Through five games in Summer League a few things have become quite clear:
-DeMar DeRozan looks more NBA ready than most expected.
-Roko Ukic is better served as the third-stringer this year than a full-time back-up to Jose.
-Patrick O'Bryant is still a long ways away from being a productive player at the next level.
-And Quincy Douby has a legit shot at cracking Toronto's top 10 rotation.
Perhaps most of these four points were obvious after game one in Vegas but if you got to see yesterday's 84 to 83 Raptors win over the Milwaukee Bucks' Summer League squad, most were further etched in stone.
Quincy Douby hit a miraculous shot off a broken play to snatch back the lead for the Raptors in what ended up being a very intense finish to Toronto’s fifth match in Summer League play. The Dinos, while leading for most of the game, had started to succumb to some hot shooting by former KY star Jodie Meeks and needed Douby’s heave to snatch back the lead.
Again Toronto was lead by Douby (17 points and 7 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (20 points and 6 rebounds) while Smush Parker, who got the start in the place of Roko Ukic, also did a fairly nice job on the afternoon. Ukic had to return home apparently to take care of some personal business and therefore Parker, who had played sparingly the last few games, was thrust into the starting role.
Toronto was also unfortunately without the services of one of the stars of their Wednesday win over Phoenix, Ekene Ibekwe. Ibekwe apparently landed awkwardly on a scary fall near the end of the last game and had to be taken to hospital for treatment. While he was ok, he required a few stitches, he did manage to sprain both wrists trying to break his fall, and therefore will be out for the rest of Toronto’s action in Las Vegas. It’s an unfortunate turn of events for Ibekwe who had played so well last game.
However against Milwaukee, players like Paul Davis and Shawn Taggart helped to fill the void and Patrick O’Bryant played his best game yet. He was still a step slow defensively but was perfect from the field, grabbed a respectable seven rebounds, and even blocked a shot.
On the Milwaukee side, Brandon Jennings gathered the lion's share of commentator discussion but it was Mr. Meeks who ended up being the star of the show. One of my favourite players from college last year and someone I would have loved to have seen the Raptors try to grab in the second round, the chiseled 6-4 offensive sparkplug was nearly unstoppable finishing with 29 points on 12 of 23 shooting.
Perhaps just as interesting as the game’s frenetic finale was Bryan Colangelo’s chat with the NBA.com broadband folks near the start of the fourth quarter. Topics discussed ranged from BC’s off-season moves to date to Toronto’s performance in Summer League so far but I found most captivating was the honesty with which Colangelo spoke about last year’s 33 win performance by the Dinos. He labeled the season "an embarrassment" and spoke of knowing he had lots of holes to fill going into this summer. (Again, a far cry from his speech right after the season in which he declared that the team "wasn’t too far off.")
He also spoke of the high expectations the club faced after the Jermaine O’Neal acquisition and that unfortunately, by the time he felt that JO was really starting to have an impact, the former Pacer got hurt.
Colangelo even referenced the exact date, December 28th, something that signaled to me that after that point, BC knew damn well that the season was a lost cause considering he had essentially put all of his eggs in one basket when he traded for Jermaine.
To further back up my theory, BC went on to mention that he had trade discussions with Pat Riley about the eventual Marion deal for about three months prior to the final transaction. And you have to wonder that since the trade took so long, just how frustrated Colangelo was during that waiting period as he saw his team continue to flounder, especially with Jose Calderon, and even Chris Bosh at times, injured.
That’s why he seemed so excited when talking about the upcoming season.
BC spoke of the problems last year with perimeter defence; that Jose wasn't healthy enough to stop people at the point of attack. To address this he hoped that both Antoine Wright and Jarrett Jack, should he be stolen away from Indiana, would help, and bringing in a defensive mind like Iavaroni would be a huge boost.
Colangelo also spoke of missing a player last year who could create his own shot with the clock winding down, and to that end was thrilled that they were able to trade for Hedo, a player who could do not just that, but also make the players around him that much better.
And again, after hearing the Legomaster speak on all these points, it’s extremely hard not to be very excited about the upcoming season, especially since there are still moves forthcoming in all probability.
The Pacers still have a few days to decide what to do about Mr. Jack, and based on the results of their decision, Colangelo and his team will probably move swiftly to address the remaining holes in the roster.
As most of our readers know, I haven’t been a fan of all the moves so far, but increasingly I’m looking forward to seeing just what the final group that BC assembles can do.