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Summer League Recap

Nas was one of the high points at Rock the Bells this year...

Nas was one of the high points at Rock the Bells this year...

Before we get into Vegas and all things NBA, it was great to read some of the comments on the site last night and yesterday afternoon regarding Rock the Bells and some of the other music festivals currently going on.

I know it did sound like I was being a bit of an ungrateful punk considering Rock the Bells’ star-studded line-up, but in reality the whole thing was sort of like the New York Knicks line-ups the past few years…lots of talent on paper, but the delivery fell short. The meet-and-greet aspect of the VIP ticket was the worst part considering the cost, something I’m still going to try and have a chat with the promoters about. And for those like me who were there from noon on, the lack of anywhere to sit down made 13 hours of standing with the rest of the sweating masses a bit of a buzz killer by the time the final acts came on. Like you JJ, my feet were destroyed by the time I got home.

However that’s not to say there weren’t some stellar moments like seeing the Pharcyde reunited, and the always crowd-pleasing Redman and Method Man. And as John mentioned, Supernatural and Scratch were indeed highlights as Super’s ability to freestyle about anything at the drop of a hat is uncanny (not to mention his ability to change his voice to impersonate various famous MC’s.)

In any event, besides the hip-hop talk, love the Tuba Gooding Jr. mention as the Roots are one of my favourite live acts, and tdc – had the same experience with the divaism of Broken about a few years ago. It was bad enough that I vowed to never go see them live again.

So anyone think Joey Graham could lay down some funk grooves? He did finish in the top 15 in scoring and top 30 in rebounding in Vegas.

But the big question now is if Joey will be able to translate this play over to his fourth year. I’ve been tough on Graham despite his stellar numbers but I think as one of our readers mentioned, this really was mission accomplished for the Raptors. They wanted Joey to be the focal point of the team, get some confidence going, and take on a bigger role as both a leader on the court and go-to option.

Toronto’s final game against Golden State (which will be replayed Friday and Saturday on RaptorsTV) showcased more of this Joey Graham as he finished with 13 points and eight rebounds in Toronto’s 95 to 90 loss.

The game as a whole featured more of what Raptors’ fans saw from Toronto throughout Vegas; terrible 3-point defence (Anthony Morrow hit 3 of 4 alone), the inability to close out games, some great individual play, and the occasional highlight dunk.
So who were the standouts? Here are the HQ’s top 5:

1. Joey Graham – Not much to add here. Graham scored, rebounded and generally dominated the competition. We still didn’t see much in terms of "the little things" unfortunately and Graham to me still looks like a guy who would dominate pick-up games and matches in a Summer League-type setting, but struggle in the pro game. This is because while his physical skills separate him from others outside of the NBA, in the league, where other players are just as gifted in this regard (or moreso), he doesn’t have the rest of the package (basketball IQ etc) to stand out.

2. CJ Giles – Considering that Graham was expected to do what he did, Giles therefore was in reality the player that probably stood out the most. He showed great rebounding skills (he finished in the top 25 in Vegas in terms of boards per game), some nice footwork and athletic ability, and lead the entire league in blocks per game (3.3.) We’d love to see Toronto take a flyer on him but unless there’s money left over after another option at the 1 is found, in all likelihood it will be with another club that he’ll have to get his NBA shot.

3. Hassan Adams – Adams didn’t do much the first two games to stand out but as Vegas went on, I began to see just how valuable he could be. He’s sort of a reverse Joey Graham in many ways as while he doesn’t posses the same physical tools, he has the other parts of the package that Joey is currently missing. Adams is extremely active on D getting up into his man and in the passing lanes, does a great job in transition, and has an extremely quick first step which coupled with his hops, allows him to get to the rim and draw contact. His offensive game outside of 10 feet still looks shaky but I’m excited to see what he can do in limited minutes next year. Supplanting Anthony Parker as a starter however? Right now I don’t think so.

4. Desmon Farmer – Considering that Giles had the upside to stand out in Vegas it was therefore Desmon Farmer who was probably the biggest surprise for me. I knew little about the former USC grad but in limited minutes early on in Vegas he stood out with his superb perimeter defence and scoring ability. The Raptors seemed to notice and by the time Toronto’s final game against Golden State came around, Farmer was starting and finished with a team-high 22 points against the Warriors. He’s an extremely efficient player and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for the Dinos. He’s probably not the answer for Toronto as a combo-guard but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him latch onto a team for training camp this year.

Farmer was one of Franchise's standouts, but he doesn't expect to see him in a Raptors' jersey any time soon...

Farmer was one of Franchise's standouts, but he doesn't expect to see him in a Raptors' jersey any time soon...

5. Deji Akindele – Had Nathan Jawai played more than two games he probably would have grabbed this last spot considering he averaged over 10 points and five rebounds in limited minutes. But Akindele deserves some props here as well as a player who’s made big strides since foolishly declaring for the 2005 NBA draft (and then going undrafted.) He still has a ways to go at both ends of the court but has a lot more upside than most of the players on Toronto’s summer squad. He averaged over seven points, five rebounds, and a block in only 17 minutes of action and another year of D League or overseas competition should get him that much closer to the NBA.

Outside of these five, things were pretty bleak. The team’s point guard play, provided by Jaycee Carroll, Daniel Ewing and John Lucas Jr., was spotty at best, and it’s highly unlikely that the Raptors find the third point guard they were seeking from the Vegas group.

In addition, Rod Benson, who I expected to see dominating in this setting from a rebounding standpoint, was almost invisible, however that may have been due to lingering injury issues considering he sat out the first two games.

And while I would have liked to have seen more of Sean Banks, he didn’t really separate himself from others when he did get minutes.

So where to now for Toronto?

Well, Bryan Colangelo and co. will probably sit down and mull over what they saw in Vegas and compare players they scouted to current NBA vets in terms of considering who might be in the mix as the team sews up its remaining roster spots.

Two players whose names were thrown about, Eddie House and Tony Allen, are out of the running officially as yesterday afternoon Boston agreed to retain their services. I’m not sure I ever thought either were real options however and I believe that BC will be looking at cheaper veterans or other players they scouted throughout summer league. There were some standout performances including many from the much-hyped recent draft class who looked poised for solid rookie seasons.

Among them, Raptors fans got a chance to see Anthony Randolph in Toronto’s final game against Golden State. The kid needs to put on some serious weight, but other than that, really impressed me with his play. I’m not sure why "experts" were comparing him to Chris Bosh though (other than the fact that he has a similar frame) as Randolph is a much better ball-handler already than CB4, and Joey Graham and others had an extremely tough time staying in front of him. Right now Randolph looks much more like a 3 to me than Bosh ever will and you could see why many scouts were so high on his potential. I figured that Randolph would be a bust but based on what I saw from Summer League, I could be well off base.

Another player who stood out for me during Toronto’s games was Marreese Speights…but not for the reasons you may think. Yes Speights put up some good numbers (he was one of three Vegasers to average a double-double) but the body language I saw on the court and the lack of hustle at times echoed my experience with him at the Raptors’ pre-draft workouts. Yes he looks to have all the potential in the world, but the attitude and vibe he gives off screams Derrick Coleman to me, and it’s never a good sign when the GM of the team that drafts you feels he needs to sit down before you are signed to discuss your level of commitment.