The Orlando Magic concluded the Orlando Pro Summer League on Friday with a 2-3 record and an eighth-place finish out of 10 teams.
"We're very excited with the week," Magic Summer-League coach James Borrego said Friday after his team's final game. "We saw a lot of growth from players that had been here in the past, players that we just drafted, and some players that are on the fringe that may have an opportunity to join us in camp."
What follows is a breakdown of each Magic player's performance in the League. Please note that complete Magic stats for the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League are available at the bottom of this post.
The guaranteed guys
Coach Borrego says:
"He's a young man that his team rallies around. You can feel it. He's got a contagious quality about him that, until you have your hands on him, you don't really understand. I think his teammates feel his competitive energy, [and] his spirit, and we got to see it first-hand."
Assessment: Orlando showed an impressive commitment to playing Oladipo, a natural shooting guard, at the point during Orlando Pro Summer League. He manned the point for all 130 minutes he was on the floor, with mixed results. The positives are his ability to create plays for himself in general and to draw fouls in particular. The negatives are his playmaking for others.
Oladipo did indeed lead Orlando with five assists per game, but he also committed 4.8 turnovers per contest, and his mistakes were manifold. Some passes sailed wide of their targets. Others were too low. When he faces intense pressure, he's prone to picking his dribble up. At the moment, it's easy to play him for the shot when he drives and for the pass when he's handling on the perimeter. To keep defenses more honest, he'll need to make plays for his teammates on the drive more often, instead of keeping it for himself.
But Oladipo showed that he at least has the handle to get himself into the lane, a skill Orlando sorely needed in its 62-loss 2012/13 season. His willingness to learn a new position, coupled with his strong work ethic, led one scout in attendance to tell Orlando Pinstriped Post that he believes Oladipo could play 15 minutes of point guard per night immediately. That same scout said Oladipo's jump-shooting form will cause him to be a streaky shooter--Oladipo's release point is not consistent on every shot--but that issue is one that Oladipo can fix.
Defensively, Oladipo is as advertised: strong, verging on brilliant. Oladipo has quick hands and gets to loose balls in a hurry. He can play the passing lanes without getting himself too far out of position. In short, he projects to be an impact defender right away.
Though he'll probably play most of his minutes at shooting guard in the regular season, it's fair to expect Oladipo to get some point guard minutes as well. The Magic have nothing to lose but games, really, as they look to develop young talent.
"I can see him being a two-guard for us," Borrego said. "I think I can see him being a one-guard for us. Where he ends up, I don't know. But I think this week gave us a little bit better idea of what we have."
Later, coach Jacque Vaughn's lead assistant would add, "I think he handled himself well at the one, but I don't think that necessarily makes him our future one."
Coach Borrego says:
"Moe Harkless has improved his ballhandling skills, he's improved his attacks to the rim, his confidence, and moving without the ball also."
Assessment: Of the four returning Magic players on the 2013 Summer League squad, none showed as much drastic change as Harkless did. An offensive afterthought who floated as a rookie, a bigger and stronger Harkless was more assertive in looking for his own shot in his four Orlando Pro Summer League outings. More impressively, the St. John's product improved his efficiency as well as his usage.
Harkless' improved upper-body strength and ballhandling ability means he's better equipped to finish in traffic when he attacks the basket off the dribble. And Harkless has increased confidence in himself to make such plays, so he's getting to the rim more often. If this improvement translates to the regular season, then Harkless will be able to take some shot-creation duties away from the overtaxed Arron Afflalo, which adjustment ought to improve Orlando's offense.
Borrego praised Harkless' improvement in moving without the ball; I confess I didn't notice a change either way. If Harkless can maintain his utility as a cutter while improving as an offensive initiator, he'll become a significantly more complete player. Let us remember that the 2014 NBA Playoffs will be well underway by the time he's able to legally purchase his own alcohol.
Comments: An afterthought in the Magic's trade-deadline deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, Lamb has quite clearly taken steps to improve his body and his game, and, if the changes he demonstrated in Summer League are any indication, he could seriously challenge E'Twaun Moore for backup minutes at both guard spots in the season ahead.
Lamb's biggest problem as a rookie was his narrow skill set: a brilliant outside shooter, Lamb couldn't get many threes off due to the way that opposing defenses played him. To address that deficit, Lamb has strengthened his body. He also looks to be playing with more confidence in himself, driving more assertively into traffic and not settling for pull-up jumpers.
Lamb still isn't a plus playmaker, and his size will continue to limit him defensively and on the glass. But he'll continue to have an NBA job so long as he continues taking threes and attacking closeouts. More intuitively drifting into open space beyond the arc, and subsequently bombing away from deep if and when his teammates find him there, will also improve his usefulness.
Coach Borrego says:
"I think Andrew showed he's gained some strength [and] some confidence down low, a physicality that he didn't have last year."
Assessment: Nicholson ought to have dominated Summer League, given his age and the stark difference in the refinement of his low-post footwork versus the savvy of the typical Orlando Pro Summer League defender. Yet Nicholson was just okay, shooting only 46.3 percent and committing 2.4 turnovers per game.
It's clear that Nicholson needs more work when it comes to reading double-teams in the post, but the fact that he's commanding the occasional double-team is a positive step for the Magic, who, like all teams without a dominant offensive player, absolutely need players who can at least draw a second defender to tilt the defense in their favor.
Nicholson's upper arms are significantly larger, and his improved strength should aid him as he contends with the NBA's bigger low-post defenders. One would think that it'd take him some time to calibrate his jumper to his new body, but he shot 88.9 percent on foul shots in the Orlando Pro Summer League.
Going forward, Nicholson projects as one of the Magic's most efficient everyday players. It may be tempting to regard that statement as an indictment of Orlando's roster rather than praise for the Toronto native. Please resist that temptation. Players who can routinely get high-percentage shots are valuable commodities, as some players can go entire careers without a) understanding what a good shot is or b) being able to consistently get to the most efficient spots on the floor. Neither a) nor b) applies to Nicholson.
The bad news is that Nicholson did not make significant progress defensively or on the glass. A 6-foot-10 interior player, Nicholson averaged one rebound every 8.75 minutes.
The training-camp guys
Coach Borrego says:
"Kyle O'Quinn looks a lot more patient, a lot more comfortable, as an NBA player."
Assessment: Let's be clear about something up front: O'Quinn's contract for 2013/14 is unguaranteed until opening night, after which date it becomes fully guaranteed. It's a virtual certainty that the Magic will keep him around until then. But for the sake of completeness and accuracy, we've omitted him from the guaranteed section of this post.
O'Quinn proved to be one of Orlando's loudest and most communicative defenders, a testament to how much his basketball IQ has improved since the Magic selected him in the 2012 NBA Draft. He's a more-than-capable rebounder despite his physical limitations. O'Quinn has NBA size, but is a below-average athlete.
His lack of explosiveness hurts him offensively, especially inside, where he can't always get clean shots at the rim against pressure. More athletic players would be able to dunk some of the shots O'Quinn must settle for lofting at the basket.
It was interesting to see Orlando run some of its offense through O'Quinn in the high post, a task at which the Norfolk State product acquitted himself. With more refinement in his jumper, it's not hard to imagine O'Quinn operating there full time, given his improvement as a passer.
Coach Borrego says:
"I think he put himself on the radar [....] I think he showed he's able to impact the game, even at his size."
Assessment: Osby is, by O'Quinn's own admission, Orlando's loudest player. Whether he's calling out defensive signals to a teammate or just getting hype after making a great play, Osby is loud, an attribute which the confines and acoustics of the Magic's practice gym enhanced.
The sheer volume of Osby's voice belies the refinement in his game, and his performance in the Orlando Pro Summer League made it easy to understand why he excelled in college and why he may have some trouble at the NBA level.
Osby is a classic combo forward in that he lacks to speed to play the three or the raw power to play the four; as such, he'll have to get by on guile in the NBA, where he's probably best suited for the four. The former Sooner has surprisingly good footwork in the post, but he becomes turnover-prone when opposing defenses collapse on him on his drives, so he's not always able to even get to the block.
I would recommend that Osby devote most of his time to perfecting his outside shot and marketing himself as a pick-and-pop power forward. If he can nail the 18-footer consistently, whether out of a pick-and-pop or as a safety valve with the clock winding down, then he can use the threat of the jumper to set up his dribble-drive game.
Osby will certainly join the Magic for camp, but he's not a cinch to make their opening-night roster, especially given the glut of power forward-types currently under contract.
A potential camp guy
Coach Borrego says:
"I was impressed with A.J. I thought he showed he could convert and play [the] point guard spot some day in the NBA."
Assessment: Three non-roster players logged more minutes for Orlando than Slaughter did in the Orlando Pro Summer League, but none of them made as strong an impression as the Western Kentucky product did on Friday, when he tallied 25 points, three rebounds, nine assists, and seven steals. He scored or assisted on 11 points in a 13-0 scoring run in the third quarter which brought the Magic to within 14 points of the Boston Celtics.
Slaughter, like Oladipo, is a natural shooting guard. Unlike Oladipo, he's had a few years to convert to the point. He can play the position effectively, though he's clearly the shoot-first type, and though we should note the difference between running a Summer-League offense and an NBA one, given the variety in and thickness of each's playbook. Note also that there's nothing inherently wrong with shoot-first point guards; it's the shoot-only point guards you worry about.
Slaughter's ability to shoot off the bounce makes him a useful pick-and-roll player. That his range extends beyond the NBA three-point arc is another positive in his game. I would not be surprised if the Magic invited him to camp.
Cannon fodder, perimeter edition
Glen Dandridge, Rodney McGruder, Matt Gatens, and DeQuan Jones
Comments: These four had varying opportunities to make an impression, but failed to. Dandridge, McGruder, and Gatens played more minutes than Slaughter did, for example, but those three only managed one memorable play between them: Gatens, known as a shooting specialist, took a Philadelphia 76ers defender off the dribble and scored an improbable layup in traffic in Orlando's victory on Thursday. That's it.
Jones, who played his way onto Orlando's regular-season roster in part because of a strong Orlando Pro Summer League showing in 2012, will not return to the team in 2013/14. I was surprised he didn't get a longer look than he did, though he did at least play in all five of the Magic's games.
If Orlando were to invite any of these four wings to training camp in 2013, I believe it'd be McGruder. He's younger than the other three and is coming off a solid four-year college career, one in which he averaged 11.7 points per game on 55.7 percent True Shooting for Kansas State.
Cannon fodder, bigs edition
Jared Berggren, Shane Lawal, and Keith Clanton
Comments: Entering the week, Berggren, a jump-shooting center out of Wisconsin, looked like the Magic's most skilled non-roster player. He went on to log just under 23 minutes over the course of the whole week, and his performance was the most notable of any of the three bigs listed here.
It's possible that Orlando could invite one of these players to camp. Berggren--who, like McGruder, just finished a four-year college career--would be the safest bet here. He's a solid shot-blocker, sure, but can also spread the floor a bit with his outside shot.
This table is sorted in descending order of average minutes per game.