Let's start things off with a confession: It's really hard for me to get excited about Summer League. I totally understand that for the journalists lucky enough to spend a week in Vegas, watching the games court-side (and...umm...doing other things), it's a fun event. But watching low-quality basketball on television, after watching the San Antonio Spurs just a month prior -- the best basketball I've ever seen -- (and having to listen to Reggie Miller drone on for 2 hours), isn't exactly a thrilling experience.
The Raptors opened up their Summer League campaign with an 88-78 win over the Kendall Marshall-led Los Angeles Lakers, on the same day that LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland, Chris Bosh signed a ridiculous contract with the spurned Heat and the Suns and Kings agreed to a bizarre sign-and-trade involving Isaiah Thomas. Let's just say that yesterday's games were the last thing on people's minds.
That said, Summer League remains a valuable experience for all involved.
The results matter little in Summer League games, of course; for players it's about impressing coaches and scouts and getting a better feel for the professional game. For the organizations, it's all about taking a first look at their draft picks and prospects, and possibly picking up an under-the-rader role player who's been kicking around in Europe for a while.
This year the Raps aren't really in the market for a role player (at least not any more) -- although John Sturna did his best to impress, leading all scorers with 21 points -- but yesterday's game represented the first opportunity to see Lucas Nogueira, second-round pick DeAndre Daniels, and of course, the Brazilian Kevin Durant, Bruno Caboclo, in action.
Daniels was quiet and shot poorly (2-8 from the field) and it seems likely that the former U-Conn Husky will spend next season stashed away somewhere -- the D-League, or Europe. Every so often a second-round pick makes an impact in the NBA (Marc Gasol, Paul Millsap, and Chandler Parsons spring to mind) but it's wise not to expect too much.
Nogueira, brought over in the Lou Williams trade, was more impressive. The Brazilian centre finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds and showed that he has some decent range to his jumper. However, offensively he's still extremely raw and if he makes an impact in the next couple of years it's going to be at the defensive end. He's very mobile and can step out of the paint to defend the pick-n-roll, with the quickness to slide back to challenge the roll man. He'll take some time to develop, but he has some promising attributes.
The man we were all interested in seeing for the first time -- at least the first time not on grainy security camera footage -- was the Raps 20th pick in this year's draft, Bruno Caboclo. I was as skeptical as most when the Raps drafted him -- two years away from being two years away, and all that -- but judging by his performance yesterday, the young Brazilian is an exciting talent, worthy of starting the season on the roster.
Summer League competition being what it is, it's well-worth keeping a level head when it comes to individual performances, but Caboclo did enough to suggest that he can make a positive impact over the next few seasons.
Caboclo finished with 12 points, on 5 of 7 shooting. He showcased his shooting, stepping back behind the line to nail a three-pointer in the first quarter and swishing through a corner-three in the second half. He wasn't asked to do anything off-the-bounce, and probably doesn't have it in him just yet at the NBA level, but he moved reasonably well off the ball, cutting nicely to score the games first points.
Like Nogueira, Caboclo's bread and butter, as he begins life in the NBA, will be at the defensive end of the floor. There were glimpses of his potential on defense yesterday. His 7'7" wing-span definitely bothered some of the Lakers, and going forward it will hopefully enable him to generate steals and block shots. Caboclo did get posterized in the second-half, but that's going to be par for the course if he's aggressive on defense -- and it's not a bad thing.
Caboclo did finish the game with 3 turnovers, but the kid is just 18 and right now that's excusable all day long.
Otherwise the other takeaway from this game was that Dwight Buycks, unless he has a monster couple of games, will be waived before July 22nd. The point-guard was mediocre yesterday and if you're mediocre in Summer League, you're not getting a shot in the NBA.
For the Lakers, Jordan Clarkson top-scored with 21 points and looked good in the process. Seventh overall pick, Julius Randle, didn't play as he's yet to sign a contract with the team.
The Raps play their second game against the Nuggets later today.