Former Coach Cal stars make good impressions in NBA Summer League

Nine former John Calipari players — all former Kentucky Wildcats — performed in NBA Summer League competition this year. The leagues, which took place July 7-12 in Orlando, Fla., and in Las Vegas from July 12-22, are generally reserved for rookies and second-year players.

A portion of the ex-Cats were playing for NBA roster spots, while others were working to better their games in an effort to maximize their professional playing time. It should be noted that Nerlens Noel, who is with the Philadelphia 76ers, did not play in the summer league as he continues to rehab from knee surgery. Here is a recap of of each ex-Cats’ Summer League performance:

Archie Goodwin (Phoenix Suns)

Stats: seven games, 24.6 minutes per game, 13.1 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 50.0 field-goal percentage (26 of 52), 57.1 3-point field-goal percentage

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the NBA Summer League, the second-youngest player in the 2013 NBA Draft — Goodwin turns 19 in August — displayed exciting explosiveness, particularly with his first step, as he blew by defenders on his way to the rim. Goodwin, who helped lead the Suns to the NBA Summer League championship, not only accepted contact, but he seemed to invite physicality, as he proved to be an offensive catalyst for the Suns. He certainly seemed to benefit from a more open lane in the NBA and looks to have improved his shooting form.

“You see his talent and his skill level where you get him out on the break and he takes one or two dribbles, and he’s dunking the ball,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said about Goodwin. “That’s pretty good.”

The Suns have made it no secret they plan to pursue an uptempo offensive game this season. The addition of Goodwin, along with the pickup of former Wildcat Eric Bledsoe, should boost that effort, making the Suns a dangerous offensive club.

Terrence Jones (Houston Rockets)

Stats: four games, 27.5 mpg, 15.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 assists per game, 42.2 FG% (19 of 48), 36.4 3-point FG% (4 of 11)

Jones was the seventh-leading scorer in Orlando Summer League action, and he emphatically put his game together in the Rockets’ final contest when he scored 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting against Philadelphia.

Vying to become the Rockets’ go-to power forward after the four position proved to be a weak and unproductive spot last season for Houston, Jones took a serious step toward climbing the depth chart and partnering with newly acquired Dwight Howard in the front court. Jones will battle Donatas Motiejunas and Omri Casspi going forward for power forward playing time, but Jones, a Summer League First Team performer, showed he is capable of handling the scoring and rebounding responsibilities of a big forward.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is working with former sharpshooter Mark Price on honing his shooting technique. (photo courtesy of UK Athletics)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Bobcats)

Stats: three games, 27.7 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.3 steals per game, 54.2 FG% (13 of 24).

Charlotte brought in former Georgia Tech sharpshooter Mark Price to help Kidd-Gilchrist with his jump shot after the 2012 NBA Draft No. 2 pick made just 27.2 percent of his jump shots in his rookie year (does not include layups, dunks, etc.). The ploy seems to have significantly improved Kidd-Gilchrist’s shooting accuracy during Summer League competition.

“I think what most everybody is looking at right now is where his elbow is, the hitch in his shot, things like that,” Price told CBS Sports. “But there’s a lot of balance , footwork, getting your body in position, squared up to shoot the basketball. I start with the feet and move up.”

Doron Lamb (Orlando Magic)

Stats: three games, 25.0 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 spg, 50.0 FG% (10 of 20), 66.7 3-point FG% (6 of 9)

Lamb played in only 17 minutes in the first game of the Summer League season, scoring five points, but in the final two contests, Lamb turned it on, averaging 29.5 minutes of action while averaging 14.5 points on 5-of-7 3-point accuracy,

The Brooklyn native is simply one of the best pure shooters on the Orlando roster, but he spent part of his three Summer League games playing the point. Lamb must continue to work on his passing and defensive to see serious playing time this season.

DeAndre Liggins (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Stats: four games, 23.0 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 spg

Liggins, a known defensive commodity after spending parts of two seasons in the NBA, will take on rookie Reggie Jackson (the Orlando Summer League’s leading scorer), and former UConn star Jeremy Lamb for a roster spot.

Darius Miller (New Orleans Pelicans)

Stats: five games, 29.8 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 44.6 FG% (25 of 56), 39.1 3-point FG% (9 of 23)

Miller performed quite admirably in summer league action as he attempts to gain a bit of separation from the plethora of guards and wing players vying for playing time. Two areas the club would like to see Miller improve on, though, is rebounding and defense.

“I still want Darius to compete on the defensive end,” Bryan Gates, Miller’s Summer League coach said. “I want him to be that guy that gets in there and grinds out those loose balls, automatically diving on the floor and automatically getting rebounds.”

Daniel Orton (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Stats: three games, 16.7 mpg, 12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.7 blocks per game, 66.7 FG% (16 of 24)

After battling knee problems for the last few years, Orton is now fighting with Hasheem Thabeet to be the backup center for Oklahoma City, and his outstanding summer numbers will most likely aid him in his efforts.

“After watching him play, you know that he has the talent and he is an NBA player,” Rex Kalamian, Thunder assistant coach said about Orton. “He’s got a lot of skill.”

Marquis Teague may have forced the Chicago Bulls to free up some more playing time for him in his second season after a sensational 2013 Summer League. (photo courtesy of UK Athletics)

Marquis Teague (Chicago Bulls)

Stats: four games, 30.5 mpg, 18.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.8 rpg, 44.0 FG% (25 of 56), 39.1 3-point FG% (9 of 23)

Teague simply had a highly productive summer, checking in as the eighth-leading scorer and fifth top assist man in Las Vegas. Over his final two contests of the summer, Teague dished out 14 dimes against only five turnovers.

Although struggling to be an effective defender at the NBA level, Teague’s outstanding ball handling and outrageous quickness with the ball in his hands will ensure an increase in playing time over last season. Kirk Hinrich and his huge contract stand in the way of Teague becoming Derrick Rose’s backup this season, but Teague’s long-term future certainly looks bright.

“The biggest thing is his preparation,” Bulls head coach Thom Thibodeau told ESPNChicago.com. ”I’m very excited about the way he came back after the season was over. The way he worked to get ready to play in the summer league this year was entirely different than his rookie year.”

Eloy Vargas (New York Knicks)

Stats: five games, 15.8 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 48.0 FG% (12 of 25), 40.0 3-point FG%  (2 of 5)

Some thought Vargas was given an opportunity with the Knicks this summer because of his relationship with Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson, and maybe that’s true, but Vargas impressed with his ability to maneuver around the basket and hustle to get himself open looks.

Although a dark horse to make the Knicks’ opening day roster, Vargas, at minimum, gave the New York brain trust ample reason to consider him a viable backup big man option.