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RaptorsHQ Summer League Recap

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For the past few weeks, RaptorsTV has been showing summer league games from the 2006 Toshiba Vegas Summer League. While some of the games haven't been the most exciting things, RaptorsTV did do a great job of condensing the games into an hour, making for easier viewing considering timeouts, turnovers and of course, the numerous foul calls.

After watching the games seperately last week, Chapman and I got together this week online to compare notes. We'll get into our "general summer league thoughts" later but first of all, let's talk a bit about the four guys we mainly focussed on - the same four who we figured had real shots at playing for the Raptors this season:

Andrea Bargnani,
Joey Graham,
Kris Humphries and
PJ Tucker.

Bargnani:

Chapman: I like the stroke. Kid can shoot. What I also like is the fact that he is aggressive in going to the hole. Witness the reverse throwdown vs. Sacto. That was nice. He forces a few shots, but I chalk that up to inexperience and the fact that it's summer league. He actually nailed some tough jumpers that he probably shouldn't have taken.

Sounds bad, but he does occasionally move his feet more on offense than on defense. I think he averaged about 1-2 travels per game. Fouls? Yeah, he's had a few. But, they're not necessarily bad fouls. He isn't a good perimeter defender at all, but blocks shots fairly well. Witness the huge rejection on (my notes say Golden State's #11...). As for rebounding, the numbers weren't quite what I expected, but it is summer league.

Franchise: Agreed. I actually thought Bargnani was the most pleasant surprise for Toronto. He wasn't dominating all the time, but you could see things in his game which obviously made him a strong top draft pick option. His shot as you mentioned, yep, butter, even with two guys jumping at him. He really made a few tough 3's look effortless. Skills like that, and his quickness off the dribble for someone his size are things that will translate well to the big league. I didn't even think he was that bad defensively. He got caught out of position a few times, but his size and length actually changed shots (something Toronto hasn't seen since the days of Keon Clark) and he already looked much quicker on his feet man on man than Hoffa. He was voted to the Vegas All-Star team and overall, I'm now officially on the Il Mago bandwagon.

Graham:

Chapman: I don't know how to characterize his play. My thoughts are that a player like him should dominate the summer. But, maybe that's not the player he is. His jumper looked more consistent (witness the streak vs. Washington to start the second half...I think it was Washington...these games are like blurs). I made a note midway through that game that he needed to go to the rim. Almost on cue, he did. I'd like to see more of that from him this season. He also looks like he's lost weight.

Franchise: If Bargnani was the most pleasant surprise for me, Joey was definitely the biggest disapointment. I too expected more of a dominant performance. The argument's been that he's getting accustomed to playing more of a 2-3 role than a 3-4 role like he did in college. And if this is the case, why then wasn't he more dominant in summer league considering he spent considerable time at both the 3 and 4 spots like in college? His shooting was sub-par, he wasn't nearly as aggressive as I expected, and his defense...well...new topic. He did show flashes and don't get me wrong, I want to see Joey succeed, but I just expected more at this point. I wouldn't even care if he was only scoring 13 points a game in Vegas and shot under 38% provided his defence was top-notch and he was grabbing rebounds at a ferocious rate. I mean, these are the qualities I expected from him coming out of college. Instead, it's bizarro world and we have a player who's become a decent scorer with mid-range game who can't guard his man or rebound! Maybe he was just fatigued but in Toronto's last game against Cleveland, it sure was hard to tell who was the higher ranked prospect between him and his brother...

Tucker:

Chapman: Why only seven minutes in the Washington game? Kid was good in those minutes, though. Tucker will never be a 20 point scorer, but he's going to do the little things to help his team win. His positioning on rebounds is excellent and he has a nose for the ball. He can finish well in transition and has a knack for weaseling in for tip-ins of his own misses, much like VC used to do.

Franchise: Tucker was another pleasant surprise for me when he did get sufficient playing time. As many of you will recall, I really wasn't happy with his selection in this past draft. I worried that his game wouldn't translate to the NBA but so far I look to be dead wrong. Tucker just does all the little things you need to help your team win. He was constantly around the rim in the right position for rebounds, had nice touch from mid-range, and looked to be a solid defender regardless of where he was on the court. It's weird but while I was watching Tucker through the five games, I couldn't help but think that this was the type of player I thought we'd be getting when we drafted Joey.

Humphries:

Chapman: I noted after the Washington game that I was concerned with his motor. He looked almost lackadaisical out there. After that, he played much better. He was aggressive on the boards and displayed a nice mid-range game. However, much like he did in Utah, he tried to play beyond his
means on offense. Stop shooting 20 foot jumpers, Kris! I think he can be a nice rotation player, provided that he keeps working and knows his role.

Franchise: I actually thought Humphries was the best of the four players we've zeroed in on in Vegas. He did look a bit slow in the first game but by the end of the fifth contest, was a consistent double-double threat. I agree that he took a few too many outside jumpers and at times dominanted the offense, but it was his defense and rebounding that I was particularly happy with. For a team that may struggle on the boards next year, Humphries could really be of assistance. He was a machine around the glass on both ends in the final two games and used his strength to box out effectively. He also ran the floor well, showed a nice array of post moves and overall just looked like an NBA player as opposed to an NBA hopeful.

Others

Chapman: Pretty much everyone else needs to check Career Finders.

Franchise: I don't even think Humpty Hump could have helped them out...this year's team was pretty weak.

-Velimir Radinovic, Jermaine Anderson and Samaki Walker really didn't show me anything...or get much court time to do it.
-Terence Dials looked overmatched everytime he was on the court.
-Justin Gray's shot wasn't falling and with his size and lack of point guard skills, I don't see how he catches on with a team at this point.
-William Avery shot horribly from everywhere but the free-throw line and didn't look capable of running a team. (As a Duke fan, watching him play with Toronto in Vegas just reaffirmed why Coach K didn't give him his blessing to leave early for the NBA. He wasn't ready then, and still isn't ready now.)
-Jermaine Bucknor actually surprised me at times. He's your classic tweener but he did show some toughness, grit and ability to rebound in traffic. If he could hone other elements of his game a bit and work on his quickness, he may yet find a spot on some team's bench in the future.
-Andre Barrett in the three games he played, was actually my Raptors' Summer League MVP. Lightning quick, Barrett broke down opposing defences time and time again and showed great leadership in the point guard role. He's still not a great shooter, but his penetration and ball handling allows him to be an effective 1 in this environment. The trouble is, he's just too small to be a solid option in anything but a backup, backup role in the NBA. He was posted up and outmuscled repeatedly in Vegas and in the NBA, as many fans saw last year at times, this will be even worse. And due to his lack of shooting prowness, opponents started sagging off of him to prevent his ability to get to the rim. As a result, Barrett's got some more work to do on his shooting before being a realistic option for many teams.

Random HQ Observations

-While cutting the Raptors games into an hour was a great idea, having Paul Jones and Rowan Barrett do the commentary, was not. In fact, half the time, the two weren't even discussing the on-court play and Barrett was spending more time telling Jones to "ask Anthony Parker what Barrett did to him in Europe" and talking about himself.

- Also, if anyone sees Rowan Barrett, please ask him who J-Rock is. I searched desperately to find a J-Rock on the Raptors summer league roster, but was unable to locate one. I thought J-Rock was one of the Beat Junkies or part of the Trailer Park Boys cast. When it was finally revealed that J-Rock was Jermaine Anderson, even Paul Jones wanted an explanation. Rowan's take: "We call him J-Rock because he's rock solid with the ball..." Rock solid as in three turnovers for every two assists he made during summer league?

- And continuing on the Jones/Barrett topic...you know you've overused a catch phrase when Paul Jones cuts you off. Everytime someone travelled or made a nice move but couldn't finish, Rowan Barrett came through with "It was a good surgery, but the patient died" lines. "Biscuit in the basket" was also a popular one...too bad it's a hockey saying.

- The P.A. guy for the Celtics game reminded me of the announcer for the classic PS1 game "NBA Shootout 98". You remember the one, where you could field a classic Raps backcourt of John Long and Donald Whiteside. "Leon Pooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwe"

- Speaking of the Celtics game, why was Gerald Green wearing a t-shirt under his jersey? Was he trying to channel Chris Mullin from his St. John's days?

- Peter John Ramos is terrible.

- Donnell Taylor getting packed by the rim on a dunk attempt took me back to grade 6 when the gym teacher let you dunk off a trampoline. Crazy unathletic kids getting rejected. Too bad Donnell Taylor gets paid to dunk...maybe if Peter John Ramos had gotten down on all 4s and Taylor had done a table dunk...

-From the "players who shouldn't have been drafted as high as they were" category:
The aforementioned Ramos, Ryan Humphrey, Francisco Garcia and Martynas Andriuskevicius. All have a long way to go at this point.

-From the "under-the-radar guys we're happy for" category:
Leon Powe, Allan Ray, John Lucas III, Lynn Grier, Shammond Williams, and Kennedy Winston, even though he came out too early last year.

-Juan Jose Barea looked great in summer league...Raps should have taken a flier on him with the 56th pick...

- What's up with the "We Love J. Gray" sign behind the Raps bench?

-With Pape hurt...in comes Slokar.