Eight years ago, the Orlando Pro Summer League was created as a chance for rookie draft picks to get acclimated to their new NBA setting. Over time the summer league evolved into redemption ground for once successful college players who had become overseas journeymen. Today I would argue that summer league is suited best for second year NBA players looking to improve their game. These participants were normally reserves in their rookie season in the League and spent most of last year trying to adjust to the pro level. Therefore, at an event like the Orlando Pro Summer League, second year NBA players are ready to dominate as their year of seasoning gives them an advantage over most international players and certainly over the NBA rookies who are just tipping off their adjustment period.
After a week of watching the action in Orlando, I have composed a power rankings list of the best five players from the OPSL and as you will see, my list is heavy on second year NBA guys.
The Good: No one averaged more points than Holiday during the week. Granted Holiday played in just three games (tweaked hamstring) but the rise in Jrue’s level of play stood out more than any other competitor. Holiday was scoring in a variety of ways and shot 47% from the floor. If Evan Turner struggles early on in the season—which is looking likely—Holiday will need to bring this scoring prowess into the regular season.
The Bad: Jrue was jawing at some of the referees. His attitude shouldn’t be an issue though as he showed no signs of this confrontational side during 2009-10.
2. James Harden – Thunder – G- 17.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 steals
The Good: I’ve always thought Harden played an out of control style, but the guard is very effective at drawing fouls. Harden went 41-for-48 from the line in four games played. The Thunder centered the offense around Harden creating for himself.
The Bad: Harden attempted way to many threes (1-for-14) and is better as a slasher rather than a spot up shooter. Harden had 16 turnovers but won the league’s MVP award. The Thunder, arguably the most experienced squad at the OPSL finished 4-1.
3. Terrence Williams – Nets- G- 18.8 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.0 RPG,
The Good: Williams made some of the smoothest plays in Orlando. The 6’6 guard was constantly handling the ball, tossing up alley oops and looked like a true pro on his sequence of dribble drives to the bucket. Williams shot the ball a ton (79 times) but still managed to shoot 44.3%.
The Bad: Free throws. T-Will was 64% from the stripe. Teams should put him on the line in critical late game situations. Williams turned the ball over 9 times in one game—21 for the week—but the Nets love it when the ball is in his hands. This week provided great practice for Williams. I don’t blame them.
The Good: Who knew Harangody (at left #55) would have the range to lead the summer league in three point shooting. Luke went 9-for-18 from behind the arc and also hit several deep jumpers. Harangody is versatile on the defensive end—he can guard pretty much anyone—and has slimmed down since his senior year at Notre Dame. Harangody was one of the hardest working players in the Big East and it seems will find ways to translate his energy into being a talented NBA player.
The Bad: Not much. The Celtics record was poor (1-4) but no one on the roster had any NBA experience and it certainly wasn’t ‘Gody’s fault.
5. Gerald Henderson – Bobcats- G/F- 14.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG
The Good: The thing I liked most about Henderson was how vocal he was on the court. Henderson was calling offense sets and helping on defensive switches. Henderson’s stats won’t blow you away but he’s the kind of player that you know where he is at all times. Henderson hit a couple of big shots and had three silly dunks. Larry Brown needs to get over his habit of not playing young kids and find him some time.
The Bad: Henderson is sort of a tweener. He’s not a true shooting guard and is a little short—6’5—to be effective as a small forward on defense. Henderson did commit 16 fouls in four games. He’s not a defensive liability, but he won’t lockdown an opposing star.
Honorable Mention (In order of how I would rank them): Eric Maynor (G-OKC), Derrick Brown (F-CHAR), Lance Stephenson (G-IND), Damien James (F-NJ), Byron Mullens (C-OKC), Paul George (F-IND), Kosta Koufos (C-UTAH), Jodie Meeks (G-PHIL), Magnum Rolle (F-IND), Patrick Ewing Jr. (G-ORL)
Possible Sleepers: Sherron Collins (G-CHAR), Jaycee Carroll (G-BOS), Paul Davis (F-ORL), Kyle Weaver (G-OKC) and Connor Atchley (F-NJ)