Short-Handed OKC falls to Hornets in Summer League

On a day in which the Thunder were without its top prospects, the team lost its first game of the Orlando Pro Summer League, falling to the Charlotte Hornets by a score of 95-81.

Josh Huestis, Dakari Johnson, and Semaj Christon, who combined for 53 points in Monday’s win over New York, all sat out Tuesday for rest. Markel Brown, who had a breakout 20-point performance a day ago, left the team to join the Portland Trailblazers team at the Las Vegas Summer League. Neither team had its first round draft pick, as Terrance Ferguson remains unsigned for the Thunder and Malik Monk continues to be sidelined with an ankle injury for Charlotte.

Of the players remaining, the two with the most realistic shot at a roster spot in the NBA are Daniel Hamilton and Vince Hunter. They carried the load with 15 and 16 points respectively, but in terms of translatable skills, neither blew away the Orlando evaluators.

For Hamilton, the same refrain held true. Overdribbling on his way to the basket has lead to turnovers all week, and a reliance on the right hand to finish has caused difficult shots around the rim that have mostly missed, though in fairness you can’t discount how many hustle plays he’s made. One interesting development is how frequently he’s being used as a point guard, often even with other guards on the floor. He’s done so without turning the ball over, which is good, but he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with his production in that role. He’s been more effective creating for others than for himself, so he may prefer to be evaluated as a point guard instead of a wing.

With Hunter, he’s been everywhere on the court this week as the proverbial trash man. But creating his own opportunities isn’t his game, so his role will always be limited by opportunity. The real dilemma is whether an undersized forward with no outside shot has a place in today’s NBA.

In the search for a backup point guard this week, today allowed more opportunity to see Dylan Ennis, Marcus Thornton, and Marcus Paige. Unfortunately, they all have their flaws. Thornton can’t take care of the ball, Paige is a defensive negative and a rebounding zero, and Ennis lacks the quickness to beat his man and get into the lane. Of the three, Ennis has looked the best, because of how hard he plays and his length on defense. He pitched in 13 points and hit four threes today, while Paige had 12 with a pair of threes. But sadly for Thunder fans, none have emerged as better options than Christon.

The good news for the summer league team is that Huestis, Johnson, and Christon are expected to return to action when the Thunder take on the Mavericks tomorrow at Noon C.T.