With the Las Vegas Summer League dominating headlines recently, many have forgotten about the eight-team Orlando Summer League that took place just two weeks ago. Since the week was filled with disappointing performances and ugly games, this may not be such a bad thing.
Overall, the quality of play and competition in Las Vegas was much better than in Orlando but certain teams did fare better than others. Summer League is about finding ways to improve the team, whether that means discovering new talent, developing players, or simply using the week as an evaluation period. Certain players passed while others failed miserably but at the end of the day, it's the teams that will each be graded for how they used the Summer League to benefit their franchise.
Boston Celtics (1-4): C+
With Avery Bradley injured, the Boston Celtics wanted to spend their week in Orlando evaluating Tony Gaffney, Oliver Lafayette, and Luke Harangody. Of the three, Harangody was easily the best and his four years of college experience were evident as he was prepared and looked steps ahead of the other rookies. But despite his impressive performance, the same questions about his game remain. Can he compete when the game is played at a faster pace in the regular season? Is he too undersized to keep on a roster? How will he fare when the ball isn't always in his hands? Gaffney was playing for the first time in months after breaking his foot and it showed. While rusty, he was able to contribute and could still earn a spot on Boston's roster if he plays well during the team's veteran camp. Lafayette did a great job distributing the ball but his turnovers and poor shooting were an issue throughout the week.
While Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and Lawrence Frank sat on the sideline to evaluate their talent, there weren't many positives to take away from the week. On a veteran team like the Celtics, there aren't many young players who can crack the rotation or even make the roster but the team could have done a better job getting the two players they signed to non-guaranteed contracts last season involved. Rather than having Harangody take shot attempt after shot attempt, the team should have focused on Gaffney and Lafayette. Those were the players that needed to show progress and be evaluated but Boston missed that opportunity.
Charlotte Bobcats (3-2): B
The Charlotte Bobcats had two goals entering the Orlando Summer League. First, the team wanted to develop their second-year players, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown. They would have the ball in their hands fpr the majority of the week because this was about getting them experience and helping them develop their games. The other objective would involve the person responsible for putting the ball into their hands. The team wanted to test drive undrafted rookie Sherron Collins and see how he would fare at this level.
Both Henderson and Brown played well and it wasn't uncommon to see the two of them score 20 points on the same night. Brown seemed more prepared as Henderson struggled with some of the plays but both sophomores were clearly a notch above the competition and impressed the Bobcats' brass. Collins also played well, distributing the ball to his targets and scoring when asked. With Raymond Felton leaving for New York, Charlotte wanted to take a look at Collins before anyone else and now it appears as if he'll make the roster. The Bobcats came into Orlando and did exactly what they wanted, developing their players and discovering new talent. Many teams had players fall into their lap or hoped for the best heading into the week but Charlotte had a plan, executed it, and made their team better as a result.
Indiana Pacers (3-2): B+
Heading into the Orlando Summer League, the Indiana Pacers faced a lot of questions regarding their moves on draft night. Was Paul George the best pick with the tenth overall pick? Would Lance Stephenson fit in Indiana and was he worth the risk? Why trade up for a relatively unknown prospect in Magnum Rolle? If anyone doubted these decisions, the week in Orlando was spent silencing critics and making the Pacers' front office look likes geniuses. George knocked down many big shots, displayed his freakish athleticism, and was a media and fan favorite thanks to his approachable, easy-going personality. Stephenson was one of the week's top scorers but also proved that he could run an offense and handle minutes at the point guard position. Rolle was perhaps the biggest surprise, with jaw-dropping athleticism and hustle plays that led to plenty of easy points, rebounds, and blocks.
The Pacers also received nice contributions from Josh McRoberts but it was the young trio that stole the show throughout the week. Many felt that George, Stephenson, and Rolle weren't just Indiana's best players but among the top performers in the entire league. Indiana needed solid performances from this trio to evaluate their games, inject some confidence into the fan base, and decide their roles. The players showed progress, development, and benefitted greatly from the experience so the week was a big success for Indiana.
New Jersey Nets (3-2): B+
Early in the week, the only bright spot for the New Jersey Nets was Terrence Williams, who was scoring at will and leading the team to victories. Williams was easily one of the best players competing in the Summer League but New Jersey was still concerned about the production of their rookies, Derrick Favors and Damion James. The two first round picks were struggling and it seemed as if Williams was the only positive on the Nets' roster.
But as the week went on, both players would show progress and contribute alongside Williams. Avery Johnson spent time with each of his players, getting to know the group and preparing them for the upcoming season. Williams, in particular, felt very good about his relationship with Johnson after the week and the group seemed to make strides with their new head coach, which was a very important step for the young team. Williams was dominant, Favors showed why he was a top three pick as the week progressed, and the Nets used the experience as a preview of training camp for the young players, getting everyone on the same page on the court and familiar with one another off of it.
View Alex Kennedy Archive Oklahoma City Thunder (4-1): A
Not only did the Oklahoma City Thunder finish the week with the best record, they were the model for how a team should handle their Summer League. The young team used the week to develop all of their young talent such as James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, B.J. Mullens, Kyle Weaver, and Latavious Williams. Unlike most Summer League teams, the Thunders' roster featured players we will likely be hearing from again and everyone knew their role. Harden would dominate on one night and then hand over the reins to Williams on the next.
The group seemed to understand what the experience was about and that's why they were able to be successful, both in the wins column and in the development of their players. The team also used this as an opportunity to bond with one another. Kevin Durant made the trip to Orlando to spend the week coaching and practicing with the squad, which improved chemistry and helped get everyone on the same page as they prepare for training camp. The Thunder were the most impressive team on the court but their grade is the result of an excellent approach to the week. No team was able to duplicate Oklahoma City's success when it came to developing their players, making sure everyone had a meaningful experience, and, ultimately, improving their team.
Orlando Magic (1-4): D
It was not a pretty week for the Orlando Magic. Playing in their own building, they were easily the worst of the eight teams competing. Had the Charlotte Bobcats not been missing Gerald Henderson and Shawne Williams on the final day, the Magic would have likely gone all week without recording a single win.
Daniel Orton, the team's first round pick, couldn't have had a worse Summer League experience. He looked lost on the floor, was terrible offensively, committed far too many turnovers and fouls, and even teammates were questioning if he was ready for the next level. Stanley Robinson displayed his athleticism throughout the week but his jump shot is still an issue and he was inconsistent. Paul Davis and Joe Crawford kept some of the contests close with their play but neither will make the roster. The Magic may have avoided losing all of their games but the week was still a failure for the team. Not only did they fail to improve, Orton's struggles significantly lowered his trade value and the team did nothing to help their young talent develop.
Philadelphia 76ers (2-3): B+
On paper, the Philadelphia 76ers had arguably the best team in Orlando. With veterans such as Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights, and Jodie Meeks as well as the second overall pick, Evan Turner, many expected the Sixers to wipe the ground with their opponents. While the team was only able to win two games, they still did an excellent job of using the week to improve their team. New head coach Doug Collins wasn't on the bench but he was instructing his players from the sidelines and during practices. Jrue Holiday was the best player in Orlando, leading the Summer League in points and assists. Philadelphia wanted to see him run the team, dominate the lesser competition, and increase his confidence and Holiday did all of those things throughout the week. Evan Turner wasn't spectacular but he did a solid job and looked better towards the end of the week when he started getting comfortable. Speights' was disappointing in terms of his scoring and defense but he was still able to contribute other ways, averaging a league-high nine rebounds per game. Philadelphia was very similar to New Jersey with one second-year player making the jump and looking phenomenal, a new head coach directing the team, and a top rookie showing progress as the week went on.
With such a young nucleus, the Orlando Summer League was a great opportunity for the Sixers to develop talent and that's exactly what they did. Holiday, Turner, and Speights will be key players in Philadelphia next season so it was important that they get on the same page while also developing their games and learning the basics of Doug Collins' system. The week was a success for the 76ers and the experience should pay off when the young team enters training camp better prepared and feeling confident.
Utah Jazz (3-2): C+
Sundiata Gaines struggled, Gordon Hayward wasn't aggressive, and the best showing came from a Kosta Koufos, who is no longer on Utah's roster. While one could argue that Koufos' impressive performance allowed the Jazz to acquire Al Jefferson one week later, the grade given to Utah is based on the play and development of their young players.
There were several games where Hayward would sit for long stretches and finish with just two or three shot attempts. This shouldn't be acceptable for a lottery pick in the Summer League, especially when the reserve is a player who has no chance at landing a roster spot. The Jazz wanted to see Gaines improve his playmaking skills and run circles around the lesser competition but he was often put into situations that didn't allow for him to succeed. Their offense was very sloppy, which led to Gaines forcing shots or committing turnovers because nobody knew where they were supposed to be. The week ended with Gaines being labeled as one of the most disappointing veterans while question marks and doubts surrounded the Hayward pick. Neither player helped themselves during Summer League but one has to wonder if better management would have led to a better experience for the duo and the rest of the team.