Despite a strong start, the Indiana Pacers found themselves in a double digit hole against the Utah Jazz late in the third quarter before a solid fourth quarter on both ends drew the Pacers back into the game, some big shots coming late from Rasual Butler as the Pacers wrapped up Orlando Summer League by winning the third place game, with a record of 3-2. Butler's performance was perhaps the most surprising, scoring 13 points, leading the Pacers back in the fourth quarter towards the win. Butler has been pretty much nonexistent through the first four games, but definitely came through with the game on the line.
It shouldn't be enough for the Pacers to look at Butler as a token veteran addition guy, but it was okay to see he did in fact have at least a little left in the tank. The leading scorer today was Orlando Johnson, who had 18, including 17 through three quarters. To this point, Johnson hadn't taken the weight of the team on his shoulders despite being the most capable scorer, but he was far more active today when it came to playing at a higher level with Miles Plumlee out of the finale with a sprained ankle.
Johnson went 7-13 with four rebounds, piecing together a consistent performance through this past week. It'll be interesting to see from this point what kind of role Johnson will play on next year's team. I caught a bit of a Dan Dakich this afternoon, hearing Bruno say he doesn't really expect Johnson to be a regular rotation player. It made me think about where Johnson fits in moving forward. He should already be solid ahead of Gerald Green, but Johnson will be the second or second and a half two off the bench depending on how often Vogel sets a rotation where Danny Granger and Paul George playing together.
Johnson not being a heavy rotation minute player may not be the worst thing, but he's certainly proven enough to suggest he can be an asset off the bench, making it seem his value could be somewhat under-appreciated when looking at what he can offer the 2013-14 squad. It'll of course be up to OJ to prove that point, and he'll be one of the many interesting cases when training camp rolls around, but I certainly expect Orlando to contribute on next year's team, somewhat consistently.
Solomon Hill found himself an abysmal 1-7 from the floor, but found ways to contribute with six rebounds and a pair of blocks, taking it right at poor Trey Burke on defense. Burke vs. Hill on that side of the floor was a nice matchup for what the two were expected to really do when it came to Summer League. The highly touted Burke went just 4-12, putting up some awful shots on his way to eight points and Hill had little to no trouble keeping Burke under control. Granted, with Burke's track record in Summer League, anything less would've been a concern for Hill.
But it's Hill who comes away from this Summer League as the team's MVP. Suddenly, a questionable draft pick looks a whole lot better. And I know, I know, it's SUMMER LEAGUE(!!!!!), but I do think there's enough to take from Summer League in consistency to know whether a guy can play. And Solomon Hill looks like a guy who can play. He'll certainly have his shares of struggles, but he appears incredibly polished for a rookie. There's a lot to look forward to with Hill, especially if he shows any kind of improvement from here to preseason.
Donald Sloan had a nice 5-8, 13 point, five rebound, and six assist effort, being the quiet foundation to Indiana's success today. Sloan also seems like a guy who can potentially offer next year's team some solid minutes throughout the year, though they should certainly be less frequent than OJ's. Jerome Jordan had his best game today filling in for Plumlee, scoring 10, but he was an epidemic rebounding, but so too was the whole team, with Rudy Golbert and the Jazz just eating the Pacers alive on the glass.
So next up is...well...summer time. The Pacers will continue to look for ways to improve the roster as the summer progresses, but with a successful Orlando Summer League in the rearview, it's up to the players to improve away from the cameras and get ready for what's sure to be an exciting 2013-14 season for the blue and gold. Sleep with today's box score under your pillow as a reminder in the meantime.