Not exactly what I expected out of Toronto's Summer League Entry.
With only one win in five games, including back-to-back losses Thursday and Friday, the Raptors finished tied for 13th out of 16 squads in Vegas and collectively shot less than 40 per cent (38.4) from the field. The team was even worse from long range hitting only 25.9 per cent of three-point attempts. And on the other end, Toronto allowed its opponents to shoot almost 50 per cent (47.5) from the field. In fact, Toronto was "out-rebounded," "out-blocked," and "out-assisted" on average by their opponents and the only section of the box score where the Raptors had the advantage was turnovers - on average Toronto turned the ball over two more times a game than the other team!
So what exactly can we take from this? Should the enthusiasm from the wave of free-agent signings be tempered with a dose of reality based on these results?
I don't think so. While going into the summer, players like Pape Sow, Andre Barrett, Joey Graham, Kris Humpheries, Charlie Villanueva, Andrea Bargnani and perhaps even PJ Tucker were expected to play significant roles on the team this season, things have obviously changed. Therefore if this original team sent to Vegas ended up with a one and four record, I'd be a bit more concerned. Instead, CV Smooth was traded, Pape Sow was injured and Andre Barrett was recently put on waivers and various other less talented players took up their minutes. And the remaining names from the original squad fared quite well.
Kris Humpheries did a nice job on both ends of the court, Andrea Bargnani was quite impressive in the minutes he was given and even PJ Tucker did a nice job when given enough playing time. The review on Joey Graham (who was outscored by his twin brother Stephen in yesterday's loss) was a bit more mixed. Joey did play well in stretches and shot extremely well from the free-throw line (93.8) but hit only 40.4 per cent of his shots from the field and I for one expected more than 3.4 rebounds per game against mostly inferior competition. (PJ Tucker averaged more rebounds in less minutes.) Graham's defense was solid but he still needs a lot of work on his handle if he wishes to play the two guard spot for Toronto - only rookie Andrea Bargnani had more turnovers for Toronto than Graham.
Bargnani was probably the most impressive Raptor considering his hype and the pressure that comes with being the number one pick. Indeed he was no Hoffa and while only played eight minutes in yesterday's loss, he almost ended up being Toronto's top scorer (13.2 points/game as opposed to Joey Graham's 13.8.) Bargnani however played fewer minutes than Graham and shot a better percentage from the field (46.7 per cent.)
Now let's take a look at our potential opening day roster for a minute:
PG - TJ Ford, Jose Calderon
SG - Morris Peterson, John Salmons
SF - Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani
PF - Chris Bosh, Jorga Garbajosa, Kris Humpheries, PJ Tucker
C - Rasho Nesterovic, Uros Slokar
That's 13 spots filled right there assuming Slokar comes over and that Pape has to spend some time on the inactive list. So including Sow and Alvin Williams, who we still don't know the health status of, that gives the Raptors a full slate of 15. Bryan Colangelo sounds quite happy with the results of his offseason maneuvers and was quoted as saying ""About five days into it, I was with (coach) Sam (Mitchell) and I wrote down six names and I said, `If these six guys are on the roster and everyone else is gone, I can say I've done my job...'"
Anyone want to guess who those six would be besides newly re-signed Chris Bosh?
In any event, it's definitely an interesting roster with numerous players who can play different positions. In fact the roster I've put together above obviously has several permutations with players such as Peterson, Graham, Parker, Tucker, Salmons, Garbajosa and even Bargnani possibly playing as many as three different positions. This gives the team more depth than it's had in years and a push for players who aren't performing...now there are definitely others waiting in the wings to take your place.
But are there any glaring areas this team still needs to address that Summer League might be able to help out with?
As some of our readers have pointed out, unless Garbajosa is the second coming of Ben Wallace, Toronto's rebounding ability is a bit of a concern...and that might be an understatement. In fact, it speaks volumes when a raw player like Pape Sow goes down with an injury and all of a sudden people are asking "ok, besides Bosh and Rasho...who's going to clean the glass??" And I agree. Toronto's summer league squad got outrebounded and I don't see anyone on it being a viable option to help out in this area. In addition, there's currently no roster space unless Colangelo has another deal in the works.
And speaking of which, it may be a good time to mention to Raptor fans that I see a buyout of Alvin Williams in the future, especially now with the acquisition of John Salmons. TJ Ford will garner the majority of minutes at the point with Jose Calderon backing him up, and in all likelyhood Salmons will swing between the 1 and 2 depending on the situation. So Alvin really is the odd man out now regardless of his health. I love Alvin as a character guy, but I really think a buyout (assuming he wants to continue his NBA career elsewhere) is the best idea in effort to grab one rebounding prospect to at least bring to training camp.
Here are my top three summer league options for the Raptors in this scenario:
1. James Singleton - Property of the Clippers for this season but as the Summer League's top rebounder, and currently stuck behind Elton Brand (he only averaged 1.7 minutes per game in last year's playoffs), he might be available for cheap. While a bit undersized at 6-8 he's an incredible rebounder (ranked number 17 in NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes) and would be a nice option off the bench for the Raptors.
2. Brandon Hunter - Another undersized four with a grit and excellent athleticism who averaged 9.6 points and 9.2 points per game in summer league. Hunter led the nation in rebounding while a college player with Ohio University; now a free agent, his work ethic would make him a Sam Mitchell favourite.
3. Justin Williams/Pops Mensah-Bonsu - Two long shots take my last spot. First, Justin Williams. I still feel the Raps should have taken a flyer on Williams with the 56th pick based on his shot-blocking abilities alone. Williams was indeed one of the top shot-rejecters in Vegas and was also one of the top rebounders. In terms of upside alone, he's worth a look. The other side of the coin is Mensah-Bonsu, who isn't simply on this list to start the "two Pops on one team" jokes. He's still quite raw similar to Toronto's own "Spider-man" Sow, but was one of the top athletes in Vegas and his rebounding, shot blocking and athleticism might be worth at least a training camp look.
Other than that, there are a few other players of interest depending on roster spots who we'll be discussing as training camp nears. But for now, regardless of the one and four summer league record, it's safe to say that for this writer, there has never been more excitement regarding the upcoming Raptors' season.
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