Pacers: Orlando Summer League Comes to a Close

A look at the plus and minuses of current Pacers players on the Summer League Roster, as well as potential prospects to be invited to training camps in the early fall.

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The Pacers ended the Orlando Summer League with a 77-90 loss to the Brooklyn Nets today, making their final record 2-3 over the five day league. The league allowed us to look at our rookie players, our young, developing players, and other familiar players from college ball looking for a chance to make it in the NBA. Today I’m going to breakdown the positives and negatives of our current signed players that took part in the Summer League, as well as those unsigned players who I believe the Pacers should take a closer look at in their training camp this fall.

Currently Signed Players

Jeff Pendergraph: I wasn’t very impressed with Pendergraph’s play in the Summer League. I have higher expectations when it comes to guys that have actually been in the NBA for awhile, and he just didn’t reach those expectations. He seemed to just blend in with all the guys who haven’t even gotten a chance in the NBA yet. He didn’t seem to do much other than being a decently sized body down-low, so I don’t have any plus or minuses for him. 

Orlando Johnson: To me, Orlando Johnson just looks like someone who’s gonna be good someday. I think he has good athleticism and a decent skill-set for a guy picked up in the mid-second round. That said, I don’t think he used his own skills to his advantage this week in Orlando. He’s very good at driving to the basket, and I’ve heard people compare him to Dwayne Wade when it comes to his athleticism and ability to get to the hoop. I agree very much with that comparison. However, I saw him settle for a lot of contested jumpers that almost never fell. He can hit any shot on the floor if he’s open, but a pull-up 15 footer with a hand in his face just was not falling.

Positives: When he drove to the basket, something good would happen almost every time. He has a nack for finishing tough up and under layups or whatever else he has to do to score off the drive. He has a nice little spin move that I think will serve him well in the future. It’s a good strong move that allowed him to muscle his way to the basket and catch his defender off guard. I like his athleticism. He’s built to play shooting guard. He’d be basically the prototypical shooting guard if he were an inch or two taller. He has the neccessary speed, quickness, strength, and vertical to become a very successful shooting guard in the league. He plays good defense, not great defense, but good defense. He also has a nice jump shot when he’s open. He can hit threes and mid-range jumpers whenever he can get himself enough space. He’s a good overall player.

Negatives: He wasn’t letting the game come to him. More often than not, he’d take a few dribbles to the basket and pull-up with a defender or two glued to him. The shots weren’t falling. He needs to look at what he does well (driving), and do that. The contested jumpers will come with practice, but for now he needs to take the ball to the basket. He had terrible shot selection this past week, and definitely needs to think about some of the shots he’s taking.

Miles Plumlee: Plumlee had a good, strong appearance in his first Summer League appearance. He showed aspects of his game that I didn’t know existed, and put up good numbers over the five games the Pacers competed in. With more work, I think he’ll make a very good back-up post player for the Pacers over the next few years. He’s NBA ready when it comes to his athleticism and size, and has some pretty good scoring skills to back it up. I actually enjoyed watching Plumlee surpass my expectations by quite a lot this week.

Positives: Like I said above, he has an NBA ready body, and is athletic enough to hold his own against NBA big men. He proved that he could score if he needed to, as he averaged 13 points a game. These points came from various places on the court as he showed the coaching staff that he has a very effective mid-range game. He has a smooth release on his jumpers, and you can almost always expect them to fall if he’s open. He also has a decent assortment of post moves to call upon when he’s banging bodies down-low. And let’s not forget his rim shaking dunks, one of them over the big 7-footer, Fab Melo.

Negatives: I don’t think his decision making was very good all the time in the five games this weekend. He took some ill-advised hook shots that got nothing but air, passed up on open jumpers to dribble into traffic and turn it over, and threw passes to players feet, which ended up being a turnover most of the time. I also didn’t see enough of a defensive presence and rebounder on the court. He easily should’ve been averaging ten rebounds a game, and I was looking for him to better contain the less talented developing players. 

Lance Stephenson: Lance was definitely the most talented player on the court for the Pacers. He was easily able to muscle his way to the basket whenever he desired, and was putting in around 20 points a game for the Pacers. At 6′6″, he’s a very good sized guard, and he seems to know how to use the size to his advantage. He looked to be the leader on the court for the most part, and was the only reason that two of the three games we lost were somewhat close (he didn’t play in one of those losses). However, he is a very emotional, competitive player, and while those can be good traits, they worked against him at some points in the game.

Positives: Lance is ready to play. He should be getting considerable minutes in the 2012-2013 season, coming off the bench for Paul George or maybe even George Hill at the point guard position every once in awhile. He seemed to take the ball to the basket with ease in clutch moments late in the fourth quarter. He has confidence in his abilities to shoot, pass, drive or whatever else he needs to do to help the team win. He seemed to be an on-the-court leader for the team, and was able to buckle down and play decent defense. He’s a very spirited player, and one of the most competitive athletes I’ve ever seen. He was definitely fun to watch.

Negatives: I can’t knock his game much, other than I think he could get a little quicker, and he could play better defense. Other than that, he was great all-around talent-wise. However, he did let his emotions get the best of him at times. He even had to be pulled out of one of the games late in the 4th because he was frustrated and out of control on the court. A talented player’s no good if he can’t keep his emotions in check. However, he’s been working on controlling his emotions, and I think it’s paying off. He looked composed for the most part. But, we can’t afford to have players lose control on the court. Not even once.

Players That Should be Invited to Fall Training Camps

Chris Kramer: As much as I hate putting a former Purdue player on this list, I just had to. Kramer played his heart out in the Summer League this week, and he’s what the NBA really needs nowadays. A nitty-gritty, tough basketball player who will do anything to win. Diving on the floor, taking charges, throwing himself at the rim to draw fouls, he would do whatever it took to help the team win. He only had 6.6 points per game, but the best part of his game was something that doesn’t get put on the stat sheet. Hustle, hardwork, and intensity.

Julian Mavunga: I’ll admit, this week was the first I had ever heard of Julian Mavunga. I mean, the spotlight doesn’t really shine at Miami (OH). But, boy could he play. Coming off the bench for the Pacers, this 6′8″ power forward averaged 6 points and 6 rebounds per game, and easily looked like the best big man on the floor, besides Plumlee of course. Mavunga is a very athletic power forward, and seems like he could even make an effective small forward with some work. He had a very impressive outing with the Pacers, and I’d like to see more of him in the future.

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