The NBA Summer League has had a distinct Wildcat flair so far this year. Arizona has four players that are competing in the ongoing Orlando and Utah summer leagues, and they’ve certainly made their mark.
Going into his second season with the Orlando Magic, Aaron Gordon looks like a man on a mission. After missing a significant portion of his rookie year with foot injury, Gordon has been fierce so far in summer league.
In his first game, the uber-athletic forwarded ripped off 22 points and 18 rebounds in an overtime win. He followed that up with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals on 8 of 11 shooting.
He kept up his torrid pace today, dropping another 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. That’s the kind of production that the Orlando Magic envisioned when they drafted him in 2014.
For all his spectacular dunks, it’s Gordon’s improvement that has been most eye-catching. He’s shown an improved handle, allowing him to operate off the dribble more effectively. And he’s also hit 6 of 12 three point attempts through his first three summer league games, a stark improvement on what was perceived as one of his main weaknesses.
The way Gordon is burning red hot, don’t be surprised if he collects a Summer League MVP award to add to his stocked trophy case.
Another Wildcat, rookie Stanley Johnson, has also made some headlines. Johnson has proven to be a capable scorer, notching 13, 24, and 14 points in his first three outings. He’s also shooting a pristine 19/27 from the field (5/10 from three), good for 70.3% over 85 minutes of combined play.
Johnson has also been solid on the glass and on defense, averaging 6.7 rebounds and 2 steals per contest. More than anything, Johnson has displayed the confidence that makes him such a ferocious player. That confidence has resulted in Johnson being the Pistons best thus far, which should bode well for his chances at meaningful playing time in the regular season.
Point guard TJ McConnell also made a splash in his pro debut yesterday, scoring 6 points with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in his pro debut. McConnell was a starter in his first game and figures to play big minutes in summer league.
The crafty guard has a partially guaranteed contract with the Philadelphia 76er’s, but McConnell could parlay a strong summer league performance into some regular season minutes if things go right. Catch McConnell playing again on NBA TV toady at 4:00 PM MST.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has also gotten some run this summer, logging 25, 25, and 21 minutes in each of his first three games.
Brandon Ashley will join the action as well when the Atlanta Hawks compete in the Las Vegas Summer League from July 10th to 20th.
Watch all of Gordon and Johnson’s highlights below: