MBO Roundtable – Orlando Summer League Edition
The MBO crew decided to take a look back at Orlando Summer League and assess what was observed during the intriguing event. Topics included Magic rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton, any reasons for Magic fans to freak out, and who impressed during the week. So below enjoy viewpoints from Brian Serra, Andrew Melnick, Spenser Strode, Preston Raulerson, and Adam Papageorgiou.
Assess Elfrid Payton’s performance during the week. Do you feel better about the assets the Magic had to give Philly for Elfrid after watching Payton in action?
Brian Serra: The move had minimal risk from an asset standpoint, in my view and I agree with Hennigan’s general point of “that’s why you have assets, to use them”. The team had a player they targeted and were able to move up to acquire him. As far as watching Payton in action, I am very encouraged. He has great court vision and is an attacking, tall guard. He needs to improve his strength in order to finish consistently around the rim and his overall ball handling and like everyone else on the team, his shooting. Overall, I was impressed with how he overcame his terrible Day 1 performance to play consistently well for the remaining 4 games. With added strength, he has the potential to be a better scoring Rajon Rondo and a triple-double threat every night.
Andrew Melnick: Payton was better than anyone expected. After a terrible first game in which he had trouble handling traps, he was fantastic over the next few games. The thing that really stood out was his ability to make the right play and take what the defense gives him, a trait many rookies don’t have. He was able to consistently beat his man off of the dribble and get into the paint, where he mostly tried to kick it out to open teammates. As opponents began to take notice, Payton began to attack the rim and score himself. He is the type of player that will be a triple double threat nearly every night and if he can improve his shot, he should become an excellent point guard. All Magic fans should feel better about that deal right now.
Spenser Strode: Look, I’m not one to put a ton of stock in Summer League performances. See: Michael Carter-Williams OPSL performance in 2013. But in my opinion. he showed enough flashes of ability and athleticism that give you hope for his future. Results, to be determined.
Preston Raulerson: Elfrid really grew on me during Summer League, and I came into it with plenty of worries about him. I saw some really great passing and court vision from him that really impressed me. Good decisions, accurate and creative, using penetration to free up others. It is exactly the type of passing that we haven’t had from our PG position for a decade. There are parts of his game that I am still concerned about in his shooting and consistent effort on defense, but I have higher hopes and a better feeling for him now than I did at draft night. Value-wise, Philly still beat us with that pick, but I think he was easily the best choice for the Magic in that 10-20 range.
Adam Papageorgiou: Payton averaged 9.2 ppg, 7.0 apg, 5.2 rpg, and 1.4 spg on 59.3 FG%. I’m not worried about the 4 turnovers per contest or 65.0 FT%. That stuff can be fixed. Elfrid led the entire Summer League in assists. He got the first game jitters out of his system – just like Oladipo had to last year – and from then on looked like floor general. This kid can break Jameer Nelson‘s franchise assist record (3,501) in 7 seasons. I haven’t seen a Magic point guard pull off the assists that Elfrid was dishing since Rafer Alston and Carlos Arroyo.
It’s great to have a tall point guard. Payton’s head is always on a swivel, his defense was relentless, has a nose for the ball and rebounds really well for his position, can actually dunk with authority, is a cold-blooded assassin in transition, can choose to dribble where ever he wants to, is a nightmare to defend in pick-and-roll, and he was drilling jump shots that Rondo or MCW still can’t hit. He’s also more agile than those guys. The 20-year-old looks well worth the price of a second round pick and a heavily protected first round pick that will most likely end up being another second rounder. Rob Hennigan wasn’t afraid to go get his guy and things look promising so far for Elfrid.
Below you’ll find more of the roundtable discussion.
Brian Serra: Kadeem Batts. He was impressive inside and I can see him having big success in the D-League and having a shot at the inevitable February 10-day contract with the 76ers. However, the MOST impressive Summer League impression was how absolutely French-Stereotype Evan Fournier is in person.
Andrew Melnick: This one’s tough but I’ll have to go with Seth Curry because he seems like the only one with any shot to make the roster, perhaps as the third point guard. His ability to quickly get shots up is a quality not a lot of other players have. There were other player that had solid weeks, but Curry’s shooting is something the Magic are still in need of, even after the additions of Channing Frye and Ben Gordon.
Spenser Strode: Kadeem Batts was a pleasant surprise, but if you’re impressed by pure shooting skill – look no further than Seth Curry. It’s clearly in the genes, and a joy to watch him drain shots from a variety of spots on the court. Now can he do just enough of the other things to stick in the NBA?
Preston Raulerson: I think Romero Osby and Seth Curry played the best, but that was expected because of their performance in the D-League last year. Vernon Macklin actually impressed me the most, even at the ripe old age of 27. He has been out of sight out of mind with overseas basketball the last year or so, but showed off some strong athleticism, blocking shots and providing good defense. On the offensive side, not much ran through him, but he grabbed rebounds and scored like you would expect from a backup big man. He swallowed some pride to play with the young folks, and I think he will find a roster as a third big.
Adam Papageorgiou: Really wish Central Florida native Kendrick Perry had more than one game to showcase his talents, he’s really explosive for a 6-footer. Kim English started some of the Magic’s Summer League games for a reason, the guy reminded me a lot of Arron Afflalo except I would argue English is even better in transition. Kim was smart to wear pink shoes, because he had a lot of important people’s eyes on him. My choice though is Cameron Jones. Cam only played 3 games, but he shot 55.6 FG% and 40.0 3PT%. He’s ‘that other dude’ who played with Dewayne Dedmon and Seth Curry in Santa Cruz for the NBDL’s Warriors. The 6′ 3″ wing wasn’t a defensive liability while showing off an offensive arsenal that included a floater, a turnaround jumper, and the ability to drain open shots. It’d be great to stash him with the Erie Bayhawks.
Should Magic fans freak out about Aaron Gordon? Assess his week, and what position should he play?
Brian Serra: Aaron Gordon needs to play the non-existent 3.4 position. For purposes of rounding, he is a 3-SF. While he is only EIGHTEEN, I have doubt that his body will ever fully evolve enough to be a consistent 4-PF. With the signing of Channing Frye, it’s clear that the team initially views him as a 3. Fans should NOT freak out. Gordon, again 18 years old, is a project – not an immediate come-in-and-challenge-for-ROY guy. He showed flashes this week that are what was expected of a freak talent drafted at number four overall. During the season he will be put in much better positions to make a difference. He can be an awesome pick-and-roll partner for any of the four other players on the floor and with spacing, he’ll be in a position to use his athleticism and quick-twitch skills to attack the basket.
Patience is required, but as we already knew – shooting will be the key. He shot 48% from the free throw line and looked discouraged with almost every shot. Blake Griffin shot 52% from the line in his 2nd year in the league and now jumped to 71% in year 4 – with a respectable jump shot. Gordon showed mid-range skill on his jumper and his technique is solid enough that he doesn’t need to completely start over, ala Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Be patient, but be encouraged.
Andrew Melnick: Magic fans should not ever freak out about a performance in summer league (with the exception of Daniel Orton‘s rookie season), but there is definitely a cause for concern. Gordon did not look all that comfortable. Offensively he is a mess. He often overdribbled and other times, he would pick up his dribble at the wrong time. His shot leaves plenty to be desired and I expected him to grab more rebounds because he is such a fantastic athlete. Of course, there is a lot to like as well. Gordon’s athleticism, smarts and work ethic have never been questioned and he won’t be 19 until September. He should become a plus defender sooner rather than later and showed enough flashes of his potential to give Magic fans something to be excited about. It is going to take a lot of work and fans will have to be patient but Gordon has the potential to become a good player.
Spenser Strode: Again, I don’t read a ton into his performance during the week. With the squad undermanned, he was forced into some extra time at the 4 and even 5 spots and he doesn’t have the man-strength yet to feel comfortable there. I expect him to play at the 3 and only slide up to the 4 against other smallball lineups. The best thing about AG is that he probably feels he didn’t live up to expectations, and that will drive his progress between now and October.
Preston Raulerson: Let’s use the word “raw” for Aaron. So much work needs to be done on his shot that I don’t really think you need to focus on anything else. Fortunately, his shot is also the key to his position: if he can develop a strong jumper and some occasional range, I see him as a 3. If he can’t, then he will have to live and die on paint opportunities as a 4. Defensively, I think he can play either position, so that isn’t a factor. He showed good technique and fundamentals, and once he grows into his body, he will be a monster on defense. I was pleasantly surprised with his dribbling and passing, which raises his floor if the shot doesn’t come around. I’m not panicking, he is 18 and needs a lot of work. Temper expectations and set your Aaron development alarms for two year from now.
Adam Papageorgiou: I want Magic fans to remember that Aaron was mostly drafted by Hennigan and crew to eventually become a first team All-NBA defender. Defense comes first, and he excelled in that aspect. Gordon averaged 7.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 1.2 apg on 35.0 FG%, 0-for-10 on 3-pointers, and 47.8 FT%. I wouldn’t freak out about his offense, but the door is open now for Magic fans to look around and thoroughly examine other guys that could have been taken with the #4 pick. Aaron’s shot didn’t look bad WHEN his feet were set. Gordon had some tough moments in the post and took some off-balanced jumpers that led to some bad rim noises which plummeted his shooting percentage. He’s an athletic freak for being 6′ 9″ and 220 pounds. Aaron has the broad build and the frame to easily pack on 20 pounds of muscle. He just needs to adapt to dealing with other athletic freaks.
Channing Frye or not, I still view Gordon as a Power Forward. I see so much Blake Griffin in Aaron it’s ridiculous. Gordon can dribble the ball a lot better than Blake though. It’s just all about decision making and knowing when to drive and timing an appropriate dump off for a teammate. Aaron’s already an outstanding one-on-one defender and a more than solid offensive and defensive rebounder who will be even better when he learns to box out more efficiently. Aaron will be fine. He has the poise and the work ethic to drastically improve himself before October.
Which non-Magic Summer League player caught your eye?
Brian Serra: Marcus Smart. He did all of the things that he was expected to do, but he did them all really well and with true confidence. I am extremely scared that the Magic will regret passing on Smart more than they will regret passing on Exum. He got to the rim at will and bullied his smaller competition. He made his free throws, protected the ball and was a complete pest on defense. The “point guard skills” that were a worry with him were all completely answered, though obviously during an extremely small sample size, but they are all things that should easily translate into the regular season. Full disclosure: I wanted the Magic to pick him at 4, so my bias could be sneaking in. Runners Up: Nerlens Noel, James Ennis and Casper Ware.
Andrew Melnick: Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope caught nearly everyone’s eye with his ability to score, but second-year lottery picks should be able to dominate their competition in the summer. Same goes for Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets and Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics. James Ennis of the Miami Heat was the biggest surprise. He averaged 17 points per game on over 50% shooting from the field and showed he has the potential to be a good defender because of his length. Philadelphia 76ers guard Casper Ware also had a good week.
Spenser Strode: Not a new name or a fresh face, and not even a player from a winning team. Mason Plumlee is the player that struck me the most. I had the opportunity to assist the Nets during their practices this week in Orlando and Plumlee’s improvement is very noticeable. He’s more fluid, confident, and vocal…and he’s turning post catches into a sure two points. Along with his expanded shooting range, Plumlee could very well develop into an upper echelon big man this season.
Preston Raulerson: Nerlens Noel. He had some of the most fluid and explosive athleticism that I’ve seen in a while. Truly elite in every sense there, and the speed that he can get off the ground to block a shot is downright scary. He is still so raw, but just seeing him run the court, rebound, score around the basket, block shots, and of course dunk was the only reminder I needed for how rare a talent he is. If they can improve his offense game and ball handling/protection (two clear issues), he is going to be insanely fun to watch.
Adam Papageorgiou: Jarnell Stokes of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Tennessee Volunteer was a 6′ 9″, 263-pound bone bruiser all week. It’s hard to move the guy. Whenever Stokes collided with an opponent for a rebound, post-up, or loose ball, every single one of those opponents grimaced in pain. Stokes is very mobile for a PF though as one of his baseline reverse dunks stood out in my mind. His 44.9 FG% doesn’t scream ‘impressive’, but his 12.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg (2nd in Summer League), 1.0 apg, and 81.0 FT% should make Grizzlies fans very happy with what they have. He’s a grown man, Jarnell averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds per contest.
Honorable mentions go to former Magic men Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins who Stan Van Gundy has given a great opportunity to resuscitate their NBA careers. Harper’s new longer hair doesn’t compete with Elfrid’s, but I’m glad Justin has found confidence in his shot again as the 12.8 ppg on 60.6 FG% and 58.3 3PT% indicate. With Liggins it’s all about him staying out of off court trouble. ‘Dre posted a solid 10.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.0 apg, and 1.8 spg on 50.0 FG% while playing a lot of point guard in the process. Both those guys should be at Pistons training camp.