Previewing the Orlando Pro Summer League

The Orlando Pro Summer League will begin Saturday morning on Amway Center's practice court. The league is closed to the public, but all of the games will be televised on NBA TV. Here's a look at some of the key storylines to watch.

The key rookies
The Orlando Magic's team will feature two rookie lottery picks: forward Aaron Gordon and point guard Elfrid Payton.

"They're competitors," said Wes Unseld Jr., a Magic assistant coach who will serve as the head coach of Orlando's summer-league team.

Magic officials want to give Gordon and Payton some momentum heading into the rest of the offseason and training camp in October. Summer-league play should give Gordon and Payton a better sense of what they need to improve as they transition to pro basketball.

"I think you just have to be smarter," Gordon said. "That's really what it comes down to, because a lot of people in college are athletic and they're long. You've just got to be smarter with your moves, more precise, more crisp. There's less room for error."

Marble's chance
The summer league is crucial for rookies picked in the second round. League games offer players an opportunity to vie for a regular-season roster spot.

Devyn Marble, the 56th overall pick in this year's draft, needs to make an impression on the Magic, but he'll also be playing at a somewhat unfamiliar position.

In college at Iowa, the 6-foot-6 rookie played point guard and shooting guard, but now he'll primarily play small forward and a bit of shooting guard. The toughest transition will be guarding opposing small forwards.

"I'm just working and trying to show them that I'm worthy of being on the team," Marble said.

"I have the size and as I get stronger, I'll have the ability to be able to guard most 3s in the league. Just my versatility defensively and having the ability to guard several different positions I think gives me the edge on the court."

Van Gundy returns
Stan Van Gundy, the Detroit Pistons' new coach and president of basketball operations, will attend the league's games. It's believed Saturday will be the first day Van Gundy has stepped inside Amway Center since the Magic fired him following the 2011-12 season.

Van Gundy won't coach the Pistons in summer-league play, but he's attended the Pistons' practices the last few days in Orlando.

"At some point, I'll actually be coaching," Van Gundy said. "But it's nice to be back in a gym with a team. It's been a long time, so it's fun. I get to step in and make a point [as a coach] every now and then. It's good. It's fun to watch and think about the coaching part of it."

Pistons veterans Andre Drummond, Kyle Singler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have practiced with Detroit's summer-league team. Van Gundy said Drummond wanted to play in summer-league games, but the team will hold him out. Drummond and Singler don't need the game experience that summer league provides.

Noel's comeback
Nerlens Noel was widely considered as the 2013 NBA Draft's top prospect until he suffered a serious knee injury during his freshman season at Kentucky.

The opportunistic Philadelphia 76ers acquired him through a draft-night trade and then had him sit out the entire 2013-14 season as he rehabbed his knee. Having Noel sit out made sense partly because the team was seeking to improve its chances of winning the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery.

Noel is expected to make his pro debut Saturday, when the 76ers face the Magic at 1 p.m.

Noel should be rusty, but it'll be fascinating to see how explosive he is.

Smart's debut
The Boston Celtics used the sixth pick in this year's draft to select rugged Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart.

Smart played two seasons in college, and he could dominate in summer-league play and could contend for NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2014-15.

Smart should have some additional motivation when the Celtics face the Magic on Thursday. The Magic used the fourth overall to pick Gordon and didn't select Smart.

Smart, Gordon and Payton are the only three lottery picks from this year's draft who are on teams that will participate in Orlando's summer league.

What's new?
There are a few new wrinkles this year.

For the first time, no team will play more than three consecutive days without a rest day.

As a result, the league will run seven days after it ran six days last year.

On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, there will only be three games a day. (Last year, there was only one day that had just three games.)

This year, in a travel-saving move, the Utah Jazz have elected to leave the league in Orlando and participate in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. That means intriguing Australian point guard Danté Exum, whom the Jazz drafted fifth overall, won't be playing in Orlando's summer league.

The Memphis Grizzlies have taken the Jazz's place in Orlando. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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