Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones III gave a sneak preview of what they could do at the pro level with solid first games at the Orlando Summer League.
Jones, the 28th overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft, looked very comfortable at power forward for Oklahoma City’s summer league squad that also featured Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, and Reggie Jackson. PJ3 hit the floor running — literally. He scored 16 points, making four of his first eight shots, and even knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing. He ran the floor well, set good screens, played within himself and didn’t force anything. He looked like a NBA starter, and easily the best player on the court.
When the Thunder selected Jones late in the first round many experts immediately pointed out that the former Baylor star could be the steal of the draft. After watching PJ3 hit face-up jumpers, grab rebounds in traffic, and handle the ball on the break, it’s hard to fathom how this 6-foot-11, 222-pound talent could fall that low in the draft. The Thunder are extremely grateful he did.
The other player who had a disappointing draft was Sullinger. The former Ohio State standout wasn’t even invited to New York to sit with his peers and then the night got worse when he dropped to the No. 21 spot in the first round.
Sullinger and Jones were matched up a few times in Monday’s OKC-Boston summer league action, each winning some battles. We already know about Sullinger’s power game inside, but he also showed an ability to get to absorb contact and get to the free throw line and make free throws. He was 7-for-7 from the line and finished with a game-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. The Celtics won 73-65.
“I can play. I can handle the ball, I can shoot the ball, I can pass the ball. Everybody thinks I’m overweight. I just want to prove people wrong,” said Sullinger, who has hired a personal chef and reportedly shed 15 pounds since his last college game. He is listed at 266 pounds, but appears to be in decent shape for his first pro game.
Aside from the weight issues, one big question scouts had about Sullinger is how he’ll be able to shoot over length. Sullinger says he can hit the face-up 18-20 footer, and he showed that ability against Jones and the Thunder Monday. He even buried a 3-pointer from the wing just prove to everyone he can extend his range. The face-up midrange shot is a big part of Boston’s offense, so if Sullinger wants to earn minutes behind Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass he’ll need to consistently make that shot. If he continues to progress he could fill the Glen “Big Baby” Davis role for the Celtics.
Another rookie who had a solid debut was Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic. The 19th overall selection out of St. Bonaventure had 24 points on 8-of-16 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds against the Brooklyn Nets.