Summer League is the event for overreacting. One good game can catapult a player’s reputation among fans. One terrible game can have them be labeled a bust. For contending teams, they are a glorified exhibition. For rebuilding teams, a glimpse into the future. Oftentimes we’re completely wrong about a player because of a poor/great showing in the event. See 2012 Summer League Co-MVP Josh Selby, who managed to play just 38 games in the NBA after the event, or Trae Young, who struggled mightily then was named an All-Star starter in his sophomore season. The truth is these games are not the be-all-end-all for a young player.
Having said all that, there’s nothing quite as exciting as a young player lighting up a summer league game. Raptors fans were quickly enamoured by Scottie Barnes in his 2021 Summer League appearance, showing glimpses of what he would do in his rookie campaign — which was everything. Guarding all 5 positions, making some Magic Johnson-esque passes, and showing his passion for the game (BANG *****!). I, like many other Raptor fans, am excited for the next Raptor player to take off in the event. Will it be 33rd overall pick Christian Koloko with his shot blocking and lob catching? Or two-way player Ron Harper Jr, showing off his shot making abilities? Maybe it’s one of the second year players like Dalano Banton or Justin Champagnie, bringing a new element of their game to the summer league stage? This is why fans enjoy the event. It’s about the potential. I can’t blame you if you overreact, because I certainly have done so in years past.
The Raptors will play the Sixers, who have competed already in the Salt Lake City Summer League that took place earlier this week. Here are the details for this afternoon’s game.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 3:30PM EST
Toronto – Armoni Brooks, Dalano Banton, Ron Harper Jr., Justin Champagnie, Christian Koloko
Sixers – Cassius Winston, Isaiah Joe, Trevelin Queen, Paul Reed, Charles Bassey
Toronto – none
Sixers – none
What about Kevin Durant?
In a time when trades happen, free agents sign new deals, and team executives meet face to face, the NBA is in a momentary pause. Not the action of course, this is a summer league game preview after all. It’s been a little more than a week since Kevin Durant requested a trade and everyone is waiting to see what happens. Where will he go? Is he worth this player or that player? Did Minnesota set the price for a potential Durant trade too high?
The Kevin Durant sweepstakes are in a stand still. The Nets are asking for the world while no one can give it to them, so it’s not surprising the wheels aren’t in motion. Ujiri, Webster, and the Raptors brain trust have been tight lipped (as you’d expect them to) regarding the Durant situation and news of trade talk progress has been non-existent. Will Kevin Durant be a Raptor? Not for that price.
New Season, New Opportunity
There’s more than a fair share of players in the summer league hoping for an opportunity. Whether it’s the undrafted players hoping to make an impression or a former NBA talent looking for a second chance, there is some considerable meaning to every minute they log in the event. Just like the rest of the league, the Raptors have a few of those players on the roster.
DJ Wilson had shown some flashes of good play last season when Toronto was dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within the squad. His 10-day contract wasn’t extended after an injury hampered his progress with the squad last season. Wilson’s deal is a veteran’s minimum contract with $250,000 guaranteed. It looks like a training camp invite and if he plays as well as he did in his brief stint last season, he’ll be in a good position to snatch one of the last open roster spots.
Up for Grabs
Speaking of opportunities, there's a big one for a back up position. Fred VanVleet’s minutes last season was a major issue for the Raptors. Post All-Star break, VanVleet struggled to stay healthy and was hobbled going into the playoffs. Despite the stellar play from Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes running the point in the second unit, it would just shift the minutes from VanVleet to one of them, and for a team that hopes for deep playoff runs, this is an unsustainable model.
Malachi Flynn had impressed in his short stint when VanVleet was injured last season, but also picked up a hamstring injury. While it’s likely Flynn will be first to see the minutes off the bench this season, it’s a chance for a couple of Raptors, specifically Armoni Brooks and Dalano Banton, to take those minutes. Brooks played well enough to earn a contract at the end of the season due to his stellar defence and occasional three. Banton, whose length and quickness gives him an advantage on the defensive end over the other two, is just a perimeter jumpshot from taking the spot for himself. Let’s see if Banton’s improved perimeter shot can be seen this week.