The NBA Summer League is essentially a job fair for NBA prospects. Though they play as a team, and they wear an organization’s name on their jersey, it’s all about each player’s individual ability to succeed at the NBA level.
On the Orlando Magic White team it was clear that a sense of brotherhood created chemistry, which propelled them to a championship on Friday. Each player entered the week with a set of goals or attributes that they wanted to showcase, and by playing unselfish basketball many were able to make an impression on the attendees.
Here are the four contributors that showed the most promise during Summer League.
These two prospects had goals and achieved them. Each player entered the week a bit unpolished, but improved within the framework of the team with every game. It wouldn’t be tough to imagine them on an NBA roster as the fourteenth or fifteenth man.
Garino definitely possessed the greatest number of tangible skills. In a league where three-and-D players are being paid left and right, the skillful Argentinian has the tools to do both well. A natural defender that made three Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Teams in college, Garino repeatedly said throughout the week that defense was his greatest asset.
Coming fresh out of college, it remains to be seen if he can catch up to the speed of the NBA game. Though his instincts are pure, his lack of natural athleticism left him unable to stop certain plays in his first professional action.
As a shooter, he displayed the streakiness that can be expected from an unpolished college player. Because he prides himself on the other end of the floor, he was at times too selfless. At others, he looked a bit lost – forcing up shots that had no business going in.
Still, Garino always found a way affect the game. Like a ball hawking NFL safety, he found a way to be near the action when it called for him and out of the way when it didn’t. He lifted his team with hot three-point stretches, authoritative blocks, and quick steal-and-score opportunities.
Despite his limitations, it would be easy to imagine Garino, with a bit of work, coming off the bench in the three-point happy NBA.
One of the most consistent members of the White team, the VCU product worked his way onto the All-Summer League team. The White’s leading scorer, he was a reliable and stabilizing presence on the floor.
Summer League stats can usually be thrown out the window, but Graham’s ability as an efficient scorer is hard to overlook. He shot nearly 56 percent from the floor, leading his team with 16 points per game.
Graham has exactly the kind of versatile, multi-faceted game that would fit into any team. His mission for the week was to show what a good teammate he could be, and in that category he excelled. Compiling stats across the board, and doing the little things right, the 22-year-old showed that he has plenty of potential for growth at the next level.
Old Guys That (Kind of) Rule
These two players were some of the biggest reasons for the team’s success. Their wily leadership and commitment to doing the little things correctly made them stand out almost instantly. Both, however, face similar problems in that they are essentially at their ceilings. Scouts know their names and their games, and there are reasons why they haven’t made a roster.
Dentmon’s ridiculous shot to secure an overtime win in the championship game capped off an impressive Summer League performance. It showed confidence, poise, and the classic lack of short-term memory you hope for in a scorer off the bench.
Dentmon came into the week hoping to show that he could be a true point guard, and it was his masterful running of the offense that led to such high team chemistry. The journeyman guard averaged 4.6 assists, tied for fifth best in Orlando's summer league.
Another number that may be more important for Dentmon is 30, his age. With a training camp roster spot, teams want to teach young players their systems and watch them grow. With Dentmon, he may only have a few years of quality play left. By the time the season starts, he will be 31, and while still improving, it will be hard for a team to see a long-term future in Dentmon, who has played for 17 teams since leaving college in ’09.
Onuaku was the inside counterpart to Dentmon – a scrappy, physical center that held down the paint in the middle of Magic White attack. He was a presence, both in his 6’9", 290-pound frame, and his booming voice.
Onuaku’s biggest strength was rebounding, as he won every matchup on the glass to the tune of 9.8 rebounds per game, second-best during the week. Despite his smaller size at the center position, he made up for it by bullying people on the boards.
His size is both an advantage and a disadvantage, as that amount of weight on a relatively small frame makes for a plodding pace and lack of leaping ability. At times, it just looked like he was bigger than everyone, and it remains to be seen if his international and D-League accolades can hold up against NBA competition.
At 28, he looked like a man above boys in Summer League. His age isn’t as advanced Dentmon’s, and it puts him in the range of having experience without being too old to learn. One of his best traits was leadership, though it would be hard to see him taking that role in the NBA. As an end of the bench guy, his voice would lose the power it had as one of the veteran members of Summer League.
Through the Magic White’s undefeated championship run, each player had a role in the team’s effectiveness. For some, more than others, it honed their abilities and showed progress from the last time they were in front of NBA scouts. At the very least, it gave guys a chance to prove themselves against a new crop of talent, and showed everyone in attendance that they could be a part of a winning team.