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NBA Summer League: 15 Players Standing Out Early

NBA Summer League: 15 Players Standing Out Early

Nerlens Noel and Aaron Gordon
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Summer League is underway and players are fighting to prove themselves to NBA scouts, coaches and executives alike. Roster spots are up for grabs, contracts are being negotiated, and competition is fierce. Here are the 15 players that have stood out the most through the first few days of Summer League basketball.

15. Victor Oladipo - Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo
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15. Victor Oladipo - Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo
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Oladipo is a Summer League vet now, having been a part of last year’s Magic roster as well. After a solid rookie season in which he clearly established himself as a fixture in Orlando’s backcourt for years to come, he is now showing signs that he is ready to take his play to the next level. In his only game so far, he dropped 26 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, and in only 26 minutes.

14. Jeremy Lamb - Oklahoma City Thunder

Jeremy Lamb
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14. Jeremy Lamb - Oklahoma City Thunder

Jeremy Lamb
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Lamb is the reigning Orlando Summer League MVP, and he appears to be picking up right where he left off. After a solid sophomore campaign in which he became a consistent member of the Thunder rotation, Lamb seems to be ready to take another step next year. In two games, he is averaging 20 points and 6.5 rebounds and is making it look easy.

13. Elfrid Payton - Orlando Magic

Elfrid Payton
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13. Elfrid Payton - Orlando Magic

Elfrid Payton
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Another Magic point guard makes the list. Payton really struggled in his first Summer League game but responded with an extremely solid showing in his second, leading his team in points (12), rebounds (8) and assists (9). He looked cool, calm and collected in the way he handled the offense and showed why he rose quickly up the ranks of this year’s draft board.

12. Mason Plumlee - Brooklyn Nets

Mason Plumlee
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12. Mason Plumlee - Brooklyn Nets

Mason Plumlee
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Plumlee has been a model of efficiency in his first three Summer League games, shooting 75 percent from the field and averaging 18 points in the process. He clearly needs to focus more on his rebounding as he isn’t even pulling down five boards per 23 minutes. He towers over most of his competition and should be getting twice as many rebounds. Overall though, it looks like he is poised for another breakout year.

11. Jordan Adams - Memphis Grizzlies

Jordan Adams
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11. Jordan Adams - Memphis Grizzlies

Jordan Adams
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Adams has looked the part of a first round pick, averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 steals per game in his first two Summer League appearances. He is shooting a mere 44 percent from the field though, although he has been very sharp from three-point range, hitting at a 55 percent clip.

10. Marcus Smart - Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart
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10. Marcus Smart - Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart
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People may be surprised at seeing Smart’s name on this list since he has been shooting so atrociously, hitting only 21 percent of his 23 field goal attempts. But he has truly looked like an elite defender, and that’s why I think he belongs here. He is averaging three steals but that only tells part of the story. He is playing help-side defense, getting hands in defenders' faces and really making them uncomfortable on the perimeter.

9. Peyton Siva - Detroit Pistons

Peyton Siva
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9. Peyton Siva - Detroit Pistons

Peyton Siva
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Siva spent his rookie season bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the D-League, and it looks like he is fighting for his life, or at least a roster spot. He is second in the league in assists with 6.5 per game to Elfrid Payton’s 7, but is averaging twice as many points at 14 per game. He is also shooting 50 percent from the field so his efficiency is impressive as well.

8. Shabazz Napier - Miami Heat

Shabazz Napier
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8. Shabazz Napier - Miami Heat

Shabazz Napier
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Napier definitely showed his jitters in his debut, but rebounded to have a very solid game in his second appearance, scoring 17 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. He looked much more like the player that the Heat knew they were getting when they traded for him on draft night. He looked like he had firm control over the offense, although he still did turn the ball over five times. Obviously, he needs to put a stop to that.

7. Kelly Olynyk - Boston Celtics

Kelly Olynyk
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7. Kelly Olynyk - Boston Celtics

Kelly Olynyk
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Olynyk is another Summer League veteran that looks like he may be a bit too advanced to still be participating. He is averaging 17.5 points, seven rebounds and three steals in his two games. This is following an equally impressive Summer League performance last year and a solid rookie year with the Celtics where he established himself as a regular rotation player.

6. Hollis Thompson - Philadelphia 76ers

Hollis Thompson
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6. Hollis Thompson - Philadelphia 76ers

Hollis Thompson
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So I’m not sure if you noticed, but Thompson can rebound. He pulled down 14 boards, eight of them offensive, in his first Summer League game of the year. Time will tell if that was an uncharacteristic performance but it sure was impressive. He looks like he packed on some muscle since his rookie season, and all signs point to him being ready to establish himself as good role player for the 76ers this year.

5. Jarnell Stokes - Memphis Grizzlies

Jarnell Stokes
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5. Jarnell Stokes - Memphis Grizzlies

Jarnell Stokes
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I have been really high on Stokes since the Grizzlies drafted him with their second round pick this year, and he is showing the world why. He is averaging 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game so far. He just looks like a basketball player out there. He makes all the right basketball plays, has great fundamentals and is willing to do all the little things it takes to win. The Grizzlies got themselves a steal.

4. Nerlens Noel - Philadelphia 76ers

Nerlens Noel
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4. Nerlens Noel - Philadelphia 76ers

Nerlens Noel
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Noel looked like a man among boys in his pro debut. He plain and simply outworked everybody on the court. He made every 76ers fan on the planet realize that he is going to be well worth the wait. He sat out his second start, as a precautionary measure, but I can hardly wait until tomorrow night to watch him battle the Houston Rockets. I have never been this excited for a Summer League. Ever.

3. James Ennis - Miami Heat

James Ennis
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3. James Ennis - Miami Heat

James Ennis
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Ennis was a second round pick in last years draft and has been playing ball in Australia and Puerto Rico since, foregoing a paltry D-League salary. But it sure does seem like he is hungry for a spot on this Heat roster, averaging 23.5 points, six rebounds, and two assists in his first two games. And all of that on 65 percent shooting from the field.

2. Nick Johnson - Houston Rockets

Nick Johnson
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2. Nick Johnson - Houston Rockets

Nick Johnson
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Johnson has looked like a flat out player through his first two games. The Rockets got themselves a steal in the second round again. They seem to be pretty good at that. He threw down what will wind up being the best dunk of the summer in his left-handed throw down over Orlando’s Tim Ohlbrecht. He definitely cooled down in his second start, but still showed similar flashes of brilliance. Tomorrow’s game against the 76ers should be a good one.

1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Detroit Pistons

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
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1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Detroit Pistons

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
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Caldwell-Pope has been unquestionably the best player thus far in Orlando. He was the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, and now people are starting to understand why. With Jodie Meeks brought in as direct competition to Caldwell-Pope, it seems like a fire was lit underneath him that won’t be extinguished. He is averaging 26 points and eight rebounds in two starts, and looks to be the clear favorite to land a spot with the Pistons.