Derrick Walton Jr. has created some fans in the Orlando Magic after three games of Summer League. The undrafted rookie is making a mark this week.
The Orlando Magic’s starting lineup for Summer League is full of players who have at least some connection to the team and a fairly safe place in the NBA. This is not a ragtag bunch of guys trying to prove themselves and squeeze onto a roster.
That might make their defensive intensity and energy all the more impressive, they are a talented group playing at a high level.
Jonathan Isaac continues to dominate and look impressive athletically. His range and defensive versatility have made him a terror. He is usually far and away the best player on the court at least defensively.
And in Monday’s 86-76 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, he began trying to take defenders off the dribble to more success. Jonathan Isaac finished with nine points and three rebounds on 3-for-5 shooting in 12 minutes of play.
Marcus Georges-Hunt too seemed to have a greater command of the offense too. He helped anchor the defense on the perimeter and spread the floor and distributed well from the perimeter. Wesley Iwundu showed off his athleticism once again.
Orchestrating all of this, though, is point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
The rookie from the Michigan Wolverines started the week on the bench for the Magic. But for a team that is in need of some point guard help, focus quickly turned on the 6-foot-1 guard. He shined with his command in the pick and roll and how he was able to change pace and attack the basket.
By Monday’s third game of Summer League, Walton got his chance to run with the starters and helped guide the Magic to a 28-15 first quarter win.
Walton finished Monday’s game with eight points and five assists, although he shot 4 for 12 from the floor. The shooting could get chalked up to the third game in three days and fatigue setting in. But the Magic have liked what they have seen from Walton throughout the week.
"“I love everything about him,” Magic assistant coach Chad Forcier said after the game. “I don’t care if he is 6-5 or 5-5, I like the way he plays the game. He’s a competitor, he’s fearless, he’s very skilled. He plays both ends of the court. I am a fan.”"
Walton averaged 15.5 points per game and 4.9 assists per game last year as a senior for the Wolverines. He made 42.2 percent from beyond the arc for the season too, showing his ability to create and shoot too.
As has been discussed with players like Wesley Iwundu, Walton has a poise about him as a senior player from college. He is not phased by the physical nature of the game or even its speed. It has brought a lot of calm to the lineups he has been in.
All of his skills from Michigan have translated onto the court and have forced everyone to take notice. Fans are already clamoring for him to make the roster. It certainly opens the door for a training camp invite in September, the most immediate goal for non-roster players in Summer League.
Walton’s stats back this up. He is averaging 10.3 points per game and leads the team with 10 assists (3.3 per game). He is shooting 48.0 percent from the floor and 4 for 9 from beyond the arc (44.4 percent).
"“I think I have a lot more to prove, but for the most part I think I have showed a lot,” Walton Jr. said Monday. “With the type of guy I am, I am eager to learn and continue to grow.“[The Magic] just wanted me to be me. Being a guy who can make shots, defend and disrupt some guys and run the team like I have been doing the last four years in college. I think it’s working out for me.”"
There is always some uncertainty when it comes to Summer League players. Nobody truly knows their status. They just have to go out and play to the best of their abilities. Standing out in positive ways is a good thing for these young players. And Walton has certainly stood out.
He is in something of a position battle with Erie BayHawks guard Kalin Lucas. Lucas has had his successes too, averaging 11.0 points per game on 9-for-22 shooting and five total assists (2.5 per game). Lucas started the first two games, but he did not play Monday as Walton got the start.
As with most Summer League rotation decisions, it may be going too far to read into that. Walton’s poise coming off four years in college certainly help make up the gap as Lucas is already a pro player and someone the Magic are familiar with from Erie.
But Walton fits in seamlessly with the team and its defensive mantra from the tip Monday. Orlando has quickly built a strong chemistry together. The Magic’s starting unit has suffocated opponents for long stretches defensively.
Even with Walton at 6-foot-1, perhaps a drawback that prevented him from getting drafted, he plays with a toughness that makes him seem taller. He is not afraid to mix things up defensively and knows how to use his quickness and tempo to beat defenders.
"“You see that all the time. Guys who have been through that longer, coached through it longer and been in a lot of big situations and had to grow up as players and get smarter. It’s natural maturing. It’s the same way for you and I. The difference between 19 and 22 was meaningful for all of us.”"
Forcier is certainly a fan of Walton. The question now is whether Jeff Weltman, Frank Vogel and the Magic will be fans at the end of the week. The team still has a decision to make and still has free agency to get through. Orlando has sat tight on free agency. But everyone anticipates there will be an opening for a third point guard on the team.
It is unclear how the Magic want to fill it. But it is possible they could turn to their Summer League roster to do so.
If they do, Walton has created some fans on the Magic coaching staff and fans among the Magic faithful to get there. From there, he will have to prove himself all over again.
"“At this level, guys know who can play,” Walton said Monday. “Playing the right way is the teams that win. I’ve always been about winning. I think we play winning basketball and that stands out. Scoring points is never on my mind. It’s about making the right play each time I’m out there.”"
Walton has shown he is among those who can play in Summer League. He has made that impression through the first three games.