With Orlando Summer League winding down and the NBA getting ready to pack it in and take the show to Las Vegas, we’ve already gotten our first glimpse at some of the draft picks franchises are betting the farm on. But this year, in the spirit of showcasing the levels of competition fighting for spots on NBA rosters, two MVP candidates have emerged during this week’s run—neither of whom shook Adam Silver’s hand last month.
No, the two most impactful summer league players this week have pumped new energy into fanbases—one having logged over 1500 minutes last season without being a household name, the other after sitting out the entire 2013-24 season. Detroit Pistons second-year guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and (last year’s No. 1 draft pick) Philadelphia 76er center Nerlens Noel have been dropping highlight-worthy gems routinely as GMs and fans alike try to figure out exactly how excited they should get about their respective futures.
Coming off an ACL tear, Noel has so far been everything the Sixers were hoping he’d be when they took him at the top of last year’s draft. The lanky seven-footer has blocked 12 shots in four games, shot a better than respectable 81% from the free throw line and generally caused some chaos on the defensive end, on the way to the Sixers going 3-1 for the week. In playing around 25 minutes per game, more than anything, Noel has answered the first question everyone has about him: yup, he can still run.
KCP’s situation is a little different. The 6’6″ Georgia product averaged a mere 5.9 ppg this season, mixed into Detroit’s chucking backcourt situation (Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey, not to mention Josh Smith on the wing); in four games of summer league play, though, Caldwell-Pope’s averaged 27.0 ppg (leading all players) and established himself as the most clutch guy in the gym.
Both Noel and KCP are done for the Orlando league (action wraps with three games this afternoon) but Noel will continue to hit the floor with the Sixers summer league squad in Las Vegas, starting tomorrow. Here, we examine the case for each one’s MVP candidacy.