Some thoughts on Sixers summer league

Some thoughts on Sixers summer league
July 7, 2014, 10:30 am
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Nerlens Noel's work on rebuilding his shot appeared to have paid off in the first summer league game where he scored 19 points and went 7 for 7 from the foul line. (AP)

The Sixers' JV squad played two games in Orlando this weekend. That is a small sample size. But since the JV roster isn’t that far removed from the varsity version, no sample size is really too small for some reaction (or, in various cases, overreaction). Basketball. On the tee-vee. What fun. Here are a few notes we jotted down in our college ruled notebook. Stick figure sketches not included.

Nerlens Noel played basketball
Oh, hey, hi, hello. Sup. After spending the last year rehabbing his ACL and rebuilding his shot, Nerlens Noel stepped onto the court in a real game. OK, fine, a real summer league game. But there were refs and coaches, so close enough.

He began the proceedings with a dunk. Many people were excited. OK, fine, many hoops nerds watching summer league basketball on a Saturday afternoon while the World Cup was on another channel were excited. Summer league coach Lloyd Pierce was excited. It was exciting.

Other exciting things: Noel scored a game-high 19 points (6 for 11 shooting). He had three assists. And he had a game-high four steals and got those crazy long arms of his all up in the Magic’s business. Oh, and he made all seven of his free throws. That’s important. Can’t forget that.

Sam Hinkie said that if Noel can shoot 60 percent from the line, that would signify marked improvement from college where Noel was not a good free throw shooter. Some quick math: 7 for 7 = 100 percent from the line. More quick math: 100 percent > 60 percent. He’ll probably never miss another free throw.

Less exciting things: Noel blocked one shot, but he was over-active at times and tried to swat everything that came near him, his teammates, or anyone in the gym. Nervous energy, perhaps. And he got two rebounds in 26 minutes. That ought to be impossible for someone who is 6-11, super athletic, and regarded as an excellent rebounder. No biggie. One game. He sat out the second game because you can’t be too careful. The Sixers, especially, can never be too careful.

Noel is still only 20 years old. He has played one professional game. He is already the rookie (haircut) of the year.

It was hard not to notice K.J. McDaniels. After the Sixers took him with the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Hinkie talked about him being athletic and long and how he’s a shot blocker from the wing. That last part is rare, but in the first two games you could see the potential. McDaniels -- who averaged 2.8 blocks per game last year at Clemson, which is bananas (go ahead and do the spell-it-out thing, you know you want to) -- had two blocks against the Magic and contested plenty of shots against the Thunder. Very active defensively.

So far, he’s 8 for 17 from the floor, 2 for 6 from three, and 4 of 5 from the line. He needs to work on his handle. The shot from distance will require progress. But not a bad start.

It’s a short ride
Jerami Grant (selected 39th overall) was not as easy to notice as McDaniels. You had to look for him and he was still hard to find. He played just under 28 total minutes in two games and made one of his five combined shots. He should get E-Z Pass. It will make his trip to Delaware much quicker.

That’s mean. He’s played two games and I’m already shipping him to the D-League. I’m mean. No one likes me, me included.

Everyone loves Ronald Roberts Jr.
Last summer, Temple’s Khalif Wyatt got the local love. This summer, it’s St. Joe’s Ronald Roberts Jr. As July basketball overreactions go, this one falls at the positive (if premature) end of the spectrum. Roberts was one of the best players on the floor in both games, totaling 24 points (9 for 12 shooting, 6 for 6 from the line), 15 rebounds and one blocked shot. He’s 6-8, 225 pounds.

Roberts had a monster dunk against the Thunder. That prompted Isiah Thomas -- who did color commentary for NBATV -- to call Roberts an eye-opening player of the game. That’s less exciting when you consider the source. Thomas said he roots for three (three!) NFL teams, nearly ruined Christmas for many small children in a mangled Santa Claus analogy, and then admitted he didn’t want to watch the end of the game because he had dinner plans with Shaq. So. Yeah.

The Aaron Craft divide
Aaron Craft is like Johnny Manziel, only without the trips to Vegas and the stupid money hand gesture thing. That is, he makes you pick a side. If, like certain CSN co-workers I know, you love the undrafted Ohio State product, you will laud his defense and almost certainly use words/phrases like “grit” and “heart” and “gritty heart with grit inside.” If you do not like him, you will allow that he had a good college career while noting that he isn’t very athletic and shot only 30.2 percent from three last year.

You know who likes Aaron Craft? Isiah Thomas. Something about his Big Ten football mentality. That’s how the gem about Thomas rooting for three (three!) NFL teams came up. Sorry, Aaron. Isiah forced me to the other side of the divide.

Poor Pierre
Was looking forward to seeing what Pierre Jackson could do. So was he. Rupturing an Achilles in the first summer league game is too cruel.

Darth Bader
Travis Bader is the NCAA’s all-time leader in three pointers. He’s 6-5. But he’s not very athletic or good defensively, which is part of the reason why he went undrafted. Andre Roberson blew past him for a dunk on a play that brought this scene to mind. Not crazy about his regular handle, but Bader has the best twitter handle on the roster.

Arsalan Arrives
Summer league got more interesting. Arsalan Kazemi wasn’t scheduled to play for the Sixers until they headed out to Las Vegas, but he joined the Orlando roster on Monday morning. The JV Sixers' next game is against the JV Rockets on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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