Summer League So Far: TJ Leaf, Joe Young, Travis Leslie

The Pacers have won both of their first two Summer League games to start off the week in Orlando, beating Charlotte 84-77 today and beating Orlando 85-74 yesterday, but the wins and losses don’t really matter, it’s all about how the young guys are playing, whose showing improvement or worthy of a further look in training camp.

With that in mind, here’s how some of the Pacers roster has performed after two games:

Joe Young: Young struggled early in the first game, committing five turnovers in the first half, but he’s only had three turnovers in the next six quarters. Young isn’t trying to only score in these games like in his first two SL appearances, but is trying to show that he can play point guard at an NBA level. He’s found shooters in the corners on multiple occasions after getting into the lane and found cutters with timely passes as well. He’s put up 13 assists in the opening pair of contests. He played well against an NBA-caliber defensive point guard in Briante Weber today, which is an encouraging sign for his potential next year. Defense is still a struggle for Young as opposing point guards have been able to get wherever they want to go, but part of that is the Pacers bigs being unsure whether to hedge or not on the pick and roll.

All in all, it’s a good couple of games for Young as he’s scored the ball efficiently while also running the offense and setting up teammates with on-time, on-target passes.

TJ Leaf: Leaf missed the first game because his brother was getting married, so his first action as a member of the Indiana Pacers came today. Early on, it looked like the nerves were getting to the rookie as he had a turnover on his first two touches of the game. Once he re-entered the game in the second quarter, he seemed to settle into a rhythm and show why the Pacers drafted him with their first-round pick.

Leaf scored his first bucket with a nice left-hand drive to get past the bigger defender. He was battling a a 7’0″ 300-pound center on defense down low and while Leaf confirmed that he’ll need to add strength to his 19-year-old body while giving up some easy baskets, he forced a couple misses out of him as well. Leaf finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, scoring in a variety of ways. He also added five rebounds.

Defensively, his biggest issue is defending the pick and roll. He’ll have to learn how to effectively hedge on those plays instead of playing back like he does below. Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers were aware that he’ll need work on this end when they drafted him as Pritchard said that he expects Nate McMillan to make him better on defense.

Georges Niang and Rakeem Christmas: Unfortunately for the Pacers, Niang was injured just a minute into the first summer league game. He’s out for the rest of the week with a knee sprain. Christmas has missed the first two games with a sprained ankle. The timing isn’t great for either of them as they’re on the fringes of the roster and constantly have to prove they’re worthy of a spot on the roster. Niang did what he does best in those few short possessions, scoring on a nice drive to the basket and making high-IQ, quick passes. We’ll see if Christmas is able to come back later this week.

Travis Leslie: The surprise of the Summer League so far is the Fort Wayne Mad Ants alum Travis Leslie, who has scored 20 points in each of the Pacers first two games while shooting over 55% and adding 6 rebounds per game. Leslie has shown a smooth outside stroke and an ability to get up and finish with a highlight reel slam. Leslie’s a wing, but the Pacers have played him a little as a small-ball four as well. If he can keep up this level of play, he’ll at least earn a training camp invite, if not a roster spot, from the Pacers or another team in the league.

Ben Moore: Moore surprisingly played very little in the Pacers second game as they went smaller with Leslie at the four, but he showed why he’s been tapped as a potential undrafted success story in the opening game. He’s scored just two points in each of the games, but he’s not the type of player that is worried about scoring. He makes the right plays, passing the ball quickly to wherever the offense dictates that it should go, setting screens to get others open, playing solid man defense, and having the ability to switch onto anyone in a pick and roll. Hopefully, we get to see more of him the rest of the week. The Pacers signed him to a partially guaranteed contract, so he could end up as one the Pacers 2-way contract players, on the Mad Ants, or find himself a spot on the roster.

Chris Johnson and Naz Mitrou-Long: Johnson and Mitrou-Long have both shown a smooth shooting stroke. Johnson has hit multiple corner threes in each of the team’s first two games and Mitrou-Long scored 16 points in the Pacers first games.

Jarnell Stokes: Stokes is a big, strong center that has nice hands inside. He’s a player with an NBA-ready body and has played well in the first two games starting in place of Christmas. Stokes put up 10 points and 7 rebounds today to follow up his 10 points and 9 rebounds yesterday.

Myles TurnerNo, Myles isn’t playing in the Summer League, but he’s been there in support of his young teammates. Turner’s been eager to become a leader on the team and he’s taken the Summer League as an opportunity to get a head start on his new duties as face of the franchise. No one has been more into the games from the bench than Turner, getting excited whenever Young makes a good play or getting on the referees to call a charge on the opposing player.

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