What Summer League Taught Us About Young Philadelphia 76ers

Zachary Arthur@Zach_ArthurSLCCorrespondent IIJuly 31, 2014

Noel looked like he was healthy. That's all Philly fans can ask for.
Noel looked like he was healthy. That's all Philly fans can ask for.Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers recently completed an incredibly successful NBA summer league that taught us a lot about some of the younger players.

Going 6-5 in both leagues doesn't sound like it was anything too special, but the games were more about the participants and less about the results. Still though, Philadelphia managed to win the championship while competing in Orlando, so there were some positives when it came to the win column as well.

The summer league was an important time for Philly, as it went into the NBA draft with a ridiculous seven draft picks. A number of them were moved out, while others moved in, but the amount of new talent didn't change.

Philadelphia went through a brutal 2013-14 season and will need the youth to step up if it wants to do any better this year.

Here's a look at which young players could end up being the necessary difference for Philadelphia and its results for the 2014-15 year.

Ronald Roberts Jr.

There was nobody who caught people off-guard more than Roberts Jr. He displayed the perfect blend of athleticism, determination and hustle.

It was more than refreshing to see.

Sometimes the summer league is about taking some time to watch young men give everything they have to make a team. It's not always a successful endeavor, yet there's a sense of courage based off a dream to play professional basketball.

That's why you can't help but smile when a player like Roberts Jr. comes along.

He managed to play nearly every summer league game at a pace that allowed him to be just a step ahead of everyone else. There were multiple plays per game where he would keep a possession alive on the offensive glass by back-tipping three or four missed shots in a row.

Other times he would show the kind of explosion that only a select number of players have by powering through a number of defenders in the paint in order to send one home above the rim.

His statistics were far from groundbreaking, yet there he was—continuing to impress in each game he played in.

His ceiling remains to be seen, but he should be confident in the fact that he'll surely get an invite to training camp when the time comes.

Casper Ware

It wasn't evident during his limited time with the Sixers last season, but Ware's play in the summer league looked like he was ready to assume a role as backup point guard.

A spark off the bench at the least.

The man may only be 5'10" on his tip-toes, but his height doesn't correlate with his ability to lead a team. Ware was consistently making the right play with the basketball and picking up his man at full court. The most important aspect of his game, however, was how he always remained confident.

There are quite a few different names for what Ware possesses, but the first one that comes to mind is "heart."

It would be shocking to not see him on the final regular-season roster.

McDaniels just needs to be slightly more assertive on offense.
McDaniels just needs to be slightly more assertive on offense.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

K.J. McDaniels

Philadelphia was the worst defensive team in the league, giving up 109.9 points per game during the 2013-14 season. Everything from its lack of talent to frenetic pace of play led to the team's defensive downfall.

The two best remedies for Philly's inability to guard people are to acquire people who possess defensive skill and those athletic enough to guard multiple positions.

Luckily, McDaniels falls under both categories.

He combines an athletic 6'6" frame with a long 6'11" wingspan, giving him the ability to defend point guards through small forwards. Having the confidence to attack the basket off the dribble and shoot from deep are just icing on the cake.

There's a real question regarding the starting shooting guard and small forward spot in Philadelphia. There aren't many veterans available to fill the positions, and McDaniels appears to be a great fit at first glance.

He'll just need to do a bit more than look the part.

McDaniels needs to play it.

Jordan McRae

Roberts Jr. might have been the surprise of summer league, but McRae arguably performed better than any other member on the Sixers.

McRae averaged 21 points, 1.75 steals and only two turnovers per game. His most impressive statistic also demonstrated his best offensive skill—slashing. Averaging 9.25 free throws and connecting on 86.4 percent of them showed just how aggressive he is.

McRae looked fantastic on the offensive end of the floor.
McRae looked fantastic on the offensive end of the floor.Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

There's always a large amount of hype surrounding underclassmen around draft time. This kind of buzz tends to leave players who have given four or five years to a university as second thoughts. McRae left the University of Tennessee with four years of experience, and it's obvious by the way he plays.

Younger athletes tend to be shrouded with a sense of doubt, and it’s usually due to a lack of college play. A sudden jump to the NBA means they're usually equipped with other gifts such as elite athleticism or great physical tools, though.

McRae doesn't have any of these traits.                                   

Instead, he's poised and always picks his spots with certainty. He's 23 years old and appears to be ready to step in and contribute on the offensive end of the floor on opening night.

The Sixers roster will have plenty of space to do just that.

Nerlens Noel

Noel is healthy and ready to go everybody.

Philadelphia was cautious about playing him for extended minutes and in the second of back-to-back games during the summer league. It made sense when thinking about the regular season approaching, but it was a bit strange considering he hadn't played in an official game in 16 months.

Apart from the interesting handling of his injuries, Noel played fantastic basketball that left fans excited about what's to come for the former University of Kentucky product.

Noel will enter the 2014-15 season as one of the most active big men in the league. He'll be particularly dangerous when guarding the pick-and-roll and protecting the rim from the weak side. There will be a learning curve on offense, but that's what will come with a lack of strength and limited skill.

Noel will change the game from a defensive standpoint. He proved it while playing in the summer league.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote an article grading Noel on his performance in the summer league. Here's what he had to say about Noel's overall grade:

Realistically, I'm not sure the Sixers coaching staff or fans could have asked for much more this early—even if it is just summer league. 

He's flashed the same bounce, athleticism and defensive prowess that we saw before the injury, along with an improved offensive skill set we didn't. 

At this point, Noel looks 100 percent ready to roll for Philadelphia. And I wouldn't be surprised if he gave Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins a serious run for their money in the Rookie of the Year race.

Of course, the sample size we've seen is tiny, but considering we haven't been able to evaluate Noel for over a year, an early report seemed necessary. 

For what it's worth, he's aced his preliminary NBA test.

We knew that Noel had the potential to be a great player, but we weren't sure if he was truly healthy and ready to contribute.

We do now, and the results are incredibly encouraging.


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