Toronto Raptors v.  San Antonio Spurs

While I’m firmly entrenched in the “don’t ready anything into Summer League” camp and I don’t pay attention to the numbers posted in Vegas, there are always observations you can take away from watching guys play at any level.

On that note, here’s a little bit of what we learned from the Raptors at the annual Las Vegas Summer League…

- Jonas Valanciunas has bulked up, is clearly stronger and has added to his offensive repertoire in the three months since the season ended. When he wasn’t just physically bullying inferior big men inside, he was using a wide array of pump-fakes, spin moves and hook shots to finesse his way around defenders and draw fouls. Jonas showed that he can finish around the rim with both hands, was great from the free throw line, was a defensive presence in the paint and even showed an ability to read defences and create for his teammates from the post.

Everywhere you look, NBA people are raving about Valanciunas’ Summer League performance. Andrew Sharp referred to him as “Jonas Christ Superstar” over at Grantland, writing “Sports Illustrated called him the MVP of the week, and with 22 teams playing 61 games in Vegas, he was the one guy who looked like a future superstar. One day soon, we will all have to learn how to spell ‘Valanciunas’.”

If he continues to develop his offensive game, his ceiling could be higher than even we imagined. Oh, and since I last edited this post on Monday morning, this happened…

- Terrence Ross wasn’t bad, but if you were expecting a second year player ready to dominate lesser opponents in Vegas, then you left disappointed.

I’m not as down on Ross’ performance as some others are, but he definitely looked hesitant on the offensive end at times and didn’t always seem comfortable deciding whether to shoot or whether to pass, whether to drive or whether to shoot, whether to drive all the way or whether to pull up. You can see the knack for rebounding he has from a wing position and his defensive upside, but overall, we just didn’t see enough one way or the other to make any definitive statements about Terrence’s development.

Again, that’s Summer League.

- Quincy Acy showed off an improving mid-range game and brought his usual energy to the defensive end and on the glass, but he forced his jumper at times and didn’t look comfortable playing the three-spot the couple of times I noticed him there. Acy can become a regular NBA rotation player with some work on his offensive game and some discipline on the court, but for right now, you’d have to imagine that he’ll battling with Aaron Gray for minutes as the team’s fourth big man after Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough.

Much of that battle will come down to matchups and whether the Raptors need a big centre to come in at that time or an energy-type forward.

Oh, I almost forgot. I can’t write about Quincy Acy at Summer League without this…

Now that’s a snarl.

- Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was the play of Dwight Buycks in Toronto’s final two games of the tournament. Buycks used his speed and creativity to get to the rim without playing out of control and finished efficiently once at the rim. He also did a solid job of reading the defence, finding his teammates and not forcing his own offence, which guards tend to do at Summer League and in the D-League, though Buycks having job security for the season probably helps.

From what I saw, Buycks is a quick guard who can penetrate and pass and who gets after it on defence. He also looked comfortable playing off the ball at times when the Raptors went with Devoe Joseph at the point. Again, we’re talking about extremely small sample sizes (and that’s the reason I didn’t include or reference any actual stats from the tournament in this post), but remember that Buycks averaged about 17 points per game playing professionally in France last season.

I don’t see either of Buycks or D.J. Augustin becoming threats to Kyle Lowry, but if Augustin struggles as he did last year, Buycks could play his way into becoming Lowry’s primary backup at the point and does present an intriguing option as a combo guard who can score off of the bench.


So there you have it. Another Summer League in the books for the Raptors and another opportunity to debate just how useful or useless any of these developments were. Since my big theme of Summer League has been don’t pay attention to the numbers, I thought I’d share this post from Kevin Pelton on how Summer League stats translate, if at all, to the regular season.

Leave your own thoughts and observations from the tournament in the comment section below.