Summer league results don't matter, even with the new tournament-style format introduced this year. All that matters is how the relevant players (those most likely to appear on your team's roster next season) performed. With that in mind, let's dive into the Raps' 81-70 win over the Kings by focusing on the four players that will be with the big team when training camp opens in October.
Dwight Buycks: 9 points (3-5 FG, 0-1 3FG), 2 assists, 2 steals, 5 turnovers, 31 minutes.
The newest member of the team wasn't noticeably bad or good, but submitted a fine performance. He showed a nice ability to get into the lane and finish thanks to his good size for a point guard (6'3", 195). Many of the five turnovers came out of poor decisions in the pick-and-roll; Buycks tried to throw cross-court passes across his body to weakside shooters, and the results were predictably bad.
For those who are unfamiliar with Buycks' background, he played college ball at Marquette, spent the 2011-12 season with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League and played last season in France. The 24-year-old averaged 9.5 points and 6 assists during the Orlando Summer League with Oklahoma City just a couple weeks ago.
Bonus points to Buycks for the snazzy yellow shoes he wore.
Quincy Acy: 14 points (5-11 FG, 0-3 3FG), 5 rebounds, 29 minutes.
Acy may have only taken three triples, but it felt like 300. It's obvious that the coaching staff is encouraging him to fire away, but let's hope it's only a summer pet project. The man's NBA destiny is clearly as a bruising power forward, so why try to mess with that?
On the positive side of things, Acy continued to bang down low, punctuating his afternoon with a nasty dunk after an offensive rebound on a missed free throw. He even gave the fans in Vegas a mean staredown after the dunk, which was made even better by his fantastic bald head/pointy beard combo.
For a team that has failed so often with second round picks, it's nice to finally see one that looks like a real NBA player.
Terrence Ross: 14 points (5-12 FG, 0-2 3FG), 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers, 29 minutes.
Ross started well, curling off screens to hit two midrange jumpers in the first quarter. He was active on the glass and showed his customary athleticism around the rim, but one move in particular got me thinking. In the second half Ross scored on a beautiful baseline move by avoiding the defender for an acrobatic layup. It worked, but it was a great opportunity to draw contact and get to the free throw line, something Ross did very little of in his rookie season, averaging an anemic 0.6 attempts per game.
For someone so athletic, Ross should be making a living at the free throw line, but sometimes he lets his athleticism work against him by avoiding contact too much. It reminds me of a piece John Hollinger wrote for ESPN in December 2010 about Derrick Rose. Hollinger argued that Rose's relative lack of trips to the line when compared to other elite players was a function of his brilliant athleticism and body control:
"The same things that make Rose so watchable also conspire against him. He's so smooth, so graceful and so explosive that it's fairly easy for him to float past opponents and drop in a layup or to launch his unusually-effective 10-foot floater or to pull up for the J while an opponent watches helplessly from the other side of the screen. Alas, none of those maneuvers get him to the line, and the next time Rose willfully draws contact to force his way there will be a first."
Rose averaged 3.1 free throws per game in his rookie season. Just two years later, in his MVP season, that number was up to 6.9. Now, this is in no way to draw a comparison between Terrence Ross and Derrick Rose. One is a certifiable superstar, the other still struggling to find his way. But Ross could learn a thing or two from Rose about channeling his freakish athleticism into more trips to the free throw line.
Jonas Valanciunas: 18 points (6-12 FG, 6-6 FT), 8 rebounds, 9 fouls, 7 turnovers, 29 minutes.
Wow, those last two numbers are ugly. It was a sloppy game for Valanciunas, full of cheap fouls and turnovers. But his overall size and talent often made up for it and he continued to show small wrinkles to his post game. He displayed a running hook with both the left and right hand and continues to work on a baseline spin move (although he's been called for an offensive foul nearly every time).
It was also good to see him make a 15-foot jumper. Too often in the summer league he's been hesitant to take that shot, hoping instead to draw his opponent off balance with an endless series of pump fakes. It's worked at times, but he is always most effective when he makes a quick and decisive move. Four straight pump fakes might work against the dregs of summer league, but when the real games start he'll need to make quicker decisions.
Overall, though, there's not much to complain about. Valanciunas has dominated the competition throughout the week and has shown he's made improvements in both his body and game. He's taken 27 free throws in three games and is shooting 89% from the stripe. As a centre, the importance of his outstanding free throw shooting can't be overstated; the only centre in recent memory to shoot as well from the line is Yao Ming, whose touch was the stuff of legend. JV isn't 7'6", but he's shown himself to be an elite centre in the making. You can't ask for much more from summer league.
The Raps will play tomorrow at 6 p.m. Eastern against the winner of New Orleans/Denver. It will be a summer league playoff game, which is perhaps the greatest example of an oxymoron in the history of man. Enjoy!