NBA Summer League

NBA Summer League 2014: Analyzing Debut Performances from High-Profile Rookies

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 5: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic speaks with Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers during a game on July 5, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE  (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Fernando Medina/Getty Images
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJuly 6, 2014

It seems like only yesterday the San Antonio Spurs were hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy after winning the NBA Championship, but pro hoops is back—at least in the form of summer league action.

Almost exclusively, the NBA Summer League is about the rookies. It's the first chance most anyone will have to see the recently drafted—and perhaps undrafted rookies—play with their new teams.

Here's how Day 1 in Orlando went for a few standout first-year players.

 

Rookie Guards Struggle in Head-to-Head Matchup

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 5: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Miami Heat stands on the court during a game against the Boston Celtics on July 5, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or u
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Don't read too much into it, but Miami Heat rookie Shabazz Napier couldn't shoot a Skittle in the ocean on Saturday. In the Heat's 85-77 loss to the Boston Celtics, Napier made just three of 15 attempts from the field and two of nine from three-point range.

Napier talked about his debut in the video below.

The Celtics' Marcus Smart was on the winning team, but he didn't shoot the ball any better. He scored 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field. One of the biggest knocks on Smart as a prospect is his outside shooting, and that still appeared to be a weakness on Saturday.

He missed all five of his threes.

To his credit, Smart proved to be a stat-sheet stuffer for Boston. The intense defender had five steals, five rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 5: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics drives against the Miami Heat on July 5, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Ultimately, he's going to be a player because of everything he brings to the table. 

Fans shouldn't overreact to Napier's early shooting woes. Last summer, the Utah Jazz's Trey Burke got off to an icy start as a shooter in the summer league last year. After an early-season injury, he returned to have a solid first season in Utah averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 assists per game.

Don't be shocked to see Napier put things together as well. The Big Ten Network's Camron Smith agrees.

 

Nerlens Noel and Aaron Gordon Shine

Philadelphia 76ers fans should be pleased with what they saw from Noel on Saturday. After sitting out all of the 2013-14 season, Noel looks ready to make a splash in his delayed rookie season.

He scored 19 points, blocked a shot and had four steals. He did manage to pull down two rebounds, but he looked light on his feet and displayed an excellent motor.

Unfortunately, the 76ers still lost to the Orlando Magic 83-77.

Orlando's Aaron Gordon showed why the team took him No. 4 overall in the 2014 NBA draft. He had seven points, five rebounds and one intimidating defensive play that can best be described as a "rejound."

 

Nick Johnson is Rising...Literally

ORLANDO, FL - JULY 5:  Nick Johnson #3 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against the Detroit Pistons on July 5, 2014 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this pho
Fernando Medina/Getty Images

You might not think of Johnson as one of the rookies you should be watching this season, but perhaps you should.

The Houston Rockets rookie threw down the nastiest slam of Day 1.

He also had 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in a losing effort against the Detroit Pistons. Johnson is a big, physical and clearly athletic guard who could make some noise in Houston this season.

Look out.

 

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@BMaziqueFPBR

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