Yours truly spent a fair amount of time this offseason discussing the gap between college production and NBA drool, the way NBA scouts routinely -- and understandably -- gloss over this little thing called "How good was he in college?" in favor of "How high can he jump?" and "How long are his arms?" The gap makes sense, but it's still occasionally baffling.
Nowhere in the 2010 NBA draft was this more true than with Kentucky forward Daniel Orton. Orton was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft last Thursday despite playing a mere 13 minutes per game for Kentucky in 2009-10. NBA scouts have long fawned over Orton, and there's no doubt he has potential. Nor is one bad day reason to start doubting Orton's pro future. But if you had to gauge Orton's NBA chances based on his first summer league game, well, things are not exactly encouraging.
Orton's summer league debut was, quite simply, a disaster. Orton went 1-for-8 from the field, scored three points, had five fouls (four of them offensive, and three of which came in the Magic's first five possessions) four turnovers, two rebounds and, in the coup de grace, was ejected for fighting with Josh McRoberts after a brief rebound tussle under the rim. It was about as bad a game as you could have imagined.
To Orton's credit, he's staying positive. The forward tweeted that he had a "terrible day," that he needed to "slow down" and "gather himself," and that he couldn't "believe he got ejected for fighting." The big man gets it. Orton could have a long and productive NBA career, and no one will remember a dumb summer league game in his first appearance as a pro. This could be nothing more than a mere blip on Orton's pro trajectory.
If anything, Orton's decision was probably validated by his first game, at least from a personal standpoint; it's a player's prerogative to get his guaranteed NBA money whenever possible, and if an NBA general manager is willing to give you a guaranteed contract based on little more than potential, why wouldn't you take it? What if Orton had stayed in school and been exposed? Maybe he made the right call after all. But if college types were looking for yet another example of why sometimes potential alone shouldn't decide a player's future, they got it with Orton. He's not ready yet, mentally or physically. Let's hope Orton's NBA path ends well. It certainly didn't begin that way.