Pulse of the NBA
By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor
New York, NY (Sports Network) - The popular belief was that the 2013 NBA Draft was a weak one, and that opinion may have been strengthened by the rookie performances in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.
For the most part, the lottery picks were not that impressive. Here's a recap of how they fared and what we might see from them down the road. Keep in mind, three lottery selections - Anthony Bennett, Alex Len, and Nerlens Noel - didn't play due to injury.
VICTOR OLADIPO - Orlando Magic
It's no secret that the big weaknesses in Oladipo's game coming out of college were his ball handling skills and his inability to create his own shot, yet the Magic decided to play him at the point a great deal of the time in Orlando. So it's no surprise that the second overall pick averaged a whopping 4.8 turnovers to go along with his 5 assists per game.
Oladipo didn't show a whole lot of breakdown ability, or as I like to say, much shake and bake to his game, but at least he was aggressive trying to get to the rim and spent a lot of time at the foul line, averaging 10 free throw attempts in four games. He was 33-of-40 from the line (82.5 percent), and that was a big reason why he was the leading rookie scorer at 19 ppg.
However, his accuracy from the field was a bit of a mixed bag. Oladipo knocked down 7-of-13 shots (53.8 percent) from three-point range, but shot just 31.4 percent (11-of-35) on his two point attempts. His inability to create good looks off the dribble was a big reason why he struggled on his two point shots. On the defensive end, Oladipo was not as effective as I expected, given his reputation of being such a great defender on the college level.
My gut reaction off his summer league play is that this was the wrong pick for the Magic.
OTTO PORTER - Washington Wizards
The third overall pick from Georgetown saw his summer league play cut short when he went down with a hamstring injury in his third game, but that may actually have been a blessing in disguise considering how bad Porter looked in the first two.
He shot 3-for-13 from the field in the opening game and followed that up with a 4-for-13 performance in the second one. Add it all up and you've got a 30 percent field goal percentage.
Porter's inability to create his own shot off the dribble was clearly a big problem and even drew the attention of an opposing player.
"My first two matchups, Otto Porter and [Ben] McLemore, their handle wasn't as tight as a lead guy," said Golden State Warriors guard Kent Bazemore. "So I had ample opportunity just to reach. But coach always says, when you're out there, act like you're in an NBA game."
Porter also had problems on the defensive end and seems to lack the lateral quickness to keep his man in front of him.
Even a Wizards' fan website was disappointed with what it saw from the teams' top pick. Here's how bulletsforever.com summed up his Porter's performance:
"No question about it: Porter's play in Las Vegas was disappointing until his hamstring injury. He struggled with his shot, seemed overwhelmed at times with the pace of the game and sometimes had trouble staying with players off the dribble. His length allowed him to be an asset as a help defender and he did do a decent job of getting out and running, but it's hard to feel that confident about some of the weaknesses he showed. We expected many of them -- thin frame, so-so ball-handling, lack of strength -- but seeing them on display was jarring".
CODY ZELLER - Charlotte Bobcats
I thought the fourth overall pick from Indiana was clearly the best rookie in Las Vegas. Zeller showed the ability to knock down perimeter shots, to put the ball on the floor and drive it to the basket, and score in the paint.
One move in particular stood out for me, as Zeller put the ball on the floor from the top of the key, got into the lane and did a reverse pivot that got him to the rim for a layup.
Following a nondescript first game in which he scored eight points on 4-of-9 from the field and pulled down five rebounds, Zeller put together three straight very strong performances. In his second game, he had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and was 6-of-12 from the floor and 9-for-9 from the line. He followed that up with an 18 point, 10 rebound game, and closed out his summer league play with an 18 point, nine rebound effort.
Overall, he averaged 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in 32 minutes, and shot 52 percent from the field.
Off what I saw from his summer league play, and with the expectation that he should get plenty of playing time, I think Zeller will be a very strong candidate for the rookie of the year award.
BEN MCLEMORE - Sacramento Kings
It was an all-or-nothing week in Las Vegas for the seventh overall pick from Kansas. He had two very good games and three really bad ones in which I guess you could say he turned "Sin City" into "Brick City".
McLemore struggled in the same area that was a problem in college, as he had difficulty creating his own shot off the dribble. A vast majority of his shots were spot-up jumpers and he fell in love with the three-point line way too much. McLemore averaged nine three-point attempts per game, with 36 off his 78 shots from the field coming from beyond the arc.
He shot 33 percent from the floor and just 19 percent from three-point range (7- for-36). Among the low lights were his opening game where he shot 4-of-23, including 1-for-11 from three, and an 0-for-8, one point performance in his fourth game.
As bad as some of those numbers are, the stat that stands out even more to me is that McLemore had ZERO assists.
I think McLemore's rookie season will be all about confidence. If he can develop it early, he'll have a decent year. But if he struggles early on, it could be a disaster.
KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE - Detroit Pistons
Nerves got the best of the eighth overall pick from Georgia in his first two games in Orlando, but once he settled down, the game came a lot easier to him.
The 6-6 shooting guard opened the summer league by going 4-of-20 from the floor over his first two games, but closed it out by hitting 16-of-34 shots (47 percent) over the final three.
Like McLemore, he'll need to improve his ball handling to become a really effective offensive player.
But there's more to Caldwell-Pope's game than just putting the ball in the basket. With his size and athleticism, he looks like he has the tools to be a solid contributor at the defensive end. And don't be surprised if he's a help on the boards too, as he averaged 7.1 rebounds per game in his lone college season, and showed some good board work in Orlando.
TREY BURKE - Utah Jazz
What struck me immediately about the ninth overall pick from Michigan was that physically, he looked like a boy among men in Orlando. I think Burke's lack of size and strength will be a problem on the next level, especially on the defensive end.
As far as his play on the court, it was clearly the worst of all the lottery picks. To say he struggled with his shot is a huge understatement. He shot 24 percent from the field (13-for-54) and was 1-of-19 (5 percent) from three- point range.
He played tentatively and definitely lacked the confidence he demonstrated in helping lead Michigan to the national championship game.
If anything, his horrible performance was a bit of a wakeup call and he knows he won't be able to sit on the laurels of his college success.
"I felt like summer league was a great experience," said Burke. "I needed it. It showed me that I have some work to do. My shot was flat due to my legs. I thought I did a good job with the team and picked up on some things, like on offense and what we're doing defensively."
Unlike Damian Lillard with Portland last season, Burke will not have the benefit of having some veteran players around him to make the transition to the NBA easier, and I have a feeling his struggles from the summer league will carry over into the regular season, and in the end, the Jazz will wish they went in different direction in the draft.
CJ MCCOLLUM - Portland Trail Blazers
The 10th overall pick from Lehigh reminds me of a less athletic version of his soon-to-be teammate and current rookie of the year Damian Lillard.
McCollum displayed his ability to break down defenders and create his own shot, but his shot selection was questionable and his stroke just wasn't there. He average 21 ppg in five games, but a lot of that had to do with the high volume of shots. He averaged just over 20 field goal attempts per game, including one game with 26 attempts and another with 25. Overall, he was 37- of-101 from the floor (36.6 percent) and 9-for-29 (31 percent) from three- point range.
When Portland drafted McCollum, there was some thought that he would see some time backing up Lillard at the point and playing beside him at the two. But with signing of free agent point guard Mo Williams, it looks like he'll exclusively be a shooting guard, which should actually take some of the pressure off him in his rookie season.
Playing with the likes of Lillard, Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum should help his transition to the next level a lot easier and he should be a boost for a Portland bench that was arguably the worst in the league last season.
MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS - Philadelphia 76ers
The 11th overall pick from Syracuse had a very ugly stat line and there wasn't much to get excited about with his play on the floor in Orlando.
In five games, Carter Williams was 23-of-85 from the floor (27 percent), 3- for-19 from three-point range (16 percent), while averaging 6.8 assists and a whopping 4.8 turnovers per game.
He didn't exhibit the explosiveness that most of the top point guards in the league have, nor was he really good in breaking defenders down and getting in the paint. It also looks like his lack of quickness could be a problem on the defensive end.
The only bright spot I saw that with his size and length he could be difficult to handle in the low post if he adds some bulk to his 6-6, 185 pound frame.
I have a strong feeling that Carter-Williams will have a lot of struggles come the regular season and in the end the Sixers will regret this pick.
STEVEN ADAMS - Oklahoma City Thunder
It was clear from his play in Orlando, that physically and athletically, Adams will be able to compete on the NBA level, but he is raw and knows he's got a lot to learn.
"I'm a work in progress," said Adams following his summer league debut where had two points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. "I'm just working hard and taking it day by day."
At this point, the Thunder are just looking for Adams, the 12th overall pick from Pittsburgh, to rebound, defend, and run the lanes, and that shouldn't be a problem with his size and athleticism. I like the way he moved his feet on defense and his ability to help out going from the strong to weak side.
His offensive game is in the infancy state, but I see the potential for him to eventually do some damage in the low post if he puts the work in.
KELLY OLYNYK - Boston Celtics
Olynyk averaged 18 ppg in just over 24 minutes per game and shot 57.4 percent from the field (37-of-64). But what was even more impressive than just the bare numbers, was the vast offensive skill set he displayed. He can basically do it all. Olynyk shows excellent footwork in the low post and can score with either hand. He can put the ball on the floor like a guard and take it to the basket, and can knock down medium to long range shots.
"I really like his game," said Stevens. "He's really bright, you can tell he makes others around him better. I thought he did some good things defensively as well. He's going to be a good player."
Olynyk should see plenty of playing time right from the start, and with his skill level and feel for the game, he should be a serious challenger for rookie of the year honors, and in the process, show a number of teams they made the wrong decision in passing him up in the draft.
SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD - Minnesota Timberwolves
Add the 14th overall pick from UCLA to the list of lottery picks who really struggled with their shot in summer league play.
Muhammad was 19-of-52 from the field (36.5 percent) in Las Vegas and was even worse from the foul line, where he shot 35.3 percent, hitting 6-for-17.
The Wolves are looking for Muhammad to be a complete player, but he didn't contribute much in other areas in his six summer league games. In nearly 21 minutes a game, he averaged 2.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 2.2 turnovers. His assist rate was certainly no shock, since that was what he exactly averaged in his one year at UCLA. Even if Muhammad eventually becomes a good offensive player, he is not someone who is going to make teammates better.
And now there are questions about his maturity and his general decision making, as he was sent home from the NBA's rookie transition program for breaking a rule and bringing a female guest to his room.
Following the incident, Flip Saunders, the new president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, indicated that if Muhammad doesn't get his act together he could find himself in the D-League.
It appears at this point, even if Muhammad finds himself on the Wolves' roster, most of his time in Minnesota this season will be as a spectator on the bench.
08/16 13:52:00 ET