored just .59 points per play as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. Look for that number to improve, as Harkless’ improved handles and strengthened frame — as well as the Magic’s emphasis on putting him in these situations during this week — have made him a much better operator off the bounce. Harkless was noticeably more comfortable as a ball handler this week, which bodes well for him and the Magic offense as a whole.
Dwight Buycks, Thunder
Inevitably, every summer league sees one player who rises from obscurity to prominence. In Orlando, that player was Buycks. Bursting onto the scene with a 12-point, 13-assist performance in Game 1, Buycks was tremendous for Oklahoma City on both ends of the ball, running the pick-and-roll to perfection and hounding opposing ball handlers. He averaged 9.5 points, six assists and two steals per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor (albeit on an average of just six attempts), and his production did not go unnoticed: Buycks recently signed a deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Daniel Orton, Thunder
Not long ago, Orton was written off as yet another young, raw big man who, for some reason or another, never reached his full potential. Maybe he never will reach that potential, but he’s at least back on the right track after his performance this week. Orton, was both aggressive and active, dunking at nearly every opportunity and challenging shots both inside and out. The biggest concern for him is conditioning, as Orton struggled to sustain that high level of energy for very long and was visibly winded after six or seven minutes of play.
Ian Clark, Heat
Like many college shooting guards who find themselves undersized to play the position in the NBA, Clark had to shift over to point guard if he was to make his mark in the NBA. While he might have averaged just one assist per game, his attacking style on both offense and defense very much fits the Miami Heatmold of point guard. Clark was also one of the top scorers in Orlando, averaging 16 points per contest.
Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers
Nobody expected Carter-Williams to come in and dominate summer league; his current strengths and weaknesses as a player don’t lend themselves to such performances. At the same time, no one expected him to be one of the worst players in Orlando. Shooting a measly 27 percent from the floor, turning the ball over at an alarming rate and complaining to the refs after every no-call, Carter-Williams had a miserable week. Perhaps the one silver lining to be found in this grey cloud of inefficiency is that now the organization can pinpoint the exact areas in which they need to develop their young point guard.