Summer League. Where Quincy Douby can fool you into thinking he’s a rotation player. After last year’s display in Vegas, one Quincy Douby had me convinced that he was ready to come in and play 10 minutes a game as a tweener guard. He had been the best Raptor in practically every game and was the only player on the roster to distinguish himself from the riff raff that shows up at these track meets. So it is with a grain of salt that anything one sees in summer league needs to be absorbed. So let’s absorb.
In Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Solomon Alabi, and Ed Davis, the Raptors have four players in summer league that could see significant minutes next season; their opponents, the Suns, have perhaps one – Earl Clark, and they were coming off a shellacking at the hands of the Rockets where they got out-painted 54-22. If there was a line in Vegas on this one, it was going to have the Raptors as heavy favorites. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Raptors win every game as long as they’re putting out a half-decent effort.
The 103-69 scoreline (game thread) is reflective of the Raptors’ dominance in this one. Sonny Weems and DeMar DeRozan are a cut above the Phoenix guards and made it a point to assert that fact. DeRozan’s early abuse of Taylor Griffin set the tone, and Weems’ hard drives and stop-on-a-dime pull-ups, gave early insight to what kind of an afternoon it would be. DeRozan’s drive game looked solid enough, and he finished his fair share of forays to the rim, but he also displayed that ability we all love – getting to the line. Both Weems and DeRozan went to the line 11 times each and anytime Phoenix got within arms length, the Raptor guards spawned a little run to shut the door.
DeRozan’s handles haven’t improved much, his dribble is still too high and not nearly tight enough to have a consistent slashing game at the top-level. For example, he can get away with dribbling the wrong direction and trapping himself against the sideline in summer league, but in a real game, that’s asking for a high-trap and a turnover. It’s still early days and I’m sure he knows that’s an area of his game he needs to work on, so fear not. Weems’ superior physical strength was evident throughout the afternoon, his finishing is measured, his drives are strong and his mid-range game borders on industrial strength. He’s going to be a very well-rounded player if he continues to hone the skills he already has. The one thing lacking from their display was passing, and that’s to be expected because there aren’t any sets being run or much expectations of player movement on the floor. It’s a glorified pick-up game with little structure so it can be excused.
If you’re an NBA-caliber player you have to play significantly above the rest of the competition in these leagues. Last year DeRozan didn’t do that, but this year both him and Weems are showing that this could be their last trip to summer league. The aggressiveness and refusal to settle for anything less than the shot that they wanted is what separates good offense from forced offense. With Bosh gone, we have to make up 24 points and 8.4 FT attempts, the way DeRozan and Weems played yesterday, we’re on the right track.
Ed Davis played his first competitive game since February 11th, and looked good for it. A soft hook, some great strong-side help to get a block on a guard, running the floor chasing easy points and put-backs, and looking to be a presence inside. I already love how he has an affinity to the paint and a reluctance to go outside it. We didn’t see an ill-advised jumper from him all game, and he was content in doing the dirty work. Joey Dorsey’s hardcore workman-like effort on the glass (11 rebs, 8 of them early) tells you that he can do what Reggie Evans can without taking the shots that make you want to pull out your hair. Once Solomon Alabi came off the bench, you instantly saw the defensive potential in the lineup.
Alabi, Davis and Dorsey are very defensive-minded players who have a natural tendency to play help defense. I can’t overstate that. A natural tendency to play help defense. You don’t need to preach or teach any of these three guys on what to do in case an intruder finds his way into the paint. If anything, they’re guilty of over-helping and allowing quick interior pass to carve them open on the weak-side. Once they get used to how the officiating in the NBA works, you’ll see them learn to defend without fouling which is a must if they’re serious about having an impact with the big club, especially Alabi. It’s a good problem to have and if Triano and Iavaroni actually have a defensive system to implement, they’ve got enough ears to listen. Maybe that wasn’t the case in past years.
Alabi’s offensive game is raw and nothing is to be expected of it. His game is shot-blocking (led the ACC) and rebounding; he also possesses a very nice mid-range game and can be a very good FT shooter. For his offensive game to develop, he will likely need to put on a few pounds to his frame, which happens to be one that allows weight gain without the side-effects of injury. The extra weight can also help him out-muscle guys instead of trying to leap or tip-toe over them for offensive rebounds, which usually results in over-the-back calls. The footwork is very suspect and unlike Davis, he is not composed with the ball in his hands and a defender on his back.
Overall, the aggressiveness which they defended with was a sight for sore eyes, and it’s no doubt that if they just maintain the attitude and sustain the effort, our interior defense will be much better. This wasn’t the game to judge them because other than Earl Clark and his wild drives, Phoenix didn’t have much to test us. Still, seeing a 46-35 rebounding edge and holding the opposition to 32% shooting while going off for 56% is pretty sweet.
Another position of interest was the point guard, where I found myself searching for a quick, change-of-pace guard who could provide some defensive pressure and offensive burst. Maybe a poor man’s Aaron Brooks. The two PGs for us were Bobby Brown and Dee Brown (no, not that one). Bobby showed some nice court vision and chemistry with Weems at times, but that was about it. He made some very poor decisions with the ball and turned the ball over twice on back-to-back possessions trying to make an entry pass to Ed Davis. Dee was quick to use the high picks, but nothing after that; a tendency to either pick up the dribble too early was the main problem, and if he ever negotiated the high-trap, he seemed confused as to what his options were once he got into the paint. I’d be shocked if either of these guys are going to get an invite to training camp. But hey, they, like every other scrub, isn’t just trying to impress their own team, it’s also about the half-dozen minimum-salary players that will be joining the Heat.
Of some note was Cheikh Samb, a 7’1″ 26-year old from Spain. Great size, good body, but just doesn’t know how to use the tools at his disposal. There’s also UCLA sniper Michael Roll, who I want to make the team just because I want Devlin to say the absolute obvious – “Roll on quite a roll”. I have to mention Earl Clark, after Weems he was probably the most built wing on the court, but unlike Weems, he’s insecure about his place on the big club. That’s the only reason I can explain some of his selfish, tunnel-vision and poor play. It’s his second summer league and he hasn’t improved in the slightest.
Jay Triano spoke at halftime and when asked about how he’s replace Bosh, he took a slight shot at the former Raptor by saying that whenever Bosh got injured, the ball-movement was usually better and that that was what the Raptors were counting on. You can listen to the interview or download the file (1:44min, 1.6MB):
Jarrett Jack was also around and sat down with the announcers to talk about how everyone needs to step up now that Bosh was gone. It speaks a lot to his character that he was supporting the team by being there, but of course, the fact that its Vegas needs to be considered. In his long interview, he talked about the importance of interior defense, Amir Johnson’s impact, the Turkoglu situation, and a lot more. You can listen to his interview or download the file (7:18min, 6.7MB):
Ed Davis was asked about being the next Chris Bosh and I love his response:
“I’m myself. I’m not Chris Bosh. I’m not gonna be the next Chris Bosh. I’m gonna be myself.”
Ed Davis is a serious guy, he doesn’t horse around, he’s not into smiling, he plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he wants to prove people wrong. Hell, even his Twitter feed is damn serious. Keep it up, big man.
Sonny Weems was asked about the nonsense that’s happening in Miami:
“We love it â€” All of the pressure is on them. They just put a bullseye on themselves, with everybody expecting them to win. So when a couple of young guys go in there and we beat them, it’s gonna be a problem. So I’m glad everybody’s focused on them. They’re not focused on the Raptors and that’s a big advantage for us.”
Here are the highlights:
That’s about that. Enjoy the World Cup final.