(ESPN Insider) David Thorpe:
After a nondescript season slowed by injury and full of DNP-CDs, league opinion entering this year's Orlando summer league seemed to be more like 20/80 -- about one out of five believed he would eventually become a legitimate player.
Three games into summer league, Redick's doing everything he can to get that other 80 percent on his side.
Redick's strengths on this side of the ball are well-documented -- he's one of the purest shooters in college basketball history. But the knock on the former Duke star always has been that he might be too slow and small to get off his shot against quicker, taller NBA defenders.
While I agree that he isn't great at getting good shots off his own dribble drives and the triple-threat position, I believe that within a team concept he can be very effective using screens or attacking open spaces created by a good post scorer or another great shooter/slasher. In other words, being the second or third option can be a great role for him.
And Redick has two things going for him that allow him to be a go-to guy, at least on occasion -- incredible confidence as a shot-maker and the ability to draw fouls. Thus far in Orlando's summer league, he is showcasing both of those talents.
In the Magic's first three games, in an offense that is all about getting Redick involved, he has taken 44 shots from the field (and 24 from the charity stripe). The shots have come in a variety of ways, from transition layups to deep curls, and everything in between. In short, he looks like he did while dominating the ACC, brimming with confidence while constantly moving around screens in search of his quick and deadly jump shot. Few guys can make the deep 3 coming off of a pin down, but Redick is one of them.
He has shot 21-for-44 despite being the only real scoring threat on the team and facing a defense stacked to stop him.
Though he's not a great penetrator, his array of exaggerated shot fakes and his body control on dribble-drives allow him to create scoring space for himself. And when his defender gets slightly off-balance, Redick is terrific at creating the contact that compels the official to call the foul.
In his first game, he scored a cool 30 points on 18 field goal attempts (7-for-18), going 12-for-12 from the line. He showed a strong ability to create points out of tough situations, and hitting 4-of-6 from the 3-point line reminded everybody of his college days -- he should have many nights to come when his 3-point shooting will be the important story of a Magic victory.
Game 2 is when Redick displayed his excellent passing and overall unselfishness, recording six assists as the Pacers were quick to rotate to him. A few of his assists went to his backcourt mate, Kevin Kruger (undrafted rookie out of UNLV), who led the Magic in scoring with 18 points on the way to another easy Magic victory.
(Kruger, perhaps the biggest surprise in Orlando after two games, is the perfect complement to Redick's offensive game, a true point guard who always looks to get Redick the ball where he wants it, as opposed to where Redick is when the point guard can not get a shot off and is forced to pass. These two tough, feisty, and exceedingly smart guards have shredded their two opponents, perhaps giving new head coach Stan Van Gundy something to consider when devising his offensive strategies. Redick is clearly in his element when he is more of a focal point of the offense.)
Redick is moving well, suggesting that his back issues are dormant, if not eliminated altogether. He is not a fun guy to defend, in part due to his frenetic energy and also because his quick release forces defenders to close out on him in a hurry and a little out of control.
He is also showing a far better feel for passing than he is normally given credit for. He is making many "easy passes" -- passes to open guys that come in a natural flow of the offense instead of ball-beating and only passing when he can't get a shot.
Redick's small stature for his position causes him problems defending big shooting guards, while his relative lack of quickness puts him at an even greater disadvantage against ultra-quick guys.
But Redick is very competitive, locking in on defense and showing a willingness to fight on each possession. In the NBA regular season, that is more than half the battle. That he may need help in some situations only makes him like most other shooting guards -- who doesn't need help defending guys like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, or Michael Redd? And against the more ordinary scorers, he'll be fine.
It is his off-the-ball defense that is perhaps more important anyway. With Van Gundy requiring a different defensive help rotation than Brian Hill did last season or Coach K did at Duke, Redick should be focused on learning his new positionings this week.
And it appears he is. Of the 90 players here this week, no guard has been more aware of his responsibilities on help defense than Redick. He is locked in, constantly moving slightly when he is in the helpside box, hoping to get the best possible help angles if a penetrating dribble or pass should occur.
Though he is known for his deft shooting and overall scoring ability, I think leadership is Redick's biggest strength. He has been the most vocal player in this summer league, not overly demonstrative but always talking positively to his teammates, offering "fives" whether they do well or not. He barks out orders when necessary, but always with the proper vocal tone and facial expression.
If leadership is "breathing spirit into the hearts and minds of others," Redick's leadership skills are evidenced by how well Orlando's players have played so far.
The buzz from former Redick naysayers here in Orlando has been "J.J. looks like he did at Duke." I would agree, though the chip on his shoulder from being so villainized in the ACC has disappeared.
He seems just as confident as in the past, but a little more relaxed as he sets out to prove he deserves a chance at being the starting shooting guard for a Magic team that will have at least two solid offensive options in Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis.
The idea of doubling on Howard, rotating quickly to an open Lewis, and leaving a confident Redick open in the corner has to be a concern for coaches from opposing teams who are developing strategies for the upcoming season. And Redick's willingness to invest in making a difference on defense should allow Van Gundy more flexibility in playing him.
For a young player trying to build a career, "crawling before walking" is the smart way to go. Redick is focused on playing well here in the summer league as a foundation for training camp in October.
I've always believed Redick could become a starter for a playoff team, and he appears to be moving along that path now.
David Thorpe is an NBA analyst for ESPN.com and the executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., where he works as a personal coach for Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat), Orien Greene (Indiana Pacers), Alexander Johnson (Memphis Grizzlies) and Kevin Martin (Sacramento Kings). You can e-mail him here.