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Lydon, Richardson salvage streaky Summer League weekend for Syracuse

Despite Malachi Richardson’s threes falling where they didn’t in his first game, Tyler Lydon churned out Syracuse’s lone rock solid Summer League performance indicative of NBA success. Elsewhere it didn’t play out as smoothly for other former Orange.

NBA: Preseason-Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This rebound could be a metaphor for the NBA hopes of former Syracuse Orange players in this year’s Summer League. It may not end well given that the Denver Nuggets have a million forwards. But Tyler Lydon’s summer debut lent some confidence that one of various Orange to shoot for the NBA recently could break into a rotation. The departure of Wilson Chandler last week also helped.

Seven days ago former Syracuse forward Lydon weighed the pros and cons of a rookie year injury. While he couldn’t practice, play or condition at full capacity after tearing his MCL in January, it opened up new outlets of improvement. Namely joining Denver full time after four assignments to the G-League three months last season.

Sideline status provided him with more time in the weight room. He put a few pounds on his 6’8” frame, he said, and now is likely above his formerly listed 215 pounds (ESPN now has him at 6’9”, 220 lbs. as the mystery of NBA heights continues).

Then the film room planted itself right in front of him. At every game he could witness cuts, movements and the nuances of the game that could prove difficult to absorb in the chaotic rookie transition to NBA pace.

After three weeks of five-on-fives and workouts since returning to basketball activity, Lydon’s playing in his second Summer League in search of opportunity and efficiency. He found both in Denver’s first game against the Timberwolves.

In their 70-69 win, he pitched into the victory over former Orange teammate Andrew White III’s (0-for-4 in eight minutes) squad with seven points, seven rebounds and a trio of assists. Lydon knocked down one of his two three-point attempts and caught a pair of passes cutting to the bucket for a layup and two converted free throws in 21 minutes.

“Mentally, I know my knee’s good. I know it’s 100 percent,” he said.

He’s also tweaking with his shooting motion. It’s difficult to differentiate much from his stroke at Syracuse — he dipped the ball low to initiate his motion from three that releases above his forehead — but there does appear to be an effort to make it more compact. Lydon mentioned footwork and release point as the two areas he fixated on.

We’ll get back to the horrific rotations that cleared out Lydon here — with hours to shoot through only a weak high screen — but the pass fired in low and forced him to break out the quicker release. While the ball still starts low it doesn’t completely dip on this shot, it directly flows from his midsection to the top of his forehead. It’s more in line with his mid-range release, which break right from his chest to the high release point.

The mix of defensive disorganization and the gravity of his outside shot at his position allowed Lydon to flaunt some passing at the top of the arc. Manning the high post played heavily into his facilitation game at Cuse and he smoothly played the angles in Denver’s win on Friday.

In today’s NBA having a multitude of creators, even if they aren’t Rajon Rondo or LeBron James-level passers, is essential. The Nuggets buy into that philosophy as much as anybody with the rate their star center Nikola Jokic assists. Lydon’s knack for pulling in defenders with up-fakes with his tight release and ability to read the floor up there will help him.

The onus on rotating and playing off the ball with the multitude of pick-and-roll play in the modern game seemed to strike him over the offseason as well. He slipped well through the defensive cracks and the Wolves rotated terribly. That allowed him to receive an early pass inside on the cut that he dropped. He recovered on a similar motion to hit a layup behind two snoozing defenders. Later he roamed around the perimeter into perfect attacking position to draw free throws again through horrendous pick-and-roll D.

Lydon only attempted three shots vs. Minnesota but proved the door is open for improvement that could land him an opportunity somewhere, even if Denver is too packed at his position. The team just drafted Michael Porter Jr., who eventually projects to play at his spot whenever he recovers from back injury. He watched from the bench in Las Vegas Friday.

Elsewhere Malachi Richardson recovered from a horrific 3-for-11 opener with the Raptors to shoot 4-for-5 from three (5-for-8 overall) with 15 points in a 103-92 loss to Minnesota. That must be the defense these ‘Cuse players need to see nightly. Look at these rotations above.

Michael Gbinije didn’t play in either game over the weekend with the New York Knicks. Lydon sat out for Denver’s second (rest), insinuating playing time likely rotates over the short Summer League slate of games, so perhaps we’ll see him in NYK’s third.

Chris McCollough missed all six shots he attempted against the Celtics in the 76ers’ first game. He sat out against the Lakers, both games ending in losses for Philly.

White followed up his hitless night against Lydon’s Nuggets with only four minutes of run against Richardson’s Raptors. He went 0-for-1. That’s 0 percent across three players.

B.J. Johnson managed to pick up something with the Hornets despite a 2-for-9 shooting split. He scored four points in 11 minutes with two rebounds before sitting out Charlotte’s second game.