Back in the old country I was once changing the tire on my bike, and one of loose spokes shot out, narrowly missing my eye. I considered myself a lucky man. Until I watched this game, which is what I imagine it would’ve felt like if that spoke was an inch to the left.
The Raptors summer league team has one pressing issue: it does not consist of a point guard that is willing to pass, though it’s possible there isn’t one in Vegas entirely. See, guys like Bruno Caboclo and Bebe Noguiera aren’t, yet anyway, players that can thrive in freelance and 1v1 situations, and need some help setting up. Nobody is quite willing to do that so you’ll undoubtedly come upon possessions, like it happened on Monday, where Caboclo is essentially launching pull-up threes because that’s really all he can do at this point in his young career. Nine of his ten shots were threes and he ended up going 3-10 for 12 points including seven turnovers, which ranged from offensive fouls to dribbling off of his foot.
We saw him try to drive, in both directions surprisingly, and the results were far from impressive. He has the strides to get past his defender (which was Ivan Johnson at times) and runs into trouble quickly when he has a decision to make. He probably could’ve used his length and elevation to get a few high-percentage shots off on the drive, but whether that thought even crossed his young mind as an option is unknown. What’s undeniable is his length – he’s easily the lankiest and longest guy on the floor, sometimes comically. When he does learn to put that length to use, say playing a passing angle or two, getting in a proper defensive stance and, you know, actually defending, things will turn for him. For now, he’s getting his feet wet much like a kid entering a chilly swimming pool. Until this guy just pushed him in.
- [Listen To: Raptors Weekly Podcast, July 14 – Stonewalling and Summer League]
- [Also Read: What’s Next For The Raptors?]
Caboclo drifted on the perimeter for most of the game and rarely cut inside, perhaps knowing that none of the point guards have the requisite skill to make a decent pass. If you happened to chance upon watching this game, all you saw on display was Caboclo three-point shooting – a relatively quick release that is unblockable on account of his height. The slashing aspect of his game was missing, and at one point I just wanted him to go one-on-one against whoever was guarding him but he’s too new/shy to do that just yet. He’s an athlete who’s learning to play basketball. Fact.
Poor Bebe Nogueira, ain’t nobody passing him the ball and to be fair, rightfully so. He made honest cuts to the basket, set good screens from which he slipped using good form, but never even caught a whiff of the ball despite cutting out a Marouane Fellaini-type figure on the court. He’s got the length, he’s got the size, he’s got the movement, unfortunately for him the application on offense was missing because he needs to be fed to score. Much like Caboclo, he was missing on defense and looked a little bored from the outset. The one time he got the ball in the post he tried a well-intentioned dream-shake which ended up looking like he was twerking the defender. Another time he caught the ball as part of a broken play and stared at it like it was some sort of rare metal. There was a also a third time where he hilariously threw it out.
It was not the best of games from Nogueira as reflected in his barren box (1-4 FG, 2 pts, 3 reb in 21 min). He did continue to show good movement, and any observer would surmise that he’s worthy of a few minutes here and there, if for no reason other than because of his constant motion and willingness to come out and help up top.
As we trudged through this foul-ridden affair (which is the last thing you want a summer league game to be), it dawned on me that the most impressive Raptor was possibly DeAndre Daniels. He’s got a slow release from three which I doubt would come off as-is in a real game, but here he got a few shots off and nailed a couple. Defensively, he was the most active of the players you’re interested in and displayed good footwork in 1v1 situations, and was also the only Raptor who tried to play some team defense – i.e., passing lane, help, etc. The issue I see with him making the roster this year is that there’s no one skill or ability that he particularly shines at and a year or two in the D-League or Europe might develop a marketable skill or two. Certainly, sitting on the end of an NBA bench is probably the worst thing for his hopeful NBA career.
I spent a lot of time shaking my head at Canadian Myck Kabongo, who has managed to combine the erraticness of T.J Ford with the indecision of Joey Graham, whilst possessing the instincts of a bowling ball. None of the point guards showed anything worth of a comment here, and my expectations weren’t even that high. Forget ball movement or a functional offense, I realize that’s too much to ask of a band of scallywags, all I ask for is a proper entry-pass and maybe a bounce-pass that didn’t look like a hard-hit shot to second base. Forget organizing a set, just get to the frontcourt without the whole offense looking pear-shaped. Tsk, tsk for Robson and Shurna whose first priority is to shoot on sight of rim. Note that Dwight Buycks didn’t play, not that it would’ve mattered.
The guy that I did enjoy was Hassan Whiteside (nice play here). I’m going to go ahead and say this guy will get an invite to training camp on account of being 7-foot tall and weighing in a legitimate 260lbs. He played hard while playing like he’s 260lbs, ran the floor, and moved his feet well on defense for a guy his size. He was recently released from the Lebanese Basketball League which is about as low as you could get. I imagine he’s worth an invite just so you have a big body in practice to bang against. If we didn’t have power forwards coming out of the wazoo, I’d also say take a chance on former-Hawk Ivan Johnson.
As for the game, the Mavericks have some vets on the roster and the Raptors are pretty green. This was never a contest with the Mavericks’ physical presence overwhelming the Raptors inside, and their defensive pressure killing us outside. The Raptors had 30 turnovers in this game, compared to the Mavs’ 19, making for some rather ugly basketball. The Raptors also shot 30% which, once you apply the summer league exchange rate, is like shooting 18%.
Good riddance to the game – the guys got a good run in, no one looked particularly impressive, and the best thing to happen here is that Caboclo and Bebe got a little more exposure to North American basketball. The usual applies to both: put some weight on, gain some strength, become more coordinated and learn to use their physical advantage to gain a basketball one. Guys like Solomon Alabi never made it, guys like JaVale McGee did. Let’s see what happens.