Orlando Summer League MVP
The Candidates: Austin Daye, Detroit; Lance Stephenson, Indiana
Statistically, Lance Stephenson was the runaway camp MVP; when engaged, the Pacer guard was borderline unstoppable. But when he was less engaged, it was unfortunately obvious. In no game was the difference as pronounced as Friday’s matchup with Brooklyn. When he wanted to score, Stephenson reached into his bag of tricks (the prettiest of which is his quick, sweeping crossover dribble) and got to the rim at will. When he wasn’t engaged, he was rolling his eyes and walking away from teammate Miles Plumlee, who did not perform well.
Stephenson led the Orlando Summer League in points by well over two per game, and he was third in assists. He showed that he can play point with some serious size, as well as shooting guard. Statistically, he’s the MVP. But considering the Pacers’ mediocre record (2-3) and Stephenson’s occasionally questionable body language, the MVP award goes to Austin Daye.
Daye was fantastic, averaging 15.8 points per game to go with 7.4 rebounds. His 3-point percentages were a little low (.353), but his pace-adjusted stats were excellent: per 48 minutes, Daye averaged 28.9 points. More importantly, the Pistons went 4-1 in Summer League. One could make the argument that Daye had more help than Stephenson (Brandon Knight averaged 7.3 assists, Kim English averaged a ridiculous .455 from 3-point range), but by that logic, Kevin Love would have won the MVP award over LeBron James this season, which would have been a travesty.
MVP: Austin Daye, Detroit Pistons
The Candidates: Fab Melo, Boston; Andre Drummond, Detroit
For the purposes of this “award,” we aren’t including players who probably will never play in the NBA. Thus we exclude the Blake Ahearns and the Bradford Burgesses. Instead, we focus on two players who simultaneously present a series of frustrating challenges and intriguing skill sets.
Let’s begin here: Fab Melo is not as good as Andre Drummond, and if that’s the qualification for “project,” Melo wins. Hands down. Drafted for his interior defense, Melo has a very difficult time defending the paint. He got lost several times when the team went into a 2-3 zone, which is understandable since he’s new to the system, but he got lost several times in man to man defense as well. Melo has an NBA body; he’s very tall, very long, and very strong. But he has a fairly low basketball IQ, which is worrisome for his career going forward. Celtics fans would undoubtedly like to believe that playing with Garnett will help, and perhaps it will, but Melo has a long ways to go before he is an impact player in the NBA.
But while Drummond entered camp with a few more skills than Melo, Drummond also can rise considerably higher. Drummond’s go-to shot in the post at the moment is an awkward turnaround, which he releases very low for a 7-footer. With offensive polish, Drummond really could become one of the dominant big men in the NBA. But it’s going to take a ton of work to get him there, a ton of work which Detroit has invested in themselves by picking him 9th.
Biggest Project: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Biggest Stock Boost
The Candidates: Kyle O’Quinn, Orlando; Jacob Pullen, Philadelphia
Though Pullen went down with an ankle injury and didn’t play in the final two games, his 13 points per game were impressive, as was his court vision and, to borrow an annoying basketball cliché, his sense of the moment. It was deadly for teams to leave him late in games, and in multiple games, Pullen’s confident 3-pointers brought his team back from large deficits.
O’Quinn impressed early and continued to be a tough, intimidating defender and rebounder as the week progressed. O’Quinn is a hustle player, extremely coachable, who constantly has a great attitude with his teammates. Pullen played well, but O’Quinn went from a moderately uninteresting second round pick to one of the most likable Summer League players in a matter of five days.
Bring on O’Quinnsanity.
Biggest Stock Boost: Kyle O’Quinn, Orlando Magic
The Candidates: Tornike Shengelia, Brooklyn; Andrew Nicholson, Orlando
Shengelia started Summer League as an unknown foreign quantity, but after Friday concluded, he had shown himself to be a multi-faceted player with a bunch of interesting assets. Shengelia averaged 10.3 points per game on 52% shooting (with range stretching out to the arc) to go with 7.3 rebounds, but perhaps more intriguing was his court vision, basketball IQ, and NBA-ready body. Unlike many of the young players in Summer League, Shengelia is powerfully built, which should serve him well going forward, and he demonstrated a good sense of spacing around the basket, both giving and receiving passes.
Andrew Nicholson was intriguing for other reasons. First, let’s be blunt, he looks goofy. His awkward duck-footed gait is only exacerbated by the ridiculous length of his other limbs; his long, gangly arms seem to stretch to his shins. But he puts those arms to good use, stretching them over the defenders’ fingertips and using excellent touch around the basket. Unlike Drummond, Nicholson doesn’t seem to fear the post; rather, he embraces it despite his lack of strength and bulk, and we can expect his body to fill out as he commits his regimen to basketball.
It’s a tough decision, but Nicholson gets the nod for showing more potential star power…for now.
Most Intriguing: Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic
-His excellent play should be duly noted, so please note: Utah guard Alec Burks was fantastic in every game except for Friday’s. His jumpshots were on point, he was getting to the basket fluidly and finishing at the rim, and he appeared to have added some muscle over the summer. Never judge a wing at Summer League, but Burks looked very good.
-Dunk of the week goes to Reggie Jackson of Oklahoma City, who absolutely demolished Jeremy Evans on Friday. “Max contract, man,” Perry Jones yelled from the bench.
-The funniest moment of the week went to Jared Sullinger for his self-awareness. After being called for a foul, he was told by a ref to stop flopping. “Come on, man,” Sullinger said in disbelief. “I’m too big to flop.”