Ah, Summer League. That glorious time of year when horny NBA people start to care way too much about young players. A time for totally unwarranted hype and even more unwarranted panic. As of today Atlanta Hawks fans have seemingly disavowed their front office and completely abandoned hope for their rebuild, all due to Trae Young’s inability to make a jumper through three games. The Kings fanbase has already resigned itself to another decade in the cellar after realizing that Marvin Bagley cannot play defence or dribble with his right hand. Lakers fans are already celebrating yet another late first round steal with the way Mo Wagner has cooked G-League veterans and undrafted free agents alike.
For the Raptors, everything surrounding their summer league is a little bit more muted. Without a pick in this year’s draft, the Raptors have only one player for their fans to get unnecessarily horny over: last year’s first round pick OG Anunoby. And with Anunoby there cannot even be panic, as, regardless of how he preforms in summer league, he already established a high floor for himself last year. The rest of the Raptors’ summer league roster is highlighted by Malachi Richardson, Alfonzo McKinnie and Malcolm Miller; the 13th, 14th and 15th men on last year’s Raptors’ team. The remaining players are undrafted hopefuls and G-League players.
Still, even with tempered expectations, this wasn’t a great start.
This afternoon’s game against the Pelicans started with Anunoby getting everyone’s hopes up. The sophomore stuck an open corner three and ran a pick and roll for an and-one. A couple minutes later he had a nicely timed dig on a Pelicans’ ballhandler for a clean strip. By the time Anunoby had gotten his steal however, the Raptors’ offence was already stuck in the mud. Anunoby had been blocked on an iso and missed an open three; McKinnie and Miller had missed threes of their own. It was a trend that would continue throughout the game as the Raptors shot just 32% from the floor and 23% from deep en-route to a 77-90 loss. In Summer League, however, the outcome of the game isn’t exactly pertinent. The individual performances are what matter, so let’s take a look at those.
Anunoby looked relatively comfortable, though perhaps a little slow footed, while handling the ball for the SL Raps. Anunoby lacks an advanced handle in terms of dribble moves however, so he is very reliant on his screener being able to create space for him. On the first pick and roll of the game Pelicans’ wing Shevon Shields was surprised when Anunoby rejected a screen. He got hung up behind Anunoby, which allowed Anunoby to attack the Pelicans’ big man and finish through contact. However, in a pure iso situation on the very next possession Anunoby was unable to get separated from Shields due to his lack of handle, resulting in his layup attempt being blocked. Most of Anunoby’s isolation possessions were ineffective throughout the game, however there was one bright spot, as he made a step back midrange jumper midway through the second quarter. Anunoby essentially never shot jumpers off the dribble last year, and adding a pullup game would go a long way in allowing him to create for himself.
While Anunoby made his first three pointer, he ended up missing his next five. His form on three point shots looks unchanged from last year, which is to say it’s still a little janky. Still, he has a quick release and we have a fairly large sample that says it goes in.
Anunoby did the little things well: he made some nice passes within the flow of the offence, though he only finished with two assists largely due to the Raptors’ poor shooting night. He did a nice job attacking closeouts and contributed on the offensive glass. He was largely relegated to off-ball defence (the Pelicans’ lack of wing depth carried over to the summer league team it seems) but he was effective on that end, though he over-committed on a few closeouts.
It doesn’t look like Anunoby has undergone some kind of sea-change, he doesn’t quite look ready to lead the Raps to the promised land just yet. His handle is still nascent and his shot is still a little weird, but there’s no doubt he’s still the smart, poised, athletic player that he was last year.
McKinnie was not shy, hoisting 18 shots in just 22 minutes. However, McKinnie was at his best when he found his shots in the flow of the offence. There were times where he looked the part of a solid energy role player, such as late in the first quarter when he made a catch-and-shoot three, followed that with a pick-and-pop three and then followed that by securing his own miss for a putback. However, in that same timeframe he also had several failed drives and one really ugly looking post-up. It seemed like McKinnie was forcing things due to the relative lack of offensive talent on the Raptors’ summer league roster, but it’s clear he’s more of an off-ball player.
Defensively McKinnie looked good when defending in space but struggled at times on the interior, especially when tasked with defending the larger Cheick Diallo, as at 6’7” he’s somewhat undersized for the power forward spot.
Richardson is definitely a shooter. He’s always willing to hoist, regardless of who’s guarding him, how far he is from the rim, how much time there is on the clock... You get the picture, Malachi Richardson is just sort of perpetually in the act of shooting. Sometimes the results are good, and he makes a tough shot that few other members of the Raptors’ summer league roster would be capable of making. Richardson closed the first quarter with one of these shots, as he made a tough step-back three with a defender right on him.
The rest of the game, however, was less than good. Richardson took and missed a lot of tough shots this game, ending up 3/11 from the field. He’s at his best when he doesn’t settle, he has enough wiggle to get by his man and go inside more often.
Richardson also struggled defensively, as he was frequently tasked with guarding former Xavier star Trevon Bluiett. A prodigious shotmaker in his own right, Bluiett finished the game with 24 points on 7/10 shooting, often getting away from Richardson on the perimeter.
Miller is a three point specialist and he went 0/6 from three, which just about sums up his night. Miller knows his role within the offence, he takes his shots when they come to him, but unfortunately today none of them went in. He got open looks and his stroke looked clean, but nothing fell.
Defensively Miller was mostly put off the ball and was largely un-impactful. He didn’t offer much in the way of good help defence and, somewhat worryingly, Pels’ point guard Frank Jackson got by him on switches for a few easy baskets.
Everyone else (including the Pels)
These are gonna be some quick hitters, sue me, it’s summer league:
Shevon Thompson can protect the rim and catch and finish in space. Unfortunately for him that skillset is in extreme abundance around the league, but I could see him catching on somewhere as a Khem Birch-type energy big.
Giddy Potts gets really low when guarding the perimeter and gets over screens well. He can shoot too, but he’s definitely undersized for an off-guard. He should have a role as a defensive specialist somewhere, though he’ll probably need a ball handling wing or forward to play alongside.
Rawle Alkins didn’t get any run until the second half, but like Potts he showed a lot of intensity and an ability to navigate screens on defence. Unlike Potts, he has none of the concerns regarding size, as he’s 6’5” with a plus wingspan. Alkins also has a little more juice off the dribble than Potts and is a willing attacker. If he makes his three point shots, as he did in this game, he should absolutely have an NBA role (preferable with the Raps). Also he dunked real good.
Frank Jackson is really quick, has a controlled handle and can make shots off the dribble. He got hurt midway through the game, but he looked the part of an NBA point guard today in limited time.
I loved Trevon Bluiett in the tournament last year, he’s a fearless shotmaker and that clearly carried over to this summer league game. What Bluiett did tonight is what you hope for out of Richardson, shotmakers wax and wane on a game to game basis, one night they make all their tough shots, the next they miss all of them.
Cheick Diallo is very jacked and sorta like a not-as-good version of Bam Adebayo.
The summer league Raps get back to it on Sunday in another day game, 3PM EST against the Timberwolves. Tune in if you’re a crazy person or if you’re being paid to do so.