The Las Vegas Summer League is well underway and so is our thirst for NBA basketball — just not the best NBA basketball.
The shoes squeaking on the floor, the roars after big time dunks, the loud shot-clock buzzers, all the sounds that are otherwise drowned out in the regular season — the music to our ears — are showcased every year in Vegas.
But even for the die-hard NBA fans, the intimate setting of Summer League games can only mask the quality of play for so long. We love the occasional hot shooting outbursts and exciting rookies, but are we really tuning in to watch bad shot selection and questionable decision making from players fighting for a training camp invite?
For the Raptors brass, and other contending franchises, winning the Summer League title is rarely the primary goal. Head coach Nick Nurse has stressed innovation and experimentation and the Summer League is the perfect playground. It’s great for testing new offensive and defensive strategies, expanding roles for player development, and things as simple as having the players getting used to a new voice.
There are a lot of new and interesting pieces to look at this summer. While most eyes are on OG Anunoby, we could see undrafted rookie Rawle Alkins get more run. Alfonzo McKinnie, Malachi Richardson, and Malcolm Miller all played for Toronto last season and can further develop with the team this summer.
Their first game on Friday ended in a 90-77 defeat against the Pelicans. It was an ugly shooting night from the Raptors, shooting a dismal 32 percent from the field and 23 percent from deep. Hopefully they’ll shake the rust off and play better basketball against the Timberwolves.
Here are the details for today’s game.
Where to Watch:
NBATV, 3:00 PM EST
Coach Nurse could very well be looking for experimentation in the lineup, but for consistency’s stake we’ll go with last game’s starters.
Toronto – Marquis Teague, Malcolm Miller, Alfonzo McKinnie, OG Anunoby, Augusto Lima
Minnesota – Jared Terrell, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, Andrew White III, Amile Jefferson
Toronto – None
Minnesota – None
Did We Talk About OG Yet?
Anunoby had a breakout rookie season while recovering from an ACL injury. It’s only natural for Raptor fans to be excited to see what he can do now that he’s looking healthy. His first game against the Pelicans started off promising, draining a three from the right corner before taking it to the rack for an and-1 finish.
But his impressive start didn’t last, as he finished for 9 points on 3-of-11 shooting and 1-of-6 from three. He’s been given an expanded role by the coaching staff and the poor shooting from the team didn’t make it any easier for him. Game 2 against Minnesota should give him, as well as the team, a chance to put on a better showing.
The New Bruno
Last summer’s lack of Bruno Caboclo was concealed by how good the squad was. Three of the 5-member bench squad lit up the first part of the summer league before bowing out as the first seed in the knockout rounds (sigh). This year, there are many candidates on this summer league squad to take the Bruno role on the 905.
McKinnie, Altkins, and Miller all have a case to take that leading spot on the 905. But my money is on Malachi Richardson. Richardson has a very confident offensive game and was recently praised by Nick Nurse on his defense. This year could be his last shot to make a name for himself in NBA circles and a chance to lead the 905 could be crucial for his development.
Nick is Nursing
Nick Nurse considers himself as a “roll up my sleeves and get to work” type of guy and his decision to coach the summer league team proves he’s just that. Nurse has been active in Vegas, whether it be coaching the team or giving interviews.
In an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Coach Nurse talked about DeMar DeRozan’s playoff struggles and called for him to be more consistent. He’s also suggested that we might be seeing DeRozan guard the other team’s best wing during the regular season. Nurse has been talking a lot about experimentation and with his mind currently on the summer league squad, let’s see if he can nurse the team back to health.