Sunday, July 6, 2014
Orlando Summer League: Day 2 notables
By Jordan White
Here, in no particular order, are some notable performances from Day 2 of the Orlando Pro Summer League:
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
It's amazing the difference a year makes. Last summer, KCP lacked any semblance of rhythm or comfort. He was tentative driving, content mostly to pull up or spot up and shoot. More often than not, he'd miss. This year, KCP looks to be completely reinvented, the player the Pistons thought and hoped they were getting when they drafted him. KCP continued his scorching start to Summer League, scoring 32 points -- including 21 before halftime -- and hauling in 12 rebounds. His confidence has returned, and with it, a playing style that's smooth, less labored than it ever looked last season. Already Jodie Meeks' three-year, $19 million deal has looked questionable, and if Caldwell-Pope carries this momentum into the regular season, it'll look like an even more puzzling move.
Jarnell Stokes, Memphis Grizzlies
There is perhaps no better fit in terms of player and team ethos than Stokes and the Memphis Grizzlies. He simply outworks the competition, refusing to relent an inch of space. You underestimate him because of his height, right up until the point where he either swats your shot or dunks on you with his condor-like 7-2 wingspan. Sunday, Stokes posted a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, bullying the block on both ends. He even showed flashes of a developing jumper, hitting a nice turnaround from just a few feet beyond the block. Right now, Stokes relies too much on his strength and, for lack of a better word, grit. He'll bully teams down low, but more than a few times, he has been caught without a plan.
Jordan Adams, Memphis Grizzlies
The biggest knock on Adams coming into the draft was his glaring lack of athleticism. Sure, he could score with the best of them. But could he do it in the NBA, where the level of athleticism far surpasses anything found in the collegiate ranks? Granted, this is Summer League we're talking about, but in the second day, Adams has continued to answer that question with an emphatic yes. Adams sports terrific body control, contorting himself on the way to and around the rim to maximize his scoring chance while minimizing the potential for the shot to be blocked. He knocked down only one of his three 3-pointers today, but all of them came within the rhythm and the flow of the offense -- they weren't forced. With the Grizzlies desperate for scoring, it's easy to see why they took a chance on Adams.
Josh Huestis, Oklahoma City Thunder
When the Thunder selected Huestis in the late first round, it was one of the more puzzling picks of the draft, especially with some of the other, presumably better talent still on the board. The Stanford product didn't do much to shed those doubts, going just 1-for-6 from the field, including 0-for-4 from deep. Worse, defense is supposed to be Huestis' calling card, but he didn't inspire confidence on this end either. Some thought Huestis would be Thabo Sefolosha's replacement as the Thunder's three-and-d guard, but he has yet to show he's capable of doing either of those here in Orlando.
Casper Ware, Philadelphia 76ers
If we're being nice, if we're being extremely kind, Casper Ware, on a good day, is 5-foot-11. Here's the thing about Ware, though: It's not that he doesn't know he's short, it's that he simply couldn't care less. Ware doesn't necessarily play taller than his height, he plays to his height -- he's pesky on defense, getting right into, sometimes even under the body of whomever he's guarding, while on offense he skitters all over the court. Summer League's guard-oriented, fast-paced setting is the perfect place for Ware, who showed off his complete offensive arsenal to the tune of 20 points, including three 3-pointers and five assists. If he makes the NBA, it's likely as the third point guard on the team, so let's enjoy this summer league explosion while we can.
Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Huestis pick was even more bizarre because the Thunder basically made the same selection last year with Andre Roberson, who sports a near-identical skill set as Huestis. However, whereas Huestis struggled on Sunday, Roberson flourished. He had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds, using his length and athleticism to bother players on the perimeter. His activity level was terrific, too, as his hustle was nearly non-stop.
Shabazz Napier, Miami Heat
Saturday was a disaster for Napier, who looked completely out of sorts and frustrated, bringing forth reminders of Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke, both of whom struggled mightily last year in Orlando. However, it seems as if Napier's malady was of a milder sort than whatever afflicted his predecessors, as the UConn product looked completely different on Sunday. The poise for which he was famous, absent on Saturday, was apparent in the second game. He handled pressure much better, not being bothered by the likes of Marquis Teague, ably running the Heat's offense (or at least what passes for offense in Summer League) by striking a nice balance between passing and scoring.
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Plumlee wins this year's Andre Drummond award, given to the player who really has no business playing in Summer League because he is just so much better than anyone else on the court. His dominance isn't as apparent as Drummond's, as he doesn't have the Pistons center's sheer size, but every time Plumlee gets the ball, something good happens, whether that's a dunk or getting his defender into foul trouble. Already a great athlete by NBA standards, Plumlee's faster than anyone here at his position, allowing him to fly up and down the court without a defender draped over him. As an added bonus, he's shown good passing ability out of the post and from the elbows, such as his nice find to a streaking DeJuan Summers for a wide-open dunk.