Summer League continued Thursday in Orlando with three games of varying intrigue.
You do not want to put a whole lot of stock into results or into statistics coming out of these game,s but there is still quite a bit we can learn. And, as I noted earlier this week, lots of storylines to follow. We will be trying to keep track of them as the week goes on with these daily recaps of Summer League action.
Point guard bliss
The Magic and the Celtics took two of the top point guards in this year’s Draft. For the Magic, at least, it was a huge need that everyone felt they needed to address with one of their two lottery picks. They supposedly wanted Marcus Smart in last year’s Draft but passed when it was their turn to pick at No. 4. They ended up selecting Elfrid Payton in a trade with the Sixers for the No. 10 pick.
After seeing Smart face off with Payton for the first time in their young careers Thursday in the Summer League. Both teams likely walked away from their encounter happy with their picks.
Payton recorded his second near-triple double of the week in scoring eight points to go with 10 assists and nine rebounds. Payton is leading the league in assists this week. He was able to work the pick and roll well, get into the paint and find players in position to score — a rare feat in a game where both teams shot worse than 40 percent.
Smart’s game will be a little bit more memorable.
He scored a game-high 19 points on 5-for-14 shooting. He hit only two of his nine 3-point attempts and generally struggled to finish and score. Until, that is, the fourth quarter when Boston opened up what was a close game. Smart hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics an eight-point lead with about five minutes to play.
He then iced the game with an incredible split of a double team beyond the 3-point line and spin past Romero Osby for a left-handed layup. It drew audible gasps of wonder from the scouts, coaches, agents and media in attendance at the Magic’s practice court at Amway Center.
I mean, just look at it below . . .
No matter the result or the final box scores from this game, this week has proven to both the Magic and the Celtics that they have quality players who will find a fit on their teams this season.
Highlight of the Day: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
We are reaching the sixth day of NBA Summer League and each team has played four games in the six days. Along with the heavy pace of practices leading up to this week, that is a lot of basketball on these legs. No matter how much these players may deny it (Aaron Gordon did at least), there is no doubt fatigue is starting to set in.
Thursday and Friday are particularly bad days as the team is near the end of the week, players are starting to leave from Vegas (as are scouts and executive) and players are just generally tired. We have all seen what we need to see.
The basketball can get pretty ugly.
The Magic and Celtics combined to shoot 34.8 percent from the floor, including a 1-for-15 performance from Phil Pressey of the Celtics. Shabazz Napier shot 2 for 13 in the Heat’s loss to the Pacers in the first game of the day. Frank Gaines was 1 for 7 for the Pacers. Jarnell Stokes was 3 for 10 for the Grizzlies (as a post player).
Poor shooting performances are to be expected to some extent. But this was starting to get bad. Hopefully Friday’s final day will be better.
Guy You Should Know: James Nunnally, Indiana Pacers
James Nunnally was a D-League All Star the last two years and spent time last season with the Bakersfield Jam and the Texas Legends, averaging 18.1 points per game last season.
He showed a little bit of that razzle dazzle as the Pacers defeated the Heat on Thursday.
Nunnally scored 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting. This was a very welcome performance for the D-League All Star. He was struggling to score and shoot throughout the week. Entering Thursday, Nunnally was averaging 8.7 points per game on 26.3 percent shooting. He was not someone you noticed very much.
It was hard not to notice him Thursday.
Nick Johnson shines bright
The Rockets were clearly trying to clear cap space this offseason. They took Clint Capela with their lone draft pick and expect to park him overseas for a few seasons. Kevin McHale is not even in Orlando this week — he was here last year when the Rockets were pursuing Dwight Howard.
The Rockets Summer League team has suffered because of it. Undoubtedly they have because the team is 0-4, the only winless team in Orlando. It is hard to find any reason the Rockets would retain any of these players. Except one.
That one is second round pick Nick Johnson from Arizona.
Johnson is crazy athletic as he showed in the first day of Summer League with a massive dunk that brought the whole house down. Johnson can do a whole lot more. He is an energetic defender and his shooting has surprised and continues to improve. He seems to have gotten stronger as the week has gone on.
On Thursday, Johnson scored 22 points to go with six rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes of play. Those are some really strong numbers. He obviously will not get that time during the regular season. But the Rockets have a keeper in this player — whether he spends a year elsewhere or in Houston.
Summer League Power Rankings
1. Grizzlies (3-1, 23 points)
2. Pistons (3-1, 19 points)
3. Pacers (3-1, 21 points)
4. Celtics (3-1, 21 points)
5. Magic (2-2, 16 points)
6. 76ers (3-1, 22 points)
7. Heat (1-3, 13.5 points)
8. Nets (1-3, 8 points)
9. Thunder (1-3, 12 points)
10. Rockets (0-4, 4.5 points)
All Summer League Team