We're back with the second edition of our series ranking all the rookies just by their Summer League performance. Obviously, this is just a tiny piece of the puzzle when evaluating these rookies as a whole.
There have been scores of rookies who have played horribly in Summer League and gone on to have excellent careers. That said ... last year's No. 1 rookie, Damian Lillard, went on to win Rookie of the Year, while the lowest-ranked lottery pick, Thomas Robinson, went on to be traded twice in a disappointing first campaign. Sometimes, Summer League performance can indeed be a harbinger of things to come.
With so many top picks -- Anthony Bennett, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel -- sitting out, I've added a few undrafted rookies to the list to get to an even 60. Let's get to it.
UPDATE: Andre Roberson, the Thunder's second first-round pick, was left off the initial list. He's on there now, so it's actually the top 61 rookies.
1. Cody Zeller, No. 4, Bobcats
2. Kelly Olynyk, No. 13, Celtics
This was a very difficult decision, but I went with Zeller over Olynyk for two reasons:
DEFENSE: Olynyk held his own, but Zeller in many ways was a force with his ability to move his feet. I figured he'd be good here, but what he showed me was even more impressive than I expected. He can legitimately check guards on switches, and he can cover for his guard when he's beat like he did here against the Spurs.
Zeller can also check quick wing players, cutting off Jae Crowder beautifully on this drive, allowing Jerome Dyson to get the steal.
If the Bobcats ever get good, it'll be a huge help come playoff time to have a guy with the kind of quick feet that Zeller has. He could act as a pick-and-roll eliminator, shutting off what's likely to be an opponent's best play.
TRANSLATABLE OFFENSE: Olynyk's offensive skills were really impressive in Orlando, but he also hit some difficult shots that he may not hit in the regular season. How do you think Kevin Garnett will react when Olynyk tries this kind of scoop shot on him?
Meanwhile, Zeller tended to score in three ways: pick and pop, attacking a closing-out defender and in transition. All three are the very ways he'll likely score this season. His release point on his jumper is a little low, but his form is excellent and I think he addressed any doubts that he'd be able to hit perimeter jumpers at this level. Combine that with his quick feet, and he has all the characteristics you need in a power forward in today's game. That all-around game makes him my top rookie in Summer League.
(This takes nothing away from Olynyk, who opened many eyes in Orlando and was probably the most consistent offensive rookie out there. Be happy, Celtics fans).
3. Dennis Schroeder, No. 17, Hawks
The most impressive 11-point, six-assist, 3.5-turnover, 34-percent shooter of all time. OK, maybe that's slight hyperbole, but Schroeder really turned heads in Las Vegas in ways that went beyond his statistics. He played at a pace advanced for his 19 years of age, gliding in jagged lines while beautifully changing speeds to manipulate any sort of room. He developed brilliant chemistry on the pick-and-roll with fellow rookie Lucas Nogueira, and handled a heavy offensive load well by finding his other three teammates for open shots. Defensively, he was brilliant, cutting off and hounding even the best lead guards he checked. He honestly looked like a young Rajon Rondo.
Sometimes, you can't measure a point guard's production by his numbers. As evidence, here's a nearly five-minute video of beautiful Schroeder passes that did not result in assists, either because his teammates missed or were fouled.
Throw in the tremendous pressure defense -- you can count the number of times he was smushed on a high pick-and-roll on one finger -- and it's clear Schroeder's impact went far beyond his somewhat pedestrian numbers. I honestly thought about putting him No. 1, but he'll settle for this spot.
4. Victor Oladipo, No. 2, Magic
The highest 2013 draft pick at Summer League handled the difficult responsibility of playing point guard well. He averaged 19 points and five assists, hit a game-winner, nailed his jumpers and generally maintained the same level of aggression he showed at Indiana despite the position change. The only reason he's down at 4 is that he struggled with turnovers and simple things like entry passes to the elbows in HORNS sets. That's to be expected, though, given the unfamiliarity with the position. It'll be interesting to see if him playing point guard was a real experiment or just a way to get him thinking about seeing the whole court as a shooting guard.
5. Reggie Bullock, No. 25, Clippers
So damn smooth, to the point where I was asking around wondering how he slipped to No. 25. One executive's theory was the teams in front of the Clippers were shooting for stars and felt they were set on the wings, but the Bulls, Pacers, Knicks, Bucks and Cavaliers all took different wings ahead of Bullock. Maybe they felt like Bullock was more one-dimensional than the guys they took, which may be true in the end. But boy, Bullock may have been the most impressive shooter in Vegas.
THE COMBO GUARDS THAT THRIVED
6. C.J. McCollum, No. 10, Blazers
McCollum was second to Dwight Buycks in scoring in Las Vegas, so why is he below the top tier in my rankings? Mostly because I don't think he was especially great in other areas of the game. He did not shoot especially well despite his scoring binges, and I thought his passing instincts were a little weak. Here's one example where he didn't think to swing the ball to the open shooter in the corner.
He also forced shots, such as here against Marcus Morris.
That's why I think his scoring numbers were a little hollow.
Still, he balled out in many other ways, showing smooth shot-making and the ability to at least run the pick-and-roll to get himself shots. He's going to score at the next level, there's no question about that. This also was one of the best moments of the entire Summer League.
7. Archie Goodwin, No. 29, Suns
I love this guy. He's the youngest player in Summer League, and up close, he looks the part, with a boyish face, clearly underdeveloped shoulders and an expression that always makes it seem like he's out of place. Meanwhile, he was the most fearless player at the tournament, throwing his body around against guys several years his senior and finishing more successfully than several top prospects. He showed a knack for slipping around defenders to get to the basket, whether to score ...
Or draw fouls.
There's no question that Summer League's open style amplifies Goodwin's strengths while minimizing his shaky basketball IQ. That said, he's still just 18 and demonstrated that he has some top-level talent that, if molded properly, will make him a steal.
8. Ray McCallum, No. 36, Kings: Sacramento has a knack for finding undersized scoring guards. Two years after uncovering Isaiah Thomas with the final pick of the draft, the Kings found McCallum early in the second round. He showed an ability to get to the rim and finish throughout the Kings' schedule, a rare combination in Las Vegas. He's still learning how to be a point guard and was prone to some pick-and-roll coverages that forced him baseline and took his scoring out of the equation, though.
9. Ian Clark, Undrafted, Heat/Warriors: Clark has a weird shooting motion, which may explain why he wasn't drafted. Fact is, though, he can put the ball in the hoop, and he did it well for two teams. His championship game breakout in Las Vegas was the final sign that he proved he could absolutely be a useful bench scorer for someone. (Note: was several spots lower before the title game.)
THE BEST WINGS
10. James Ennis, No. 50, Heat: I wonder if Ennis' strong play in both Orlando and Las Vegas helped convince Miami that it could survive the loss of Mike Miller via the amnesty clause. Ennis was a revelation, the perfect 3-D player that teams are seeking this year. He hit threes. He scored in transition. He got into it defensively, both on his own man and within the team setting. He grabbed offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line consistently. He attacked closeouts, like he did here against Minnesota.
Really, he was tremendous. The Heat have tons of wings already, but as they get older and require more regular-season rest, don't be surprised to see Ennis get some regular-season time. He appears to be well worth the second-round investment.
11. Solomon Hill, No. 23, Pacers: People were skeptical of this pick, but Hill's play in Orlando showed why Indiana selected him. He was brilliant filling in the gaps, hitting his shots, playing great team defense, rebounding and cutting beautifully. The versatility that Hill showed was especially impressive, as the Pacers sometimes had him check opposing teams' point guards. Look at how he locked up Trey Burke on this play, then ended up getting the steal at the end.
Essentially, Hill had the kind of Summer League the Wizards hoped Otto Porter would have. Porter is much younger, but that's still a credit to Hill. Maybe he'll work his way into some wing minutes after all.
12. Tony Snell, No. 20, Bulls: Holy wingspan, Batman. Snell is a twig at this point, but my goodness does he cover a lot of ground defensively. For example, here's how he cuts off Victor Claver's drive.
Here's another example where he stops Cedric Jackson's drive to the basket, then recovers to the corner beautifully.
Snell didn't do much offensively until the finale against Miami, but generally stayed out of the way and spaced the floor despite shooting poorly. You can see why Tom Thibodeau coveted him. Very few players have the kind of length to play off someone and still contest jump shots.
13. Jack Cooley, Undrafted, Grizzlies: Summer League's most surprising rookie went toe-to-toe with several top post options and beat them up in the paint. Why can't he be the next Carl Landry?
14. Lucas Nogueira, No. 16, Hawks: What a fascinating player. He has such great timing on his blocks and developed some beautiful chemistry with Schroeder in the pick-and-roll. At the same time, he's got to put some meat on those bones to be a legitimate NBA player. The potential is absolutely there, though.
15. Mason Plumlee, No. 22, Nets: Brooklyn's Summer League team was depleted, but that didn't stop Plumlee from providing nice athleticism and finishing ability out of the pick-and-roll. Summer League amplifies his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses.
16. Romero Osby, No. 51, Magic: Kevin Durant's favorite player put on a great Paul Millsap impression in Orlando, attacking the pick-and-pop decisively, slipping into shot opportunities with solid off-ball movement and throwing his weight around inside. The Magic have a lot of combo forwards already, but if Osby keeps this up, he'll find minutes from someone.
17. Steven Adams, No. 12, Thunder: Looked incredibly raw at times, but flashed enough mobility to show that there's clearly some potential here. In other words: he backed up every pre-draft scouting report.
PERHAPS A TAD OVERRATED
18. Gal Mekel, Undrafted, Mavericks: The Mavericks evidently thought more of his Summer League than I did, since they signed him to a contract and traded away Nick Calathes. I thought he was just OK -- he showed nice passing and good command of the offense, but also seemed a bit subpar athletically and has an annoying hitch in his jump shot that'll be exposed against better players, which is why he's down this low.
19. Deshaun Thomas, No. 58, Spurs: Played a lot like Shabazz Muhammad, in that he only moved to catch the ball and often cramped the spacing of his teammates while doing it. Difference is, Thomas hit his shots and didn't hold the ball once he got it ... at least for the first three games. Those last two games? Yikes.
20. Khalif Wyatt, Undrafted, 76ers: A shallow 76ers team was a good place for Wyatt to show off his vast array of floaters, runners and pull-up jumpers. I'm not sure he's going to be able to get off those shots as easily if he actually makes the league, but teams will always value difficult-shot makers.
21. Grant Jerrett, No. 40, Thunder
22. Erik Murphy, No. 49, Bulls
Bigs who can shoot are as valuable in Summer League as they are in a regular game, so it's no surprise that both of these players were impressive for their teams. I thought Jerrett proved he could do a little more, so I rank him slightly higher, but I wouldn't fight anyone if they disagreed.
NOT READY YET, BUT THERE'S UPSIDE
23. Glen Rice Jr., No. 35, Wizards: His defense can be erratic and he's still learning to focus on every play, but the Wizards may have a steal here. Rice's offensive game is remarkably refined for his age and he has surprising explosiveness that comes out of nowhere when he drives. The first name that came to mind when thinking of an NBA doppelganger is Gary Neal, and the Wizards will take that.
24. Andre Roberson, No. 26, Thunder: An oversight in the original piece. Added him back in because I liked the way he masked his lack of shooting. He's going to have to continue to find ways to do that to stick in the league.
25. Carrick Felix, No. 33, Cavaliers: We didn't really get to see much offense from him because he, like all other Cavaliers, was relegated to a front-row seat for the Dion Waiters Show. That said, I liked how he created open threes for himself off the ball, loved his defensive aggression and thought he ran the floor well. He's a better basketball player than skateboarder.
26. Phil Pressey, Undrafted, Celtics: The Celtics were among the most organized teams in the Orlando Summer League, and a lot of that had to do with Pressey. He was tenacious defensively and wasn't prone to the shaky decisions that plagued other point guards.
27. Nate Wolters, No. 38, Bucks: I was disappointed he didn't get more of a chance to run the team. We know, generally, what Ish Smith is at this point in his career, so why did the Bucks insist on bringing him to Las Vegas and having him split time with Wolters? I think it messed up Wolters' rhythm at times and made him force plays that weren't there, though I guess it was useful practice for being a second-string point guard. He eventually broke out with a superb game against the Spurs in the Summer League finale.
28. Tim Hardaway Jr., No. 24, Knicks: Looked pretty solid in the one and a half games he played, though he definitely fired a few too many difficult shots at the basket.
THE LOTTERY DISAPPOINTMENTS
29. Michael Carter-Williams, No. 11, 76ers
Carter-Williams was placed on a team without many other top options and with instructions to be aggressive despite his scoring weaknesses. That explains why he put up some sparking counting numbers (14 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game) and some dreadful efficiency numbers (27 percent from the field, 3-of-19 from three-point range and nearly five turnovers a contest). In other words: he was put in a situation that'll be much like the one he'll be dealing with in the regular season.
I suspect the 76ers don't mind those efficiency numbers. They'd rather see Carter-Williams be aggressive and try to make the kinds of plays he'll eventually need to complete in order to be a top-flight point guard. Their logic: better to fail trying than to not even try. The college version of Carter-Williams would never take a shot like this, for example:
The pro version of Carter-Williams, though, has to be able to hit that shot in order to prevent defenses from going under ball screens. Why not practice attempting that shot in a game setting when the results don't matter?
Of course, if Carter-Williams was more of a finished product, he'd be hitting that shot and committing fewer turnovers. That he struggled in both areas is an indicator that there's a lot of work left to be done before he turns into a viable starting point guard.
30. Ben McLemore, No. 7, Kings
By the numbers, McLemore played horribly early in Las Vegas, then completely turned it around late once he got more comfortable. On the whole, 15.8 points and five rebounds per game is pretty impressive, and that 19-point third quarter against the Hawks in the Kings' finale was a sight to behold.
But did McLemore really play any better, or did he simply make more shots? I'm inclined to say the latter. Most of the scoring he did came in spurts and/or garbage time. Consider: He scored 22 points in the second half against the Raptors and 19 in the third quarter against the Hawks. That's 41 points in three quarters. In the other 17 quarters, McLemore scored a total of 38 points. That's a massive amount of inconsistency that has to be factored in when evaluating his overall performance.
Why was he so streaky? Because he spent the entire time seeking low-percentage jump shots. It was an out-of-body experience, to be honest. As one official from another team told me, if you never saw McLemore play in college, you'd think he was one of the worst gunners in the league. It's telling that McLemore didn't have a single assist -- not one! -- in any of the five games. Assists are an incomplete measure of playmaking, but I didn't see McLemore succeed with many dribble-drives during the tournament.
One could argue that it's good to see the normally passive McLemore be so aggressive, but I think there's a difference between aggression and chasing shots. Aggression is finding a way to get to the basket both on and off the ball. Chasing shots results in plays like this:
Maybe the Kings want him to take those shots, but to me, that just gives McLemore a misguided idea of how to properly be assertive. I guess we'll see what happens when the season begins and McLemore is playing with better players.
31. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, No. 8, Pistons
The Orlando version of McLemore, basically.
32. Shabazz Muhammad, No. 14, Timberwolves
I do think Muhammad made a genuine effort to share the ball and play within the flow of the offense, even though he had low assist numbers, as usual. There were a bunch of decent passes he made that didn't result in assists because his teammate missed the shot or drew a foul instead of finishing. That said ... he still missed too many jumpers and failed to get easy looks off Minnesota's movement. I respect that he tried to change his game, but it's going to take a while, and I'm not sure the Timberwolves have the patience to deal with him.
33. Trey Burke, No. 9, Jazz
Burke got a rude awakening in Orlando. The big men are taller, the primary defenders are longer and everyone is quicker. For the first time in quite a while, Burke legitimately looked small on the court. He usually did a decent job of getting by the first line of defense, but couldn't finish or create space for open jumpers. Here's just one example of him getting to the hoop, then failing to score over a bigger player.
And here's an example of Burke not being able to get past his initial defender, forcing a tough layup attempt.
Burke may very well learn to play given his size, but his first four games in Orlando showed he has lots of work left to do to figure that out.
34. Otto Porter, No. 3, Wizards
I figured Porter's cerebral game might not stand out in the disorganized setting of Summer League, but he played even worse than I expected. I knew he was skinny, but seeing him standing next to NBA-caliber athletes really drove home just how much strength he needs to add to be a factor. That lack of strength forced him to the perimeter and prevented him from driving by anyone off the dribble. Notice how what should be a dribble-drive layup turns into an awkward floater on this play.
Porter was OK as a help defender and got out and ran more than he did at Georgetown, but otherwise, he failed to make much of an impact. That's how the second-highest pick in Summer League ends up being one of the worst players out there.
35. Mike Muscala, No. 44, Hawks: He hit a number of nice shots off the pick-and-pop as the third option in the Schroeder/Nogueira pick-and-roll, which was good. Played pretty poor defense and wasn't great on the glass outside of one game, which was bad.
36. Elias Harris, Undrafted, Lakers: It helped him that the Lakers' Summer League team lacked top-end talent, but if he's placed in a situation where he can play with a deep-shooting 4 man, he could be useful as a post option.
37. Robert Covington, Undrafted, Rockets: When he's playing 20 minutes a game on the Rockets in two years, you'll wonder where he came from.
38. Peyton Siva, No. 56, Pistons: He can really pass and run a team, so I'm a little surprised that the Pistons keep signing combo guards. Sure, he's small and not much of a scorer, but you generally want second-unit point guards to pressure defensively and keep things organized.
39. C.J. Leslie, Undrafted, Knicks: Other Knicks played better, but Leslie showed that he could at least be as good as James White. That's not a high bar to climb, though.
40. Vander Blue, Undrafted, Rockets/Grizzlies: He'd be really good if he could resist the temptation to fling line drives at the basket whenever given any sort of perimeter space. As is, his itchy trigger finger negated a lot of his aggressive drives.
41. B.J. Young, Undrafted, Rockets: Was pretty useless until the end of Orlando, when he finally was able to attack the rim like he did in college. Still, Summer League was made for guys like him who can get to the rim without structure.
42. Rodney Williams, Undrafted, 76ers: Summer League was also made for guys like Williams, who can't shoot, but can run and jump for hours. Things will change if he makes it in the regular season.
43. Tony Mitchell, No. 37, Pistons: Generally uneven in his play, but gave us one of the weirder buzzer beaters of all time, even for Summer League.
44. Ricky Ledo, No. 43, Mavericks: Played like a guy who hadn't played organized basketball in a year. The talent is there, but he also took a lot of bad shots and disappeared when paired with more talented teammates. Still, his strong performance in Dallas' opener offers some hope for the future.
45. Jackie Carmichael, Undrafted, Mavs/Heat: Flashed a nice 18-foot jumper that will serve him well in his attempts to make the league, but he's going to have to become much better defensively to stick.
46. Brandon Paul, Undrafted, Timberwolves: One current player on another team that did not also go to Illinois told me to watch out for Paul this week because he couldn't believe he wasn't drafted. So, I watched him a bit ... and thought he was so-so. He can score and move without the ball, but I didn't see much playmaking or defense. He may fit in well in Minnesota because wing players tend not to do much ball-handling in Rick Adelman's system.
47. Colton Iverson, No. 53, Celtics: I'll admit that he was a little quicker than I expected, and he certainly did work on the glass. Still can't score, but 5.4 rebounds in 16.6 minutes is impressive even in Summer League.
48. Rudy Gobert, No. 27, Jazz: Over time, he proved to be a big, tall guy that doesn't really move his feet well enough to play at a high level. But he at least blocked some shots and dunked occasionally, so he wasn't a complete disaster.
49. Gorgui Dieng, No. 21, Timberwolves: Had his moments, including in the final game of the week against the D-League Select, but generally seemed slow and tentative, often appearing to be thinking as the play zoomed past him.
50. Arsalan Kazemi, No. 54, 76ers: Didn't play much, but provided his usual brand of hustle, rebounding and pick-and-roll defense that made him an analytic favorite.
51. Lorenzo Brown, No. 52, Timberwolves: Got a major opportunity to run the Timberwolves' first-team offense, but didn't do so very effectively because he was a complete zero as a scorer. There were several times where he brought the ball down on a fast break and had to pull it out because nothing was there. Teams went well under ball screens and made him shoot, which cramped his ability to create.
52. Erick Green, No. 46, Nuggets: Starting to wonder if the Nuggets, who are so free-wheeling and don't really run a lot of intricate set plays, were the best fit for Green. He didn't make much of an impact as a driver, consistently getting stopped before getting all the way to the rim. That forced him to fling jumpers, most of which were errant. Because he wasn't getting to the rim, his playmaking wasn't there either.
53. Myck Kabongo, Undrafted, Heat: Had his moments in Orlando, particularly while shutting down Burke in the Heat's opener, but his lack of offense eventually caught up to him as the week went on.
54. Brandon Triche, Undrafted, Bobcats: Got his chance to shine near the end of the Bobcats' Summer League run and was impressive with his aggressiveness. Problem is, he didn't pass much, so what position can he really play?
55. Pierre Jackson, No. 42, Pelicans: Kind of hard to succeed when you're dealing with pink eye and a Pelicans roster that prioritized older guards instead of him. James Herbert has more on Jackson's wild week.
56. Allen Crabbe, No. 31, Blazers: The deep Blazers roster ensured that Crabbe wouldn't have very many plays run for him, and I think he disengaged from too many contests because of it. Focus was an issue for Crabbe coming out of college and that was evident in Las Vegas.
57. Will Clyburn, Undrafted, Kings: Clearly has some athleticism, but seemed to be trying too hard to make an impression.
58. Jeff Withey, No. 39, Pelicans: Got off to a late start as the three-way trade with the Portland Trail Blazers was consummated, and I think it hurt him. Also hurting him: the increased pace of the game. The Pelicans' bench had to encourage Withey to run the court harder several times during the four games he played. Like many players higher on this list, more structure would have helped him.
59. Raul Neto, No. 47, Jazz: Was OK running the Jazz's offense off the bench in Orlando, but couldn't hit a shot or create many high-percentage opportunities:
60. Alex Oriakhi, No. 57, Suns: Had him higher until I realized I had confused him with Arinze Onuaku, a similar wide body who played double the minutes for the Suns. Why did the Suns have to grab them both? Don't they realize how confusing it is for writers like me?
61. Janis Timma, No. 60, Grizzlies: Played 13 minutes a game and barely made any sort of impact during that time, so he'll bring up the rear.