The Orlando Pro Summer League opens at the Amway Center today with a matchup against, guess who, the Brooklyn Nets. This is the first chance the Magic's staff -- the remnants of the coaching staff and front office, at least -- gets to look at the team's two draft picks from this year's draft and make some evaluations on last year's draft picks.
Undoubtedly, the players Orlando will have its eyes squarely on is Justin Harper, DeAndre Liggins, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn. These are the four players that have the best chance to make the roster of the 12 players participating in the Summer League.
Unfortunately for fans, the Summer League is closed to the public. And unfortunately I will not be in Orlando covering Summer League (be sure to follow Josh Robbins, Tony Mejia, Andrew Melnick, Eric Lopez and the other Orlando media members that will be covering this year's summer league). However, you can catch every game on NBATV.
So who will you be watching? Glad you asked!
DeAndre Liggins (6-foot-6, Guard, Orlando Magic, @Dreliggs34)
Liggins showed a lot of promise late in last season. When the Magic brought him in, Stan Van Gundy raved aobut his defensive potential and he showed some of it in limited minutes. The problem is, Orlando is still not sure exactly what it has in Liggins. Liggins played in 17 games and 115 total minutes. Hardly a great sample size. But Liggins has that defensive potential. The Magic want to see what they have.
Justin Harper (6-foot-9, Forward, Orlando Magic, @Tru_Harp32)
We saw Justin some last year. But Harper played in only 14 games and logged a grand total of 84 minutes in his rookie season. The lack of a Summer League and the lack of practice time really hurt his development. He played pretty well for Strasbourg in France during the lockout but just never got his opportunity last year. Harper will be auditioning once again for the Magic and trying to prove his worth.
Andrew Nicholson (6-foot-9, Forward, St. Bonaventure, @nicholaf44)
A lot of people were surprised when the Magic took Andrew Nicholson with their first round pick. With Perry Jones still on the board, many fans I talked to wanted the big name with the high ceiling. That does not appear to be the way Rob Hennigan wants to go. Not now at least. Orlando went with a player who is pretty developed and was a low risk. Nicholson will get his chance to prove himself and show what he can do in the next five days. How is Nicholson's post game? What about his improving jumper? How does his defense look? We begin to answer those questions in the next five days.
Kyle O'Quinn (6-foot-10, Forward/Center, Norfolk State, @KO_STAT10)
O'Quinn has to feel a little unsettled about his position on the team right now, it seems. The Magic acquired Gustavo Ayon from the Hornets. He likely fits in on this roster. When he was drafted, I postulated he would be the backup center. Ayon seems to be destined for that role. So if O'Quinn wants a spot on the Magic's roster, he is going to have to earn it in the next five days it would seem. Or at least show enough to back up those four strong years in college. He will be going up against some solid post players in Jared Sullinger, Andre Drummond, Fab Melo, JaJuan Johnson and Cole Aldrich throughout the week.
Ish Smith (6-foot, Guard, Orlando Magic)
There were a ton of calls from Magic fans throughout the latter part of last season calling for more Ish Smith. Everyone was desperate to have Smith get more of a chance to play. Smith did not get his fair shake -- he played 171 minutes in 20 games although he did show a rare penchant for getting into the lane. Smith's struggles defensively likely cost him playing time. There will be a new coaching staff and a fresh start. But he does have to show improvements on the defensive end. Evaluations start Monday.
Charlie Westbrook (Guard, 6-foot-4, South Dakota, @C_Westbrook1)
Westbrook was a bit of a late bloomer (playing only two seasons at South Dakota before graduating) but had a big impact. He averaged 18.7 points per game and 4.0 assists per game last year for South Dakota, shooting 46.4 percent from the floor and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc. Westbrook is a scoring guard who hopes those skills translate to the next level.
Maalik Wayns (6-foot-1, Guard, Villanova, @MaalikWayns2)
Wayns was a McDonald's All-American back in 2009 and put together a very solid collegiate career at Villanova. Wayns averaged 17.6 points per game and 4.6 assists per game for the Wildcats as their top scorer. His shooting percentages were not great -- 41.4 percent from the floor and 29.8 percent on 3-pointers -- but he is definitely a player to keep an eye on this week.
Magnum Rolle (6-foot-11, Forward, Atlanta Hawks)
Rolle has the most NBA experience of any player on the roster. Rolle has been on NBA rosters during the regular season, although he has yet to log time in an NBA game. You hear his name at the end of a lot of benches. He was last on the Hawks' roster and averaged 14.1 points per game in 15 games (seven starts) for the Maine Red Claws of the D-League in 2011.
Luke Nevill (7-foot-2, Center, Perth Wildcats Australia)
Nevill has some summer league experience and training camp experience. He was on the Cavaliers roster for training camp in 2010, battling Shaquille O'Neal. Nevill has not played in the NBA, but is a long-time pro in Australia. In 2009, he was named the Mountain West's Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Last season for Perth, Nevill averaged 9.5 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. He has some experience in the D-League and in the U.S. It would not be surprising to see him make a training camp roster again.
Bradford Burgess (6-foot-6, Guard/Forward, VCU)
Burgess averaged 13.4 points per game while shooting 36.5 percent from the floor. Magic fans probably know Burgess best for his 26-point, 9-for-15 performance against Florida State in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. He was a critical part of the Rams run to the Final Four.
Dominique Sutton (6-foot-5, Guard, North Carolina Central)
Sutton started his collegiate career at Kansas State where he never really got playing time. With the playing time at North Carolina Central, Sutton averaged 16.4 points per game on an impressive 57.9 percent from the floor playing nearly the entire game for the Eagles. You wonder if the small-school competition had anything to do with his numbers. Sutton could get a decent look at guard with this team full of post players.
Ryan Thompson (6-foot-6, Guard, Centrale Latte Italy)
Thompson was a star at Rider and averaged 11.0 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting for the Utah Flash of the D-League in 2011. Last year for Centrale Latte, he averaged 14.1 points per game and shot 55.8 percent, starting many of Centrale's games.
DeQuan Jones (6-foot-8, Forward, Miami)
Jones averaged 5.9 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game in 17.3 minutes per game last season for Miami. He was a bench player and dirty work kind of guy. Good thing Bo Outlaw is one of the assistant coaches. Jones was the 21st ranked player coming out of high school in 2008.
Josh Owens (6-foot-8, Forward, Stanford)
Owens played as an undersized center for Stanford in his four years. Last year, he averaged 11.6 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game in 27.1 minutes per game. Not impressive stats. The question will be whether he can be a power forward/small forward combo rather than a forward/center combo player.
Kevin Anderson (6-foot, Guard, Strasbourg France)
Anderson was Harper's teammate in France while Harper was playing during the lockout and also a teammate at Richmond. He averaged 12.5 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc in the French ProA league.