- Paolo Banchero’s NBA Debut
Duke and Auburn didn’t play each other this past season, so we didn’t get a chance to see Banchero and Jabari Smith Jr. – the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks, respectively, in the 2022 NBA Draft – square off in the college ranks. The last time they met on the hardwood was in the summer of 2020, before their senior high school seasons, in the Pangos All-American Festival Championship Game. For the first time as pros, they will clash on Thursday, July 7 in the opener of the 2022 NBA 2K23 Summer League in Las Vegas. At 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, Banchero has all the tools to become a special NBA player. He’s extremely versatile and possesses a unique blend of power and finesse for someone his size. Not only can he create shots for himself, but he's an advanced playmaker who makes the game easier for his teammates. Caleb Houstan, the Magic’s 32nd overall pick in the 2022 draft, will also be making his professional debut at summer league.
- A Refreshed Look at Familiar Faces
Suiting up for the Magic at summer league from last season’s team are guards R.J. Hampton and Devin Cannady and forwards Admiral Schofield and Aleem Ford. Hampton, acquired by Orlando along with Gary Harris and a future first round draft pick in a March 2021 trade that sent Aaron Gordon to Denver, played in 64 total games this past season. He started in 13 of Orlando’s last 18 contests and scored a career-high 21 points in the season finale against the Miami Heat. Two focus areas for him in Vegas will be decision making and defensive intensity. Cannady, meanwhile, has bounced back and forth between Orlando and Lakeland the last two seasons. Key for him is knocking down his open 3-point shots. That’s what the Magic need from him considering they ranked 27th and 28th in 3-point percentage each of the last two seasons. Long-distance shot-making is also critical for both Schofield and Ford. The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Schofield signed a two-way contract with the Magic in early January, while the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Ford appeared in five games with Orlando in December when they were shorthanded with several players in health and safety protocols.
- Zavier Simpson’s Unorthodox Shot
If you haven’t seen it yet, prepare to be quite entertained watching Simpson play at summer league. Not sure how much Kareem Abdul-Jabbar he studied growing up, but the 6-foot-0 Simpson has a righty skyhook in his arsenal that is not only unique but highly effective as well. He took 14 of them after getting called up to the OKC Thunder from their G League team last season. Even Dwight Howard, one of the league’s all-time best shot blockers, seemed unsure how to contest it (watch below). Simpson played with each of the Wagner brothers at the University of Michigan. He and Moe helped lead the Wolverines to the national final in his sophomore season.
- Back For a Second Round
Besides Hampton, there are two others who will be playing for the Magic’s summer league team for a second straight year. One of them is Jaire Grayer, the son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer. He was in Lakeland this past season, where he appeared in 24 games and averaged 7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder played four seasons at George Mason before transferring to TCU to conclude his college career. A streaky shooter, pesky defender and excellent rebounder for a guard, Grayer averaged 10.2 points and 5.1 boards at the college level. The other returnee is Jeremiah Tilmon, also a Lakeland player in 2021-22. In 31 games with the Magic’s G League squad, he averaged 10.1 points and 5.2 rebounds. Although he didn’t end up getting drafted in 2021, his play at Missouri during his senior season caught the attention of scouts. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks that year while helping the Tigers advance to the NCAA Tournament.
- A Journey Back From Injury for NBA Hopeful
On Jan. 27, 2021, with his N.C. State Wolfpack hosting the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Devon Daniels was having one of his best college performances. Through 29 minutes of action, he had scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. But right around the nine-minute mark of the second half, he fell to the ground with a leg injury and had to be helped off the court back to the locker room. The very next day, an MRI revealed that he had torn his ACL. Now a year-and-a-half later, the 6-foot-5 swingman is at full strength and ready to prove he belongs in the NBA. Before the injury, many mock drafts had him being selected in the second round. Not only an aggressive offensive player, but he’s also a tenacious defender who averaged 1.7 steals in each of his last two college seasons.