The Orlando Magic clearly lacked NBA talent in the Summer League


Boston Celtics


Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic were on a run in the third quarter. They had found some rhythm and had taken advantage of the turnovers that typically plague this leg of the trip to Las Vegas. They had started to threaten a lead as they had once again let the balloon be too big.

Then Jordan Walsh and JD Davison broke it up. Just like they had played the whole game.

Walsh ended any hope that the Magic could make a run to get back into this game and steal a Summer League win in their final outing. He fetched a thief and a quick basket to close the door completely.

That only followed the defense he put on Quinndary Weatherspoon, limiting his ability to get into the paint or even get up the court. Walsh may not have scored a ton of points, but his presence was felt throughout the game.

It was clear — as it has been all this week in Las Vegas — that Anthony Black’s Arkansas teammate and fellow draft pick will find a place in the NBA this year.

The Boston Celtics ended their Summer League with two clear NBA players. When the Orlando Magic sat down with their players, their talent didn’t seem ready to step up to this level.

Just as it was clear that Davison was playing at another level. Just watch his passing to pick apart the Magic’s defense.

Summer League isn’t necessarily about figuring out who can play. The context of the games can be difficult to decipher. Players often play roles they didn’t want to play when they get to the main roster.

But you can still tell players who play at a different and high level. You can see who stands out and makes their impact. The most important thing is to be able to hold yourself and find your pockets successfully.

The Celtics definitely had two players who did that.

The magic? Their 0-5 record speaks volumes for what happened to them this week in Las Vegas.

And in the end, their 94-77 loss in their Summer League final revealed that there were no NBA-ready players to be drawn from deep within this roster.

Outside of the four players who were on the Summer League team, it’s hard to say there was much to get excited about with this group. And the results confirm it.

This may seem too harsh as there was interesting stuff from several players. But it felt like they were pieces of a player rather than a complete player. And it never quite came together during their week in Las Vegas.

Robert Baker took advantage of the extra time in Saturday’s finale to score 15 points and grab 11 rebounds, albeit on 6-for-14 shooting. Baker entered Summer League as a solid rebounder. But his lack of physicality on the block and his poor touch around the basket make it hard to imagine him making it in the NBA.

Baker feels like a likely candidate to earn an Exhibit 10 contract and spend another year in Orlando’s G-League system.

Dexter Dennis also stood out during the week with his energy and athleticism. He tried a series of crazy athletic plays — including a one-handed putback dunk that skated past the hoop instead of in. His defensive energy was evident throughout the week.

But in this last outing, he scored nine points on 4-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds. The good news is that five of those rebounds were offensive boards, and he still had an overall -1 in a game that was a blowout for three quarters.

Dennis made a positive impact on the floor in his minutes during the week. But without shooting, it’s hard to imagine him doing it for very long. But he certainly did enough to maybe earn a training camp invite and a spot at Osceola.

The same could be said of Au’Diese Toney. He scored four points in perhaps his worst outing of the week. But his defensive energy was evident throughout the week.

Magic coach Dylan Murphy praised Elijah Hughes’ veteran poise. He had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting Saturday. Something he did stood out.

But it doesn’t stand out enough. Not enough to feel confident that someone deserved their spot with one of the team’s remaining two-way contract spots (there are no full roster spots). And none lived up to the level of play the Celtics’ stars played at Saturday, let alone what the Magic’s most important players looked like in their brief time.

Everyone can see how NBA players look in these games. It may not be something that shows up statistically all the time, but you know it when you see it.

To the Magic’s credit this week, they certainly saw that in the four players they brought.

Kevon Harris was dynamic on both ends of the floor as he scored 21 points in his only summer league outing. He got where he wanted on the floor and got after the Detroit Pistons defensively.

Caleb Houston didn’t necessarily show too much new in his game, but he looked comfortable and confident in his second Summer League showing. He showed how much he had grown from last year, although there is still work for him.

Anthony Black appeared to be in control and command of the Magic’s offense in his three games. While he struggled with turnovers at times, he also seemed eager to explore his game. Things will change when he gets to the NBA for sure, but he held his own on both ends going up against the likes of Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin and winning those matchups.

And Jett Howard stepped up his game throughout. He showed much more activity defensively and explosiveness on the dribble. While he still has work to do to score from the jump, his 3-point shooting and the attention he received for it proved he could be the player the Magic are looking for eventually.

This is what NBA players look like. And the Magic simply didn’t see enough of that from their bench players to warrant much interest now that Summer League is over.

That’s ultimately what this trip to Vegas came down to. It was a success simply because it showed Magic what Black and Howard are capable of. But beyond that, there wasn’t much to be gained in a winless week in Las Vegas.

  • Published on 16/07/2023 at 01:18
  • Last updated on 16/07/2023 at 01:18

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