It’s summertime, and the basketball world has once again descended upon Las Vegas to get some run in the heat. All 30 teams have sent a summer league squad to the desert; the action kicked off on Monday, and today it’s the Toronto Raptors’ turn, as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans at the Thomas & Mack Center.
It can be a challenge to sort out what matters and what’s noise in summer league. There’s a lot of offense, a lot of running, a lot of gunning. Not so much defense. A lot of guys you’ve never heard of (or perhaps that might make you think, “hey, wasn’t he the guy who...”) and a lot of guys you’ll never hear from again.
For the Raptors, there are a few familiar names. Notably, newly-hired head coach Nick Nurse is taking the reins here in Vegas as well, and he’ll be coaching the one and only OG Anunoby, who’s coming off a rookie campaign that exceeded virtually all expectations.
The Raptors also have some 905ers that you might recognize in Alfonzo McKinnie, Malcolm Miller and Malachi Richardson (RIP Bruno). Rawle Alkins, the undrafted Arizona guard the Raptors signed on draft night, is here as well, perhaps trying to make a name as the next Fred VanVleet.
Beyond that, well, go give Daniel’s roster rundown a read, and then come back and get ready to sink your teeth into the action!
As for the Pelicans, like the Raptors they skipped the first round of this year’s NBA draft, although they at least had a second-round pick, selecting Penn State’s Tony Carr at #51. The rest of their roster is made up of young guys from the organization like Frank Jackson (a second round pick from last season who missed his rookie campaign due to injury), undrafted players, G-league players and international youngsters. The team is led by Pelicans assistant coach Kevin Hanson.
Where to Watch:
ESPNU, 3:30 p.m. EST
Not gonna lie, this is mainly guesswork since neither team has yet announced a starting lineup (or played a summer league game) and the whole point of summer league is experimentation—so here goes:
Toronto – Andrew Rousey, Malachi Richardson, Tryggvi Hlinason, Malcolm Miller, OG Anunoby (OG is likely the only lock here)
New Orleans – Frank Jackson, Tony Carr, Marvin Jones, Cheick Diallo, Shavon Shields
Hopefully none! It’s the first game for each team and as of this writing, both teams sport a clean bill of health.
Here are three keys to today’s game.
All Eyes on OG
As far as I’m concerned, all of these keys could be “let’s see how OG looks.” The rookie who wasn’t expected to play until partway through last season (thanks to a torn ACL suffered in his sophomore, and final, year of college) ended up in 74 games, and after only a handful cemented himself as the starting SF (he started 62 of those 74).
Even still, there were plenty of moments, usually after some random feat of spectacular athleticism, where you thought, “hmm, I wonder if he doesn’t do that all the time because he’s still getting his strength/lift back in his legs.” So with a full season under his belt and an additional two months of rest, “let’s see how OG looks.”
Who’s Playing Point for the Raptors?
The regular Raptors features three above-average PGs in Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright and VanVleet; this roster is, um, thinner at the position. I went with Rowsey as the starter because I think his shooting touch (41% on 8.6 attempts/game for Marquette last season) is something Nurse is going to want to take advantage of.
Beyond Rowsey we have Marquis Teague (he’s got some NBA experience at least), Codi Miller-McIntyre, and Giddy Potts, who—as an undersized, tough-nosed guard who can shoot threes—might also be trying to claim the Fred VanVleet award.
Speaking of awards...
Who’s Winning the Name Game?
Summer league is full of random dudes, as noted, and sometimes you come across a gem of a name. This game features two: The aforementioned Giddy Potts for the Raptors, and DJ Hogg for New Orleans.
Hogg comes to the Pels as an undrafted FA, a wing who can shoot the 3 (38% on 5 attempts per game last season at Texas A&M). And he’s from Texas too! I can’t believe he turned to basketball instead of actual DJ’ing, because that’s an incredible name for a Texas DJ. But then again, I’m sure there’s a reason Michael B. Jordan went in to acting instead of, you know...
The Raptors have done well in summer leagues past, including last year when they entered the playoff round as a #1 seed. Unfortunately they got knocked out by the 16th-seeded Blazers. Let’s see if this year’s team can make amends!