The NBA Summer League season is back again for 2012 -- following a one-year hiatus due to last year's lockout -- and it starts on this lovely Monday morning in Orlando. The biggest stories will probably be centered around whether or not the host team is going to trade Dwight Howard this week, but that's not even close to what we're interested in here at Ridiculous Upside.
Orlando's version isn't half as flashy as its Vegas counterpart (fans aren't allowed, only eight teams attend and your's truly won't even be taking in the week-long event in person), but it's a good primer to get everyone ready for Friday's action.
There are some fun names on the rosters that aren't getting enough publicity, too, but we're here to help. Starting now and hopefully through next Sunday (if I can find an interested party to keep the spirit alive while I'm in Vegas), but at least through Orlando, Ridiculous Upside will be your one-stop shop for a quick look at what to watch for -- and then later, what we watched -- in Vegas.
Now, without further adieu, here's a breakdown of Monday's schedule.
This game could be wild if a trade is pending by the time it's about to go down considering a fair amount of the players scheduled to play in it might end up on the opposite team before all is said and done. In fact, this game might be the most interesting thing to happen at the Orlando Summer League simply because of that (and because Mark Price is coaching the Magic).
Assuming everything goes as planned, however, the player to watch on the Brooklyn side of the ball is going to be second round selection Tornike Shengelia. The Nets bought the 54th pick to draft and stash Shengelia, but the forward's agent was able to convince Brooklyn to give him a shot in Orlando. He was the star of this past weekend's team workouts according to most reports so it'll be interesting to see if he'll be able to keep that up this morning.
The unheralded player your's truly is hoping to see get some action for the host team is South Dakota's own Charlie Westbrook. Westbrook was almost never mentioned this season on his way to averaging nearly 19 points per game for the Coyotes, but Draft Express says his WORST case comparison is Terrico White ... so we're talking about some Ridiculous Upside there.
There aren't as many exciting storylines going on off the court in this game so we'll have to settle for the on-court action to keep us entertained. The sidelines should be fun, however, as Tyronn Lue is coaching the Celtics' Summer League squad.
Lue will be coaching a pretty interesting crew, but I'll single out Craig Brackins as the play to watch on Monday afternoon. Brackins was unceremoniously released by the Philadelphia 76ers just two season after being a first round pick so it'll be interesting to see how he does in Orlando as he fights to keep his name on an NBA roster -- and whether he's listed as a power forward (where he still shows some promise) or as a small forward (where he struggled mightily during his glimpses of playing time with the Sixers this season).
On the Oklahoma City side of the ball, we'll single out Latavious Williams as the player to watch on Monday afternoon. Williams was the first player to go straight from high school to the D-League, ended up getting drafted by the Thunder and then played this past season overseas. The Thunder own his rights until they sign him and, if he shows he's sufficiently improved over the course of the week, there's a chance that time could come this fall.
Utah announced a huge roster would attend a mini-camp over the weekend to determine who would actually be included on their roster for the next few days. That forced me to go with what I'd consider a safe pick for the Jazz player to watch in D-League stalwart Trey Johnson.
Johnson isn't the most athletic guard floating around as a free agent, but he consistently finds a way on to an NBA roster due to his ability to score -- something that always stands out in this type of setting.
As far as the Pistons are concerned, I'm going to go with Vernon Macklin. Macklin wasn't extended a qualifying offer by Detroit, making last summer's second round pick an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any NBA team (which makes it weird that he chose to go to Summer League with the Pistons anyway). Macklin spent some time with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this past season where I concluded the following:
Vernon had an advantage as a rookie this year considering he entered the league at the age of 25 with four years of high-level college experience already under his belt ... could probably add some weight to make up for lack of size as a center in the NBA - more of a 4.5 ... in 24 games split between the Pistons and Mad Ants, attempted a total of three jumpers ... not a threat away from the basket ... has a decent hook with his right, but otherwise limited with his back to the basket ... tenacious n the offensive glass, but a fair amount of his offensive rebounds - both in the NBA and at the D-League level - came on putbacks of his own misses ... has a tendency to just keep tipping the ball toward the rim hoping it'll fall rather than controlling the offensive glass ... powerful dunker ... good hands for his size ... already is what he's going to be on offense.
(the above excerpt is a part of my 180-player scouting report up for sale ... seriously!)
Indiana Pacers vs. Philadelphia 76ers (5 p.m.)
The Pacers took quite a few players to Orlando that I'm familiar with, but the one people need to know more about today is Matt Janning. Janning, a sharpshooting guard out of Northeastern, earned his first taste of the NBA thanks to a standout performance in the 2010 Summer Leagues in both Orlando and Vegas. The Minnesota native spent this past season playing in Italy.
Philly brought in a lot of guys that have been around the block, but the player I'm most excited to see on Monday afternoon is Justin Williams. Williams was an excellent shotblocker at Wyoming and eventually spent some time with the Sacramento Kings following a D-League call-up, but he's been mostly out of basketball over the past couple of seasons.