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Summer Time in Vegas

Could a former Blue Devil be backing up Jose next year?

Could a former Blue Devil be backing up Jose next year?

While the Vegas league officially gets underway today, Toronto’s first game is against Sacramento tomorrow. After that, the Raptors will face Denver on Monday, Philly next Thursday, the LA Lakers next Friday and finally Golden State a week from tomorrow.

As we’ve previously touched on, this year’s Summer League roster contains a few well-known names in addition to some interesting players with NBA upside. We’ve talked at length already about guys like Benson, Lucas Jr, Adams and of course Joey Graham, so let’s take a look at the rest of the roster:

Who is he?
6-8 Forward from Memphis.

Banks has been a D Leaguer for a few years now and last year with the LA Defenders was voted to the All-Star team. He averaged 21.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3 assists per game in the 07-08 campaign and talent wise looks to be ready to make the leap to the league.

What Can He Do? Some may remember Sean Banks for being a black cloud as a Memphis Tiger. Here’s a player who skipped out on the under 21 Team USA invite he received, only hours before, without explanation. Here’s a player who also was suspended numerous times by the Tigers, ended up in a post-game fight with a team-mate, and eventually entered the draft simply because he was forced off of Memphis due to academic issues. And that’s not even getting into his two arrests in high school, one for aggravated assault with a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.

Yep, sounds like the perfect Raptor right? The thing is, skill-wise Banks is probably more talented than half players currently in the NBA. He has a silky smooth jumper, great size for the 3, and the ability to score from almost anywhere on the court. He’s a great rebounder as well for his position and doesn’t shy away from contact or from taking the ball to the hoop. Banks in fact was destined to be a lottery pick out of high school but never had the maturity to keep himself out of trouble. He was abandoned by his mother at an early age and is the classic case of a player with "out-of-this-world talent" who just never had the proper teaching, guidance and role models in his life. The last three years toiling in relative obscurity however seem to have been just what the doctor ordered in this department and it will be interesting to see how he plays in Vegas. If Banks can get his head on straight there’s no question he could be a great Stephen Jackson type player in this league; an inside-outside offensive threat and great, hard-nosed defender.

Who is he?
6-11 Center from Oregon State.

From one troubled soul we head to the next. Giles averaged only about six points and six rebounds for the Beavers but at one point in his college career, looked like a potential first round pick. However, he was kicked off the Kansas Jayhawks basketball club for on and off-court violations, and was forced to resurrect his career by transferring to Oregon State. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out there for Giles either as he was dismissed after 10 games, and fell off the radar of most scouts.

What Can He Do? That being said, Giles does have a number of NBA attributes and is one of the more interesting players on this Raptors team. He has legit NBA size up front with a tremendous wingspan to boot. He’s still quite raw offensively, but it’s on the defensive end that he could have a tremendous impact off the bench for a club. He has that rare combination of athleticism and timing as a shot blocker and at only 23, still has a lot of room for growth and development.

Like Banks, Giles maturity issues have always overshadowed his on-court performance so the big question is, has he gotten things together yet? His college record doesn’t exactly read like that of a Shane Battier however it’s worth noting that his dismissal from Oregon State was perhaps more due to the firing of then head coach Jay John and the controversy surrounding the Beavers at that time than any one thing Giles did. After all, this is a player who paid his own way to get to Oregon State after flopping out with the Jayhawks, living in a garage and providing radio commentary on baseball games, so he doesn’t exactly have a prima donna attitude. A solid camp showing could see him finding a spot with an NBA team’s roster for next fall’s set of training camps.

Who is he?
6-5 Forward from Missouri.

After going undrafted out of Missouri and playing a season in Belgium, Gardner latched onto the Chicago Bulls’ roster briefly last year appearing in four games for the Bulls.

What Can He Do? Gardner averaged nearly 20 points a game in his senior year for the Tigers and is a player who can score in bunches. While he played forward throughout most of his college career, he’s really your proverbial combo forward at the NBA level; not enough size or athleticism to play the 3, not a good enough ball handler and slasher to play the 2. He does have a great outside stroke though and is a solid defender using his strength and understanding of the game to keep opponents in front of him.

In terms of NBA potential, Gardner definitely has some, especially if he can continue to work on his ball-handling abilities. In many ways Gardner actually reminds me of former UConn Husky and Canadian National team member Denham Brown. Both are solid defensively although not the greatest athletes in the world, and will continue to be fringe NBAers until they hone one particular skill that gets them to stick with a team. In Gardner’s case however, he’s a much more consistent long-range shooter which could be his ticket.

Who is he?
6-3 Guard from Duke.

Averaged 15.3 points and four assists in his senior season at Duke. He was drafted by the LA Clippers in 2006 and played in Moscow last year averaging 11 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

What Can He Do? Ewing has been on the Raptors’ radar for quite some time. He was brought in for a look during the 2006 draft working out against current NBA’ers like Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton, Jarrett Jack and Nate Robinson. Ewing has always been that shooting guard type who is seemingly trapped in a point guard’s body and while he drew comparisons to former Blue Devil Chris Duhon for obvious reasons, Ewing has never had the sort of point guard mentality that Duhon possesses.

However Ewing is a better offensive player and the hope from Toronto’s perspective is that he’s been able to hone his PG skills over the past few years to complement his scoring prowess. For Ewing to stick with Toronto after Summer League therefore, the team is going to want to see him control the offense, score when he has the opportunity to, and simply lead the club from the 1 spot.

Who is he?
6-9 Forward from Virginia Tech.

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2007, Collins played with the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League entry last year and then spent the season working on his game with Ludwigsburg in Germany. There, the 6-9 forward averaged about 11 points and four rebounds.

What Can He Do? Collins is perhaps the player I know the least about on this team as I barely remember him even as an ACC opponent of Duke’s at V-Tech. He actually had a poor final season at Virginia compared to his two previous years and was hardly on scouts’ radars come draft time a year ago. However he had a very impressive Orlando pre-draft camp as one of those players who simply gets it done.

He’s not going to wow anyone with his athleticism, shooting, or scoring, and is undersized for a power forward at the NBA level, but is the type of player who could turn into a do-it-all bench man ala Ryan Gomes. I’m not sure how he fits on a Toronto team that hopefully already carries a few such types, but he has a chance to show other teams that he’s worked on his outside shooting stroke and is ready for a prime-time gig.

Who is he?
6-7 Forward from Alabama State.

An All-State high school player, Bosh is looking to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Chris and get to the league. He averaged about five points and four rebounds in his senior year for Alabama State.

What Can He Do? There really isn’t much to discuss about Bosh at this point in time other than the fact that he’s more of a courtesy appointment to the team than a potential Raptor. Yes, Joel Bosh has some nice skills, including a good long-range shooting stroke, but "Bubba" from the now classic Youtube All-Star promo video for CB4, has a long ways to go before talking NBA.

He’s essentially my weight but almost a foot taller and considering he projects as a forward at the next level, needs to put on some serious size. He’s also just never been that prolific a scorer and considering he’s definitely not a point guard prospect either, doesn’t stand to make one of Toronto’s final roster spots. That being said, it will be a thrill for the young Texan just to run with the Raptors’ summer league entry and interesting for us fans to watch.

Who is he?
6-10 Center from Chicago State.

After playing two seasons at Chicago State, Akindele spent last season splitting time between the Iowa Energy of the D-League, and Pau-Orthez of France. He averaged 12 points and 8.6 rebounds to go with 2.5 blocks per game in his final collegiate season.

What Can He Do? Raw, raw, raw. That’s about all you need to know about Akindele. He’s got the perfect NBA body for an NBA center with a long wingspan and fantastic athleticism to match. He’s extremely quick off his feet and has good instincts defensively, making him a very effective shot-blocker.

However the rawness piece factors in when you see how foul-prone Akindele is, not to mention his atrocious free-throw shooting mechanics and almost invisible offensive game. To top it off, Akindele is one of those players who THINKS he can do more offensively then he can. (I can recall seeing him pull up for long-range jumpers or settle for fadeaway turnaround J’s during his time at Chi. State.) However there’s no question that Akindele with some seasoning could be a nice bench player for a team, especially in terms of his defensive and shot-blocking abilities. He’s worked with uber-trainer Tim Grover in the past and with some more seasoning and basketball experience, perhaps could be a nice fit for an NBA club.

So all in all, who should Raptors’ fans be looking at? Well besides the sentimental favourites like Joel Bosh and Rod Benson, and the interesting reunion of former Oklahoma State teammates Joey Graham and John Lucas III, I think the focus should fall mainly on the point guard position.

There are really only two options in this spot for Toronto (unless someone like Hassan Adams or Sean Banks play some point forward) so it will be the Daniel Ewing and John Lucas show.

Of the two, Lucas projects better as a true point guard however Ewing is the more skilled of the two. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In addition, Sean Banks and Rod Benson are still two players who I think could really help this team in limited minutes. Of course considering Toronto’s salary situation, it’s probably a real long-shot that anyone other than a 1 or a combo guard makes it to Toronto’s final roster.

That actually brings me to a question.

Yesterday on the site a few of our readers speculated that BC already has how much he wants to spend on a final contract. However, even if BC knows how much say Jawai is getting, Roko is owed, etc, how does he know about the final player? Perhaps he has a certain amount set aside (say $500,000) like a war chest. But even if that's the case, that won't guarantee him the player he may want. Let's say Daniel Ewing lights it up in summer league and Toronto wants him to be the club’s third stringer. With only a set amount available for him, there's no guarantee another team won't swoop in and offer Ewing more money.

So then does Toronto have basically a list of back-up options, hoping that one will take the league minimum or whatever the Raptors have set aside for a contract? Or will they be scouting as Vegas goes on in hopes of plucking another diamond in the rough out of Summer League muck? It’s a tough situation as in the NBA, $100,000 is like 20 bucks for most of us however considering how cash-strapped the Raptors are, Toronto may very well feel like the most they can up the ante to get the player they covet, IS about 20 bucks!

It’s sort of a strange situation in my opinion where Toronto may indeed be unable to afford the guy they really want. This then echoes back to the whole Roko situation. If they can't get who they really want, do they care? It sounded Wednesday like BC wants some insurance at the 1 behind Jose besides Roko so does Toronto already have an agreement with a certain player and are simply using Vegas as more of an opportunity for Adams, Graham and Jawai to get some run?

It’s hard to say.

But the whole situation is certainly intriguing and I’m quite anxious to see if Toronto in the end settles on a Ewing or a Lucas, or goes in another direction entirely.

I guess starting tomorrow afternoon, we’ll see how this all plays out.