In the long run, what’s currently transpiring in the Orlando Magic’s practice gym won’t have much bearing on the 2013-14 NBA season.
But for devoted basketball fans, summer league can provide some insight into the talent of young players, even if what happens in July doesn’t always translate—positively or negatively—to November, let alone next April, May or June. Still, NBA summer league is an opportunity to judge, correctly or not, whether a rookie seems prepared for the rigors of the professional ranks, how much progress a young veteran has made or simply catch a glimpse of a recent college star toiling overseas or in the D-League since leaving campus.
The Bulls don’t play until next week’s NBA summer league in Las Vegas, where the majority of the league’s teams will field squads, but the ongoing league in Orlando features a mix of 2013 draft picks and young players in need of further seasoning. A few players in Orlando have been making some positive impressions and more importantly, have a chance to be rotation players next season.
Although the action can be a bit ragged at times, players have been competing hard to impress potential employers—if a player isn’t a first-round draft pick, they’re basically auditioning for all 30 NBA teams—but it should all be taken into proper context, as there have been plenty of July superstars who never make a dent when the regular season begins, as well as perceived disappointments who go on to make major impacts when the games really matter.
It would be easy to choose an even greater multitude of names, but in the interest of not wasting your time, 10 players, an equal mix of rookies and young veterans, who could be names to know down the line have been selected for your reading pleasure:
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets: The Chicago native already established himself after arriving from Europe in the middle of last season, but his ever-intense style, featuring pesky defense, has opened even more eyes and his leadership of young teammates, as well as an emphasis on playing as a true point guard, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers: The de facto replacement for traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, the Syracuse product has struggled with turnovers and outside shooting, but his length, playmaking ability and fearlessness are all impressive traits that should serve him and the Sixers well moving forward.
Dionte Christmas, Utah Jazz: Every year, an undrafted free agent makes his mark and this summer, the former Temple star and overseas pro looks like that player, as his experience, hard-nosed play and outside shooting should give him a real chance to make the team, as he seems like a perfect fit for a young, rebuilding roster.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: One of the youngest players in the league last season, the massive, explosive center improved as the campaign went on, and with the confidence he’s displayed, he should not only start and play a bigger role next season, but even without a polished post moves or competent free-throw shooting, make a much bigger impact on a more consistent basis.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder: After All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook’s playoff knee injury, the combo guard was thrust into a role he perhaps wasn’t ready for yet, but he’s already justified the organization’s faith in him with a summer league-record 35-point game, showing very similar athleticism and scoring ability to the man he backs up in the regular season.
Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets: The ex-Kentucky power forward spent a lot of time in the D-League last season, but after former Rockets starter Patrick Patterson was traded, he got some playing time and capitalized down the stretch and although he didn’t see much action in the playoffs, the former college national champion’s ability to play inside and out could earn him minutes, especially now that Houston has center Dwight Howard, who’s best when paired with a floor-spacing partner in the post.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic: While he’s unlikely to play point guard when the regular season starts, the Indiana product has shown that he can make plays with the ball in his hands and keep defenders honest from the outside, as well as playing with his trademark energy, athleticism and considerable defensive effort.
Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics: The unquestioned star of the league, ex-Gonzaga star has been putting on a clinic (sorry for the pun, but it’s true) in Orlando, showcasing his versatile scoring ability—he can step outside to hit long-range jumpers, but the ball on the floor and score in the post—and with the Celtics beginning a rebuilding phase, there’s no reason why he won’t get an opportunity to continue his progress when the regular season starts, though he could find it a bit more difficult.
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets: The extremely athletic former Duke big man has shown some moxie, toughness and solid post moves, but most importantly, he’s finished above the rim at a high level and if he immediately becomes a devout pupil of future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett when Nets training camp starts, he could have a bright future, even if he’s not called upon to play big minutes initially.
Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder: An athletic rebounder, last season’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year seemed like a bit of a reach, but on a team with established superstars like Kevin Durant and the aforementioned Westbrook, the versatile defender could eventually carve out a niche for himself as an energy guy because of his ability to make a positive impact without scoring.