True to the Wisconsin way, Berggren makes few mistakes on the court. Or at least, he does now. Throughout his career, Berggren significantly reduced his foul and turnover rates to the point that they’re now very strong suits of his. He also got bigger and tougher, turning himself into a sufficiently mediocre rebounder and much improved rim protector. Tougher, however, is not the same as tough. Berggren is frail, still too frail to play with NBA muscle on both ends. Recognising this and taking more jump shots to diversify his decent internal finishing would have been a successful move had he hit a good number of said shots. This didn’t happen, and thus Berggren projects best as a defender and finisher who can’t do such things as well against bigger opponents. Not an NBA combination. But he will make money in European leagues, such as the German and Belgian ones.
Clanton rather stagnated as an upperclassman, but still left UCF as the all-time leader in games, rebounds and blocks. Statistically, aside from some extra percent on his free throw and three point strokes, there is a lot to like. The mostly face-up power forward has decent if unspectacular size and athleticism, and a versatile skill set. Clanton can create in the post and finish with a turnaround jumper or with a hook with both hands, shoots reasonably well from mid-range (although he could stand to improve here, as well as shoot a bit quicker), can straight-line drive, and run the pick-and-roll. He rebounds well and can defend the basket even without overwhelming physical tools. However, it is this lack of physical tools that will surely prevent an NBA career of note. Like Berggren, he will make money in Europe, and may progress to the higher levels if he can play more under control, tidy up the mistakes, and work on his defence on ball screens.
Dandridge, 28 next week, has been travelling the world. He is the only player covered in this history of this website to have played in Morocco – he’s also spent two seasons in the PBL, played briefly in the ABA (everyone only ever plays briefly in the ABA), and played even more briefly in Argentina. Last year was spent in Belgium with Charleroi, for whom he averaged 5.7 points in 11.7 minues per game on the way to winning the Belgian league title. Dandridge’s game is easy enough to pigeon hole – he’s a three point specialist. That’s it.
Gatens played in summer league last year for Phoenix, and averaged 6.3 points per game. He impressed suitably there and in his senior season with Iowa (15.7 ppg) that he was able to play his rookie season in the Spanish ACB with Murcia, which doesn’t happen often. Gatens played a prominent role, too, averaging 9.6 points in 24.7 minutes a contest. Playing exclusively off the ball, Gatens has size, IQ, a good jump shot, and decent defence. (Reasonably unathletic white guys can defend, despite perceptions.) He will be a good role player for many years. But not at the NBA level.
Harkless’s rookie season was a mixed bag. He showed that through physical tools alone, he could affect the game on both ends just by being in the right place, but he also showed that he needs to put in considerable work on knowing where the right place is. He demonstrated real defensive potential at times, Shawn Marion-esque, yet not without mistakes and also an uncertain and unclean offensive game. There’s a lot to like, but also a lot to do.
Once Harris was needlessly thrown away by Milwaukee, Orlando gave him open season to score as much as he wanted. And he did. In 27 games, Harris returned 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, shooting 45% from the field and an improved 31% from three. It wasn’t an especially efficient 17.3ppg, yet Harris has the sort of skills and polish that belie his 20 years of age, and he’s already putting them together. Scott Skiles’s concerns about his defence are valid, yet were never the reason to DNP-CD a younger with so much genuine promise. Between Harris and Harkless, the Magic have the forwards position pencilled in for a while.
With respect – honestly – Jones inexplicably made the Magic’s roster for the whole of last season. His athleticism and size are perfect for the NBA, yet Jones never demonstrated in his entire college career that he could dribble the ball, shoot the ball, score the ball, or even get open without it. He was a nothing player in college, a tantalising physical specimen who just didn’t get it, and yet somehow he made it into the NBA. Even started a bit. It was a fairy tale for him and a completely baffling turn of events for everyone else.
How did it go? Not great. Jones is sub-par at both the “three” and “D” parts of he three-and-D wing role player role. It looks like he should be able to play defence with his physical skills, but he hasn’t the nuances to do so and is no more effective than, say, Jerry Stackhouse. Additionally, whilst it looks like Jones should at least contribute on the bounds, he rebounds no better than Kyle Korver (both had a 7.4% total rebound percentage last season.)
It’s not Jones’s fault that he was overmatched and God bless him for living a dream. But I shouldn’t think there’ll be any more chapters to his NBA story. Well, except this.
Thrown into the J.J. Redick trade, Lamb didn’t get the opportunity Harris did to succeed. To be honest, as a rookie, Lamb mostly just fouled. To make it, Lamb needs to either prove he can consistently hit from three point range at high volume, or show he can regularly handle point guard duties. It is likely no coincidence that the only established point guard on the summer league roster is A.J. Slaughter, thus it follows that Lamb might get an opportunity to show both of these. Oladipo takes priority, however.
In each of the last two seasons, Shane Lawal (real name Olaseni) has averaged more rebounds than points. Last season, for Verona in LegaDue, Lawal led the league in both rebounds (13.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8bpg), alongside 10.7 ppg and 1.9 spg in 31 minutes per game to boot. A late bloomer, the 26 year old Lawal is self-evidently rawer than a bag of spanners on one end. And he’s never played anywhere near the NBA standard to prove he can regularly and effectively defend those bigger than him, either. Nevertheless, that rebound rate intrigues.
Speaking of rebounding rate, McGruder was one of the best rebounding guards in a major conference over the last few seasons, a testament to the aggressive way he plays. He combines this intensity with offensive skill, particularly from mid-range, where he has a pull-up jump shot, a floater, and the ability to get open without the ball. His dribble-drive game is less effective, and his three point shooter took a worrying dive as a senior, which is doubly problematic from a player already having to overcome being slightly smaller than ideal for his position. Nevertheless, effective defensively and sufficiently athletic, McGruder’s solid and proven all-around game has a chance of catching on in the NBA. He, too, could use a calling card.
Back to summer league after a stint with Chicago last year, Moore spent the interim season split between Italy, Israel and the D-League, somewhat underwhelming at all three. He is capable of more than the 9/2/2 he averaged as a D-Leaguer – Moore is a capable scorer off the dribble with a good mid-range game and solid three point range, with the speed, handles and body control to get to the rim to either kick out or finish, a solid handle and pick-and-roll management and a fundamentally sound, versatile guard game. However, undersized for the shooting guard position and spectacular at no one thing, the NBA game will elude him. More consistent jump shot range, more focused defensive effort and greater consistency overall will benefit him greatly.
Nelson comes from Division II Morehouse, for whom he averaged 11.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game as a senior, shooting 50% from the field and 51% from the line. He is a hustling, defensive and fairly athletic 6’7 forward who can score in the post. This, however, is not an NBA combination, and Nelson appears to lack the ball skills or perimeter game more befitting of his size.
Nicholson scored the ball extremely well in his rookie season, showing terrific mid-range and post-up games for a rookie, and yet struggled so much on the other end that he almost fell out of the rotation at points after the trade deadline. Considering he lost these minutes to Tobias Harris, whose defensive problems have already been covered, this is a bit of a problem. Nicholson doesn’t have the size or athleticism to be dominant defensively, and even average will be a struggle. He needs to get both stronger and quicker, as he’s both outmuscled on the interior and blown past on the switch far too easily. His offensive efficiency, mid-range J, footwork and jump hooks will nonetheless keep him around for years, but don’t settle for Othella Harrington. Aim higher.
Oladipo will play point guard for Orlando, in accordance with their belief that he can become one down the road. This seems odd on paper. His body type and athletic profile is nigh on perfect for the two guard spot, a position for which he also already has the prerequisite skills and provenly effective defence. Perhaps, then, he is instead merely working on his ball dominance in a Paul George/Dwyane Wade fashion. It will be seen how far he has to go with this, as he had little opportunity at the bizarrely coached Indiana Hoosiers.
O’Quinn had an strong rookie campaign, often stuck behind Nicholson but frankly outperforming him. One of the best passers on the team, O’Quinn used his huge wingspan to also be one of the best rebounders in the league, and scored efficiently with a highly effective mid-range jumper and post finishing. O’Quinn might not be hugely athletic, but with the improvements in his jumper, he stands to be a very good role player with that, the vision, the IQ and the boards.
Osby makes things happen, good and bad. Normally, this is an underrated positive attribute in a player – genuine productivity is often overlooked by the risk-averse nature of basketball coaches and executives, and mistakes seem to linger in the memory moreso than positive play ever could. In Osby’s case, however, the mistakes are so plentiful, and other holes significant enough, that the reconciliation is difficult. Offensively, Osby provides a bit of everything – strong, and decently if not overly athletic, Osby is a runaway train in transition, can drive the ball, finish around the basket with some post-up play to boot, and is ever developing a jump shot with three point range. However, this bullishness and relentless aggressiveness is accompanied by extremely high turnover numbers – bad decision making, a limited passing game, and strength rather than nuanced body control, all combine to make Osby unreliable, no matter how valuable his scoring can be. Furthermore, Osby rather underwhelms on the glass, has demonstrated little out of pick-and-roll situations (although being in a situation with better guards to run it may change this), and only sporadically defends both the interior and perimeter. Osby’s offensive talents are intriguing, but the total package is frustrating.
Slaughter returns to summer league after three years away. In the time hence, Slaughter has played in Italy, Belgium and France, and has developed his game since his Western Kentucky days. Still primarily a scorer rather than a creator, Slaughter has nonetheless developed his point guard skills and effectiveness off the pick-and-roll, improved his defensive fundamentals, and last year showed a nice spike in his hitherto mediocre three point range. Slaughter has become a consistent, skilled and versatile lead guard with great size and decent speed, who has the talent to play in the NBA. The only problem now is his age. Turning 26 this summer, Slaughter certainly is not old, but given the choice between him at 26 and Ray McCallum at 22, the NBA will always take the McCallum types, and Slaughter, if better, is not better by enough to make up that difference. Nevertheless, he’s a nice player.
Wise just finished his career at USC, where he played one year as a fifth year senior, averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He also shot 43% from three point range, although this was on suitably low usage (21 total makes) and so different to his previous three seasons of work (below 29% the previous two seasons) that it might be considered anomalous. Wise is a strong power forward with a small forward’s height, who has a decent feel for the game, the ability to hit from mid-range and get to the foul line, and always bringing the defensive tenacity. However, better suited to the power forward spot and without perimeter skills, the athleticism for the small forward spot, or indeed any elite skill to speak of, this level is about the top end of his ability at this point.