Orlando Summer League, Day One

Orlando Summer League, Day One
Jul 08, 2008, 12:54 pm
We’re back at the Orlando Summer League once again to take a look at how many of the top prospects from this and last year’s draft are faring early in their NBA careers. The league is about as attractive as it has ever been this time around, with 3 of the top 4 picks in attendance, as well as numerous other highly regarded young players such as Jeff Green, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Brook Lopez and others.

Considering that this is our fifth straight year on the summer league circuit, we know what to expect here (a lot of bad basketball), and know better than to get too excited or too down on players who do extremely well or poorly here. With that said, it’s always fun to get a taste of how these guys look in person, and it sure beats not watching any basketball at all.

Game One: Indiana Pacers 95- Oklahoma City ____ 78


Russell Westbrook
18 points, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 7-13 FG, 1-3 3P, 3-5 FT, 31 minutes

All things considered (first summer league game, playing a brand new position, unfamiliar teammates/environment), this was a very successful outing for #4 draft pick Russell Westbrook. His GM Sam Presti took a little bit of heat for drafting him so early, but from the very small snippet of information we were about to gather about Westbrook, he seems to be backing him up thus far.

Westbrook started off the game a bit tentatively, looking like he was thinking very hard about how to get his team into the offense. As the game wore on, though, he came out of his shell, and really started to show all the different things that made him such a tantalizing collegiate prospect, as well as some new wrinkles that we may not have been able to see in his minimal role at UCLA.

Westbrook was nearly impossible to keep out of the lane when he put his mind to it. His terrific first step, combined with his nose for the basket and surprisingly effective crossover to get his man off-balance got him into the paint time after time, allowing him to show off the breathtaking leaping ability finishing above the rim that we’ve all come to know and love over the last season.

He showed a good demeanor on the floor, knowing when to try and make things happen individually and when to settle in and get others involved, even if it’s clear that he’s no finished product as far as his playmaking skills are concerned.

Westbrook was fairly effective running the pick and roll (surveying the options nicely and finding open teammates on the drive and dish), and generally didn’t seem to have much of an issue getting his team into their offense once he settled in. He wasn’t immune to taking some bad shots from time to time, but you certainly could have expected a lot worse all things considered. He hit one NBA 3-pointer even (but bricked other shots and some free throws) and also played his typical fantastic defense, being a menace on the floor with his athleticism, but smart and active enough to take advantage of it effectively.

At the end of the day, this performance might not tell us all that much about how ready Westbrook is to come in and run an NBA offense from day one, but it definitely highlighted his strengths and showed that “Oklahoma City” has a lot to look forward to.

Jeff Green
21 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 5 turnovers, 3 steals, 6-16 FG, 1-3 3P, 8-12 FT, 33 minutes

This was a solid, albeit uneven performance from last year’s #5 draft pick. Green was criticized at times in college for not being aggressive enough offensively, but you never would have guessed that based off the way he played in day one. Green’s body looks good and he appears to be taking things quite seriously, which is always a good sign.

Green scored in a variety of ways, whether it was off post ups, turnaround jumpers, or mid-range and long range baskets, while being very assertive getting to the free throw line. His ball-handling skills are still nothing to write home about, even if he can attack the basket effectively on straight-line drives. The next step for him will be adding in the ability to create for himself from the perimeter using advanced moves, changing directions with the ball, and so forth. He’s obviously a very versatile guy (even if we certainly missed some passing in his game…) and at age 21, is obviously still not a finished product just yet.

-D.J. White looked solid crashing the offensive glass and battling inside. He uses his length quite well and even stepped outside and knocked down a mid-range jumper.

Earl Calloway
16 points, 7 assists, 4 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 5-6 FG, 1-1 3P, 5-6 FT, 30 minutes

While certainly not the biggest name in this game, Earl Calloway was without a doubt the key to the blowout victory this no-name group assembled by the Indiana Pacers delivered over the much more talented Oklahoma City roster.

A skinny 6-2 point guard out of Indiana, Calloway spent the last year biding his team in the D-League with Fort Wayne, where he quietly established himself as one of the most improved players throughout the course of the season. He’s one of those late-bloomers who nothing has come easy for, but he surely opened up some eyes (both NBA and International) with his performance-- going toe to toe with Russell Westbrook in day one.

Calloway is a quick and very crafty point guard who does a great job mixing up his scoring with his passing. He’s excellent in transition and very smart getting into the paint, where he likes to finish with a pretty floater with either hand. He can come off a screen and knock down a 3-pointer (showcasing a very quick release), and can also pull-up off the dribble from mid-range if the situation calls for it. He runs the pick and roll well and is not a selfish player in the least bit, looking more than capable of finding the open man, even if he might not be the most instinctive playmaker around (not a shock considering his sparse experience level). On the downside, he is so aggressive with the ball that he may be liable to make some mistakes at times, and his lack of frame hurts him when trying to finish around the basket against bigger players at times—even if he’ll rarely back down.

Defensively is where Calloway needs to improve the most. He doesn’t have much of a presence at all at this time on this end of the floor, struggling to fight through screens, not using his length effectively to contest shots, and being liable to get pushed around due to his lack of bulk.

Not a big name at all coming into this summer league, Calloway has a real chance to help his stock both for the NBA and Europe running the show for Indiana—and is surely doing so thus far. It seems like the NBA is his definite goal for right now, even if it’s pretty clear he will have a good amount of options in Europe as well as the summer rolls on. We’ll have a better opinion on what type of NBA prospect he is after we see him a few more times here.

Shawne Williams looks very much out of shape, sporting an undershirt and clearly not in any type of rhythm at this point in time. He looked slow getting out in transition, and displayed very poor shot selection as well. Watching him play, there is no question that he has all the talent in the world at his disposal—as he’s capable of doing many different things offensively—but there are major question marks if he has the head to take advantage of that and carve out a niche in the league. This is a huge season for him and he needs to get himself together quickly.

Miami Heat 94- Chicago Bulls 70


Michael Beasley
28 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 9-21 FG, 1-2 3P, 9-12 FT, 23 minutes

It’s hard to envision a stronger first outing for the #2 overall pick than this, even if he started out a bit slow in the first half. Beasley pretty much had every play run for him today, and he did not disappoint in the least bit, scoring in a variety of different ways and showing that incredible amount of offensive talent that had scouts drooling over him all season long at Kansas State.

Beasley’s ability to create his own shot from the perimeter puts him in an elite class of players from day one amongst power forwards in the NBA. His ball-handling skills, first step, body control in the lane and finishing skills with either hand are remarkable, and he simply toyed with defenders all game long here against Chicago. Joakim Noah actually did a fairly admirable job trying to guard him, but just was unable to slow him down. He changed directions on the fly, established the threat of the outside shot early on, pulled off the dribble beautifully, and took it all the way to the rim when his man thought he finally had him figured out. The versatility he displayed offensively was simply off the charts.

We’re looking forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve in the coming days.

-Mario Chalmers had a solid all-around game, even if the final boxscore might not look that impressive. He played outstanding defense on Derrick Rose, and showed excellent vision finding cutters in the lane and getting out in transition. His basketball IQ and high-level experience at the collegiate level was very evident. He took some bad shots at times, missed a dunk (he’s not a vertical player at all) and struggled as usual trying to do overly complicated things off the dribble, but in general showed a lot of talent.

Derrick Rose
10 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 3-8 FG 0-1 3P, 4-8 FT, 28 minutes

This was not a very good showing by the #1 overall pick to say the least, but it’s still a little early for Bulls fans to be jumping off bridges if history is any indication. Derrick Rose looks like a guy who hasn’t been playing a whole lot of high level basketball over the last few months, much like Kevin Durant did last year. It’s possible that he’s been more preoccupied with the business side of things lately based off the way he looked physically and the lack of rhythm he enjoyed, as he never really looked comfortable running the show in this new setting.

Rose contributed very little in the first half, looking passive moving the ball around the floor and nervous enough to dribble the ball off his foot on two separate occasions or make some careless passes. Once he found a little more rhythm (more in the second half, when the game was well out of hand) he started showing sparks of why he was the most electrifying player in college basketball in the month of March—displaying that incredible initial burst of speed to blow past his defender that makes him simply impossible to stay in front of when he puts his mind to it. Knowing how and when to change gears and turn on the jets will be one of the first things Rose will need to learn as a rookie in the NBA, and it’s something he will surely get as he becomes more comfortable in his own skin. He showed sparks of terrific potential in transition in particular, but struggled badly at times trying to make plays in the half-court.

Defensively, Rose was not much of a presence at all, not really locked into the task of getting down in a stance and stopping his man, and instead just floating around from here to there without much direction. Chicago’s offense did not look like much of an offense at all, and there was very little guidance coming in from the sidelines it seems. It appears that the team is preferring to just step back and evaluate what they have on their hands rather than try and take an active approach in directing their guys. They probably just aren’t too worried about how their players are looking in the summer league, and are instead just letting them work through their mistakes on their own.

All in all, there is no question that Rose is going to take time to blossom into the incredible force we know he can become down the road, as he’s much less polished and not quite as naturally assertive as Michael Beasley is. Chicago would be well served to hold onto both Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon to let Rose ease into a feature role slowly it seems, as he probably isn’t ready to start from day one if today was any indication. It’ll be interesting to see how he looks in the coming games.

-Joakim Noah was extremely active defensively and on the glass, getting his hands on a ton of loose balls and looking very good hedging screens out on the perimeter (something that not many 7-footers can do). Noah drew a lot of fouls and was his typical aggressive self. Offensively he remains very unpolished, but there is a lot to be excited about for Bulls fans.

-We’d like to wait and see how Tyrus Thomas plays in the second game before we do a more in-depth write-up on him. He was super athletic blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, but also committed a lot of fouls and displayed poor shot-selection offensively.

Game 3: New Jersey Nets 86- Orlando Magic 74


Chris Douglas-Roberts
15 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals, 7-14 FG, 0-2 3P, 1-1 FT

Douglas-Roberts looked very comfortable making plays in New Jersey’s dribble-drive motion offense, which just happens to be the same offense his team ran in college. He made a number of very impressive plays offensively, particularly in one on one situations where he was able to create shots for himself and pull-up off the dribble for a traditional mid-range shot or his trademark floater. He rarely went all the way to the basket, but instead preferred to elevate as soon as he had space to operate—which works well for him. He was extremely aggressive and at times showed that same loose handle dribbling the ball right in front of his defender that worried some NBA execs on draft night, but at the same time he got the job done offensively the way he always does, and took one small step forward in terms of proving that he went much lower in the draft than he should have gone.

Jaycee Carroll
22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers, 7-13 FG, 0-1 3P, 8-9 FT, 19 minutes

Sweet-shooting Jaycee Carroll showed that he can do a lot more than just make shots today, going off on a scoring barrage (19 points in 22 minutes) that had to impress anyone that stuck around for the third contest of the day. He took the ball to the basket aggressively time after time, finishing with an array of floaters and pull-up jumpers, and getting to the free throw line at will. We’re not talking about a guy that is going to stand out in a crowd as far as his looks (he’s a skinny 6-2 guy with underwhelming athleticism), but he surely knows how to score, which is probably why he was such a popular fixture on the private workout circuit in the month of June. Carroll played a lot of point guard—which is not his position as we all know by now—and did what he knows how to do best, which is look for his own shot. It was hard to fault him considering the way things looked out there at times. Defensively, he was not a presence at all, which is going to be a big concern for the NBA.

-Ryan Anderson looks like a great fit at the power forward position in the dribble drive motion offense. He can do everything a power forward needs to be able to do in that offense—playing on the perimeter to space the floor, but capable of making shots out there and put the ball on the deck to attack the rim with a high skill level. He had a very nice game with 14 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes, much better than Brook Lopez for example with 10 points, 5 fouls and 0 rebounds in 20 minutes.

-Derrick Byars (15 points, 6/13 FG) had a strong showing, as did Courtney Lee (13 points, 3 rebounds) but we prefer to wait until tomorrow to evaluate them.

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