The NBA's Orlando Summer League has seen no shortage of former Syracuse Orange(men). From young players learning the ropes of professional ball, to guys putting in work to try to make a team, all aspects of the summer league spectrum are represented by the Orange. So how are they faring?
Michael Carter-Williams: The Budding Star
In case you've been living under a rock for the last month, MCW was selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers during the most recent draft. The Sixers jettisoned their best player and leading scorer, Jrue Holiday, trading him to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to Nerlens Noel and a first round draft pick. The move also left the starting point guard slot open for Carter-Williams to occupy right away. The question now is will be be ready for a big time role?
So far, Carter-Williams has shown the same things that Syracuse fans came to love and hate about him. In his debut he scored 26 points, snagged 7 rebounds and dropped 8 dimes in a losing effort. That was good. He also had 9 turnovers and shot an abysmal 8-23 (0-6 from three). That's not so good.
By and large, though, there doesn't seem to be much concern about the shortcomings in MCW's game. They were known elements when Philly drafted him and the poor shooting and high TO rate can be chalked up to nerves and the fact that it was the first time he's played with this particular group of teammates. It's also worth noting that, in his second game, MCW had 7 AST with 0 TO and is shooting a combined 14-15 from the FT line. That's the kind of line the Sixers will be looking for from him. A ton of assists, keep the TOs down and do damage going to the rim and getting to the line. The rest of it will come. Philly is clearly in rebuilding/tanking mode so MCW will get plenty of real, live NBA minutes to work out the kinks.
Outlook: He was a lottery pick. He's on the team (duh).
James Southerland: The Hopeful
Joining Carter-Williams with the Sixers'in Orlando is James Southerland. J-South infamously rebuffed a chance to be drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in favor of trying his luck as an undrafted free agent. The decision proved to be a wise one as it wasn't long before Southie had offers from the Sixers and the Golden State Warriors to play for their summer league teams.
Unfortunately, that's where the good vibes end. In two games, Southie is averaging a mere 3.5 PPG and 1.5 RPG. If Southerland was to make an NBA squad, two things needed to happen. First, J-Sizzle (TM) needed to show up. The guy that made nine threes against Arkansas and set the Big East Tournament record for made threes needed to make it to Orlando. That hasn't happened. And, second, Southerland needed to show he has value beyond his shooting. As yet, he's not rebounding or defending on a level that would justify keeping him around for his streaky shooting. There's more time left in central Florida for J-Sizzle(TM) to make an appearance and he's already got an invite to Vegas. Southie will need to perform better from here on out if he want's to make it.
Outlook: Failure to launch. A slow start doesn't necessarily doom Southie's chances, but it certainly doesn't help either.
Jonny Flynn: The Comeback Kid
Last seen in Australia, former Orange spark plug PG Jonny Flynn is attempting to make a comeback with the Indiana Pacers. After being drafted 6th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009, Flynn followed a promising rookie campaign with hip surgery that robbed him of his trademark explosiveness and appeared to derail his career. He went on to stints with the Detroit Pistons, Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets only to find himself out of the League altogether.
Flynn's play with the Pacers has been unimpressive. He's averaging 2.5 PPG, 3.0 APG and 2.5 TOPG. It appears the the hip issues that rendered him earthbound before are still affecting him. Syracuse fans know very well that Jonny's game is predicated on his athleticism. Without that, he has nothing to fall back on. He's small for an NBA PG, his jumper is inconsistent and he never was a pure, pass-first PG. This summer league stint with the Pacers only reinforces all of that.
Outlook: Brush up on your Spanish. As much as I hate to say it, it looks like Flynn's NBA career is over. He still has what it takes, though, to play for a long time overseas.
Rick Jackson: The Grinder
Late of the NBDL's Austin Toros, Monsieur Double-Double is making another go at the big-time with the Utah Jazz. After going undrafted in 2011, Jackson took his talents to France where his international career was cut short by an Achilles injury. He's played well in the D-League, though, even posting 21 points and 25 rebounds in a win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers this past January.
Rick has only played in one of Utah's games in Orlando, logging 14 minutes against the Houston Rockets. He was efficient in the time he played, though. He registered 4 points, 5 points and 3 blocks. Rick is showing that he's a guy that can be relied on for stretches in game and that can be solid filling in when the inevitable injury or foul trouble strikes. That's exactly what he needs to do.
Outlook: Looking good. Rick was never going to be a star, but has all the makings of a solid role player. Now that he's finally healthy, it looks like he might get his chance.
Fab Melo: The Project
This year's run in Orlando had been more of the same. Fab started out great, posting 9 points, 8 rebounds and a block in 28 minutes against the Orlando Magic. Then he fell flat again, averaging a mere 5 points and 2 rebounds over the next two games. Meanwhile, new teammate Kelly Olynyk has been dominating on both ends of the floor. The Celtics knew Fab was a project, but there will come a time when patience will run thin and a young, talented big like Olynyk will push The Big Bastard out of Beantown.
Fortunately for Fab, the Celts appear to be taking a page out of the Sixers' playbook. After trading veteran leaders Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, Boston is also entering a full-on rebuilding season. Perhaps newly minted NBA head coach Brad Stevens will see fit to give Fab some run to see if the big man can work out his game on the fly. The Celtics really have nothing to lose by losing. Their best bet is to find out sooner rather than later if Fab can develop into a player worth keeping long term.
Outlook: Now or never. Fab is a first round pick still on his rookie deal, so he's on the team. What remains to be seen is if he can stick with Boston, and the league in general, or if his potential will remain unrealized.
"But wait!", you're saying. What about the rest of the former Orange sweating it out in tiny summer league gyms? Rest assured, Orange fans, we'll catch up with Brandon Triche, Andy Rautins and Kris Joseph as soon as they step on the court.