Before summer league play tips off in Las Vegas, Nevada tomorrow, we as NBA die-hard fans have had to ‘settle’ for the ‘next best thing’ since the conclusion of the NBA regular season and Finals. That ‘next best thing’ (besides the Utah league) is that in Orlando at the home team Magic’s practice facility. Beginning on the 4th of July for an entire week, Central Florida has showcased many of this past draft’s talents, giving us our 1st glimpse of what is to come in hopefully what will be a lengthy career at the next level… the NBA. Here are the top 5 performers thus far:
– Jordan Adams, Memphis Grizzlies
*Tate’s Take: There isn’t and quite frankly never has been, much doubt that Adams can score. In fact, I’m also willing to place my signature in quoting that he can not only score with anyone in this season’s NBA summer league (including Utah & Vegas locations), but also can do more than hold his own in the scoring category adding anyone who has been drafted in the past 2-3 years. So why is Adams playing in the annual event you ask? Although Jordan has improved immensely, he also tends to struggle defensively when he appears on the floor. As a late 1st round selection just a season ago, there’s no doubt that the Grizz scored big in Blues City. In only 2 games played so far, Adams isn’t shooting particularly as well as it may seem advertised (32% FG) but is making an impact on the other end of the floor averaging 3 and a half steals in both contests combined. Entering league play, I was curious if Adams’ wide body would be a detrimental asset to his game or contribute consistently off the bench as a role player with a ‘heavier load’. That size seems to be paying off with added effort and box-out technique, combining for 5 rebounds per game.
– Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
*Tate’s Take: Finally, a healthy Aaron Gordon has the fans of Central Florida ecstatic and looking at the glass half full after the heroics that Gordon have put on display lately. In game 1 of Orlando’s meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers, ‘AG’ scored 10 consecutive points for Orlando Blue, ranging from turnaround fadeaways, face-up midrange jumpers, and letting it rain from deep downtown in front of former-Magic long distance specialist, Dennis Scott. Gordon has transformed the meaning of a stretch-4 with much of his game comparable to a big, strong, ‘guard-like’ style of play. After nursing a foot injury, Aaron seems more determined than ever and returns with a vengeance to prove doubters wrong, some already calling him the bust of last season’s deep draft class… on that may just be labeled as the best ever. The knock on Aaron is that he doesn’t possess that prototypical NBA game of a Power Forward despite good size, athleticism, ball handling and strength. For him, regardless of what he does on a summer league level (21.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, and 2.7 apg), he’ll be under the microscope heavily after pre-season is officially over. No way you can deny his 18-rebound statline in that same Clipper game. The future is bright for ORL’s youthful star that scored 20+ in each of his 3 exhibition games.
– Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons
*Tate’s Take: The ‘STAN-imal’ has been absolutely relentless and fearless as of late. What I like best is that he not only welcomes all challengers but embraces them as well… even when the opposition is getting the best of him (and that’s not often, just ask Clips’ Geron Johnson). There’s more than enough to brag about with Stan’s game of how he attacks the rim offensively for points and rebounds, hustle after loose balls, and not a half bad jumpshot either for a guy who’s shooting abilities doesn’t come to mind when you mention his name. Although Johnson is expected and will be a very valuable piece to what the Motor City is putting together, Stanley does have some very noticeable flaws, starting with free-throw shooting, after missing a minimum of 2 in every meeting. The Cali-native has a habit of getting trapped into corners with a habit of over-dribbling, although not much of that will be asked of him when regular season play begins. Anyone who questions the pick at #8 should be ashamed of themselves. The attitude & character is exactly what The Motor City needs and attitude & character is exactly what they got in Johnson. 18.8 ppg & 7.5 rpg… not bad for a guy who stands 6’6.
– Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
*Tate’s Take: As I predicted prior to the draft, Turner will be around for quite a looooong time (and he’ll be no PJ Brown, no disrespect PJ) so get used to hearing his name called early and often in Indy. With an outstanding set-shot shooting touch and smooth follow through stroke, Myles’ biggest deficiency seems to be his lack of presence inside defensively as a near 7-footer. Stretch-4’s seem to be the new thing in this league and Turner adds to that. Myles can do a little of everything and plays well within himself, knowing exactly what it is he can and cannot do… especially trailing back on breaks although he gets up and down the floor awkwardly but doesn’t give you much of a back-to-the-basket option, even as the biggest player on the floor. A lengthy big that uses it to his benefit well and often which is a plus. Has put on some decent weight but likely should begin toning it soon.
– Joseph Young, Indiana Pacers
*Tate’s Take: Joe is a scorer and any & everyone who has seen knows it. At first glance, Young looks completely undersized to play on this level as his ‘D’ doesn’t exactly stand out but what Joseph has going for him is that ‘smaller’ guards are slowly making their way back into the league as serviceable additions to multiple rosters. Thank guys like Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas for that… (no, not THE legendary Isiah Thomas. The other one. Lol). Aaron Brooks comes to mind most when I see Joe doing what he does best within 94 feet (scoring) and any basketball talent evaluator (or Stevie Wonder) can see that it comes naturally. Joseph Young is a competitor no doubt and a very emotional player that has a true love for the game but can he lead on league level? Don’t forget, he promised to make each and every single NBA team pay that passed him up in the draft. For some reason I believe him and he’s off to a pretty good start: 17 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.5 apg and 52% FG AS A GUARD!