Ah.....Smell that? Of course you can't it's the internet but that still doesn't change the fact that It's the start of the Summer League. The NBA's yearly prospect match-up that pits players who've just entered the league along with players who are trying to earn a spot on a NBA team. To me it's like basketball nirvana. It's easily my favourite time of the NBA season watching all the new prospects play with some of the lesser known one's from last year trying to prove their worth. It's just so fun. Anyway the Orlando Summer League began today so let's take a look at what's been catching my eyes during these opening day action and what to look at over the next few days in Orlando and Las Vegas.
Carter Williams excites and disappoints in equal measure.
A good way to start of this years Summer League. The newly ''Dwighted''(It's a Dwight version of the slang word minted) Houston Rockets saw off the incredibly frustrating Micheal Carter Williams and the 76ers. What I mean by this is that MCW was easily the best player on the court at times it's just his performance in the first half is what killed him. That being said Houston and in particular Patrick Beverly(RIP Oklahoma City Thunder's 2012-13 Playoff Run) were immense with their perimeter D against MCW and all of the 76ers. Beverly's play fantastic. It was like watching Avery Bradley play. He constantly hassled and harried Carter Williams to the point where Beverly and the Houston defense forced 9 turnovers from MCW. What's more is that these turn overs were turning into buckets. 5 out of his 9 turnovers lead to buckets on the other end. Not to mention he was hurling bricks at the rim the entire today. 8-23 total and 0-6 from 3pt range. Safe to say from this performance that the jump shot needs a little bit of polish.
However MCW showed a lot of good play today. He filled up the stat sheet. 8 Assists and 7 Rebounds to go along with his 26 points is no mean feat. When he wanted he could be the 6'6 PG the ran the floor like a deer and not only finished in traffic but finished through contact on either side. This was that great part of his play was when he drove to the basket he always came away either with a bucket or he'd shoot FT's(Which he did quite a bit of, 10-11). It's so frustrating watching a guy like this. Because he could have easily won them the game if he had not committed those turnovers.
Houston's Perimeter D.
Speaking of Turnovers let's talk about Houston's terrific perimeter D and quick hands. Patrick Beverly was the leader of this defense stand but he has by no means it's only purveyor. Greg Smith, Tyler Honeycutt, Covington and Terrance Jones all were fantastic in the help defense in particular especially seeing as the Sixers were incredible fond of the ''lets throw the ball to our team mate in the post and run away'' tactic. But truth be told what really won the Rockets this game was ability to have more assists and less turnovers to compliment their run and gun offense. The high tempo simply killed the 76ers all day.
This was due to the Rockets ability to get the rely pass out quickly and not wait around. This constant pushing of the ball lead to numerous mis-matches between the two teams when coming down the floor. Beverly, James Anderson and Ware were particularly important in this system as it played to their strengths by using their speed. As if an inclination was needed 60 of the Rockets points came from transition offense. That's just nuts.
Jones and Nicholson in the paint:
Something i'm a big homer for is big men getting into the paint area and getting buckets. I think big men especially like these two should be paint players first and use their touch with the jumpshot as a another weapon to augment their post game. Two of the guys I think need to hone in on this mentality are Terrence Jones of the Houston Rockets and Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic. Let's take a look at Terrence Jones first . Jones was just terrific with 24 point and 12 rebounds. He's a player i've been hoping would begin to find some form because he has a fantastic skill set and build. At 6'9 250lbs he's an absolute lump of a man. But he's got fantastic shooting touch not to mention a fantastic ability to finish through contact along with a decent dribble drive(Only left side). The problem with Jones is that he's a little too preferential to jump shooting and hanging around the perimeter instead of using his huge arse to carve out a space in the post to snag some rebounds. I mean he's could have the size and post ability of a Zach Randolph if he wanted and still have a terrific mid range game if he wanted to but instead he insists on practicing his 3 pointers. Regardless when he did go into the paint it usually paid off. As no one on the 76ers team seemed to be able to stop him or want to for that matter. Regardless Terrence Jones may be a sneaky candidate for the PF slot beside Dwight Howard considering his varying array of skills.
Nicholson has blown hot and cold so far this summer league. His first game against the Celtics was extremely poor shooting only 1-9. He never really established himself and kept settling for mid to long range jumpers all day instead of asserting himself down low where he was guarded by Kelly Olynyk. When he did go into the post he was able to back his man down and get up a high percentage shot nearly every time. His second game against OKC he started to dominate. Continually going into the post and showing a variety of good moves including a Hakeem-esqe dreamshake he pulled on Daniel Orton at one point. He put up a 19pt performance which lead the Magic. Nicholson's already a good mid range shooter but if he further establishes his inside game he could become a real option to play beside Nikola Vucevic with this young Magic team going forward.
Let's start off with the game Kelly Olynyk had against Orlando on day one, 25pts 7 rebounds, 2 steals to go along with shooting 50% from 3pt range. To be honest I wasn't expecting him to show that much range on his jumper and the soft touch around the basket also. His style of play reminded me a small bit of Andrea Bargnani. He wasn't dominating on the boards but he was still positioning himself well in the paint to snag some rebounds for second chance opportunities. But just like Barg he lacked physicality especially in defense where Andrew Nicholson back him down too easily(I'd like to preface that by saying Nicholson was just as bad as Terrence Jones was in terms of he needed to stop shooting jumpers and start working down low). The thing with this kind of style is that unless you're a high percentage shooter your nothing but a liability to your team. Look at Ryan Anderson. He's a good enough shooter to be able to off-set his average rebounding ability and defense. When I look at Kelly Olynyk and consider his game coming out of college he had a good post game and was able to work well down low. He showed a few of these moves today but want I want to see more of is his work down low and have his jump shot in the back pocket if he needs it. It could come in especially handy in pick and pop situations. While I still have toughness concerns Olynyk is certainly an interesting prospects going forward because he seems to want to go into the paint on most of the time. He shot 5-9 with 13pts and also came up with 5 steals. He's definately one to watch as the week goes on.
Why I think Andre Drummond is the next great NBA center:
Anybody that may have read the Diaries last year would know I had a jagged opinion of Drummond. I loved his size and ability but I hated the fact he didn't but in anywhere near the effort that was required. One year later and he's made me look like a complete idiot. Congratulations Andre. In 20 minutes of play throughout the season he had a 7.9 PPG with a 7.6 RPG and a 1.6 BPG. Those are just crazy numbers considering the amount of time he's playing. I can't commend Detroit enough for what they've done with Drummond. So when I sat down to watch Drummond and the Pistons take on the Nets I was not expecting how much mature and just plain dominant he was. For those who didn't see Drummond's line was as follows: 12 points on 5-14 shooting, 16 rebounds, 6 Blocks(tied for Orlando Summer League record) and 5 steals. That was from 25 minutes of play. How scary is this? I mean the most telling part about how dominant Drummond was came from the Nets point guard Tyshawn Taylor who only started driving into the lane when Drummond was not on the floor. To me Drummond can be better than Dwight Howard. He can be almost Shaq-esqe in his dominance but their are a few caveats. He MUST continue to work on his low post game. The biggest mistake physically gifted athletes like him do is they take their gifts for granted and don't put in the necessary work in order to raise their game to the levels of the greats.
For me Drummond hasn't been handed anything yet and this is a good thing. Take Dwight for example. Incredibly gifted. Backs everyone down and dunks straight on their head. When's the last time you saw him develop any kind of post move? Up and under? Face up jumper? To me it's because he was spoiled. Everything came so easy to him. 1st Pick in the draft never doubted. Drummond fell and maybe this could be the best thing that ever happen to him. He's been humbled and now he's gotta work in order to get back to where he was once considered to be. There is work to be done for sure but when you consider the fact that size wise there is nobody that can match him his potential is through the roof.
The Plumlee Brothers:
I'll admit all I've written about is big men but that's for a good reason. The most dominating and interesting performances so far have been by big men and these two in particular have been incredibly impressive. First let's start off with Miles who plays for the Indiana Pacers. Two days, two phenomenal performances. First off he ties the Orlando Summer League record for blocks with 6 in his first game against OKC. Not only that but he also added 9 points and 9 rebounds also. While that was a solid start what he did against Philadelphia. He tied the record for most rebounds at the Orlando Summer league with 15 and also added 16 points and 4 blocks. Watching this guy play is nothing short of fun. He's built like an absolute tank. Not only that but he's been increasingly successful in post up sets where he's been able to back smaller players down and get easy buckets. He's like Drummond in that they just hoover up rebounds like nobodies business. Just thinking about this guy on Indiana is scary. He can play both 4 and 5 far better than the current back up in Tyler Hansborough. Just thinking of a West/Hibbert/Plumlee rotation is causing a sharp uprising the the trousers department.
With that we move onto Mason who for his first game got to go up against Andre Drummond and not suck. 14 Rebounds and 10 points on 3-5 FG with 4-6 from the line. In his second game against the sneaky good Miami Heat he put up 23 points on a perfect 8-8 with 9 rebounds. He is so much fun to watch play. Unlike Miles who is physically dominant, Mason is just a uber athletic big who has good handles and the usual Plumlee motor(hugely under rated). Mason isn't as solid or has the impact defensively of his brother but isn't a slouch either. He's more of a finesse player than Miles right now but my god does he love dunking. I would link you his multiple slams in the first two games but NBA.com is horrifically slow with their uploading of videos. Regardless Mason is someone to really watch going forward.
- I found the baddest son of a mutha****** in Kyle O Quinn. Need proof?Check out these few tweets by Alex Kennedy from Hoops World.
- Wanna know how bad the 69-59 Heat win over the Utah Jazz was? Alec Burks went off injured in the 2nd quarter after scoring 10 points. It took till the 3rd quarter before any player would tie him
Jarvis Varnado has been phenomenal so far for the Miami Heat. 2 Games, 9 blocks. He is a super energy, rebounding and interior defense guy that if the Heat actually use this guy they could be even better than they were before.
- Kentavious Caldwell Pope has been really disappointing. Over 2 games he's a combined 4-20 from the field and he's 1-14 from the 3pt line. He's been terrible. Instead of driving and trying to attack the basket and maybe get to the free throw line he's been settling for jumpers and he's ice cold.
- UC Santa Barbara's own Orlando Johnson looking really good. Attacking the rim and getting to the line. Looks like he's put on a ton of muscle which is helping with his new style of play.
Dwight Buycks has been the best point guard in Orlando so far. A 14 point and 13 assist game against Indiana was backed up by a solid 11 point and 5 assist game.
- Orlando keep finding fantastic players. Romero Osby has been a revelation. Multi faceted and puts in a ton of effort. Adds to an already stacked core. Doron Lamb also starting to come good as the phenomenal shooter he was billed up to
- Also who's genius idea was it to start the games on Sunday?
Hoped you enjoyed this. I'll be back at the end of the week to wrap up the Orlando Summer league and look for to Las Vegas. Later.