Jeffries Has Fit In Very Well in Magic's Defensive-Minded Culture

by Josh Cohen

LAS VEGAS - After not hearing his name called on draft night last month – a surprise to some after he performed extremely well at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament – DaQuan Jeffries jumped at the chance to join the Orlando Magic’s Summer League team.

Based on the type of team the Magic were last season, it made sense for a player with Jeffries’ skillset to learn and develop under the tutelage of Orlando’s coaching staff.

"I've been learning a lot about the system and the guys individually," Jeffries said earlier this week. "Throughout the whole two-a-day practices, I've learned a lot about how coach wants the ball moved and what he wants on the defensive end and, like I said, a lot about the individual guys on the team."

The way he approaches the game, the physical tools he possesses and the level of intensity he plays with has certainly impressed coaches, teammates and others who have watched Jeffries play at NBA Summer League.

The 21-year-old, who played two years at Tulsa after transferring from a community college, has been able to showcase his defensive gifts and vastly improved scoring arsenal, which some viewed as the biggest question mark about his game while he was in college.

Through four games in Las Vegas, the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder is averaging 14.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

But Jeffries is one of those players where stats don’t tell the whole story. With a nearly 7-foot wingspan, above average strength for a wing player, especially at his age, and very good instincts, the Edmond, Oklahoma native impacts the game in so many different ways.

Whenever he’s been matched up against some of the top players in the tournament, Jeffries hasn’t backed down one bit and has made it awfully difficult for opponents to get into a rhythm.

Magic Summer League Head Coach Pat Delany is one of many in Vegas who has been very impressed with the youngster’s poise, tenacity and commitment to defense.

“An ability to really guard, make it hard,” Delany said about Jeffries following Orlando’s recent game against Miami. “The level of competition that he’ll be playing against is just going to continue to rise and rise. Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro – guys that have been just rolling on and off the ball throughout summer league shooting the ball – he took the individual challenge.”

"I just love the competitive part on both ends of the floor. Super aggressive making the right basketball plays down here,” he added.

While his ability to defend multiple positions is likely going to always be his best asset, it’s become clear this week that he is a smart offensive player who can knock down outside shots and help a team play at a faster pace.

Against the Heat, as part of his 21-point afternoon, Jeffries drilled five of his six 3-point attempts.

Although he’s obviously far from being a finished product, Jeffries is confident in his abilities and believes he’d fit in seamlessly with the Magic or any other team willing to give him a shot. Not being drafted has motivated him even more to sharpen his skills and prove he belongs.

“My whole career, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I feel like that’s how everybody should play. Not just because of draft night, that’s how I’ve been my whole career.”

Two of Jeffries’ best plays from the tournament so far came against Brooklyn. In both instances, he hustled back in transition and prevented the Nets from scoring easy baskets inside. WATCH:

He’s also been very crafty playing in pick-and-roll. WATCH:

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