The Orlando Magic were on a run in the third quarter. They had found some rhythm and had taken advantage of the turnovers that typically plague this stage of the trip to Las Vegas. They were starting to threaten a lead they had once again let balloon too big.
Then Jordan Walsh and J.D. Davison cut it off. Just as they had all game long.
Walsh halted any hopes of the Magic making any run to get back into this game and steal a Summer League win in their final outing. He picked up a steal and a quick basket to shut the door completely.
That only followed the defense he put on Quinndary Weatherspoon, limiting his ability to get into the paint or even get up the court. Walsh may not have scored a ton of points, but his presence was felt throughout the game.
It was clear — just as it has been this entire week in Las Vegas — that Anthony Black’s Arkansas teammate and fellow draft pick is going to find a place in the NBA this year.
The Boston Celtics finished their Summer League with two clear NBA players. As the Orlando Magic sat their roster players, their talent did not seem ready to step up to this level.
Just as it was clear that Davison was playing at another level. Just look at his passing to pick apart the Magic’s defense.
Summer League is not necessarily about finding out who can play. The context in the games can be difficult to decipher. Players are often playing roles they would not play when they get to the main roster.
But you can still tell players who are playing at a different and elevated level. You can tell who is standing out and making their impact. What is most important is being able to hold your own and find your pockets of success.
The Celtics clearly had two players doing that.
The Magic? Their 0-5 record says a lot about what happened with them this week in Las Vegas.
And in the end, their 94-77 loss in their Summer League finale revealed there were not any clear NBA players to mine from deep within this roster.
Outside of the four roster players that were on the Summer League team, it is hard to say there was much to get excited about with this group. And the results bear that out.
This may come across as too harsh as there were interesting things from several players. But it felt like they were pieces of a player rather than a complete player. And it never came together fully during their week in Las Vegas.
Robert Baker took advantage of added playing time in Saturday’s finale to score 15 points and grab 11 rebounds, albeit on 6-for-14 shooting. Baker entered Summer League as a solid rebounder. But his lack of physicality on the block and his poor touch around the basket makes it hard to envision him making it in the NBA.
Baker feels like a likely candidate to get an Exhibit 10 contract and to spend a second year in Orlando’s G-League system.
Dexter Dennis also stood out throughout the week with his energy and athleticism. He tried a copule of crazy athletic plays — including a one-handed putback dunk that skated past the hoop rather than in. His defensive energy was evident throughout the week.
But in this final outing, he scored nine points on 4-for-13 shooting to go with eight rebounds. The good news is that five of those rebounds were offensive boards and he still totaled a -1 in a game that was a blowout for three quarters.
Dennis made a positive impact on the floor in his minutes throughout the week. But without shooting, it is hard to envision him making it for very long. But he certainly did enough to perhaps get a training camp invite and a spot with Osceola.
The same could be said for Au’Diese Toney. He scored four points in perhaps his worst outing of the week. But his defensive energy was apparent throughout the week.
Magic coach Dylan Murphy praised the veteran poise of Elijah Hughes. He had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting on Saturday. Something he did stood out.
But it does not stand out enough. Not enough to feel confident that anybody earned their spot with one of the team’s remaining two-way contract spots (there are no full roster spots). And no one stood up to the level of play that the Celtics’ stars played with on Saturday, let alone what the Magic’s main roster players looked like in their short time.
Everyone can see what NBA players look like in these games. It may not be something that shows up statistically all the time, but you know it when you see it.
To the Magic’s credit this week, they certainly saw it in the four roster players they brought with them.
Kevon Harris was dynamic on both ends of the floor in scoring 21 points in his only Summer League outing. He got where he wanted on the floor and got after the Detroit Pistons defensively.
Caleb Houstan did not necessarily show too much new to his game, but he looked comfortable and confident in his second Summer League showing. He showed how much he had grown from last year, even if there is still work for him to do.
Anthony Black looked in control and in command of the Magic’s offense in his three games. While he struggled with turnovers at times, he also seemed eager to explore his game. Things will change when he gets to the NBA for sure, but he held his own on both ends going up against the likes of Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin and winning those matchups.
And Jett Howard got his game going throughout. He showed much more activity defensively and explosiveness off the dribble. While he still has work to do to score off the bounce, his 3-point shooting and the attention he garnered for it proved he could be the player the Magic are seeking in the end.
Those are what NBA players look like. And the Magic simply did not see enough of that from their reserve players to warrant much interest now that Summer League is over.
That is ultimately what this trip to Vegas came down to. It was a success simply because it showed the Magic what Black and Howard are capable of. But beyond that, there was not a whole lot to gain from a winless week in Las Vegas.