TrueHoop: Kelly Olynyk

Orlando Summer League: Day 3 notables

July, 7, 2014
By Jordan White
Here, in no particular order, are some notable performances from Day 3 of the Orlando Pro Summer League:

Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic

Much like Shabazz Napier on Sunday, Payton was much more comfortable in his second game than his first. On Saturday, Payton struggled even to bring the ball up the court against pressure from even a smaller guard like Casper Ware. Monday, he had a much better command of his dribble, and was miles more confident in taking his man one-on-one. Defensively, Payton used his massive wingspan to bother the likes of Nick Johnson and Jahii Carson, forcing them to initiate the offense farther out than desired or even into taking a timeout. Payton also displayed his impressive vision and passing skills, including one perfectly lofted lead pass to his big man for an easy layup.

Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

Athleticism is a wonderful boon to any NBA hopeful. However, it can carry one only so far. Just as important as that exceptional athleticism is the ability to harness it in such a way that it actually impacts the game. Gordon is a special athlete, and he uses that athleticism to augment his natural defensive and cutting instincts. His cuts to the basket were sharp, precise and perfectly timed. As a ball handler, Gordon is further along than most expected, but he still had a few issues Monday. He brings the ball up too high, has a tendency to dribble without a purpose and can get too fancy. However, once Gordon corrects these issues, something that he should be able to do quickly, he'll be dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Phil Pressey, Boston Celtics

We'll start with where it went wrong for Pressey, because it's the only way to understand where it went right. Near the end of the third quarter, Pressey found himself matched up on defense against the Pacers' Donald Sloan, who crossed over the diminutive guard and sent him skating to the floor (Sloan then knocked down a pull-up jumper, just to add insult to injury). Some players, after suffering such humiliation, have the impulse to forsake the game plan in favor of one-upping the offender. Pressey, however, shook off the Annie Oakley instinct on the Celtics' next offensive possession, with Sloan defending, and calmly got the Celtics into their set. It's a small moment in the grand scheme of things, but it helps to illustrate Pressey's poise and maturity.

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

So far, the Celtics' experiment with Smart playing off the ball has yet to yield any sort of promising results. Then again, neither has Smart playing at his normal point guard position. Smart shot just 3-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-5 from deep. While Smart's struggles from deep aren't necessarily surprising, given that it was seen as a weakness before the draft, that a third of his shots came from beyond the arc isn't encouraging for his shot selection. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Celtics try to play Smart exclusively at point as the week goes on, just to see if he gets into a better rhythm at his more natural position.

Willie Reed, Indiana Pacers

In truth, the entire Pacers frontcourt deserves mention for its performance Monday, but Reed gets the nod for his breakout showing. His 18 points came mostly around the rim, both on opportunities he created and ones his guards created for him. He showed a nice ability to move without the ball in the post, flashing to the basket at just the right time. Defensively, he bothered the Celtics' less athletic frontcourt to the tune of four blocked shots and several more altered.

Mitch McGary, Oklahoma City Thunder

When you don't get to see a player for an entire year, it's easy to forget what made him so enticing in the first place. Rather than focus on his strengths and weaknesses, or how he's grown in the year, all teams are able to focus on are the lingering doubts regarding injury or character. Through two games, McGary's reminding everyone why he was projected as a lottery pick last year. He's shown no ill effects from the back injury that sidelined him last season at Michigan, bounding up and down the court easily (at times even running the break) and diving for loose balls. While his stance isn't great, he moves his feet on defense very well. Monday, McGary showed flashes of another aspect of his game, hitting his teammates with several nice passes both on the break and in the half court.

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

Did someone Space Jam Kelly Olynyk's talent? Last year, Olynyk was the best rookie at Summer League, probably even the best non-Andre Drummond player. He was Dirk Nowitzki-lite, hitting jumpers from all over the place and even dominating the boards despite his T-Rex wingspan. Even though there were better athletes than Olynyk, he succeeded despite their advantage. Monday, Olynyk couldn't overcome that superior athleticism, fouling six times, nor could he find a shooting rhythm, evidenced by his 5-of-13 performance from the field. Here's hoping Olynyk rediscovers his lost talent. (An aside: No offense to Olynyk, but if aliens truly did possess the power to steal talent, why would you target Olynyk?)

Tarik Black, Houston Rockets

It's not easy being a big man at summer league, given the guard-dominated play. It's even tougher when you're not a featured big, but rather a lunch-pail, energy guy just fighting for a spot on the team. Yet, in spite of all of these built-in disadvantages, Black has been able to show just what he can bring to a team. He won't wow you with his athleticism, he won't take your breath away with his defense and he should never be allowed to shoot the ball outside of 10 feet. But his motor never stops, he sets good screens and muscles post players while also showing enough athletic ability to stick with more mobile bigs. Summer League is all about finding the non-stars, the end-of-the-bench guys who, at the very least, will always bring the intensity. Black, at least Monday, looked the part.

Orlando Summer League: Day 1 notables

July, 5, 2014
By Tom Westerholm
Special to
Here, in no particular order, are some notable performances from Day 1 of the Orlando Pro Summer League:

Aaron Gordon, Magic
Let’s begin here: Gordon grabbed a shot out of the air in the fourth quarter. It was breathtaking in person, the type of play that wakes up everyone watching after nearly six hours of basketball. Then Gordon followed up his highlight-reel play by trying to take two defenders off the dribble down the court and wound up turning it over. The sequence is probably going to be a solid metaphor for Gordon’s first couple of seasons. He will simultaneously thrill and frustrate -- cutting hard back door and rising for a massive slam at one moment, then taking a step-back 3-pointer that comes up well short another. But he is what was advertised: athletic, solid passer, great defender and good ball handler. He finished 3-for-11 from the floor with seven points and five rebounds.

Marcus Smart, Celtics
Playing basketball against Smart does not look fun. The Celtics’ rookie plays brutal on-ball defense and uses his size and his athleticism to bully his offensive opponent. His off-ball defense is somehow tougher -- he picked off two entry passes and seems to have an excellent understanding of passing lanes and where the ball is going. His jumper, which was supposed to have a hitch, looked smooth, though he didn’t shoot particularly well. Smart finished 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-5 from behind the arc, but his shot selection improved as the game went on, and he appears to have a good understanding of how to get to his comfort zones out of the pick-and-roll.

Nerlens Noel, 76ers

Much will be made of the fact that in the first possession of Noel’s NBA career, he faked an opponent into the air, pivoted and slammed home a one-handed dunk. But Noel’s offensive game (6-for-11 from the floor, 7-for-7 from the free throw line) isn’t as exciting for the Sixers as his defense. Noel looks even longer and more athletic than advertised. His arms stretch for miles, break up passing lanes and stop rolling big men in pick-and-rolls. Meanwhile, his incredibly quick feet help him cut off ball-handlers, which makes him an ideal trapping big. Playing within a system takes time, but Noel appears to be an NBA-caliber defender already.

Victor Oladipo, Magic
Orlando started pressing against Philadelphia in the second half, and it was extremely effective, in large part due to Oladipo’s individual defense against Philly’s ball handlers. Oladipo defended like a junkyard dog, aggressive and snarling, and put heavy pressure on whichever unfortunate point guard was trying to bring the ball up the court for the Sixers. Oladipo’s combination of length, size and lateral quickness made him a nearly impossible roadblock to circumvent. He also shot well: 6-for-11 for 18 points and 2-for-4 3-point shooting.

Shabazz Napier, Heat
Napier’s Summer League career started horribly, as an 0-for-10, eight-turnover drought spanned three quarters. Phil Pressey’s pressuring on-ball defense and quickness bothered him off the dribble, and Napier didn’t appear prepared for Smart’s size initially. But in the second half, Napier appeared to find his rhythm and knocked down a pair of threes and a tough spinning layup in transition that almost brought the Heat back into the game. He showed flashes, but much like Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke this past season, Summer League might be a necessary-but-difficult transition period for Napier. He finished 3-for-15 from the floor and 2-for-9 from 3-point range.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons
This version of KCP looked absolutely nothing like this past season’s tentative version. Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 26 points on 8-for-19 shooting and was an impressive 8-for-9 from the free throw line. He was never hesitant looking for his shot and knocked down two jumpers from behind the arc, several from midrange and a variety of swooping layups around the basket that also got him to the line. He also made a difference on the defensive end and came away with six steals.

Elfrid Payton, Magic
The learning curve from Louisiana-Lafayette might be a little stiff for Payton, if first impressions are to be believed. Payton struggled in his debut; he turned the ball over four times in 17 minutes and scored just two points on 1-for-4 shooting. He showed plenty of athleticism, however, and dished out a game-high five assists. But he struggled at times to bring the ball up the floor against smaller guards such as Philadelphia’s 5-foot-10 Casper Ware, and Payton never looked particularly comfortable running a half-court offense. Like Napier, we might see an upswing in production from Payton as the week goes on and Orlando’s offense begins to gel.

Kelly Olynyk, Celtics
Olynyk dominated Summer League last year, so it’s not particularly surprising that he picked up where he left off against Miami. Olynyk scored 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. He never moves particularly fast, and that can get him in trouble. Defensively, Miami’s Jeff Hamilton found space on the floor frequently, and Olynyk struggled to recover and contest. But defense has never been Olynyk’s specialty, and he moves effectively on offense and utilizes a variety of spin moves and dribble drives to find space and score around the basket.

Orlando Summer League: Final Judgments

July, 12, 2013
By Jordan White
Here are some farewell takes from Friday's last day of the Orlando Pro Summer League:

Top Performers

Victor Oladipo, Magic

Rookies aren’t supposed to be this poised, this polished. They’re not supposed to display a defensive savoir faire far beyond their young years, and they’re certainly not supposed to be as comfortable taking the shot to win the game as they are the one to open it. And yet, Oladipo is all of these things. He wasn’t perfect in Orlando, with turnovers plaguing him in every game, but every other aspect of his game was either as good as advertised or better. Averaging 19 points, five assists and three steals per game while shooting 53 percent from deep and 82 percent from the line, Oladipo’s only main areas of worry were his oddly low field goal percentage (37 percent) and his turnovers (nearly five per game, which is to be expected of a rookie just now learning the point guard position).

Kelly Olynyk, Celtics
Will he be able to get his shot off against NBA-caliber athletes? Can he rebound dependably despite his Tyrannosaurus Rex-rivaling wingspan? Will he be anything more than a complete liability on defense? While Olynyk might not have completely eased these concerns, he’s well along the path to doing so after his stellar week in Orlando. Olynyk did so much more than just score the ball (though he did that, too, quite a bit); he rebounded very well, averaging eight rebounds per game -- fourth overall out of all players -- and displayed surprising court vision. His defense, specifically his lack of strength, will be a hindrance, but it wasn’t as if he was a total sieve on that end of the floor.

Solomon Hill, Pacers

Give credit to Indiana’s draft strategy: Hill might have been a reach, but he was the player they wanted, so they took him regardless of where he was projected to go. Likewise, credit must also go to Hill for coming here and outperforming the expectations many had for him. The Pacers rookie was tremendously efficient this week, averaging 14.5 points on just 9.5 shots per game and shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc. As I wrote in Thursday’s dispatch, his shooting is going to be the key to him finding the floor in Frank Vogel’s offense.

Andre Drummond, Pistons
Drummond’s averages of 15 points, 15 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game were effortless -- even a little underwhelming -- as nobody could hope to match his gargantuan blend of mass and athleticism. One cause for concern -- though certainly not a new one -- was Drummond’s putrid production from the free throw line. He shot just 23 percent from the charity stripe in his three games. Presumably, Detroit sent Drummond to summer league to further polish his game in a competitive setting against something at least resembling NBA talent. But Drummond was so thoroughly dominant, his size so wholly overwhelming, that one has to wonder if he really got anything out of this week.

Terrence Jones, Rockets
Jones used his time in Houston to make the case to his onlooking coach and general manager that he deserves more playing time and a larger role with the Rockets. Supporting Jones’ argument were his 16 points and seven rebounds per game, 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc and terrific defense in the paint and on the perimeter. He was aggressive, yet under control, assertive, but rarely forcing the issue. If his improved dribbling, face-up game and shooting prove to be more than just summer sizzle, Jones will be a valuable contributor to an already exciting Houston team.

Maurice Harkless, Magic
This final spot was a tough choice between Harkless and Jeremy Lamb of Oklahoma City, but Harkless takes the trophy because of the noticeable myriad improvements to his game. Last season, per, Harkless scored just .59 points per play as the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. Look for that number to improve, as Harkless’ improved handles and strengthened frame -- as well as the Magic’s emphasis on putting him in these situations during this week -- have made him a much better operator off the bounce. Harkless was noticeably more comfortable as a ball handler this week, which bodes well for him and the Magic offense as a whole.


Dwight Buycks, Thunder

Inevitably, every summer league sees one player who rises from obscurity to prominence. In Orlando, that player was Buycks. Bursting onto the scene with a 12-point, 13-assist performance in Game 1, Buycks was tremendous for Oklahoma City on both ends of the ball, running the pick-and-roll to perfection and hounding opposing ball handlers. He averaged 9.5 points, six assists and two steals per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor (albeit on an average of just six attempts), and his production did not go unnoticed: Buycks recently signed a deal with the Toronto Raptors.

Daniel Orton, Thunder

Not long ago, Orton was written off as yet another young, raw big man who, for some reason or another, never reached his full potential. Maybe he never will reach that potential, but he’s at least back on the right track after his performance this week. Orton, was both aggressive and active, dunking at nearly every opportunity and challenging shots both inside and out. The biggest concern for him is conditioning, as Orton struggled to sustain that high level of energy for very long and was visibly winded after six or seven minutes of play.

Ian Clark, Heat
Like many college shooting guards who find themselves undersized to play the position in the NBA, Clark had to shift over to point guard if he was to make his mark in the NBA. While he might have averaged just one assist per game, his attacking style on both offense and defense very much fits the Miami Heat mold of point guard. Clark was also one of the top scorers in Orlando, averaging 16 points per contest.


Michael Carter-Williams, 76ers
Nobody expected Carter-Williams to come in and dominate summer league; his current strengths and weaknesses as a player don’t lend themselves to such performances. At the same time, no one expected him to be one of the worst players in Orlando. Shooting a measly 27 percent from the floor, turning the ball over at an alarming rate and complaining to the refs after every no-call, Carter-Williams had a miserable week. Perhaps the one silver lining to be found in this grey cloud of inefficiency is that now the organization can pinpoint the exact areas in which they need to develop their young point guard.