Orlando Summer League, Day Two

Orlando Summer League, Day Two
Jul 09, 2008, 03:00 pm
If the slew of 2008 and former top 10 picks playing in each and every game here wasn’t enough, today we were treated to a great surprise—the #2 pick in last year’s draft, Kevin Durant, making an appearance alongside Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green in the Oklahoma City game. If there was any doubt that the Orlando Summer League is the place to be, this definitely sealed the deal.

Day two was notable for a number of reasons, including outstanding performances by Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee, bad outings by top picks Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, and solid showings by players such as Brook Lopez, Tyrus Thomas, Anthony Morrow and Sean Williams.

Let’s dig right into the action:

Game Four: Miami Heat 90- New Jersey Nets 81


Michael Beasley was about as awful as you can get for most of the way. At the end of the first half he was 0 for 9, with 5 fouls and 5 turnovers. He finished 1-13 on the day. Beasley was given fits by the length and agility of Sean Williams, one of the few players who is able to move his feet quick enough and contest his shots on the perimeter, but still strong and big enough to battle with him inside. Beasley settled too much for his outside jumper, looking very frustrated throughout, which lead to some traveling calls, offensive fouls and even blow layups. It was definitely a good learning experience for him. Defensively he looked extremely poor on the pick and roll, and did not do a good job moving his feet to stay in front of players challenging him off the dribble from the perimeter.

All in all, a very forgettable performance, but certainly the type of experience he will have to learn from, as he learns what parts of his game can translate to a much higher level of competition than he’s ever faced—where everyone is much bigger, stronger, longer and more athletic than he’s ever seen—and what doesn’t. He just needs to not let things bother him as much as he did, because there really aren’t many physical specimens like Sean Williams anywhere in the world.

Mario Chalmers- Another very encouraging outing by Chalmers, who looks very comfortable in this setting thus far, and seems to be enjoying the newfound freedom to make mistakes and try new things—something he wasn’t able to do so much at Kansas. Chalmers was extremely aggressive offensively, blowing by poor Jaycee Carroll time after time and getting to the free throw line at will. He used the pick and roll nicely, both to get into the lane and find the open man spotting up from the perimeter, and was also extremely active in transition. Chalmers was able to use his terrific length and hands to pick up some loose change in the form of extra possessions for his team, which is what he’s done his entire career. Something that was a bit surprising was the fact his man to man defense was nothing special at all, as he repeatedly let both Jaycee Carroll and Will Conroy (neither known as speed demons) blow by him time after time.

Anthony Morrow gets the nod for our “undrafted sleeper of the day” award, as he was able to drop 19 points in just 23 minutes of action, on a scintillating 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. Morrow was one of the best shooters in college basketball this season, hitting 45% of his shots beyond the arc playing in the ACC, so its not like this is exactly startling news. It is interesting to see how quickly he has been able to expand his range to the NBA line, and just how intelligently he moved off the ball finding open spaces for which to get his shot off. He kept things nice and simple all day long, sticking to what he does best, while also mixing in a little one dribble pull-up jumper from mid-range for good measure. He creates separation nicely and has a gorgeous text-book release. Some of the scouts around us mentioned that they think he’s too one-dimensional to play in the NBA (as he’s not a great ball-handler, athlete or defender), but to his credit, he was competing hard and not looking bad out there. Morrow surprisingly already signed a contract to play all the way out in the Ukraine, leading many disappointed high-level European teams here wondering what exactly his rush was to sign in a league like that.

Brook Lopez had a much stronger outing today (18 points, 7 rebounds, 8/10 FG, 20 minutes) which was to be expected and exactly the reason we didn’t worry too much about his performance in game one. He was much more aggressive establishing position and receiving the ball inside, and looked very good finishing around the basket with a variety of hook shots on good, quick, strong moves. There aren’t many 7-footers out there who can score like he can inside, which is why he was so highly valued coming into this draft. He even knocked down a mid-range jumper for good measure. Defensively, he struggled again with foul trouble, as he could not move his feet quickly enough and suffered greatly by how tightly the referees are calling most of the games here. He picked up 7 fouls in 20 minutes…

Sean Williams deserves a special mention in this space for the incredible job he did defending Michael Beasley today. As we mentioned previously, there are not many players in the world who are agile enough to defend the perimeter and contest every shot with his freakish length, while still being explosive enough to block shots inside and not be pushed around in the post. That combination can make him one of the premier defenders in the NBA down the road if he continues to add strength and is able to keep his head straight—which is unfortunately not a give-in. Offensively, Williams is clearly not a polished player by any stretch of the imagination, but he is so unbelievably athletic that at this level it almost doesn’t even matter. He was just jumping over players for strong finishes and put-back dunks, blowing by guys putting the ball on the floor crudely, and so forth. He needs to figure out his limitations (read: not bringing the ball up the court like he did at one point) and he could be at least passable on this end of the floor in the NBA.

Game Five: Oklahoma City 100- Orlando Magic 77


Kevin Durant was not a disappointment in the least bit, making 7 of his 10 shots (including both 3-point attempts) on his way to 22 points in 27 minutes—even if there was never any question that he could do a lot more if he pleased. He showed off his unbelievable skill-level on a number of occasions—for example with a ridiculous turnaround baseline jumper from 20 feet, a pivot/spin-move into the paint to finish with a floater, grabbing a rebounding and bringing the ball all the way up the court before drilling a 3, a crazy crossover dribble leading into a pull-up jumper, and more. His length got him into the passing lanes for steals, allowed him to jump over players for offensive rebounds, and did not stop him from displaying his unbelievable ball-handling skills with either handing breaking players down off the dribble. The best part of his extremely entertaining performance was just how upbeat and unselfish he was around his teammates, always looking to make the extra pass, constantly encouraging guys from the bench, and really looking like the franchise player that we all projected him to develop into. This was definitely one of the highlights so far…

Russell Westbrook again had a very eye opening performance, only reiterating everything we said about him yesterday while looking even more comfortable trying new things. He drilled a 3-pointer when his defender went underneath a screen, had a ridiculous offensive rebound putback dunk, posted up before drilling a turnaround jumper, and was always in attack mode looking for spots to blow by his man (especially in transition) and/or pull-up off the dribble—making 8 of 10 shots in just 24 minutes. Westbrook looked for his teammates as well and did a good job finding them unselfishly. Defensively he was outstanding as usual, looking super active getting his hands on loose balls and just smothering opponents with his length and strength. His athleticism is just a marvel to take in in person, and there are very few people you’ll find in this gym that aren’t almost completely in love with his skill-set at this point. Most of the European executives who did not follow college basketball very closely keep wondering how in the world Derrick Rose was drafted ahead of Westbrook solely based off what they are seeing here. That’s less a knock on Rose and more an indication of just how impressive Westbrook has been thus far. We’re really interested to see how Westbrook will look once the regular season will start.

Jeff Green has also been outstanding—he actually lead Oklahoma City in scoring today with 28 points. He’s displayed a very complete game—his jumper looks excellent (both catch and shoot and off the dribble), he has been super aggressive taking his man off the dribble, and he moves off the ball extremely well to find open spots to make plays in. Green lived at the line today, and made 13 of his 15 attempts, a clear indication of just how active he was offensively. It’s amazing to see the difference between how controlled he played at Georgetown and how he looks now. We were a bit skeptical about him when Presti decided to draft him 5th overall last year, but he’s definitely making believers out of us with the way he’s playing here.

Courtney Lee was really the only notable performer on this extremely overmatched Orlando team, as they just did not have the horses to keep up with Oklahoma City’s three top-5 picks. Lee was outstanding in his own right, though, doing a fantastic job all game long utilizing the pick and roll, and being incredible aggressive putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the rim. What was interesting was that he started off the game looking more to facilitate and play his role within Orlando’s half-court offense, picking and choosing his spots wisely and not forcing the issue in the least bit. As the game wore on and things deteriorated for his team he started to take over much more, finishing the game was an impressive 27 points on 8/14 shooting.

His range appears to easily extend beyond the NBA arc already, and he looked very comfortable spotting up and knocking down all 3 of the attempts he took as the ball rotated in his direction. He also drove and finished with both hands equally well (always using the glass intelligently, or sometimes with a crafty floater) and did not hesitate in the least bit to pull-up off the dribble from mid-range if his defender cheated and went underneath the screen. Defensively he tried in vain to keep up with Kevin Durant—contesting his shot nicely but to no avail due to his incredible size and length, but found success on other players, getting in the passing lanes and putting a good deal of effort in as usual.

Game Six: Chicago Bulls 89- Indiana Pacers 84


Tyrus Thomas hasn’t had a spectacular summer league campaign so far, but he has surely dropped enough glimpses of potential to stay excited about his future development. He may be the most athletic forward to be found on any roster here, and he takes advantage of that on a regular basis to play excellent defense and really make his presence felt on the glass. He is slowly, but surely expanding his game every time we watch him, particularly in terms of his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and put the ball on the floor. Most encouraging was just how active he was out on the floor, getting his hands on plenty of loose balls, setting screens, playing a role in the half-court, trying to direct his teammates, and generally just taking advantage of his terrific physical tools to make his presence felt. He still has a considerable amount of work to do on his skill-set and decision making ability, but its definitely too early to close the book on his future despite his lack of productivity in his first two seasons.

Derrick Rose continues to look tentative and out of rhythm, likely a product of his lack of experience, his knee problems, and just how raw his skill-set is at the moment. He really did not standout in any facet of the game today, having probably an even worse outing than he did in the first game. The Bulls are probably going to sit him out and let him completely heal, since he’s obviously not helping himself or anyone else by being out on the floor.

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