Your new favorite Toronto Raptor once again led the team in scoring, and the team once again emerged victorious in Las Vegas Summer League action. After dethroning the defending champion Sacramento Kings on Friday, Raptors 702 were at it again Sunday, defeating the Chicago Bulls 81-66. The Summer Raps are now 2-0 with their final group stage game set to go Monday at 10 p.m. ET against the Houston Rockets with a bye into Round 2 of the elimination portion of the tournament right there for the taking.
Of course, Summer League results don’t matter a great deal. Wins are better than losses, but the only tangible value in victory is that it affords you more chances to play. The further a team goes in the tournament, the more reps their young, developing players get.
So, as we did with Game 1 on Friday, we’ll focus far more on the relevant prospects than the flow of the game or specific in-game strategy, except where it pertains to Bruno Caboclo, Bebe Nogueira, Delon Wright, and Norman Powell. As a reminder, DeAndre Daniels suffered a Jones fracture in a pre-tournament practice and won’t be suiting up, while Philip Scrubb is a CIS player no matter how much you may want to see him succeed, and the rest of the team has little in the way of players with a chance to make the NBA roster. Save for Ronald Roberts, who has a shot, too, apparently. Game 1 saw us give Bruno the full breakdown treatment and hit the others more briefly.
Tomorrow morning, Norman Powell gets the full breakdown. Here’s everything else from Game 2.
This Raptors team is good. Seriously. Having a pair of senior rookies, a high-performing D-Leaguer, and a pair of raw sophomores in their second go-round of the tournament has Toronto looking far more poised than the two teams they’ve ran into. They’ve played very under control, forced a lot of turnovers on the defensive end, and generally outworked Sacramento and Chicago. Sunday saw the Bulls make a bit of a comeback attempt when Doug McDermott got red-hot, but the Raptors won every quarter but the third and cruised through the final mintues of the game.
At the player level, I’ve always maintained that playing well isn’t nearly as good a sign as playing poorly is a bad one – the expectation for any NBA player here is to impress, and struggles should concern. And once again, there was little struggle for the could-be Raptors on Sunday.
Ronald Roberts plays his way into a deal
The Saint Joe’s product and D-League rebounding machine has impressed enough through two games to land a partially guaranteed contract. Read more about him here.
Bruno Caboclo: Ballin’ out, swear he used to be shy
The nice thing for Jesse Murmuys down at Raptors 905 is that he’ll never struggle trying to get Bruno Caboclo to shoot. Shammgod love him, Caboclo wants to let it fly every single time he touches the ball. Which is awesome, really. The games he’s playing in now and the reps he’s getting are low-leverage ones, and I’d argue it’s far better to have to reign a developing player in than get him to be more aggressive. Caboclo is one a point in his development curve right now where all that really matters is reps – he’s spent a year learning the language, adjusting to a new country, watching NBA basketball for the first time, and refining his skills, and the next year will be all about getting him playing time he’s had precious little of in his career.
Caboclo took 13 shots in his 30 minutes Friday, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-13 and a 3-of-8 mark from outside. He didn’t do a whole lot else, adding two rebounds and a steal, and overall it wasn’t quite as impressive a performance as Friday. The 3-point shot really does look good though. He’s very decisive with letting it fly, which can make it difficult to defend – with his length and a relatively quick release, it could be an unblockable weapon if he’d bring his release point up a little higher.
The Raptors clearly want to encourage him to shoot from outside, even running a nice play in the fourth quarter to set him up for a corner look.
His jumper looks good beyond just spot-up attempts, too. While he’s not terribly effective pulling up off the dribble, when he can stay in control enough to get a pull-up off, there’s no issue with his release. Any struggles on that front are handle-related, not jumper-related. He stuck a nice FT-line jumper in a pick-and-roll with Bebe (the future!) early on.
His handle is something he’ll need to continue putting in a lot of work on. Friday’s game saw him commit a couple of turnovers when his dribble got too high or he was indecisive when he began driving, and he showed Sunday that his dribble can get too wide, too. Long arms are a terrific weapon, but he’ll have to work on keeping the ball tighter to his body to avoid getting the ball poked free.That’s the primary point I would emphasize on offense right now, as the jump shot is coming along and he’s been as heady as you can expect off the ball, making a few decent cuts and recognizing when to float toward and away from the basket as plays develop.
Defensively, he’s still a lot of arms. Those arms are effective, of course, and they can help make up for a lot of minor mistakes. He’s able to sit back off of his man some to help him corral drives, knowing he’ll be able to quickly and effectively close out on any shot. His length also makes it difficult to get too mad at him for leaving a pair of shooters open outside to be the fourth body into the paint on a drive, because things like this wind up being the result:
In terms of positioning, Caboclo remains quite out of control moving around the defensive end. He’s a bit of a whacky inflatable arm flailing tube man when change positions, and Doug McDermott was able to power through him on a drive because Caboclo’s footwork was all over the place. But as with all things Caboclo right now, the context of his development is important to remember. The fact that he’s recognizing his proper coverages and switches in pick-and-rolls is a diversion from 2014
Including Sunday, he’s now played 331 minutes between Summer League, preseason, D-League, and NBA ball. At 19 and given where he came from, the fact that he’s showing improvements and looks like one of the better players on the floor is encouraging, even if there’s still a long way to go.
Delon Wright outplays his numbers, impresses again
10 points and two assists with 3-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes doesn’t jump off the page, but Wright’s game jumped off the screen for the second outing in a row. The 23-year-old senior already seems too advanced for this level of competition, which means he’s meeting expectations. The reality for a guy like Wright is that he’s in a low-reward environment here. He’s older and more experienced than most of the other prospects, and he’s more talented as a first-round pick than most of the journeymen. The questions about his game – whether the step up in competition from Utah would be tough, whether more physical NBA defenders would limit him, and whether he has upside remaining to tap into, can’t really be answered in Vegas.
But damn if he isn’t trying to win some hearts, anyway.
Wright is a blast to watch. It’s kind of strange to say that about an “NBA-ready” (Note: That term should always read “more ready than other rookies but still a rookie”) point guard who’s heralded for his defense and his in-control style of play, but Wright’s a perfectly entertaining blend of composure and funk. For as steady as he is, he doesn’t do much that looks normal, and it seems to be ingratiating him to fans on Twitter.
Being unorthodox seems to help Wright make up for somewhat middling athleticism. Instead of blowing by guys, he varies the tempo of his drives, stopping and starting to lull and confuse defenders.
Instead of bullrushing through defenders to the hoop, he uses his length to swing the ball around them and glide past in transition.And instead of leaping over or cramming on defenders, he uses his body to create separation and protect the ball, out-waiting help defense for tricky banks and floaters. That doesn’t always work – he may struggle when longer defenders are waiting at the rim and he had a pair of turnovers – but here’s betting that it will more often than not.
He seems to have a terrific knack for reading the play, and his awareness of the movement of others is striking. Defensively, his anticipation if off the charts, so his elite steal rate wasn’t all based on his length, as he’s able to take calculated gambles. Offensively, his quick changes of direction help him get defenders off balance, and his ability to identify that helps him draw awkward fouls, with his foul rate representing one of his primary assets. He also just does some cool, funky stuff:
And he fed Bebe Noguiera an alley-oop (kind of), which leads us to…
Lucas Nogueira has up-and-down night
After his opener was cut short by left hamstring fatigue – head coach Dwane Casey lamented Nogueira’s trouble with minor injuries some on the broadcast – it was somewhat surprising to see Nogueira get 26 minutes Sunday. He shot 4-of-7 for eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds, dished two assists, made two steals, and blocked three shots.
That’s great production and, like Friday, Nogueira showed some marked improvement in terms of his physicality, his offensive awareness, and his ability to put the ball on the floor a little bit.
He also showed some hesitation with the ball on the block or in the short corner, often hesitating for several seconds before making a move. He had the ball poked loose on one such possession and nearly caused a shot-clock violation on another, and it’s clear he’s still more instinct than finesse right now. That’s to be expected given how little he’s ever played with the ball in his hands, but lapses on the defensive end are somewhat less forgivable. It didn’t happen consistently, but getting lost is pretty inexcusable.
There was also one play where Bobby Portis – who looked terrible (in one game), for Raptors fans still clamoring for him – ran directly into a backpedaling Nogueira, sending him backward and opening up space for a missed shot at the rim. Nogueira’s gotten much stronger, but he needs to work on how to use that in one-on-one situations when the instinct is to wait and try to block the shot.
It was a mixed bag for Nogueira, and I’m probably nitpicking a bit too hard considering I’ve been left to write a lot of positive stuff this weekend. I’d say he’s shown enough, combined with his ACB experience, that the team can enter the season with him as their third center and call it a reasonable dice roll.
Check back tomorrow for a full Powell breakdown – and a podcast! – and then coverage of Monday’s game against the Rockets.