Whether it be the small sample sizes, inconsistent levels of talent or other extenuating factors, takeaways from the NBA’s annual Summer League are habitually labeled as overreactions.
And even though we will likely forget about these performances by the time this year’s preseason rolls around, we can still learn quite a bit about the participating players by closely analyzing their games.
With that in mind, here are four takeaways from this year’s Summer League.
Paolo Banchero may own real estate at the free throw line this season
Free throw rate (FTr) is not a perfect indicator of which teams are the best at drawing fouls, but an indicator nevertheless. This past season, the Magic ranked 27th in the league in that statistic (.223).
Luckily for Orlando, during his short stint in the Summer League, Banchero demonstrated how he can use his physically-imposing frame and crafty ball skills to help increase the team’s attempts from the line this season.
On this play, Banchero gets a switch against Houston’s Daishen Nix, works his way into the paint and spins into a double team; ultimately drawing a foul on Houston’s Josh Christopher.
Banchero attracts so much attention on his drives that it opens up his passing lanes. Christopher was willing to help off Devin Cannady and had Banchero not been fouled, the play would have likely resulted in three points for Orlando.
He is also great at sensing and capitalizing on mismatches in the post, like he does here. And when Banchero was off the ball, he used his massive physique to secure deep position as well. Watch how Banchero muscles his way to the rim against Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr. on this play.
However, two potential drawbacks in this area of Banchero’s game is his occasional foul-baiting and offhand usage.
As adept as Banchero is at seeking contact as a shot creator, sometimes it is to a fault. Maybe foul-baiting is not the most accurate term, but there were a few instances when searching for a foul resulted in a poor shot selection.
While it is not the most pressing issue, this is not a habit Banchero wants to build early in his career, especially given how gifted a passer he is.
Additionally, Banchero periodically used his offhand to create space on his drives. But late in his game against Sacramento, he was called for an offensive foul for executing the same motion. This is not necessarily a concern at the moment, but rather a precedent to consider when determining how he will be officiated in the future.
Even though this part of his game was evident in college (Banchero’s 137 made free throws last season ranked second among high-major freshman), it felt understated during his draft process.
In just two Summer League games, Banchero shot 20 free throw attempts. As if we needed more evidence that Banchero is proficient at drawing and absorbing contact, it was certainly a welcome sight to see during his time in Las Vegas.
Caleb Houstan could be an elite standstill shooter, but his movement shooting is questionable
Here are all of Houstan’s three-point attempts against the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder, notice anything?
In these three games, Houstan shot 5/11 (45 percent) on his spot up threes and 2/11 (18 percent) on his movement threes (my distinction: was Houstan set as he received the pass).
This is an aspect of Houstan’s game I highlighted here, but the discrepancy between his standstill and movement shooting remains perplexing.
My guess is as good as any, but it seems Houstan is more comfortable “stepping into” his shot and struggles getting set when shooting on the move.
What is promising though is that his movement patterns are already very calculated. Houstan moves with such purpose on this play, constantly forcing switches from the defense.
I think the next evolution of Houstan’s jump shooting ability is being more deliberate with his footwork, something he can finetune during his rookie season. But the initial returns from Houstan earned him a contract with the team, so clearly Orlando’s front office likes what they have seen thus far.
R.J. Hampton’s decision-making is still a work in progress
Being a lead guard is one of the most difficult responsibilities in basketball, and that role was bestowed upon Hampton in this year’s Summer League. With that came a number of head-scratching moments from the third-year guard.
Hampton had a rough game against the Houston Rockets: forcing shots against a set defense in transition, taking off-balance floaters and stopping the ball against rotating defenders.
But as the week progressed, so did his decision-making. In Hampton’s second game against Sacramento, while there were still a few moments of poor shot selection and overdribbling, the negatives were few and far between.
On one of Orlando’s first offensive possessions, Hampton got to the rim and dumped off a pass to Admiral Schofield. This is solid awareness from Hampton: recognizing Neemias Queta’s back was turned to Schofield and feeding him the ball as he cuts to the basket.
I also loved this play from Hampton. He goes through three progressions in a span of about two seconds: one to Banchero, another to Jeremiah Tilmon Jr. and finally to Schofield for a three-pointer which led to a foul.
And when Hampton got into the paint and collapsed the defense, good things tended to happen. Hampton could have forced a layup against two defenders, but instead swung the ball to Banchero, another great split-second decision as he noticed Sacramento’s Keegan Murray rotating to Houstan’s corner.
Many were seemingly underwhelmed by Hampton’s performance in this year’s Summer League. And even though his primary ballhandling duties will be limited next season, getting these reps could be beneficial in the long run.
Devin Cannady’s synergy with Banchero could earn him minutes during the regular season
Cannady only appeared in five games for the Magic last season, but that number could increase based on his Summer League play.
His stats are by no means awe-inspiring (10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 26.5 percent from three), but Cannady’s synergy with the team’s best player was apparent.
In their game against the Sacramento Kings, Cannady and Banchero displayed a competent two-man game throughout the contest. Here, you will see Banchero attract three defenders on his drive while Cannady positions himself for an open three on the left wing.
This backdoor cut was executed to perfection by Cannady, and Banchero’s no-look pass was just as impressive.
And even during the game’s most pivotal moment, Banchero looked to Cannady for a potential game-saving three-pointer.
While he only had a short period of time to showcase it, Cannady is exactly the type of player who can thrive alongside Banchero.
Improving his shooting percentages will be vital, but he has made 21 of his 53 three-point attempts in his NBA career and shot 40.3 percent from three in college. If Cannady can return to form, the Magic could have another viable rotation player come next season.