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6 Takeaways from Wednesday's Orlando NBA Summer League Action

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2013

6 Takeaways from Wednesday's Orlando NBA Summer League Action

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    There were only three games on Wednesday's Orlando Summer League slate, but there was still plenty to learn from the six teams that took the floor.

    Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans stole the show with an impressive athletic display; the Oklahoma City Thunder got a breakout game from the all-but-forgotten Jeremy Lamb, and Boston Celtic rookie Kelly Olynyk certainly made the most out of his minutes.

    The play was sloppy at times, but a few trends have already developed amidst the mess. Without giving too much away, let's just say that the Philadelphia 76ers might very well shoot their way to the bottom of everybody's power rankings.

    Either that, or there was a coincidental draft in the gym whenever Michael Carter-Williams uncorked a jumper.

    Yikes.

Summer League Was Made for Jeremy Evans

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    Thanks to guys like Jeremy Evans, it's pretty easy to get irrationally excited about individual performances during the Orlando Summer League.

    Defenses are disorganized, the talent level is low and nobody really wants to take any hard fouls to prevent highlight-reel slams. In other words, summer league is an ideal environment for Evans.

    The best moments of Evans' NBA career have generally been confined to dunk contests. Remember the guy who jumped over a painting of himself in 2013? That was Evans.

    An athletic marvel without the bulk (Evans is listed at 6'9" and 194 pounds) or technical skill to see much playing time during his three-year tenure with the Jazz, Evans had a modest breakout on Wednesday in a 98-69 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

    The rangy forward snuck backdoor and skied over the heads of a couple of unwitting Brooklyn defenders for a sweet alley-oop jam, repeatedly slithered in among Nets' big men to corral offensive rebounds and even hit a mid-range jumper.

    All told, Evans finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 24 impressive minutes.

    Utah's opportunistic young forward looked awesome. Just keep in mind that he has a long way to go before he'll be able to transfer his summer-league skills into actual regular-season games.

Jeremy Lamb Might Actually Be a Player

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    Jeremy Lamb was supposed to have been the guy that the Houston Rockets regretted giving up in the James Harden trade last October.

    Instead, he spent the 2012-13 season toiling in the D-League and looking miles away from being a rotation player.

    Summer-league caveats apply, but the young swingman has been using his time in Orlando to show everyone that he's ready to contribute. Lamb buried a nasty step-back jumper to give the Thunder a one-point lead with five seconds left on July 8, and he looked like to be that same confident player against the Sixers on Wednesday.

    Lamb pumped in a game-high 32 points on 10-of-14 shooting, and even made 9-of-10 from the foul line. He did most of his damage on jumpers, drilling three triples in five attempts and, in general, finding open looks off of screens and off the dribble.

    It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch; Lamb turned the ball over eight times and registered just one assist in 34 minutes. But considering how invisible he was last season, any signs of life from Lamb should have Oklahoma City executives doing cartwheels.

Steven Adams Is Developing Rapidly

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    Drafted as a project out of Pittsburgh, Steven Adams hasn't blown the doors off of the Orlando Summer League. But then again, nobody expected him to.

    What the big man from New Zealand has done, though, is show remarkable signs of growth in a very short period of time.

    Adams played 29 minutes against the Rockets on Wednesday, scoring 13 points and grabbing five boards while blocking a pair of shots. Those numbers were fine, especially for a raw player who is still struggling to grasp some of the more basic concepts of an NBA offense.

    But the most impressive part of Adams' Wednesday performance was how he handled himself on the defensive end. Don't be mistaken—quicker bigs still catch him off balance, forcing him to foul at an alarming rate. But the big guy actually handled himself well in pick-and-roll defense.

    Brett Koremenos of Grantland has been keeping tabs on all of the summer league action, and Adams' surprisingly capable D in one sequence caught his eye: "Great PNR D by Steven Adams on the last possession. Called coverage early, stayed low in a stance to contain the ball."

    Adams still has to get better in a number of areas, but if he shows an aptitude for defending the most commonly used set in the NBA, he'll find himself getting rotation minutes sooner than later.

The Sixers Are Going to Have Some Growing Pains This Year

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    In one sense, the 76ers' summer league is going exactly as planned. After trading away Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel (who isn't in Orlando) and a future pick, it was abundantly clear that Philly had its eyes on 2014.

    As such, it's probably not a huge concern that every Sixers guard has been shooting the ball like it was made of lead.

    Michael Carter-Williams, struggling mightily since summer league kicked off, made just 3-of-16 from the field and failed to connect on any of his four long-range attempts. Philadelphia shot just under 36 percent as a team and didn't have a backcourt player with more than three field goals on the day.

    The Sixers are rebuilding, so they're content to watch MCW and friends struggle through some serious growing pains. But that doesn't make it any easier for the rest of us to watch.

Kelly Olynyk Is Active

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    The first couple of summer league games proved that Kelly Olynyk had the outside touch and overall offensive skill to hang in the NBA. But he showed on Wednesday that he could affect the game in just about every way imaginable.

    I'll explain.

    Olynyk played 28 minutes in the Celtics loss to the Rockets. In those 28 minutes, he managed to pile up 19 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of assists. But his contributions didn't stop there.

    Olynyk was everywhere against the Rockets, attacking on offense and mixing it up on defense with seemingly endless energy. As a result, he also managed to amass seven personal fouls (yes, seven), five turnovers and a couple of steals.

    Remember, all of this happened in just 28 minutes.

    Obviously, the fouls and turnovers are a problem. But it's a lot easier to take overly aggressive players and teach them to tone down the intensity than it is to try to coax it out of them.

    Olynyk is going to be a big part of Boston's rebuilding effort this season. He'll play by default, but if the coaching staff can get him to channel his energy, the No. 13 pick in this year's draft could also be a big part of the team's long-term plans.

Terrence Jones Is Persistent

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    Terrence Jones didn't let some minor (ok, major) shooting difficulties stop him from pouring in a team-high 17 points against the Celtics on Wednesday. Undeterred by his 3-of-12 performance from the field, the Rockets' second-year man managed to work his way to the line a whopping 14 times in 25 minutes.

    Granted, a lot of Jones' misses from the field were his own fault. There were some errant jumpers and a few out-of-control drives that were clearly the product of overagressiveness.

    But give Jones credit for attacking relentlessly.

    The battle for the starting power forward spot in Houston is far from decided. Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas figure to duke it out all summer in an effort to join the team's starting five.

    With Smith as the bruiser and Motiejunas more suited to firing away from long distance, there's a chance that Jones could work his way into that starting spot by showing the best combination of inside-outside skills of the bunch.

    He's clearly trying to show the Rockets he's capable of handling a bigger role, and even though he hasn't demonstrated much success as a shooter, Jones is proving that he can find a way to score when he has to.

     

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