The Orlando Pro Summer League tested out a new format during its latest gathering of NBA youngsters and other hopefuls, operating on a points system for the first time in 2013.
After five days, that tournament system ended up not mattering as much as some feared before the event began on July 7, but the lack of drama at the top of the standings doesn't mean Friday's "Championship Day" won't be an exciting end to the new format that was tested this year in Orlando.
Teams were awarded three points for a win and four points for winning a quarter, with a 0.5-point split awarded to both teams in the event of a quarter tie. For a complete look at a breakdown of the new format in Orlando, check out this video from NBA.com.
Oklahoma City and Houston both finished 4-0 in tournament play, and as a result, finished with the most points in Orlando. Utah and Indiana led a host of teams with a 2-2 record, but points decided the seeding heading into Friday's action.
Here's a look at where we stand after five days in Vegas, and the schedule for the final day in Orlando at the same time the action is scheduled to begin in Las Vegas (via NBA.com).
|2||Oklahoma City Thunder||4-0||20|
|No. 6 Detroit vs. No. 5 Miami|
|No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 3 Utah|
|No. 1 Houston vs. No. 2 Oklahoma City*|
|No. 8 Orlando vs. No. 7 Boston|
|No. 10 Brooklyn vs. No. 9 Philadelphia|
*Denotes championship game.
Although the players in attendance likely hold a lesser emphasis on keeping pace in the points standings than do coaches and team personnel, setting up the tournament in this way has put an added focus on the little things.
And we all know that the little things are what win championships.
Take the point-per-quarter approach, for example. While that extra point might seem random, I would venture to say that a poll taken among current NBA head coaches would reflect the idea that "winning quarters" is a simplistic approach they use to break down the game for their teams.
Since most of these young players are basically chunks of molding clay when it comes to their level of NBA experience, putting a small emphasis on picking up that one point early on can go a long way in winning the game and getting the three points later.
The NBA summer leagues offers a chance for rookies to get their first taste of the NBA, second- and third-year pros to prove they deserve a roster spot over the free-agent target their general manager may be targeting, and others still, a last-ditch chance to prove they belong in the league somewhere.
We've seen all three of those categories produce different results so far.
Rookies are the guys the league buzzes most about during summer league action, and Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Boston's Kelly Olynyk and Indiana's Solomon Hill have been three of the strongest performers in that department so far.
Oladipo, the No. 2 overall pick, even had a game-winner for his Magic on Thursday night.
Olynyk has kept NBA scouts looking for an immediate impact in the post wishing they had taken a closer look at his inside-out game, and Hill is proving those Pacers fans who wanted Larry Bird and company to draft a guard with the No. 23 pick to be wrong.
Meanwhile, other rookies have struggled. Trey Burke hasn't had a picture-perfect start to his NBA career, shooting an abysmal 21.4 percent from the field through four games.
Michael Carter-Williams has a high assist number, but hasn't done much better, already forcing up 17-plus shots per game despite shooting just 26.1 percent from the field.
Second- and third-year players with something to prove have also stepped forward. As Roy Hibbert said on Twitter before the tournament began, it's the second-year guys who play like their pants are on fire:
OKC's trio of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Daniel Orton all look like they can be contributors at the NBA level next season, and the first two players figure to be in the Thunder's plans after this offseason.
Elsewhere, Andre Drummond has been a man among boys despite still needing to polish his limited offensive game. Drummond is averaging a double-double of 15.7 points and 15.0 rebounds in the Orlando Summer League and making the Pistons look like a strong contender to take a leap next season.
Terrence Jones, Andrew Nicholson, Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson, Alec Burks, Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie are others who have had strong auditions for a front-line rotation spot on their respective NBA rosters next year.
Still others like James Anderson, Damion James and Jarvis Varnado are gasping for NBA air, desperate to prove that a steep learning curve can be overcome.
When we look back at the 2013-14 season and prepare for the 2014 slate of summer league action, there won't be many that remember how things shook out on the final day of action in Orlando.
But as a pre-preseason trip for rookies and others who are vying for an NBA job, the summer leagues are an excellent chance to see where players are at, get a glimpse of their long-term potential and see what the learning curve is really going to be when mixed in with veterans and the expectations of an 82-game regular season.
Well, that last part isn't really the test in places like Orlando this summer. But if just one young player can take away concepts like winning quarters, playing team basketball, adjusting to new things on the fly, listening to coaching and balancing it all with knowing when a team just needs a play, then the NBA summer leagues have served their purpose yet again.
For those that don't quite get it, there's always next year.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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