Best and Worst of the Orlando Summer League


Bench Warmer
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Not since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, T.J. Ford and Darko Milicic made their professional debuts here in 2003 has the Orlando Pro Summer League been so packed with so much young, promising talent.

Although this year's class of first-round picks -- Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez, Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee and D.J. White -- doesn't yet pack the same punch as James and Wade, the group will be memorable for years to come because of its depth, talent and NBA readiness.

And even steaming second-rounders Mario Chalmers and Chris Douglas-Roberts made their marks by playing with a purpose and proving they belonged as first-round picks. Chalmers secured a three-year, $2.3 million contract with the Heat, and CDR might have locked up a spot as Vince Carter's caddie with a strong week.

For a closer look at the highlights and lowlights of the week, here's a breakdown:
BEST PLAYER: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City

Ask the GMs who attended the five-day camp in Orlando, and they unanimously pick Westbrook as the week's top performer. Everyone knew he was a defensive ace with his long arms and burly shoulders, but he was far more effective offensively this week than most expected.

He used his size and burst off the dribble to get anywhere on the floor he wanted. Because of injuries, he never got to play against Rose in what would have been one of the marquee matchups of the week, but he had his way with Chalmers and the other guards in the camp.

Kevin Durant, the NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year, left highly impressed, and confident that the young core of himself, Jeff Green, White and Westbrook means that OKC will have a winner sooner rather than later.


Disappointing, not because Rose is some sort of bust as Chicago message-board doomsayers fear but because his right knee gave out on him after just two games.

The Bulls are stressing that Rose's tendinitis issues aren't serious. They believe some rest and an offseason weightlifting program will cure what ails him.

Possibly of greater concern is the fact that earlier this week Rose confided to Douglas-Roberts, his former University of Memphis teammate, that he was frustrated in Vinny Del Negro's structured offense. At times, he seemed somewhat mechanical and unsure of himself in his two games, turning the ball over eight times and handing out just eight assists.

But Rose is a can't-miss star, and the Bulls know it. The way he explodes off his hesitation dribble and already understands drive-and-kick concepts show that it's just a matter of time before he's an elite NBA point guard.

But Bulls fans had better get ready for some growing pains along the way. Just 19, Rose has some maturing to do. And his jump shot is most definitely a work in progress, as shown by his 29.4 percent field goal shooting.

BEST BIG MAN: Brook Lopez, Nets

No player made bigger strides this week than the 7-foot 260-pounder with a mean streak and a feathery touch around the basket.

The 10th pick in the draft -- who was overshadowed coming into this week by Rose, Beasley and Westbrook -- proved himself to be a force on the offensive end for a 4-1 Nets team that was the best in this camp.

Lopez's ability to use either hand around the basket, face up and score off the dribble, and even bury the 18-foot shot allowed him to thrive offensively. His comfort level and improvement showed as he bettered his scoring output in each of the five games. He had 10 points Monday against Orlando, 18 on Tuesday versus Miami, 22 more against Oklahoma City on Wednesday and another 23 on Thursday against Chicago's Aaron Gray and Joakim Noah. Then, he capped a strong showing with 19 of his 25 points in the second half of Friday's win over Chicago.

Rebounding (just 4.8 a game) and fouls (26 in five games) are concerns, but Lopez is clearly the Nets' center of the future. And with Nenad Krstic likely on the way out, Lopez should be the starter on opening day.

"I had the mentality to try and foul a lot, and I thought I achieved that," Lopez joked. "It's really been a learning experience for me, learning to slow down and let the plays come to me. I'm happy with how things went."

BEST BIG MAN, PART II: Michael Beasley, Heat

Watching Beasley, the second overall pick in the draft, it's easy to see why he's nicknamed "B-Easy." With his fluid moves, lethal left hand and the ability to hit shots from afar, the game often does look as if it comes easy to him.

But it's times like Friday, when he's coasting on the perimeter and heaving up four 3-pointers (all misses), that he needs to be reminded that he is, after all, a power forward.

Beasley showed the ability to dictate the offense from the high post by using his pump fakes and quick first step to get by other big guys. But he did struggle at times on the block, especially against the long-armed defense of New Jersey's Sean Williams. And he has learned already that life won't be simple as a rookie teenager trying to survive in a man's league.

"I had a good week, and overall I played decent," said Beasley, who finished tied for fourth in scoring (19.6 points per game) for the week behind OKC's Green (22.8), Durant (22.0) and Orlando's Lee (20.2). "I learned that it's not easy for a rookie out there."

Beasley, at 6-foot-8 (in shoes), will struggle at first against bigger power forwards, but his advantages will come on the high post and off pick-and-pop situations.

Huffed Beasley: "I told everybody I'm tough. I'm not soft."
BEST CAMEO: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City

Watching 6-9 Durant stroke one jumper after another in his one game Tuesday was worth the price of a press pass.

He had 22 points, 2 3-pointers and 5 rebounds in a single 27-minute appearance -- and, not surprisingly, his team captured its first victory as the Oklahoma City Nicknames-to-be-named-laters. (Drillers seemed to be the name of choice at the summer league.)

While most of his NBA brethren have been vacationing in the Bahamas and sipping on fruity drinks with umbrellas, Durant has been humping it daily in gymnasiums across the country. He worked out for a week with Green in Washington and ran drillls at his alma mater at the University of Texas for a few days. After this week's camp, he's scheduled to play in Alonzo Mourning's charity game in Miami, then train with Team USA later in the month in Las Vegas.

"From day one, it's been a hard thing keeping him off the floor," coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "He's a gym rat and enthusiastic about the game. That's a delight as a coach."

As selected by the 2.2 million viewers of the streaming video coverage throughout the week:

G Russell Westbrook, OKC (16.5 ppg)
G Courtney Lee, Magic (20.2)
F Michael Beasley, Heat (19.6)
F Jeff Green, OKC (22.8)
C Brook Lopez, Nets (19.6)

G Jaycee Carroll, Nets (13.6)
G Mario Chalmers, Heat (15.8)
G Earl Calloway, Pacers (14.2)
G Chris Douglas-Roberts, Nets (14.0)
C Marcin Gortat, Magic (12.8)

Courtesy of ESPN

Very surprising about Rose and his knee giving out so soon. I really think Lopez is going to be a solid Center for the Nets, not so much of a shocker there.