Thunder Fall to Pacers, Finish 4th in Summer League

Thunder Fall to Pacers, Finish 4th in Summer League

The sixth day of the Orlando Summer League was a lot like the last day of a week-long AAU tournament. Players had less bounce in their step, and there was less chatter coming from the sideline. Most of the NBA scouts in the stands had been replaced by coaches from overseas teams.

That lethargic feeling was evident in a 35-33 halftime score between the Thunder and Pacers, which was hardly saved by a heated final few minutes as Indiana would ultimately take the 3rd/4th place game by a score of 89-80.

The Pacers were without their two top players Thursday, as first round pick TJ Leaf and Joe Young sat for rest. Ironically, at the same time the game was being played between the Thunder and Pacers on the floor, the trade between the two teams that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City was being finalized in the league office.

At this point in the week, there weren’t many surprises from the Thunder prospects. Semaj Christon looked more in control, finishing drives to the basket to tally 21 points — but 6 turnovers were still a problem. Dakari Johnson scored 15 points on the low block, though the team tried to put him in different positions as they had all week. Josh Huestis went just 1-of-5 from deep but was active on the offensive glass and scored 16 points. Daniel Hamilton capped off a disappointing week with 12 points and 7 more turnovers.

There were four key questions coming into the week, and after five games we have more of an idea of how to answer them.

Q: Has the Thunder found its backup point guard in Orlando?

A: I went into detail on this topic a few days ago, which you can read here.

Q: Is Josh Huestis ready to receive minutes for the Thunder?

A: Yes, but slowly. It was a really solid week for Huestis, but he didn’t show the type of dominance that would demand a large spot in the regular season rotation. It was really more of what you’d expect: solid and smart defense and an unimpressive motor.

The way he shot the ball from deep is really the tipping point in my mind. He made 9-of-21 attempts from deep, an excellent for 42.9% on the week. His job becomes a lot simpler when playing alongside guys like Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and if he can consistently hit jump shots I am confident that he’d be more productive than say…. Kyle Singler (for what that’s worth).

Q: Are G-League stars Dakari Johnson and Daniel Hamilton ready to make the jump?

A: It was a tough week for Hamilton, who admitted as much to the media after the game today. While his NBA window is far from closed, he didn’t do himself any favors in the five games in Orlando.

For Johnson, he’s definitely NBA-ready. While he’s not a future All-Star, his skill set combined with his sheer size has put him in a place where he deserves a spot on an NBA team. Whether that’s with the Thunder or not remains to be seen.

Q: Did any surprising talent emerge as candidates for a roster spot this week?

A: In reality, no. But I can’t quit on Dylan Ennis. It may not be with the Thunder, and it may not be this season, but I think he will have an NBA career. He was the vocal leader of the team this week, and his presence on the floor was undeniable. The way he shoots the ball fits the modern NBA, as he hit four more threes in today’s contest.

I’ll be back with some final thoughts from Orlando, but for now the team leaves Summer League with a fourth-place finish.

Full Summer League Recap: