Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Today marks the first day of the 2010 Orlando Pro Summer League and with it comes the start of life in the pros for Orlando Magic rookie Daniel Orton, a center from the University of Kentucky that was selected with the No. 29 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. For the next five days, Orton will get a chance to showcase his skills against fellow rookies and NBA players, as well as play in front of coaches, scouts, and team personnel.
Not many Magic fans know about Orton, which is why I sought out Glenn Logan from A Sea of Blue — a site that covers Kentucky Wildcats basketball and other sports — to provide insight about him. Orton was one of five players from Kentucky to be selected in the first round of the draft, yet less is known about him compared to his teammates like John Wall and others.
Why is that? Logan will explain.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Logan a few questions about Orton and what he might be able to bring to the table for the Magic as he begins his NBA career.
Understandably, not many people know much about Daniel Orton as a player, given that he played limited minutes at Kentucky. However, when Orton did play, what were his strengths and weaknesses on the court?
Strengths: Rebounding and post defense — Daniel Orton is a big body, and he knows how to use it inside. Orton can get deep position and really lean on smaller players. As a rebounder, he averaged 7.8% defensive and 8.2% offensive rebounds for the team in only 6.5 minutes per game.
But where Orton really excelled is in defense. Despite his limited minutes, Orton got almost 20% of the team’s blocks. DeMarcus Cousins, by way of comparison, played 3 times as many minutes and got 24% of the team’s blocks.
Weaknesses: Offense and experience — Orton was a serviceable inside player, but he managed a true shooting % of only 53%. Compare that to 58% by Cousins and 60% by Patrick Patterson, and you can see that he wasn’t a very efficient offensive player.
Orton was capable of getting deep position and displayed good but not great footwork. He has a very soft touch and good hands, and has range out to 20 feet, but he almost never shot anything other than a layup at Kentucky, because Calipari wanted him in the role of a true center. Orton does have power forward skills, and has a surprisingly good handle for a man his size.
Orton has very little experience playing high level basketball, as his 6 minutes per game will attest.
Orton does not have is explosiveness or quickness, but he is much more agile than you might suspect. He can get off the floor very well (better than Cousins), and has excellent upper and lower body strength. Orton is coachable and intelligent.
What should people reasonably expect from Orton right away? Likewise, what’s his ceiling as a player?
Physical defense and shot blocking. Orton is a capable defender and can guard people bigger than he is. He has long arms and his defensive footwork is not bad and can get even better. He is physically strong and an underrated athlete, and is capable of guarding NBA 4 and 5’s defensively.
His ceiling? I have no idea. It mostly depends on how well his knees hold up, but Orton has much more skill than he showed at Kentucky. It is not impossible that Orton could work his way into a starting role in as few as four or five years, depending on how badly he wants it.
Does Orton have the mental and physical makeup to be a success in the NBA?
His knees are a bit of a question mark, but other than that, he does have the physical makeup to be a success in the NBA. He also has far more skill than is widely known — soft hands, a soft touch and is more athletic than most people think.
Mentally, I’m not so sanguine. He was mercurial at times for Kentucky, and he has made some very poor judgments, including essentially dropping out of college and hurting UK’s APR after claiming he would not do that. He has apologized for that behavior, but it points to maturity questions that require resolution before he can reach his potential.
One of the most common questions pertaining to Orton is whether or not he will be a power forward or center in the league. What are your thoughts on that? What are his skills better suited for?
He is capable of playing both spots in the NBA, but at 6’10”, he is a little undersized for today’s NBA center. I think he’ll wind up at power forward, because even though he hasn’t shown it yet, he does have a face-up game and is capable of developing into a scoring threat out to 20′ at least. I don’t ever expect him to get points off the bounce, but he can spot up and make the jumper, and he is already a serviceable post player.
In summary, Orton is a raw, but skilled and capable player. If the Magic will work with him and he receives coaching well and overcomes his lack of maturity, Orton can become a very valuable player for any NBA team due to his size, his defensive ability and his soft hands and touch. He needs to develop a bit more toughness, but it is there to be developed.
I like to thank Glenn for taking the time to answer my questions.