Breaking Down the 2009 NBA Rookies’ First Day of Summer League

James Harden faces Jordan Hill
By: Zachariah Blott

The Orlando Pro Summer League, the first summer league action for seven NBA teams (the 76ers and Nets combined rosters to make up one team), got underway on Monday. Summer league ball is characterized by youngsters trying to earn a little burn in the upcoming season, free agents—many of them undrafted—trying to earn a roster spot, and first round draft picks attempting to prove that they’re ready to live up to the lofty expectations.

All told, six first round selections from the 11-day-old NBA Draft participated. How did they fare?

James Harden, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Selection: #3

Hype: Gifted scorer with so-so physical skills. His nose for breaking down a defender and finding a way to put the ball in the hoop is proven.

Day 1: Harden played 21 minutes off the bench, backing up Kyle Weaver. Harden did what Harden does, scoring 17 points in a variety of ways, all of them efficient. He connected on 6 of 9 shots, 2 of 3 3-pointers, and all 3 of his free throws. Throw in 4 rebounds and a steal, and it’s safe to say Harden found a lot of ways to stay involved. On the flip side, he had 1 assist versus 3 turnovers.

If I was an OKC fan: Competent scorer other than Durantula? Check!

B.J. Mullens, C, Oklahoma City Thunder

Selection: #24

Hype: Athletic big man who has supposedly “limitless” potential. His production and defense in one year at Ohio State, however, were quite limited.

Day 1: Mullens did very little on the boards, clearing them for only 3 rebounds in 22 minutes of play, which is even worse when you realize the opposing Celtics made only 41% of their shots. He hit 4 of 9 shots and 3 of 4 free throws for 11 points. Mullens also had 3 personal fouls and 0 blocks.

If I was an OKC fan: He’s so talented that he has to be good eventually. Right?

Terrence Williams, SG/SF, New Jersey Nets

Selection: #11

Hype: High-IQ player who plays great defense. Williams is known more for rebounding, smart passing, and locking opponents down than for scoring.

Day 1: Williams continued his assault on the boards, pulling down 9 rebounds in 35 big minutes. Granted, only 1 of them was on the offensive end, but he also contributed 3 blocks and 2 steals. Did this defensive gem of a game (at least statistically) have any offense to go with it? In a word: no. Williams made only 1 of 8 shots for 2 measly points.

If I was a NJ fan: Well, we got what we expected.

Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

Selection: #17

Hype: Super athletic point guard who had underwhelming production in his one year at UCLA. Holiday is known for his heady, mature game that doesn’t rely on any one trademark skill.

Day 1: Holiday’s production was again underwhelming. In a day-high 38 minutes, Holiday had 2 assists to 5 turnovers, and 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting. I’m curious how big his 4 steals and 2 blocks came across to observers who couldn’t have been impressed by his ability to set up an offense.

If I was a Philly fan: Boooo!

Tyler Hansbrough, PF, Indiana Pacers

Selection: #13

Hype: Hansbrough’s motor is always on, but can his great effort make up for skills many experts don’t expect to translate well at the NBA level?

Day 1: In what must have been a huge exhale for Larry Bird, Hansbrough showed he belonged, at least for one game. He scored a team-high 17 points in 25 minutes, connecting on 6 of 13 shots and 5 of 8 freebies. In the effort stats, Psycho T had 3 steals and 3 offensive boards (out of 5 total). He also got called for 5 personal fouls, possibly a career high after the ACC refs catered to his every need for the past 4 years.

If I was an Indy fan: Wow, Bird may have been right…

Eric Maynor, PG, Utah Jazz

Selection: #20

Hype: Smart and crafty point who does everything well, but nothing amazing. See what I said before the draft.

Day 1: Maynor played with a collection of duds Monday evening that scored only 19 points in the first half and got blown out 87-56 by Boston. Maynor was one of very few bright spots for the Jazz in the game. Playing 25 minutes in a starting role, Deron Williams’ new backup made smart decisions to the tune of 4 assists and 0 turnovers, and this is on a team that turned it over 19 times yesterday. He shot a decent 4 of 9 for 9 points, collected 4 rebounds, and was called for only 1 foul against Boston’s starting guards who both played in the league last year.

If I was a Utah fan: I knew who he was at VCU, I swear.

Zachariah Blott is an English teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.

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