8 NBA Summer League Standouts Guaranteed to Have Breakout Season in 2013-14
The Orlando and Vegas Summer Leagues give young players a pre-preseason to experiment and adjust. You can generally tell when a player's performance is flukey or when he's showing legitimate NBA promise.
These are the guys who've taken that next step in their development, dominated the summer and are ready to break through the NBA barriers.
Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats
The difference between Jeffery Taylor today and Taylor from 2010 is laughable.
He's improved in just about every area of the game, most noticeably his jumper, which has gone from "cross your fingers and hope" to money in the bank.
Through three games in Vegas, Taylor has averaged 21 points on 38 percent shooting from three.
He's got great size, strength and smooth athleticism for a small forward, with the ability to attack, absorb contact and finish at the rim. Taylor is a disciplined offensive player and reliable finisher, whether it's spotting up as a shooter or slashing to the rim.
Defensively, he's nothing short of stellar. Taylor can guard three positions, with physical tools made for locking down opposing scoring wings.
Assuming he gets the opportunity, I'm expecting big things this season from Charlotte's 2012 second-round pick.
Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
Reggie Jackson knows he'll be getting the rock this upcoming season. After a strong 2013 NBA playoffs, along with the departure of Kevin Martin, Jackson appears to be locked in to a bigger offensive role.
He only played two games in Orlando but dropped 35 in one on 12-of-19 shooting.
Jackson clearly has the physical tools to really take off. He's an electric athlete with long arms and strong size for a ball-handler. He's tough to keep from getting to the rim, and now he's learning what to do once he gets there.
Oklahoma City's projected sixth man, Jackson will likely spend some time playing off the ball as a scorer and with it as a facilitator.
Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder
Jeremy Lamb didn't shoot the ball particularly well in Orlando, but you really got the feeling that he's ready to roll.
He's come a long way physically from his days at Connecticut. Lamb definitely added some upper-body strength and muscle to his arms, now looking the part of an NBA 2-guard.
He finished the Orlando Summer League averaging nearly 19 points a game, showing off that smooth perimeter scoring arsenal.
Lamb can create his own shot with ease, with the ability to separate and knock them down from anywhere on the floor.
The Thunder are going to need Lamb if they want to emerge as the team to beat in the West. Consistency will be his biggest issue, considering most of his offense comes from the perimeter, but Lamb should be ready to provide his team with a scoring punch off the bench.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas appears stronger physically than he did a year ago. He's made it look easy through two games in Toronto, where he's averaging 21 points and 10 boards on 54 percent shooting.
He's really got the total offensive package when it comes to traditional centers. He can step out in the mid-range, score with his back to the rim or face the basket and swoop to the hoop.
Valanciunas is also a fluid athlete with big-time size and length. The loss of Andrea Bargnani should look like addition by subtraction once Toronto increases Valanciunas' usage rate.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond was easily the most entertaining young player to watch in Orlando. At one point, the 6'10'', 270-pound giant stripped the opposing team's ball-handler at half court and took it the distance for a slam.
His motor is tremendous. Drummond might not have the softest touch, but he'll be the first one to retrieve his miss and convert it into second-chance points.
Drummond owned so much of the glass in Orlando that I'm surprised he didn't tag it with "A.D. wuz here."
He's quicker, longer and stronger than just about everyone under the boards. Drummond averaged nearly 15 rebounds through four games this summer.
Offensively, he's a target. There's still plenty of work to be done in terms of creating his own offense, but he'll turn lobs and dump-offs into guaranteed points.
Assuming his role expands and his back is healthy, Detroit should get some serious production from Drummond in 2013-14.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
Alec Burks looked sharp through three summer league games in Orlando. He averaged 14 points a game, doing a better job of separating and getting off clean, open looks.
At 6'5'', Burks has the size, handle and versatility to throw a defense off. Though it's only been a few meaningless summer games, it looks like he worked on his offense this offseason knowing his role in 2013-14 would be larger.
Actually, Burks seems locked in to the starting 2-guard role in Utah, and with a rookie running the point, the Jazz will need him to take the next step.
The minutes will be there for Burks in his third NBA season. A solid showing in Orlando should help give him the confidence he needs to start the season strong.
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson recorded a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double in his first summer league game. It shouldn't be a surprise if you happened to catch him in limited action as a rookie.
Productive with every minute he was given in 2012-13, Henson is primed for a breakout as a sophomore. He's just too long, active, talented and bright.
He can score around the key, knock down shots in the mid-range and consistently make plays above the rim.
Henson is also a constant on the glass, taking up a ton of space in the paint both vertically and horizontally.
He was great during last season's summer league, and it would be a crime if Henson's role didn't expand in year No. 2. If I were coach Larry Drew, I'd move Ersan Ilyasova to the 3 and give Henson additional minutes.
Moe Harkless, Orlando Magic
Moe Harkless put up at least 14 points in three of his four summer league games, passing the NBA-breakout eye test with flying, dazzling colors.
I've had my eyes on Harkless' game for years now, so I might be jumping the gun a little. But given how young Orlando's team is, coach Jacques Vaughn should continue letting him learn on the fly.
Harkless' jumper isn't quite there yet. He lacks range and consistent mechanics, but there's room for growth.
The rest of his game is coming together nicely. Harkless played mostly the 4 at St. John's, but his skill set and athleticism work best at small forward. He's long, agile and slippery attacking the rim, with the ability to spin or change direction while maintaining control.
He's got a good feel for finishing inside from playing there in college. Once that outside game starts to develop, so should Harkless' reputation as an emerging young star.