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NBA Summer League: Friday, July 12th

Friday was the most jam-packed day of the NBA Summer League so far, as Orlando wrapped up its action while Las Vegas kicked off its tournament at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.

Its always hard to make evaluations at the summer league, which tends to reveal who can’t play in the Association rather than who can make an impact in the upcoming season. Still, there are always standouts and players who display certain unexpected or refined skills. Additionally, it can give an impression as to who might crack a rotation, and therefore perhaps have some fantasy value.

Orlando

Miami 90 Detroit 85

D.J. Kennedy was the surprise of the day, finishing with 18 points (5-9 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 5-6 FT) and the dagger floater over Andre Drummond with 15.6 seconds left. The St. John’s alum spent some time with Cleveland and in the D-League last season, and needed a big final day to turn some heads and potentially make a roster. Undrafted former Belmont guard Ian Clark capped off a strong summer league with 18 points, seven assists, and six steals. Clark, who can really shoot it, averaged 16.4 points over the five games, and gave himself a shot to end up on a roster.

For Detroit, first-round pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope steadily improved throughout the week (after a really rough first two games). He had his best game on Friday, posting 20 points (7-14 FG, 5-6 3Pt), five boards, and four assists. He’s clearly not polished, but the Pistons will give him a chance to earn the starting 2-guard spot in camp. Andre Drummond continued his summer wreckage, finishing his week with 15 points (6-7 FG, 3-5 FT) and 14 rebounds. Drummond averaged 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, and 2.5 steals in Orlando, and looked like a man among boys. He could be an impact player this season, although he will probably go higher than he should in most fantasy drafts, as fans will overestimate how many minutes he’ll realistically get.

Indiana 73 Utah 70

The Pacers were looking for second-year man Orlando Johnson to show some promise in his namesake city, and he waited for the last day to finally do it, posting 18 points (7-13 FG, 3-6 3Pt). Johnson led the team with 14.6 points, but had shooting splits of 40.4/33.3/79.3. Those are fine, except his shot selection was less than stellar considering 24 of his 52 attempts were from beyond the arc. He should enter camp with a shot at some backup 2-guard minutes. First-round pick Solomon Hill will also be looking to crack the wing rotation, and despite just two points Friday, had a decent showing this week at 12.0 points (48.9% FG), 5.2 rebounds, and 10-18 from three. Indiana’s other summer league standout, Mason Plumlee, didn’t play on Friday, but made an impression at Amway, averaging 10.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks.

As for Utah, Trey Burke finished off his less-than-stellar week with eight points (4-12 FG) and five assists in 23 minutes. Burke averaged just 8.8 points with a 4.0-2.3 assists/TO ratio, shot just 24.1% from the field, including an alarmingly abysmal 1-19 from downtown. Still, he’ll start the season with the keys to Utah’s car (it might just be a bumpy ride at first). Chris Roberts was again the best player for the Jazz, coming off the bench for 15 points (5-7 FG, 2-3 3Pt, 3-4 FT), concluding his week at 14.8 points on 55% shooting. In a rebuild year, he could be nice find for Utah.

Oklahoma City 85 Houston 77

Your first ever Southwest Orlando Pro Summer League Champs! The Thunder capped off an undefeated trip to Florida behind Jeremy Lamb, who was fairly impressive all week. Leading scorer Reggie Jackson (19.5 PPG, 53.8% FG) didn’t play, so Lamb took 18 shots in 31 minutes. He only hit six (0-4 from three), but still got to the line to squeeze out 18 points, which is just about what he averaged over the five contests (18.8 PPG, 39.1% FG). Lamb gave himself a great shot at replacing Kevin Martin’s role in 2013-14, which would at least give Sam Presti some return from the James Harden trade. Another part of that deal, rookie Steven Adams, played well again, going for 10 points and 9 boards. Daniel Orton also continued his solid play (12 points in 11 minutes), and has a chance to grab a reserve big spot.

Houston endured its first loss of the week, although it probably won’t put a frown on Daryl Morey’s face at the moment. A positive, though, was the continued strong play of Robert Covington, an undrafted 6’8 forward from Tennessee State, who notched 21 points (8-17 FG, 3-7 3Pt), five rebounds and four steals. Leading summer-league scorer Terrence Jones didn’t play Friday, so another undrafted rookie, former Arkansas guard B.J. Young, took over the scoring duties, tallying 20 points on 7-12 shooting. The Rockets still need to improve their perimeter shooting, so these guys should get a look.

Orlando 83 Boston 102

Orlando rested Victor Oladipo, Doron Lamb, Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris, and Kyle O’Quinn (in other words, everyone of note), leaving some opportunities for others to step up. A.J. Slaughter left a good impression with 25 points, nine assists, and seven steals, as he hopes to get an invite to camp. Romero Osby ended his strong week with 14 points (6-12 FG) and four steals.

It was another efficient game for Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, who went for 12 points and seven boards in 15 minutes. The first-round pick led the C’s summer team with 18.0 points (57.8% FG) and 7.8 rebounds per game. Former Missouri point guard Phil Pressey continued his case for backup point guard Friday with 10 more dimes. He finished the week at 9.4 points and 6.6 assists per game.

Brooklyn 86 Philadelphia 89

Without leading scorer Tyshawn Taylor, Brooklyn got some other nice performances to wrap up Jason Kidd’s (sort of) first week as coach. Rookie Mason Plumlee dropped 23 points and displayed tremendous athleticism all week, especially around the rim. The Nets are pretty stacked in the frontcourt, especially with the addition of Andrei Kirilenko, so Plumlee will have an uphill climb to earn minutes. Brooklyn also got surprise outputs from center Keith Benson (18 points, 16 boards), and Chris Wright (23 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists), who made final pleas for a roster spot somewhere.

Las Vegas

Out in Las Vegas, aspiring young players from the Knicks, Pelicans, Hawks, Clippers, Cavaliers, Lakers, Bobcats, and Spurs all began their summer school Friday night. Let’s see who passed their first tests.

New York 72 New Orleans 77

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Knicks in scoring on Day One with 13 points (4-12 FG, 1-6 3Pt, 4-5 FT). He wasn’t stellar on the hardwood, but however he performs this week, he will no doubt get an opportunity to be in the rotation on opening night, most likely as a versatile backup wing. Iman Shumpert is playing summer ball, too, but certainly looked rusty, adding just two free throws and missing all his field goal attempts. He should work himself back into form soon, and better, as Woody will be relying on him to start at the two-guard.

The Pelicans got a surprisingly strong outing from Austin Rivers, who literally registered the least efficient season in league history in his rookie campaign. Young Doc led New Orleans with 24 points (8-15 FG, 7-11 FT), seven rebounds, and six assists. Monty Williams could have an interesting conundrum on his hands if Rivers continues to shine in Vegas, considering the Pelicans just acquired Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans to fill up backcourt minutes.

L.A. Clippers 90 Atlanta 83

John Jenkins, Atlanta’s 2012 first-round pick, will clearly be the no. 1 option in Vegas for the Hawks, and started off strong with 24 points (10-23 FG) and six boards. Jenkins will be gunning for a spot in the rotation this year in the A-T-L, and can certainly shoot it. It should be fun watching him let it fly all week. A couple other Hawks to key an eye on:

Dennis Schroder (2013’s first-round pick) will introduce his game to America (or NBATV’s daytime summer league viewership), and started with six points and seven assists. He is an intriguing prospect and will likely be Atlanta’s backup point guard this season.

Mike Muscala: the 6’11 center from Bucknell displayed some of his polished post-game Friday, adding 11 points (5-8 FG) off the bench.

For the Clips, rookie Reggie Bullock began his career in promising fashion, dropping 18 points on 8-15 shooting (2-6 3Pt). Minutes could be tough to come by this year for Bullock behind Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes, but the Clippers are expecting him to stay ready to fire when called upon. Samardo Samuels and DaJuan Summers both had effective 15-point showings, although L.A. might not be fiscally able to sign them after all their recent transactions become official, particularly if they ink Antawn Jamison, as rumored.

Cleveland 70 L.A. Lakers 62

The two players on Cleveland’s summer league roster likely to be in the rotation, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, had drastically different debuts. While Zeller contributed a solid 15 and 7, Waiters struggled, scoring three points on 1-11 shooting. It’s early though, and Waiters, like Shumpert, will shake off the rust. Cleveland is counting on him to make a leap this year as they hope to contend for a playoff spot. Another name to follow: Jermaine Taylor, who has bounced around the NBA, D-League, and planet since coming out of UCF. The 26-year old forward led Cleveland with 17 points off the bench.

The Lakers’ remarkable streak of consecutive losses in summer ball increased to 12 (last win: 7/14/09), and it’s clear why when looking at the Vegas squad. Center Robert Sacre, who L.A. just re-signed, is the only player guaranteed a roster spot, and he will most likely be used as a Bench Celebration Extraordinaire once again in 2013-14. Chris Douglas-Roberts is an intriguing name (and comes to Vegas with an intriguing hairdo), but recorded just six points on 2-8 shooting. Rookie Michael Snaer (yes, that guy who hit SIX buzzer-beaters while at Florida State and was on SportsCenter all the time) is also trying to catch on with a team, and started his pro career with 12 points (4-9 FG) and six boards for L.A.

San Antonio 69 Charlotte 67

These two organizations might be polar opposites, in every conceivable way, but both looked similarly unimpressive on Friday. The Charlotte’s squad had team shooting splits of 42.4/25/44.4, while the Spurs shot it at 41.9/22.2/76.5. By the way, one clear pattern that you should have noticed by now: shooting percentages are fairly terrible in summer ball. Considering the teams are made up of players desperately trying to turn heads, who aren’t very good, without any real playing time together, that should not be a surprise. A few guys did have nice games, though.

For Charlotte, last year’s second-round pick, Jeffery Taylor stood out with 24 points on 9-17 shooting. Taylor played in 77 games in his rookie campaign, and has a chance to be a sixth man/backup shooting guard for the Cats. Lottery pick Cody Zeller started his career with eight points and five boards, whatever that means (he’ll get minutes this year, is the point). Bismack Biyombo grabbed 11 boards, blocked a couple shots, and added three points, so, in other words, it was a typical regular-season outing for the Best Name in Basketball. Finally, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed some promise by actually looking at the basket, and even attempting 12 shots. He made six, and finished with 12 points. He really needs to show significant offensive improvement in order to be a fantasy commodity this season.

For the NBA’s runners-up, second-round pick DeShaun Thomas began his validation as the annual the obvious-steal-of-the-draft-that-somehow-lands-in-San Antonio with 18 points (7-13 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 2-2 FT). Meanwhile, Cory Joseph, fresh off playing key NBA Finals minutes, was appropriately the most effective player on the court, tallying a 19-5-5 line. Nando de Colo also did some things related to basketball.

It was a busy day of summer league action, as evidenced by these 2000 words, but a champion was crowned in Orlando! And after a terribly unproductive offseason/last ten months by Sam Presti, that might be as close as Oklahoma City will come to a ring for a while (just kidding, they’re still the best in the West, I think).

As for Vegas, it was only the beginning and way too early to make any judgments. Now let’s just hope the players behave at America’s Playground, so we can make some accurate evaluations before school is out.

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