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Vegas Baby! VEGAS! - Summer League Begins

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Mike (to Trent concerning going to Vegas): Do you think we'll get there by midnight?
Trent (to Mikey): Baby, we're going to be up five hundy by midnight!
Mike (to Trent): Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!
Trent (to Mikey): Vegas baby! Vegas!
Mike: Vegas!

Toronto's Summer League got off to a good start last night with a 93-85 win over the Washington Wizards. Joey Graham led the Raps with 22 points and best of all, made eight trips to the line hitting all eight attempts. It's this aggressiveness and "take charge" mentality that fans want to see from Joey and it sounds like Bryan Colangelo does too. If he can continue this through summer league and into the season, the Raps will be thrilled. Andre Barrett and Kris Humpheries also had solid games statistically for the Raps and Terence Dials grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Half of Toronto's real roster seems to be playing in the Vegas Summer League so team unity and players getting accustomed to playing together will be paramount.

Trent (to Mikey): I'm gonna ask you a simple question and I want you to listen to me: who's the big winner here tonight at the casino? Huh? Mikey, that's who. Mikey's the big winner. Mikey wins!

The big winner for Toronto in last night's game though wasn't Mikey or "team unity", it was probably their number one pick, Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani had 20 points and four rebounds in the win and looked every bit as quick for a 7-footer as described. He repeatedly put the ball on the floor and showed many of the attributes that made him so coveted by teams in this past draft. Right now he looks much more like a 3/4 than 4/5 but with time he looks like he'll be able to play any number of spots on the floor.

Trent: Look at this, Ok? I want you to remember this face. This is the guy, behind the guy, behind the guy.

So who are some of the other players on this year's Raps' team. Jermaine Anderson, James Maye, Justin Gray, Jermaine Bucknor, Terence Dials and Velimir Radinovic...if any of these players make the squad they'll be "the guys behind the guys" backing up at least one, sometimes two players at each position. A few of them we profiled during our draft workout recaps but here are the others:

James Maye: Maye is a 6-6 forward from NC Greensboro who averaged 16.2 points, and 6.5 rebounds for the Spartans. A slashing scorer James unfortunately won't have much of a shot at making the Raptors after spraining his ankle prior to last night's game.

Justin Gray: Gray is a bit more of a household name to basketball fans due to his play these past few seasons with the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. Gray averaged 18.2 points, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game last season and is an incredibly quick scorer with a superb ability to get to the rim. While he played some point guard, his scoring skills (and habits of jacking-up shots) are much better suited for the 2 spot. However the knock on Gray is that at 6-2, he's simply too small to play the shooting guard spot, especially on the defensive end. Of course the recent success of Ben Gordon, Devin Harris and other small combo guards (see Eddie House who we'll be discussing later) makes Gray at least an interesting player to look at. A better scorer than Andre Barrett, if Gray can prove he can run the point a bit, the third-stringer role could be his for the taking.

Terence Dials: Like Gray, Dials is another of the top NCAA players who went undrafted this year. Dials averaged 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks for the Ohio State Buckeyes last year and was named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. While Dials' game really is that of a true center, he's undersized at 6-9 (may be closer to 6-8) and lacks the athleticism or length to make up for this. He does however have good footwork in the paint and a solid mid-range and back-to-the-basket game. Summer league should give teams a chance to see just what he can do against superior competition and to show scouts that he has the drive to make it at the next level, something about Dials that's always been questioned. Can he make the squad? It's doubtful at this point, but with a solid rebounding and defensive effort he might get a chance to at least spend a year of "seasoning" in the NBDL.

Velimir Radinovic: The third, and only of the Raps' summer league Canadian kids who we didn't profile leading up to the draft. Radinovic is a 7 foot center who like Dials, played at Ohio State, leaving as a senior after the 2003-04 season. As a senior, he led the Big Ten in field goal percentage, was a solid rebounder and shot blocker for the Buckeyes and was named their MVP. Since his college career ended, Radinovic has been playing for KK Hemofarm in the Euroleague. Radinovic might actually be one of the most intriguing players on Toronto's summer-league team. His size and deft shooting touch alone distance him from other players at this level and his success overseas may translate to a training camp invite.

Besides the aforementioned players, Toronto's full summer-league roster also includes Joey Graham, Andre Barrett, William Avery, PJ Tucker, Andrea Bargnani, Kris Humpheries, Samalki Walker (gasp) and Pape Sow.

Trent: You take yourself out of the game, you start talking about puppy dogs and ice cream and of course it's going to end up on the friendship tip!

Our hearts here at the HQ go out to Pape Sow who indeed has taken himself out of the game...hopefully only for a while. As most readers now know, Pape injured his neck in practice and not only is done for the Summer League, but also is probably going to put an end to his plans to play for his native Senegal in the upcoming world championship's. The injury does not appear too severe although Sow did have neck surgery last night. With neck injuries (ask new Raptor on the block TJ Ford) you just never know and they can be career threatening. With this really as a "make it or break it" year for Pape, hopefully he gets healthy soon and can show the Raps another solid year of improvement.

Trent to Mikey: You're so money and you don't even know it!

From the rumours floating around, it sounds like there are a few players who GM Bryan Colangelo feels fit that description including Anthony Parker and Eddie House.

Parker has been proclaimed by many as the "best player in the world who is NOT in the NBA." While he is a former first-round pick, he never stuck in the NBA for one reason or another but has honed his skill-set considerably overseas. He has been named Euroleague MVP the past two seasons and as a good scorer and slasher, makes some sense for a Raptors team in need of help at the 2/3. Plus, he shares the same agent as Chris Bosh so the Raptors appear to be the front-runners for his services.

I like the signing for the right price. The completeness of Parker's game should be a huge asset to a young and inexperienced Raptors' squad and Parker will be able to help on both ends of the court immediately. Colangelo really is thinking outside of the box here with some of these foreign prospects and I supposed that's my main concern. In taking such a big risk (Parker couldn't stick with the Raps a few years ago when Toronto was hardly the NBA Champions in terms of roster - can he now?) spending money on "NBA-unproven" prospects, Colangelo may risk using up money that may end up being better spent on current NBA veterans in the following off-season. Only time will tell in terms of these proposed moves however so for now, I'm still keeping my faith firmly in Colangelo's masterplan.

Sue (to Trent): Just because I had the balls to stand up to those guys...
Trent (back to Sue): Like House of Pain was gonna do anything?

So what about Mr. Eddie House. If he was signed, would he "do anything?" As one of our readers pointed out, House was barely used in the playoffs for Phoenix due to his inability to score - the one NBA skill House has. Would he be brought in to buoy Toronto's offence if Mike James moves on? Where would he play? Would he end up being a 10th man and if so, could this potentially be a problem situation?

Really there are too many questions regarding House. He's a streaky scorer pure and simple. I like House's game...but only in the right environment. And I'm not convinced this is it. Assuming we sign Anthony Parker, let's look at the roster:

PG: TJ Ford, Jose Calderon, Andre Barrett?
SG: Morris Peterson, Anthony Parker
SF: Joey Graham, Jorge Garbajosa, PJ Tucker
PF: Chris Bosh, Kris Humpheries, Andrea Bargnani
C: Rasho Nesterovic, Pape Sow

That's 13 without thought to Alvin Williams, Ukic or Slokar. On the depth chart, House would have to play the 1/2 and while that makes some sense, how many minutes would he realistically be getting a night? Eight? Nine? Probably not much more than that as Colangelo will want to see what his rookies and young prospects can do. Therefore my fear is that we sign House, only to have him sit on the bench and complain ala Eric Williams.

I'd rather take on some other young player who slipped through the cracks after the draft, and perhaps goes unsigned after the summer. This would give Toronto another cheap option to develop in the NBDL. Right now there are a bunch of teams with numerous such players. Among them:

The Clippers Summer League Team - featuring prospects like Paul Davis, Guillermo Diaz, Daniel Ewing, Chris Carrawell, Yaroslav Korolev, Shaun Livingston, Boniface NDong, James Singleton and Jawad Williams. Ewing, Korolev and Livingston are obviously already signed to the Clips but Los Angeles won't have room for all of the other players in their current roster. The most interesting of the bunch - Diaz.

The Miami Heat Summer League Team - featuring Dorell Wright, Wayne Simien, Earl Barron, Kevin Pittsnoggle, Mike Gansey, Chris Quinn, Torin Francis, Daniel Horton, Vincent Grier, Orien Greene and Eric Hicks. A similar case to the Clippers, Miami's recent veteran success has left little playing time for most of its youngsters. (I mean, has there EVER been a quieter draft pick than Dorrell Wright? He was so hyped that he was being referred to as the next McGrady yet in two years since his selection, has almost vanished from existence!) The above names read like a who's who from last year's NCAA (many worked out for the Raps this year incidentally) and someone like a Chris Quinn or Orien Greene may be worth a look for training camp.

In terms of sheer young talent, Portland's summer squad may be top of the list however. Boasting a crew consisting of LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Brandon Roy, Sean Dockery, Brandon Bowman and HQ favourite Ha Seung-Jin, this team should at least be entertaining to watch. In fact with veterans like Ron Artest and Amare Stoudamire expected to play this year, perhaps this is the year we don't get the PG-13 version of basketball due to inexperience and lack of talent...maybe we get the rated R version. Oh wait...I'll just let Trent explain...

Trent (to Mikey): I don't want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone's *really* hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where he's coming from. Okay? You're a bad man. You're a bad man, Mikey. You're a bad man, bad man.

Let's go Raps...let's see who the summer league's real "bad men" are...