Reviewing the 2006 Pepsi Pro Summer League
Posted Jul 17 2006 4:20PM
A look at who was magical in Orlando
July 17 -- The Pepsi Pro Summer League took place this year in Orlando from July 10-15 at the Magic practice courts at the RDV Sportsplex. With six teams competing, there were plenty of notable rookies, NBA veterans and former college stars trying to prove themselves to NBA coaches and personnel officials. The following is a look at some of the players who shined in the Sunshine State.
In five games, Adam Morrison lit up the Pepsi Pro Summer League to the tune of 24.6 points per game. He got to the free throw line over 10 times per contest and shot .925 from the line. Morrison, however, collected just 13 rebounds and one steal in nearly 146 minutes of play.
"He has exceeded the things that I thought he would be able to do right now," Bobcats assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "I knew he could score the ball, but I didn’t know he could score the ball in so many ways. And not only that, you get a better appreciation for him just being around him. Watching and listening to the things he says in the locker room and on the floor, you know and how competitive he is."
Another surprise was the shooting of second-year forward Sean May. Playing for the first time since suffering a season-ending right knee injury at the end of last season, May averaged 18.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. More importantly, he showed increased shooting range, canning 5-of-11 three-pointers to tie for the team lead in percentage (.455).
The Bobcats may have unearthed a serviceable center in former Mississippi State big man Marcus Campbell. The 7-foot, 280-pounder averaged 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, and started four of five games. Meanwhile, 6-11 West Virginia product D'or Fischer was among league leaders in blocks per game (2.0). Both players, 24 years of age, spent last season in U.S. developmental leagues after failing to catch on in Charlotte.
Bobcats second-year guard Raymond Felton also made an appearance in Orlando. He played in only one game, as did Argentinean forward Walter Hermann, who was honeymooning in Florida and left the team to rejoin his bride.
Pepsi Pro League Stats (PDF)
It's too early to say for sure, but the Chicago Bulls may have landed the steal of the 2006 Draft in European swingman Thabo Sefolosha. The 13th overall selection averaged 16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 2.0 assists per game. He only played in two games in Orlando because of a minor hip-flexor injury that required him to return to Chicago but it's clear that the Bulls got a defensive stopper with the versatility to play both backcourt positions as well as small forward. Sefolosha shot an eye-popping .688 from the field.
No. 4 overall selection Tyrus Thomas was also among the top players in Orlando, averaging 16.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 blocks. A point guard until he had a growth spurt in high school, Thomas was looking to show off his skills on the perimeter, as his lean frame may require him to make the transition to small forward in the pros. It remains to be seen whether the LSU product has the skills to pull that off. He converted only 1-of-6 of his three-point attempts and committed three turnovers per game. Still, he drew fouls, crashed the offensive glass, and made his presence felt with his outstanding athleticism and energy.
Other players making an impact for the Bulls were former Kansas point guard Aaron Miles (12.0 ppg, 7.0 apg) and 6-11 Croatian forward Drago Pasalic, who helped make up for what he lacked in physicality and athleticism with what he had in shooting touch. Pasalic led the squad in three-pointers (6) and three-point shooting (.462).
He's come oh-so-close in the past. Could this be the year Jimmy "Snap" Hunter, a mainstay on the minor league basketball scene in the U.S. over the last several seasons, makes the NBA? Hunter's one of the most capable scorers on the planet not playing in the NBA, so it's likely concerns in other aspects in his game have prevented him from finding a home. In Orlando, the 28-year-old Hunter did what he does best, scoring, as he averaged 15.4 points per game on .490 shooting, including .429 from three-point range.
The other stars for the Pacers were David Harrison and Danny Granger, a pair of young players already on the regular season roster who were looking to develop their game. Both responded well to the challenge: Harrison posted 17.5 points (.684 FG%), 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in two appearances; Granger registered 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in three contests.
Second round selection James White had a solid showing as well, averaging 12.4 points and converting 5-of-8 three-pointers and 25-of-28 free throws. However, White didn't show much prowess on the boards nor did he post statistically significant numbers in any other category outside scoring.
With his incredible leaping ability, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if you heard a lot more from White in February, when the Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk Contest takes place.
Pepsi Pro League Stats (PDF)
Last summer league Earl Barron parlayed a dominant summer into a contract with the Miami Heat. There were high hopes for Barron, but he never did get much run during the regular season. This July, Barron is making us remember just how much promise he still has. In Pepsi Pro Summer League play, Barron averaged 22.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, shooting .887 from the line (47-53). It's evident the 7-footer has a chance to be a productive NBA player. Now if Pat Riley can only find Barron minutes next season.
Another player looking to turn a strong July into P.T. in the future is Heat third-year guard Dorell Wright. The former preps-to-the-pros first round selection has spent the last two seasons learning the game from the sidelines, with only 23 career appearances to his credit. He finished the '05-06 campaign on a high note, however, starting the last two games of the regular season and averaging 19.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in those contests. In Orlando, Wright averaged 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game.
Miami signed several of the top free agent rookies from the 2006 NBA Draft, but none of the players from this group was able to distinguish himself in Orlando. Michigan guard Daniel Horton, Minnesota swingman Vincent Grier, Notre Dame center Torin Francis and point guard Chris Quinn, and West Virginia guard Mike Gansey and forward Kevin Pittsnogle posted modest numbers.
The New Jersey Nets received three positive signs during their visit to Orlando.
First, they learned that Antoine Wright still can play. The 15th overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft struggled as a rookie, averaging 1.8 points in 9.5 minutes per game, shooting .358 from the field and converting 1-of-15 three-point attempts. Wright rediscovered his touch in summer league action, leading the Nets in scoring (17.2 ppg) and hitting 5-of-10 treys.
Secondly the Nets learned their first round selection this season, Marcus Williams, may indeed be worthy of the label of Jason Kidd's future successor at point guard. Williams averaged 16.6 points and 9.3 assists, knocking down 10-of-18 three-pointers. One Eastern Conference official said he was the best point guard there, while coach Lawrence Frank said he has "the gift of giving."
Lastly, the Nets received a strong showing from fellow rookie first-rounder Josh Boone, Williams' teammate at UConn. Boone was brought to New Jersey to rebound and block shots, and that in Orlando he did – averaging 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.
Pepsi Pro League Stats (PDF)
With lottery selection J.J. Redick sidelined, the story was all Travis Diener for the Magic. The second-year point guard posted 20.3 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 turnovers per game. The Magic have seen increased interest in Diener as a result. Diener played sparingly as a rookie, and the Magic have three other point guards already on their roster – Jameer Nelson, Keyon Dooling and Carlos Arroyo – so it's possible a deal could be struck.
The Magic also saw good things out of Polish big man Marcin Gortat. Orlando obtained the draft rights to Marcin Gortat, the 57th overall selection in the 2005 NBA Draft, from the Phoenix Suns last year in exchange for cash considerations, and it's possible he could make his NBA debut next season. In the Pepsi Pro Summer League, the former soccer goalie average 11.0 points (.578 FG%) and 6.4 rebounds, showing off nimble feet in the post and good touch.
Meanwhile, second round selection James Augustine, a 6-10 pivot from Illinois -- posted 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, as well as a number of blog entries.