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Pistons' Johnson earns top spot in summer school

POSTED: Jul 21, 2015 8:43 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Pacers vs. Pistons

Stanley Johnson records 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pistons over the Pacers.

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Summer League was helpful for players and teams. Summer League was occasionally insightful for anyone wanting a gauge on young talent and the chances of an immediate impact. But the summer-league schedule that ended Monday night was not the real world. It never is, because the opportunities for prospects in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas will often evaporate on Day 1 of training camp, when the prospects, after picking on someone their own size in July, are suddenly facing NBA competition.

Jarnell Stokes, for example, finished second on the 2014 Summer League Ladder, but obviously was not going to find many minutes come opening night on the same Memphis roster as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

The July 21, 2014, wrap-up top 10 from Orlando and Vegas, before the return of Salt Lake City in 2015, was Nerlens Noel, Stokes, T.J. Warren, Doug McDermott, James Ennis, Jordan Adams, Jordan McRae, Elfrid Payton, Jabari Parker and Russ Smith, and very few had any sizeable impact in the regular season.

More specifically, Noel, Parker, Payton, McDermott and Ennis were the only ones on the Oct. 29, 2014, Ladder as the setup to 2014-15, and Noel and Payton were the lone survivors through to the April 15, 2015, final posting. (Parker's start signaled he would have had a good chance if not for the season-ending knee injury in December, and Nikola Mirotic was not ranked a year ago because he did not play for the Bulls in Summer League, before opening the season at No. 6 and finishing at No. 4.)

So while the Rookie Ladder of July is based on actual play, it does not necessarily translate into a spot in the rankings that will come out just before the start of the 2015-16 schedule. It goes the other way too -- some newcomers who underwhelmed in recent weeks may still make the September Top 10 because opportunity will meet the potential to make an immediate impact. We're looking at you, Emmanuel Mudiay.

That makes the look-ahead a very, very rough sketch. But based on rosters of the moment and the performances of summer, and while understanding what just happened can mean a grand total of nothing in the regular season, the early line on the 2015-16 Ladder that will track the Rookie of the Year race with weekly updates looks something like:

1. Stanley Johnson, Pistons.

2. Mudiay, Nuggets.

3. Jahlil Okafor, 76ers.

4. Myles Turner, Pacers.

5. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves.

6. Mario Hezonja, Magic.

7. D'Angelo Russell, Lakers.

8. Frank Kaminsky, Hornets.

9. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings.

10. Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks.

With many more to watch, obviously. Justin Anderson in Dallas, the Knicks with Jerian Grant, Norman Powell with the Raptors, Justise Winslow in Miami and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson of the Nets will all be strong possibility early, with others who will surely surprise and push their way into consideration.

For the Summer League rankings based on actual play, not potential, for one last time:

1. Stanley Johnson, Pistons (Previous ranking: 1)

Postgame: Stanley Johnson

Stanley Johnson joins Dennis and Vince following his double-double in the win over the Pacers.

Johnson locked up No. 1 without ever being threatened by the Las Vegas crowd. His underwhelming finale in Orlando of 10 points on three-of-10 shooting does not diminish the positives of a very good summer league. Johnson scored at least 13 points the first four games and was at 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 64.3 percent, including four of nine (44.4 percent) on threes, before the final day. He also had three steals in two of the outings and two in another.

2. Myles Turner, Pacers (2)

Turner's life has changed dramatically since the draft with Roy Hibbert being traded and David West leaving as a free agent, combining to create a greater immediate chance for the No. 11 pick. Averaging 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 60.5 percent in three appearances in Orlando was a nice move to show he deserved the opportunity.

3. Frank Kaminsky, Hornets (3)

Nets vs. Hornets

Frank Kaminsky scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds and Aaron Harrison added 15 points as Charlotte earned an 82-73 victory over Brooklyn.

Charlotte wanted a three-point threat to address what has been an obvious need for years? The college Player of the Year was went seven of 18 behind the arc in Orlando. Showing a well-rounded game, Kaminsky also contributed six, seven, six, eight and 12 rebounds, topped by the 19 points and 12 boards in the July 4 opener against Oklahoma City.

4. Branden Dawson, Clippers (4)

Windmill to Putback-Dunk

Branden Dawson of the Los Angeles Clippers goes on the fast break and delivers a massive windmill dunk, on the following play Tekele Cotton of the Oklahoma City Thunder boosts up for the put-back slam!

The No. 56 pick, huh? The former Michigan State standout, officially selected by the New Orleans Pelicans but immediately dealt to Los Angeles, used the first four games in Central Florida as a response to most front offices. Dawson had three double-doubles and in all averaged 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 25.5 minutes while shooting 52.2 percent (although 33.3 from the line). He signed a two-year contract Wednesday, with the first season guaranteed.

5. Joe Young, Pacers (5)

Joe Young Postgame

Pacers guard Joe Young talks postgame after scoring 28 points against the Magic's Blue squad.

The No. 43 pick was the early scoring star of summer, getting just nine points in his Indiana debut in Orlando before moving to the forefront with 25, 28 and 28 the next three games. Young was a combined 29 of 55 from the field (52.7 percent) the last three, including nine of 17 (52.9) behind the arc. It's the offensive punch a lot of teams envisioned while concerned about the transition to point guard, concerns that didn't go away with 13 assists against 11 turnovers in all.

6. Jordan Mickey, Celtics (6)

Mickey Rejects Kazemi

Jordan Mickey makes the sick chase down block on Arsalan Kazemi.

His last five games have been 13 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes Thursday, 11 rebounds in 25 minutes, nine points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes and 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in 31 minutes. Not merely one of the best players in Las Vegas, Mickey has been one of the few consistent with any experience.

7. Dakari Johnson, Thunder (7)

Call it an encouraging start to what could be a long process. Johnson does not figure to have a prominent role in Oklahoma City in the regular season -- although maybe on the OKC D-League team -- but 11, 10, six and 11 rebounds in Orlando while playing more than 27 minutes just once is a much-needed parachute after the former big-time prospect dropped all the way to No. 48 in the draft.

8. Alan Williams, Rockets (9)

Some people move into the rankings. Williams crashed the Ladder with the ferocity of someone looking to make a lot of teams sorry for passing on the bruising power forward in the draft. The 22 points and 22 rebounds Friday against the 76ers would have been enough to draw attention as arguably the best game at any of the three sites, except that it was also the latest in a string of standout performances. The three previous outings in Las Vegas were 17 points and eight rebounds, 16 and eight, and 27 and 10.

9. Jahlil Okafor, 76ers (8)

First Impressions of Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor discusses his first games in a Sixers uniform while his coach and fans weigh in on the rookie's on-court performance.

He flashed some very good post moves Tuesday against the Knicks, but still finished eight of 18 from the field. Any shot beyond six or eight feet remains an adventure, though. And he got blocked five times, three courtesy Kristaps Porzingis. Okafor's 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks Saturday against the Lakers was one of the best game for any rookie outside Orlando, and he is doing good work on the boards. The rebounding, with at least nine boards in three of five appearances, has become the key to staying in the rankings.

10. Norman Powell, Raptors (10)

Powell was not at his best Thursday, making just five of 14 shots, but he has been one of the best rookies in Las Vegas. The 15 points against Bulls came after the No. 46 pick had scored 19, 19 and 20 points the three previous appearances while shooting 59.5 percent. He also had seven rebounds in one game and five in another at the off guard.

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

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