Summer League Day 1: ‘5 Players and 1 Coach To Watch’

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Yesterday was the opening tip at the 2013 Orlando Summer League, and thus the commencement of the 2013-14 NBA season – at least for me and other overly-observent NBA enthusiasts. The chaos of first-round picks striving to live up to lofty expectations, oversees journeymen trying to ‘take their talents’ back to the states, and un-drafted free agents just looking to sneak onto the end of an NBA bench are three reasons that the NBA Summer Leagues a series of turbulent tryouts.

After watching at least one full half of each game, the most exciting team was the Pistons. On the other end of the spectrum, the least interesting, least compelling product was put together by the Miami Heat. It seems as though they are following the old motto, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. But enough about the teams, these are fictitious rosters filled with ’97 Camrys with the occasional Ferrari or Maserati mixed in, and I would much rather focus on the five most intriguing player stories, and one compelling coach story of day 1 in Orlando.

1. Kelly Olynyk/Fab Melo – “Oh, The Juxtaposition”

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Olynyk Clinic

Let’s start off by admitting that there wasn’t one man on this planet who expected this good of a debut from the long-haired Torontonian. We all knew Kaveman Kelly was skilled, smart (finished his degree in Accounting from Gonzaga in three years), and a future Boston cult-athlete, but we didn’t know his first stat line would read 25 and 7 on 9-12.

He used his body well down low, went 2-4 from three, put the ball on the deck and finished with his left, made polished post moves – I could go on and on. Dare I mention early comparisons to Dirk? Obviously, I’m getting ahead of myself, but if Kelly keeps this up Danny Ainge will look like a genius. Unfortunately, if he does become a 15 and 7 guy in his rookie season as he very well could be, the Celtics might not be bad enough to be in the running for Andrew Wiggins – a Cadmean Victory. Here’s the full video of Kelly’s debut – Kelly’s Debut.

Although he’s not a rookie, I need to vent about Fab Melo. He’s really, really lost out there. His clueless defensive positioning, disconcerting shot selection, and soft disposition below the rim make his 9 point 8 rebound 0 turnover stat line a poor indication of his actual performance. He was bailed out twice on two phantom foul calls. One was a contested turnaround 15-footer early in the shot clock that he banked in, fell down and got a call, and the second was a weak take below the rim where he was cleanly swatted by Mo Harkless who is 6’8” – Fab is 7’0”. Lastly, he made a perplexing pass that wasn’t directed toward anyone on his team, but happened to hit the back of Kyle O’Quinn of the Magic, and redirected straight out of bounds.

Fab was practically applying for his pink sheet, but was continually getting bailed out by the refs, and ended with a decent stat line. Enough about Fab and his ironic name. I’d be shocked if he made an NBA roster at any point this season.

2. Andre Drummond – “The Next Shaq?”

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Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond is a physically dominating force who is just now beginning to use his body. Yesterday, he had 12 points, 16 boards (7 offensive), 5 steals, 6 blocks and one of the meanest rim rejections I’ve ever seen (can’t find a video). I used to question his motor and willingness to improve, but after yesterday I have no doubts about the possibility for him to be very, very good.

However, he still has some holes offensely. He was pre-programming his offensive moves rather than reacting to his defender, and he can’t shoot free throws. He was 2-9 from the line, and doesn’t have a pretty stroke/natural rotation so I’m not sure how much he can actually improve. It doesn’t seem like he’ll improve much on his percentage from last season (37.1%), and it’ll be tough for Cheeks to play him late in games . Overall, Drummond has the physical tools to dominate inside, but still needs to figure out how to read his defender… and shoot free throws.

3. Michael Carter-Williams – “Deception in the Box Score”

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Michael Carter-Williams

If you are a Sixer fan looking at the ESPN bottom line, you must be pumped to see what Michael Carter-Williams did yesterday. However, upon further review his performance was more complicated than 26 points 8 assists and 7 Rebounds showing on the bottom line.

He played a lot, had the ball a lot, and did a lot – good and bad. The Good: 26 PTS / 10-11 FT / 8 AST / 7 REB. The Bad:  8-23 FGM-A / 0-6 3PM-A / 9 TO. At times he showed the ability to use his expansive ‘passing angles’ as a tall guard, and other times looked uncomfortable bringing the ball up with a smaller defender. The 76ers will be watching him closely to see if today’s Jekyll and Hyde performance will be a trend, or if MCW can find a consistent rhythm to his game.

4. Trey Burke – “Can Heart Outweigh Size?”

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Trey Burke

T-Burke’s first game as a pro should make Jazz fans a little bit nervous. He didn’t finish anything at the rim, bricked almost every shot (1-12 FGA-M) including a puzzling attempt from about 4 feet beyond the arc early in the shot clock, and didn’t attack his defenders and try to get into the lane. I’d be a little worried about Trey given his inability to score on Myck Kabongo, and even more worried about his utter disappearance with a bigger guy like Scotty Hopson (6’5”) on him.

He showed very little emotion/swagger, didn’t explode off ball screens as he did in college, and just didn’t seem like the Trey we all watched in this year’s NCAA tournament. Salt Lake City should be worried, but alas, it is only one game. Let’s go back to this Trey, and not the one we saw yesterday.

5. Peyton Siva – “A Winner’s Mentality”

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Peyton Siva

What Peyton Siva lacks in height, he more than makes up for in experience and leadership. He quarterbacked the 2013 National Champion Louisville Cardinals, which is something both his teammates and opponents will naturally respect.

In yesterday’s game, Siva didn’t look to shoot much (0-2 FGA-M), but that’s not really his game. In a game with 45 turnovers Siva had just 1, which should be attributed to Viacheslav Kravtsov (took me a while to sound out that one too), who cut to the hoop anticipating a shot by Siva.

With the timely departure of Jose Calderon Siva will be able to step in right behind Brandon Knight, and allow Stuckey to play off the ball more. Ultimately, he’s a proven winner that will get minutes on a team that should contend for a 4 or 5 seed – possibly higher – in the east. With the addition of Josh Smith, and rising young stars in Greg Monroe, and the aforementioned Drummond and Knight, watch out for the Pistons.

5a. Jason Kidd & Lawrence Frank – “The Crutch”

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Law Frank and J-Kidd

First off, it makes sense as to why Jason Kidd hired Lawrence Frank from a resume standpoint, but definitely awkward from a relationship standpoint. Kidd played for Frank for five years, and now Frank is working under Kidd. Weird.

Also, I’m not really sure what Jason Kidd did today as coach of the Brooklyn Nets. He was sitting down most of the time, didn’t draw up plays in the huddle and got a technical foul on a play where his player was fouled… and the refs called it. In the third quarter I finally realized why Jason Kidd wasn’t doing anything, and it’s because Lawrence Frank was doing everything. Whether it was drawing up the plays or the in-game coaching, Frank looked like, well, the Head Coach of the Nets.

The real winner in this whole deal is Kidd. Although he boasts the title of Head Coach, we all know Lawrence will be doing most of the heavy lifting here. Well played, Jason.

Can’t wait for day 2…

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