Summer league gets started Sunday, and that means we’ll get our first look at the Thunder’s newest crop of rookies, as well as a glimpse of how much better returning players have become since the end of the season.
Here’s our story on the Thunder’s summer league roster, schedule and how you can watch the games.
But for those of us who are fans of the NBA at large, summer league always holds our interest because it’s also the first chance to see new blood from other ball clubs.
But when the Thunder stopped competing at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and committed to Orlando only in 2010, the team walked away from many of draft’s top talents. The Orlando league annually brings together far fewer teams, and with half of those teams being consistent playoff qualifiers the best rookies simply haven’t been around. Take last year for instance.
Only one top 10 pick competed in Orlando last summer. It was ninth overall pick Andre Drummond. Only two top 15 picks, Drummond and No. 15 overall pick Maurice Harkless, were in Orlando. There were only three top 20 picks — Drummond, Harkless and 19th overall selection Andrew Nicholson.
Additionally, only eight first round picks were in Orlando last year, Drummond, Harkless, Nicholson, Jared Sullinger (21), Fab Melo (22), Miles Plumlee (26), Arnett Moultrie (27) and Perry Jones III (28). And Moultrie didn’t compete because of a high ankle sprain. That left seven first rounders, three of them (Nicholson, Melo and Plumee) who were hard to get excited about.
That won’t be the case this year.
Thanks in large part to last week’s wildly unpredictable draft, the Orlando summer league will be infused with some of this year’s best rookies. The league will feature four top 10 picks, seven of the top 15 selections and 11 first-round picks.Nerlens Noel, who was widely projected to be go first overall, slipped to sixth before being traded to Philadelphia. Noel, however, will not compete because he still is recovering from a torn ACL he sustained late in his lone season at Kentucky.
A few of the more intriguing names that will compete this year include Orlando guard Victor Oladipo (2), Detroit guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (8), Utah guard Trey Burke (9), Philadelphia guard Michael Carter-Williams (11), Thunder center Steven Adams (12), Boston forward Kelly Olynyk (13) and Brooklyn center Mason Plumlee (22).
Other rookies to watch will be Utah center Rudy Gobert, the 27th overall selection out of France, Houston guard Isaiah Cannan (34), Detroit forward Tony Mitchell (37) and Orlando forward and former OU standout Romero Osby (51).
Here are the rosters for every other team competing in the Orlando league.