8 Takeaways from Day 4 of Orlando Summer League
Allow Day 4 of the NBA summer league to be your escape.
Forget about Carmelo Anthony's and LeBron James' free agency. Stop trawling your Twitter timeline in hopes of finding out what color socks they're wearing.
Start digesting the NBA's future instead.
Another day of summer-league action is in the books, and as always, it comes bearing baskets of knowledge that extend well beyond one game.
So come hither. Let the Association's optimistic youngsters be your much-needed, midsummer, free-agency-evading distraction.
Aaron Gordon: What's in a Rebound?
How many Aaron Gordons does it take to grab a rebound?
More than one. Apparently.
Summer league hasn't been especially kind to Gordon. His debut was one to forget—though he did have one insane block—but his second game was a bit more encouraging.
Game No. 3 wasn't so inspiring, though.
The Orlando Magic rookie missed all three of his shots, finishing with just four points, courtesy of an uncharacteristically efficient foul-line performance (4-of-4). Everything about his game was off, from offense to defense.
Most disturbing was his inability to battle for position when chasing rebounds. To call him inactive would be a gross understatement.
This is someone who, at 6'9", should be able to play power forward. When he fails to grab a single board like he did Tuesday, people are going to talk. They're going to talk even more knowing he hasn't shown much polish on the offensive end.
And some of that talk is going to be mean-spirited.
Lucky for Gordon, this is only the summer league.
Talk, much like his performance, means very little.
Jordan Adams Loses His Shine
Day 4 did not go as planned for Memphis Grizzlies rookie Jordan Adams.
After his first two summer-league appearances, Adams looked like a sleeper. Against the Magic, he looked like he was actually sleeping.
Adams averaged 21 points on 44 percent shooting—including 55.6 percent from deep—through his first two games, displaying a bouncy offensive confidence the Grizzlies don't currently have on the perimeter. But he went bust in limited action on Tuesday, scoring just two points on 0-of-6 shooting from the floor in 17 minutes.
Although he managed to hold his own defensively, Adams looked lost on offense. The explosive slashing we saw during his first two games was gone, replaced by recurrent passivity that has intermittently been rearing its ugly head for Adams' entire stay in Orlando, as Andrew Ford of Grizzly Bear Blues describes:
He looks most comfortable either as a spot up shooter or with the ball in his hands driving to the rim. He looks uncomfortable when his path is blocked and he is forced to work in between the two aforementioned areas of the floor. ...
... If he can prove that he can still absorb contact and finish through it at the rim, then the Grizzlies will be very happy with this pick for many years to come.
Spot-up shooting will help the Grizzlies, but they also need someone who can create his own shot on the perimeter. It's an aspect of their offense they've lacked since trading Rudy Gay.
One poor game doesn't preclude Adams from being that self-sufficient scorer who can also play off the ball, but he must learn to break down defenses in addition to absorbing contact.
Baskets aren't going to come as easy in Memphis as they did at UCLA.
Victor Oladipo Still Learning the Ropes
For one glorious game, it looked like Victor Oladipo had figured things out on offense.
Then he blinked.
Oladipo looked out of sorts against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Not even his defense was Oladipo-y enough; he committed five fouls in just over 24 minutes of action.
There was more to dislike on the offensive end, where his shot selection was spotty and his efficiency was even worse. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and didn't play well as the secondary or primary playmaker.
At times, it looked like Oladipo was struggling to master his new physique. He arrived in Orlando lighter and it showed here—in a bad way.
“I’m still strong, and I feel more explosive,” he said Sunday, per the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins. “I just feel better out there."
Too bad he didn't look better on Tuesday.
Strength is a big part of his offensive game. Being able to barrel his way toward the rim against guards and forwards bigger than himself makes up for his subpar shooting. But he looked weaker against Memphis, struggling with his jumper and in getting to rim.
Here's hoping those struggles are only temporary.
The Meeks Shall Not Inherit
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope seriously wants to know who this Jodie Meeks guy is.
Caldwell-Pope took his heretofore solid summer-league play to another level Tuesday afternoon, tallying 26 points (on 8-of-20 shooting)—including the game-winning three—in the Detroit Pistons’ 80-78 win over the Miami Heat.
Following an up-and-down rookie campaign that saw him jostled between big minutes and bench burns, Caldwell-Pope has been on a mission in Orlando. Spurred on, perhaps, by Detroit’s recent three-year, $19.5 million signing of Jodie Meeks (per Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press).
That the two play the same position only adds to the intrigue.
Throughout Detroit’s first three tilts, Caldwell-Pope has made a point of showcasing skill sets other than the sweet stroke that first made him a lottery pick: driving with authority, picking his spots and doing his best not to drift out on the periphery of the perimeter.
The fact that he did it all while playing through what looked like a pretty severe first-half ankle injury makes KCP’s performance all the more impressive.
Everything about Caldwell-Pope’s demeanor—intense, vocal, focused—suggests a player determined to reassert himself as the Pistons 2-guard of the future. With a few more performances like this, Meeks will most certainly start hearing the footsteps.
Summer league might be designed as a showcase for promising prospects and lottery picks, but it’s the surprise, somewhat-out-of-nowhere performances that really make it the frenzied funfest that it is.
Which brings us to Ian Miller, the former Florida State University standout known for his freakish athleticism and tin-attacking fury.
After tallying just five points in limited action in Sunday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Miller registered 16 points on a crisp 6-of-10 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists. In so doing, Miller filled in admirably for the somewhat anemic Peyton Siva, himself fighting for a spot on next season’s squad.
This sort of performance isn’t exactly uncommon, of course—even for relatively unheralded collegians. Still, it’s always interesting to see which players can generate the kind of sustained momentum capable of propelling them into the training-camp conversation.
At 6’3” with boundless bounce and scintillating speed, Miller certainly has the physical tools to make it at the next level. Whether he can rein in the helter-skelter game that made him a household name in Tallahassee, however, remains to be seen.
Not so Crafty
College basketball can be a tricky thing: Even if you’re one of the most respected two-way players at your position, making a summer-league statement is by no means a guarantee.
That’s essentially the boat Aaron Craft is in.
In three games, the former Ohio State sparkplug has tallied just five points, four assists and three rebounds. And while Craft emerged as one of the nation’s best defensive point guards during his four years in Columbus, even that’s been somewhat lacking.
You’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone who thought Craft had any shot at having his name called on draft night. To be sure, he was always going to be the guy who showed up in Orlando and Las Vegas and drew stares by virtue of his teamwork, tenacity and attitude.
Playing hard and smart might be necessary to get a training-camp invite, but it’s by no means sufficient. Craft’s might simply be a case of an athletically limited prospect getting his feet wet. Sooner or later, though, one has to start turning heads with the box score.
This Casper's No Ghost
When your only NBA stint is built on a bevy of 10-day contracts with one of the worst teams in the history of the NBA (the 2013-14 Sixers), chances are you still have quite the row to hoe.
But if anyone in Orlando is making the most of his opportunity, it’s Casper Ware, the diminutive firebrand from Long Beach State, where he finished his career as an All-American honorable mention.
Prior to Tuesday, Ware had logged 36 points, seven assists and seven rebounds on 12-of-27 shooting in two games. Ware followed it up by pouring in 16 (on 5-of-14 shooting) to go along with a quartet of assists.
Oh, he also registered a plus-minus of plus-29, a team high.
That, in a nutshell, is what Ware has brought to the table: a fiery glue guy capable of both putting up numbers, as well as setting up his teammates. Which is precisely the kind of balance the Sixers—loaded as they are with one of the league’s top up-and-coming point guards in Michael Carter-Williams—will want to see.
It’s already easy to see Ware maturing into a reliable energy guy off the bench. Now let’s see if he can take this momentum to Las Vegas Summer League and beyond.
Like his summer-league teammate, Jabari Brown, Jahii Carson logged just 12 total points in his first two summer-league tilts. Like Brown, Carson, an Arizona State standout, authored a promising collegiate career. Like Brown, Carson went undrafted—this after registering as a solid second-round sleeper on many a mock-draft board.
Unlike Brown, Carson’s performance was at least marginally efficient: 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting, including a cool 9-of-11 from the free-throw line.
But if there’s one paragraph that encapsulates the odds stacked against Carson after his decision to leave ASU early, it’s this one from AZCentral.com’s Doug Haller:
Still, Carson faced significant challenges. At the NBA Combine in May, the point guard measured 5 feet, 11 inches in shoes. Entering Thursday's draft, only 10 of 829 draft selections since 2000 measured under 6-feet. That's 1.2 percent.
That, to put it lightly, is not promising.
All the same, Carson looked significantly more comfortable in his role as floor general Tuesday night, committing just two turnovers in a little under 30 minutes of action.
Carson might regret his decision to leave ASU early. Then again, that’s partly what summer league is for: putting yourself back on everyone’s radar.