Summer League reveals the essence of who the Orlando Magic’s rookies are

What do you think of Summer League?

In a way, it feels hugely important. It’s the first look most fans have of the players the team has just selected in the Draft. It’s these players’ first exposure to the NBA game in a very real way.

It feels significant, not just because of the attention it gets in the deadlock of the NBA season. It feels important just because it’s data to log and think about.

Then again, these games aren’t important. Players play roles they are not asked to play in the regular season. They play with teammates who won’t make the team when they reunite in October.

So how do you find out what’s real? What can history teach us about what ultimately matters from this week in Las Vegas?

Summer League can be difficult to decipher and read. The statistics only matter to a point. The eye test is only important with a careful understanding of the context in which that game comes.

Summer League can be hard to decipher and figure out what’s important. For the Orlando Magic, they likely saw the core of who their players will be in Anthony Black and Jett Howard.

Still, some truths must emerge. Ideas about who these players are should emerge during Summer League.

There is no hiding who a player really is. And that’s perhaps what the Summer League really reveals. You’ll find out the core of who these players are and the one thing they might be able to do successfully once they enter the league. Something that typically goes beyond the numbers.

Anthony Black and Jett Howard were both solid, but they didn’t put up the stellar numbers that would seemingly lead everyone to believe their success is assured. That would only come from watching them play.

Black averaged 11.0 points per game. game while shooting 13 for 32 from the floor. He averaged a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game. He hit just 6 of his 11 free throws and made just 1 of his 6 3-point attempts.

In many ways, Black fought in the ways that everyone expected him to fight. He was not a great shooting school and his shooting matches continued.

Yet Black still had success in his time on the floor. He was an ace defensively, wreaking havoc against both Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin in those games.

The most important thing for a player like him was to look like he belonged. And Black looked to be in control of the tempo of the game – even with fairly few assists with 12 total against 12 turnovers (albeit with seven in one game and five in the other).

At Black’s core, he then looked like a player who could control the pace of a match, not be bothered by defenses and run the team at his pace. That’s what the Magic will most likely ask him to do in addition to his versatile defensive abilities.

And that’s ultimately what matters to him from Summer League. The team didn’t really need to see him as a dominant scorer, they needed to see him controlling the game and defending at a high level.

This is the core of who he is and what the Magic ultimately need from him.

They could say the same about what they saw from Jett Howard and maybe a little more.

Howard averaged 13.3 points per game. game, making 8 of 20 3-pointers. Perhaps what impressed the most about Howard was his extra energy and attention defensively and even work off the dribble. He at least showed some ability to attack off the bounce, but often got bogged down with odd off-balance shots when he did.

It was definitely Howard exploring the limits of his game in this setting.

But at its core, Howard was drafted as a shooter. And Magic likely made the shocking pick because, at 6-foot-8, he has more size and potential to fit the team’s overall versatility kick than the other shooters available. Those were the hints he showed in Las Vegas.

What Magic must have really liked was his shooting performance against the New York Knicks. There he showed his quick release and his ability to create some space off the dribble. The Magic need a sprint shooter who is a constant threat to catch fire, and that’s what Howard seemed to show.

The Magic certainly framed Howard as something of a specialist. And his success this season — and really for his career — will likely come down to the gravitas he creates as a shooter and his ability to hit shots.

Those might be the two biggest takeaways from the Magic’s rookies.

The question that will linger until they step onto the actual NBA court in the preseason and then again in the regular season is just what will translate. Do these core skills really matter, or is there something else we missed from Summer League.

Looking back at the history of the team, it is clear what stood out and what was sometimes translated. And then at other times, no one really knew what to expect. Summer League can be so mixed.

In 2017, Jonathan Isaac had an impressive 14.3 points per game. game and 7.0 rebound games in the summer league action with 2.7 blocks per match. From there, it was clear that he would be a dynamic defensive presence. And even though he battled injuries his rookie year, it’s still at the core of who he is.

In 2018, Mo Bamba averaged 10.3 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game. He showed all the size and potential to be a force on the perimeter as a big man. But he also looked a bit underwhelmed by the interior. It was definitely a taste of where he could struggle in the NBA.

In 2021, Franz Wagner struggled in his Summer League appearance, averaging just 8.0 points per game. But his connection and ability to fit into the team quickly improved. There were indications from scouts in Las Vegas that everyone thought Wagner would perform better with the main roster than as the featured player in the Summer League.

Also in 2021, Jalen Suggs had an outstanding Summer League showing, averaging 15.3 points per game. match and 2.3 assists per match. He was solid despite his injuries in his rookie season. But his shooting enemy missed completely. And the ineffectiveness (he shot 41.5 percent overall and 35.7 percent from deep) and his turnovers (2.3 turnovers per game in Summer League with 3.0 turnovers per game in the regular season) came to the fore.

And of course, Paolo Banchero looked like a star from the start last year with his ability to create space, get to the line and score in bunches as he averaged 20.0 points per game. game, 5.0 rebounds per match and 6.0 assists per match. Banchero’s complete game actually translated to the regular season.

Hindsight is of course 20/20. It’s easy to see now where a player’s mistakes were and what really mattered from the initial Summer League showings.

It can be hard to see. But there are elements that are core to a player coming out in Summer League. We do not yet know what these core properties are for Black and Howard. But they will soon reveal themselves.

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