The Orlando Pro Summer League is underway with several players already impressing the general managers, coaches and media. Here, in no particular order, are the top 10 standouts from Day 2.
Andrew Nicholson, Magic
Showing off an impressive array of post moves -- drop-steps, hook shots and up-and-unders -- as well as range on his jumper, Nicholson led the Magic in points, shooting 7-for-13 from the floor on the way to 19 points. The Magic fed him the ball early and often, exploiting the matchup with the smaller and weaker Grant Jerrett of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Nicholson also displayed an improved awareness in the post, finding a cutting Rodney McGruder on his way to the lane for an easy floater. That awareness is still a work in progress, however, as later on, upon being doubled in the post, Nicholson stubbornly refused to pass to an open Victor Oladipo in favor of a tougher shot.
Khalif Wyatt, 76ers
The former Temple guard and now Sixer hopeful put on a show reminiscent of some of his best performances at his alma mater. His 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting included 2-of-4 from deep and an array of layups, floaters and tough fadeaways over outstretched arms. However, to contribute at this level, Wyatt likely will have to improve his point guard play. His three assists came with five turnovers. Taking care of the ball is of paramount importance to Wyatt, as he needs to show he is not just a gunner and can at least manage a team’s offense.
Darius Johnson-Odom, Celtics
Boston annihilated Detroit, and DJO was one of the main reasons for said destruction. Johnson-Odom’s athleticism, and his mastery of that skill, was on fully display, as several of his 22 points were born from dashing, contorting forays to the rim. The box score shows only two assists for Johnson-Odom, but that doesn’t tell the full story of how well he moved the ball. The former Laker made several nice dump-off and kick-out passes after he penetrated into the lane.
Tyshawn Taylor, Nets
The frenetic pace of summer league games is ideal for a lightning-fast point guard such as Taylor. Brooklyn’s backup point guard scored 25 points, 10 of which came from the foul line, a direct product of Taylor’s ability to knife into the lane at will. Taylor also showed improved patience, perhaps a benefit of the tutelage of his new coach, Jason Kidd. Despite this patience, turnovers were an issue (as they have been throughout most of Taylor’s career), as he coughed up the ball five times.
Miles Plumlee, Pacers
Indiana likely is hoping Plumlee, its first-round pick last year, can fill the wide-eyed void left by Tyler Hansbrough’s departure, and the Pacers should be encouraged by Plumlee’s 16-point, 15-rebound, four-block performance. Plumlee was hyper-active on both ends of the floor, although he struggled to create offense for himself (not that he’ll ever be asked to do such a thing during the regular season). The former Blue Devil’s awareness on defense was especially impressive, personally greeting Philadelphia’s guards -- often Michael Carter-Williams -- every time they drove to the rim and bothering or blocking their shots.
Mason Plumlee, Nets
Not to be outdone by his older brother, the younger Plumlee also impressed, nearly notching a double-double with 23 points and nine rebounds. The athleticism that made the 7-footer so appealing out of college was evident, as Plumlee kept pace with his guards on the break, soared to the rim for a violent dunk and overall outmaneuvered Jarvis Varnado, the Heat’s shot-blocker extraordinaire. The Nets, with their aged roster, likely won’t be running much with their first unit, but Plumlee, along with Tyshawn Taylor at the point, could provide a nice change of pace when they enter the game.
Dwight Buycks, Thunder
No, his stat line of 11 points and five assists won’t dazzle you, and his relatively advanced age (he’s 24) won’t make you drool over thoughts of his potential. But Buycks has quietly been one of the better players in Orlando. On Sunday, he recorded a 12-point, 13-assist double-double. On Monday, after Reggie Jackson left the game due to injury, Buycks showed he wasn’t a one-game wonder, running the offense admirably, making crisp -- at times creative -- passes and being a linchpin in the Thunder’s comeback win over the Magic.
Kelly Olynyk, Celtics
The Celtics’ first-round pick didn’t quite put on the offensive clinic he did in Game 1, but he was nonetheless impressive. Olynyk once again shot the ball very well and, perhaps more importantly, looked extremely comfortable doing so. Moreover, the Gonzaga product showed a willingness to play down low, and while the results weren’t always glamorous, they were more often than not effective. Olynyk has the benefit of playing for a Boston team that, this season, will face very few expectations, and should be able to develop his game without much pressure. If nothing else, he provides a threat of a shot that should give a defense pause before sagging off him.
Maurice Harkless, Magic
It’s easy to get worked up about a player’s disappointing stat line, but a key thing to remember about the summer league is that it is the epitome of process over results. Harkless’ 14 points might not be that impressive, but when you consider that eight of those points came from free throws, it’s encouraging for Harkless’ development as an all-around player. Last season, possessions that started with, ended with or even contained Harkless handling the ball would usually end in disaster. On Monday, Harkless appeared much more comfortable with the ball in his hands, be it driving to the rim or running the pick-and-roll.
Arnett Moultrie, 76ers
This won’t be a fun season in Philadelphia, nor will it be a season that produces many wins. This season will be used mainly for the development of Philadelphia’s younger players, Moultrie included. If Moultrie is to get on the court, he needs to show he belongs. He did so Monday, scoring 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting, getting to the line seven times and pulling down nine rebounds, including five offensive boards. The next step in Moultrie’s development is on the defensive side of the floor, where he’s still a work in progress. Luckily, that’s exactly what the summer league is for.