The Raptors finished the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League with a 2-3 record, but for the hundredth time, Summer League isn’t about numbers, records and statistics. For us, it should be about trying to get a grasp on certain players’ NBA talents.
So what have we learned over the last week?
- Terrence Ross can play
As I explained on Wednesday, Ross’ scoring isn’t what impressed me, and his low shooting percentages don’t concern me. What really opened my eyes to how good Ross can be was watching him excel in areas of the game that are translatable at every level of basketball, including the NBA. The form on his jumper is silky smooth. He already has a few go-to moves to break defenders down or blow by them. He moves very intelligently off the ball to get himself good looks. His defence appears NBA-ready. He heads toward the basket for a rebound after a shot goes up.
Ross has to improve his conditioning to play shooting guard in the NBA, and as his stamina improves, so will his shooting percentages (his shot appeared to waver as Summer League games wore on). But unless he suddenly loses all of the fundamental basketball traits I listed above, I’m expecting an eye opening rookie season from the 21-year-old.
- Ed Davis has another level he can get to
Davis’ hustle on the boards and on the defensive end was nice to see, but I never questioned his defensive ability or rebounding prowess. What I wanted to see was evidence of a supposedly much improved offensive game and rebuilt jump shot. I didn’t see enough to be convinced that Davis will be any kind of offensive threat next season, but I did see some encouraging signs that his offence has improved, and should continue to improve. His jump-shot still has a ways to go, but it’s much nicer than it was last year. He now has a couple of moves in the post he seems to trust. Most improved of all, Ed shot over 72 per cent on his 40 free throw attempts during Toronto’s five Summer League contests, a significant improvement from his career 60.7 per cent free throw shooting over his first two NBA seasons.
Davis already had the basketball skill set to be a walking double-double if given extended minutes in the future, and that was without much of an offensive arsenal. If he can continue to build on his offence without giving much up on the defensive end, you have to wonder what his NBA ceiling might actually be. Even if you’re not much of an Ed Davis fan, you have to at least appreciate that a more complete player is a more valuable trade asset.
- Without Jose Calderon, the Raptors need a plan for backing up Kyle Lowry
Acquiring John Lucas III for the right price (less than $2 million per year) would be a fine move to add depth to the point guard position, but if Jose Calderon is traded before the 2012-2013 season without a capable backup point guard heading to Toronto in the deal, the Raptors might have an issue.
Lucas is a good third string and is fine as an occasional backup, but I wouldn’t want to start a season with him as the fallback for Lowry. Ben Uzoh impressed me as a 10-day player last season and continues to show signs of being a pass-first point guard who defends well and rebounds well for his position, but his inconsistent summer league cemented the fact that he’s probably just a perfect third point guard for the Raptors. Expecting anything more from Uzoh is hopeless optimism. Bobby Brown can look like an explosive scorer for a stretch of July in Las Vegas, but he can also look like a chucker for long stretches. Brown hasn’t exactly proven to be anything more than a perennial Summer League All Star.
What I’m getting at is that the Raptors seem to have a bevy of options to fill their need for a third string point guard, but might be shit out of luck if a departing Jose Calderon leaves one of those aforementioned options as the primary backup to Lowry.
- Devoe Joseph can shoot
Okay, so we didn’t really “learn” this through Summer League.
Joseph, a proud Torontonian, had a pretty impressive NCAA career that culminated in him scoring nearly 17 points per game on over 47 per cent shooting for Oregon last season. But for those who may not have known much about him, a 14-for-27 shooting performance in Vegas, including going 5-of-10 from behind the arc, should have raised some eyebrows.
I don’t know what the chances are, if existent at all, that Joseph can earn a job as a 14th or 15th man on the Raptors’ bench, but I do know that young players who can shoot as well as he can tend to be given NBA opportunities at some point down the line, so here’s hoping that opportunity eventually arises north of the border.
- We haven’t learned anything about Quincy Acy that we didn’t already know. By the time Toronto’s Summer League opener against the Rockets rolled around, most fans were already aware of Acy’s energy and workmanlike effort on the court. Personally, I was excited to see what else Acy might be able to bring to the table. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much from the Baylor forward, as Acy missed the final three games with a back contusion. He finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and a couple of steals in 44 total minutes of Summer League action over two games.
And a couple of other minor things we’ve learned this week:
- The Jonas Valanciunas Era has begun
Outside of the actual contract being signed, we were all but certain Valanciunas would be joining the Raptors next season. Now the I’s have been dotted and the T’s crossed, Valanciunas is coming…are you ready?
Until then, you can watch Valanciunas play for Lithuania’s national team in a little thing called the Olympics, and with veteran big man Robertas Javtokas ruled out of the tournament due to injury, Valanciunas might just be the team’s starting centre. Lithuania is in a tough Group A alongside the U.S., Argentina, France, Nigeria and Tunisia. The top four teams in the group of six will qualify for the quarterfinals.
- Landry Fields is a comedian
Between his comedic responses during his introductory press conference and a few more gems during his later scrum, you kind of got the feeling that Fields will be good for a few chuckles next year. The icing on the cake though? His interest in witnessing Jose Calderon’s accent first hand and his take on Calderon’s on-court expressions.
Here’s something we still haven’t learned:
- What’s up with Aaron Gray?
Way back in early July, you’ll recall that it was reported by NBA know it all (literally) Adrian Wojnarowski that the Raptors and Gray had agreed on a new two-year contract. Only it’s been nearly two weeks since then, and we still haven’t seen any confirmation by the team or any financial details leaked through the media.
So is the originally reported agreement still in place, and how long before we just start assuming it isn’t?