Reviewing Magic Summer League

AP Photo/DayLifeOrlando wrapped its Summer League on Friday with a loss to Boston that needs no recap (mostly because it was a blowout, but also because my DVR did not record it). The team finished 2-3 on the week with several players putting in impressive performances. Summer League is difficult to evaluate because the level of competition is obviously not as great as in the regular season. You also have players taking on roles they don’t usually take on.

What Summer League does is show us who cannot play and who we will not be seeing in October.

The Magic took a short break from Dwight Howard and head coach search insanity to review the new draft picks and some free agent hopefuls. Despite its small size, there were some impressive performances throughout the week. Alec Burks of the Jazz had a fantastic performance in the middle of the week and Pistons forward Austin Daye showed a lot of the talent that made him a lottery pick a few years ago. They were both all-league first team players.

So too was Magic first round pick Andrew Nicholson.

Nicholson was one of four players many Magic fans were very anxious to see this summer. And for the most part, there was a lot of good to see in those four.

Nicholson was undoubtedly the star for the team. He averaged 12.6 points per game to lead the team, shooting 46.8 percent from the floor (pretty good for a high usage player). He added 6.8 rebounds per game too.

More than that, Nicholson proved to already be a pretty polished player in the post. His footwork and positioning were fantastic and he seemed ready to do battle in the post against other power forwards. Obviously, he still has to put muscle on his relatively thin frame. He also showed a much better ability to step out and hit the jumper than I think many thought he could.

Nicholson’s wide offensive array forced defenses to double team him and, generally, Nicholson handled those double teams well. His spot on the all-league first team was well earned.

I suspect Orlando was very happy with what it saw in Nicholson this past week.

Second round pick Kyle O’Quinn showed a lot too. Certainly enough to get a training camp invite if not the typical one- or two-year second-round pick deal.

AP Photo/DayLifeO’Quinn showed a lot of toughness and a knack at crashing the glass and diving to the rim. He needs polish in a lot of areas, but he plays hard and seems willing to learn. And he won’t take any guff from anyone — see: Drummond, Andre.

O’Quinn averaged 8.8 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Magic last week. His attitude and approach to the game is what really stood out. Those traits translate to the regular season and you can see him being a grinder for this team as its backup center (with or without Dwight Howard).

O’Quinn does have his shortcomings. He is undersized for a center and that showed when he went up against Enes Kanter, who is not a traditional post player. Kanter used his size and athleticism to get past O’Quinn on numerous occassions and gave him a lot of trouble. A lot more trouble than you would expect. This is something O’Quinn will have to improve on to get a roster spot and playing time.

The two returning sophomores, playing in their first summer league, frankly disappointed.

DeAndre Liggins needed to show he had more offensive ability to complement his defense, and he never really did. Undoubtedly, his defense is still fantastic. He helped lock down Burks the day after his big scoring outburst. Defense is not what we needed to see from Liggins.

Liggins shot 8 for 20 for the week and scored only 5.6 points per game. He got to the line plenty of times, but made only 11 of his 21 free throw attempts.

Stan Van Gundy praised Liggins’ defensive ability and potential throughout the year last year. But likely what kept him from seeing the floor last year was his lagging offensive game. Liggins needs to be able to hit jumpers, or at least be a threat to do so, if he wants playing time in the NBA. Summer League was not quite his week to do that.

I also have to express some disappointment in how Justin Harper played overall.

AP Photo/DayLifeHarper looked great in an 18-point performance in the summer league opener. But he proved to be something of a spot-up shooter. True, his role for the Magic would likely be as stretc-4 and he will not be asked to drive very often, but his forays into the paint seemed pretty few.

Harper averaged 12.2 points per game and went an icy 9 for 32 (28.1 percent) from beyond the arc. For someone who plans on making his name in the league as a stretch-4 and 3-point shooter, that is not very encouraging.

There are some caveats with Harper’s performance. Harper was playing small forward and was out on the perimeter a lot because of Nicholson’s presence — and success — in the starting lineup. Harper was better suited for that position because of his shooting ability. It was an unfortunate draw for the way this roster was put together.

The big surprise of the week came from Maalik Wayns.

The point guard from Villanova drew raves from Magic fans who loved his penetrating and passing ability. He did a great job creating for others, recording 17 assists in three games (5.7 assists per game). Wayns showed that he can be a better distributor than he was in college when he had to carry his team’s offensive scoring load.

Wayns scored 11.7 points per game but continued to be an inefficient shooter — 41.4 percent from the floor and 0 for 4 on 3-pointers. This is an area Wayns has to improve upon to get to the NBA level. He left midway through the week to join the Warriors in Las Vegas. He is sure to get a training camp invite somewhere after his performance in Orlando though.

Overall, the Magic have to feel good about the prospects they wanted to see in this week of games.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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