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Less heralded prospects shine at Orlando Summer League

POSTED: Jul 9, 2014 10:01 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com

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Nerlens Noel has been impressive in Orlando after missing all of last season due to injury.

By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com

A quick change-of-direction for the Ladder: Only the 10 teams participating in Orlando Summer League have played, so only players on those teams will be ranked this time, before a return to judging the entire league as the Las Vegas portion of Summer League begins Friday.

Nerlens Noel and Mitch McGary are the obvious winners so far -- they simply got on the court. Noel made his first appearance after missing all of what should have been his rookie season with the 76ers because of a knee injury and McGary returned after being sidelined at Michigan since early-December because of back problems. Both players logged solid minutes in encouraging moments for Philadelphia and Oklahoma City and both played well in stretches.

Beyond that, the Grizzlies had reason to feel good, Heat executives were able to enjoy late returns on the 2013 draft (while killing time with absolutely nothing else going on around them), and several relative unknowns pushed for recognition.

1. NERLENS NOEL, 76ers

It's not just that he played 26, 24 and 25 minutes while sitting out another game on the second day of a back-to-back. The projected defensive presence at power forward, and maybe some center, had three blocks in two of the outings, one good game on the boards and one poor, and made shots from the field and the line. Philly has to be very pleased with the progress report.

2. JARNELL STOKES, Grizzlies

Twelve rebounds in 29 minutes in the second game, 12 rebounds in 25 minutes in the third -- that's the kind of physical presence that will mean minutes for Stokes in the big-man rotation as a rookie in Memphis. His work on the offensive boards could become especially valuable. Stokes will also make nice passes from the post.

3. JAMES ENNIS, Heat

The No. 50 pick in 2013 made a strong statement for not only joining Miami after spending last season in Australia and Puerto Rico, but for pushing into the rotation. The extent of his role will obviously depend on (cough, cough) what other small forwards are on the roster. But Ennis earned positive reviews by shooting with range and rebounding.

4. JORDAN ADAMS, Grizzlies

Adams made just 35.5 percent of his attempts his first three outings, but scored 22 and 20 in two of them and showed an assertiveness that will help in the transition from No. 22 pick to potential immediate contributor on the Memphis perimeter. He had good shooting numbers last season at UCLA, so opening 11-for-31 seemed more typical rookie transition than reason for concern.

5. K.J. McDANIELS, 76ers

This was the McDaniels teams expected at the draft, able to put up numbers in several categories and defend multiple positions without being spectacular. He's a very good value with the chance to go from the second round to a long career. The shooting range he's displayed is definitely a bonus. The experience of three seasons at Clemson and in the ACC shows.

elfrid payton
Elfrid Payton out of Lousiana-Lafeyette experienced a shaky start at Summer League.

6. ELFRID PAYTON, Magic

The No. 10 pick recovered from a very bad first game to re-establish why Orlando has anointed him as the point guard of the future. Even an underwhelming third game statistically -- six points, three assists, three turnovers -- included the ability to get where he wanted on the floor and make good plays.

7. CORY JEFFERSON, Nets

Though yet to put up big numbers, Jefferson has easily been one of the most consistent players in Orlando and has expanded his offensive impact to reach 14 points Wednesday against the 76ers. His shooting in four games: three-for-three, three-for-four, two-for-four, five-for-seven. His rebounds: nine, five, five, eight. Nice opening statement for the 60th pick.

8. RONALD ROBERTS JR., 76ers

Going undrafted out of St. Joseph's, as expected, obviously did not deter him. If anything, it motivated the athletic forward. Roberts has had at least six rebounds in three of the four games, despite playing more than 20 minutes just once, and has had stretches of being especially effective on the offensive boards. Teams were aware of him before, but now he is really on the radar.

9. MITCH McGARY, Thunder

The recovery from a serious back injury included playing 22 and 31 minutes with the Thunder being sure not to give him too much work too soon. McGary showed why he was selected in the first round during the second game with 18 points and 13 rebounds, numbers that don't actually matter except to show he was quickly in a good flow after a long layoff.

10. DEVYN MARBLE, Magic

The undrafted Iowa product has stayed near the forefront of the best players in Orlando without having a big game. His impact has been in consistently finding ways to contribute. When Marble didn't shoot well Wednesday against the Rockets, he made up for it with seven rebounds in 19 minutes. He had six boards in 20 minutes in two other games, plus an outing of 13 points and three steals in 17 minutes.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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