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7 Takeaways from Friday's NBA Summer League Action

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 28, 2016

7 Takeaways from Friday's NBA Summer League Action

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    While one champion was crowned in Orlando on Friday, 19 others were counting their winnings in Sin City.

    OK, so maybe the Las Vegas Summer League Championship is still a ways away, but it's hard to imagine that too many players would prefer a trip to Disney World to the Entertainment Capital of the World. Even harder still when remembering that Dwight Howard's days on the summer circuit are long gone.

    With temptations at every turn, though, this horde of future stars and roster hopefuls can ill afford to focus on anything but the business at hand. Despite the additions of playoff formats in each host city, team success takes a distant backseat to (in some cases) securing a paycheck or (in others) strengthening one's hold on a key rotation slot for next season.

    Players in both cities put their best foot forward during Friday's nine-game schedule. I'll spare you any spoiler alerts here, but let's just say that some of them were familiar names (Andre Drummond, Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers), while another is quietly building his basketball brand (Khalif Wyatt).

    So to help you save on travel expenses, here's a recap of the biggest news from the NBA's cross-country journey on Friday.

Drum-Mond Roll Please...

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    The Detroit Pistons weren't the only ones taking note of Andre Drummond's dominant week in Orlando.

    The voting populace at named Detroit's budding bruiser to its All Summer-League first team. Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics), Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic), Jeremy Lamb (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets) joined Drummond on the first team.

    Not that he needed any help, but the 19-year-old gave voters another stellar performance in the Pistons' 90-85 loss to the Miami Heat. He shot a sizzling 6-of-7 from the field and needed less than 25 minutes to track down a game-high 14 rebounds.

    During his four-game run in Orlando, the sophomore-to-be averaged 15.5 points (on 51.9 percent shooting from the field) and 14.8 rebounds. He never looked like he belonged on the floor, and that's absolutely meant as a compliment.

    When he wasn't overwhelming opponents with his tremendous size (6'10", 270 pounds), he just went over the top of them. What's scary is that few defenders can match his combination of length and athleticism even when the real season starts.

    And he wasn't the only Pistons youngster packing summer league honors on his way out of Orlando. A trio of Detroit players earned Honorable Mention, including two who helped solidified their standing in Friday's loss.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 20 points and padded his stat line with five rebounds and four assists. Tony Mitchell went 7-of-10 from the field and finished his day with 16 points and six boards.

    Peyton Siva was held out of the game with a sprained ankle.

Tanking the Title Game?

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    The Orlando Summer League sold the promise of a meaningful championship game to close out its week, but the two finalists weren't buying it.

    This wasn't about a lack of effort from the players on the floor during the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder's title fight, it was more about the players left off the floor.

    Reggie Jackson, the potential Sixth Man for the big club, sat out the championship bout. A trio of Rockets regularsTerrence Jones, Greg Smith and Patrick Beverleyalso skipped the proceedings.

    While the game was a little light on star power (even by summer league standards), it wasn't starved from drama. The Thunder built a 20-point lead at one point, but a furious 19-2 Rockets surge left the outcome undecided into the final minute.

    Jeremy Lamb scored a team-best 18 points to push the Thunder to an 85-77 win over the Rockets. Steven Adams fell one rebound shy of a double-double (10 points, nine boards) and gave Oklahoma City an active presence on the interior. Grant Jerrett poured in 10 points (hitting 2-of-3 from deep), and Daniel Orton chipped in with 12 points off the bench.

    Houston's Robert Covington led all scorers with 21 points, while teammate B.J. Young added 20 of his own.

    Oklahoma City capped off a perfect 5-0 week with the win, while Houston suffered its only defeat in Orlando.

New Team Name, New Year for Austin Rivers?

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    Austin Rivers didn't exactly impress during his debut season with the New Orleans Hornets.

    The 10th pick of the 2012 draft struggled to find any efficient offense in his rookie campaign. His 6.2 scoring average was rather forgettable. His unsightly shooting slash line of .372/.326/.546 is something we'd all like to forget.

    His first game for the New Orleans Pelicans was what you'd expect from a former lottery pick. His steady offensive hand guided the Pelicans to a 77-72 win over the New York Knicks.

    He led all scorers with 24 points—11 more than any other player from either roster. Whether torching the Knicks with long jumpers (8-of-15 from the field, 1-of-2 from deep), bullying his way to the charity stripe (7-of-11) or throwing darts to ready teammates (six assists against two turnovers), he was active and productive from everywhere on the floor.

    With Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday joining Eric Gordon in a suddenly stacked New Orleans backcourt, Rivers will need more outings like this to get anywhere close to the 23.2 minutes he was handed last season.

    The talent was already there and now, for one game at least, so was the production.

Reggie! Reggie!

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    The Los Angeles Clippers found an intriguing 3-and-D prospect in North Carolina product Reggie Bullock.

    They also bolstered their wing with 3-and-D veteran Jared Dudley and three-point marksman J.J. Redick. 

    Bullock might have a tough road ahead for consistent rotation time during his rookie season. Don't forget Jamal Crawford and Willie Green were already waiting in the wings in L.A., and free-agent forward Matt Barnes signed on for another go-round with the Clippers.

    Even if Bullock battles his way to a coveted role in Doc Rivers' system, attention may be even harder to come by. The Lakers haven't yet ceded L.A. to their roommate Clippers, and it's hard for anyone to shine too brightly amid the flashing lights capturing Lob City in action.

    Bullock's path to playing time starts in Las Vegas. In L.A.'s 90-83 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, he got himself off on the right foot.

    He scored a team-high 18 points, connecting on 8-of-15 shots from the field. Courtside chants of "Reggie! Reggie!" rang out when Bullock buried a jumper in the first and returned when he registered one of his three blocks later in the game.

    He's athletic, polished and a lights-out shooter from deep. In other words, he's a Clippers wingman.

    If Bullock can keep the "Reggie!" chants rolling in Rivers' head, maybe both will be hearing them later this year inside the Staples Center.


Taylor-Made Poster

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    Maybe Charlotte Bobcats' sophomore-to-be Jeffrey Taylor's calendar is off.

    During Charlotte's 68-69 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Taylor submitted an early entry for the dunk of the year. 

    A quick jab step brushed an overzealous Nando de Colo to the side, and Taylor charged at the basket to his left. Spurs' big man Aron Baynes tried to have de Colo's back but instead wound up on the wrong end of a ferocious facial.

    And Taylor didn't stop generating with buzz there. The Vanderbilt product ripped off a game-high 24 points, hitting 9-of-17 from the field.

    Cody Zeller, the fourth pick of the 2013 draft, had eight points and five boards in a shade under 30 minutes. Taylor's 2012 draft classmate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 12 points and four boards.

    On the other end, San Antonio might have found its next draft-day heist. Deshaun Thomas, drafted 58th overall last month, scored 18 points and shot 7-of-13 from the field (2-of-4 from three).

    Big scoring nights are nothing new for the Ohio State Buckeye, even if the NBA stage is. Thomas averaged 19.8 points as a junior last season.

    Thomas' new teammate Cory Joseph buried a game-winning mid-range jumper with four seconds left on the clock. He scored 19 points in the game.

Back to the Booth, Iman

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    When Iman Shumpert wasn't working his way back from a torn ACL last summer, he was honing his craft inside the recording booth.

    Shumpert's summer was clearly productive. His athleticism wasn't always there, but he flashed some of that suffocating defense that New York Knicks fans were used to seeing along with a suddenly lethal three-point stroke (40.2 percent).

    When Shumpert, or 2wo 1ne rather, dropped his debut mixtape "The #Post90s" in December, he effectively buried the other rap hopefuls flooding the NBA ranks.

    If Friday was any indication, his 2013 summer output isn't going to be nearly as generous.

    A rare third-year NBA starter serving in the summer league ranks, he stood out from the crowd for more than just his trademark flat-top.

    Unfortunately, he would've preferred it if the fans had focused on his hair. Instead, analysts were left to wonder what they'd just seen after he labored through an 0-of-5, two-point, four-turnover night. The Knicks were outscored by 17 points during his 27-minute run, the worst plus/minus rating for any of the game's participants.

    Even worse, he wasn't the only Knick who had a rough day at the office.

    Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York's first-round pick, missed eight shots from the field and five of his six three-point attempts. C.J. Leslie, an undrafted free agent who inked a partially guaranteed one-year contract with New York, shot just 2-of-9 from the floor.

Sixers May Have a Scoring Whiz in Khalif Wyatt

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    Khalif Wyatt's four-year stay at Temple University showed the true benefits of hard work and dedication.

    As a freshman in 2009-10, he averaged less than two minutes in only 10 games for the Owls. As a senior this past season, his scoring average was up to 20.5.

    Those gaudy point totals weren't enough to put him among the 60 names called on draft night, but they did help him earn a spot on the Philadelphia 76ers' summer league squad. 

    Wyatt's scoring ability wasn't always on full display during his five-game stay in Orlando. But when he found his groove, defenses could never take him out of it.

    During Philly's 89-86 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, he had clearly found that zone. 

    In less than 19 minutes of work, he racked up a game-best 27 points. He flirted with perfection from the free-throw line (12-of-14) and beyond the arc (3-of-4), while enjoying an all-around impressive game from the field (6-of-9).

    During the Sixers' loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday, Wyatt poured in 25 of his team's 75 points.

    He's not going to push Michael Carter-Williams out of his projected starting spot, but he's presented Philadelphia with a compelling case for one of its final roster spots.

    The 76ers are in desperate need of scoring after swapping out All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for injured lottery pick Nerlens Noel in a draft-day exchange with the New Orleans Pelicans. Wyatt should be an intriguing addition for a team searching for cheap production.

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