Dwane Casey with some special praise for Kyle Lowry’s time in Toronto. pic.twitter.com/zMq4LYDe1z
— THE SHIFT (@theshift_sports) August 11, 2021
The half-court offence isn’t an area Achiuwa projects to help yet. As was the book on him in Miami, he struggled to finish around the rim, both on layups and putbacks. That undercut some of his ability to get to high-danger areas, something the Raptors will surely help him hone (and something a true point guard orchestrating could help). Even with a few frustrating misses, Achiuwa finished with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, demonstrating good instincts on the roll and the offensive glass, just without the touch to truly take advantage.
Achiuwa looks further along on defence, at least against fringe competition. He’s coming off a strong stretch of defensive performances with Nigeria and clearly has the ability to guard across a good chunk of the positional spectrum. There were a few plays where Achiuwa was caught ball-watching or waiting for a chance to contest — defending at the shot rather than before it — but for the most part he was effective, tracking the ball well and cleaning up the glass with 11 rebounds.
“It’s never easy for new players to come into a new situation,” Mutombo said. “Just trying to learn our system, I think we do a lot of things differently than what people are accustomed to. And it’s gonna take them a little bit of time to get used to it.”
One night in, it’s so far, so good. While single-game plus-minus is pretty low-fidelity in a summer-league environment, it’s worth noting the Raptors were at their best when Achiuwa was on the court. They won his 28 minutes by four points, losing the remaining 12 minutes by 10. There’s some lineup noise there, particularly with Flynn minutes (even). Take the wins where you can get them.
On Wednesday, Achiuwa was the big win for the Raptors, looking the part of a second-year player in a first-year environment despite just two days of practice with his new team. There’s a good base here for the Raptors’ development program to work with the next seven weeks, even more so if Achiuwa buys into being a pseudo five.
One — Sloppy: Even for Summer League standards, this was a choppy game. It featured no rhythm whatsoever and was riddled with mistakes in the absence of order. In such settings, it’s hard to parse out any firm conclusions, especially since most players won’t ever see time in the NBA nor would they play in such prominent roles. That being said, the Raptors played hard, played together as a group, and tried to generate offence from their defence, which is their identity regardless of the setting.
NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski joined Writers Bloc to explain why he’d be shocked if Masai Ujiri and the Raptors traded Pascal Siakam, judging by his track record at least. [Click to watch video]
Kuminga met the Raptors at the rim all night, and had it been a more veteran scorekeeper I think the Dubs’ rookie would have been awarded more than a single block in the stat sheet. He used his athleticism to pester rim attackers, but wasn’t overly aggressive or reckless. He blended his patience with his athleticism, and on more than one occasion looked a bit like Andre Iguodala.
Show the tape to anyone too high or too low on Kuminga
If someone thinks the Warriors reached at No. 7, and that Kuminga doesn’t have All-Star potential, show them the tape of this game.
If someone thinks that Kuminga should get the treatment that Wiseman got a year ago, and be trusted to play 25 minutes a night all season, show them the tape of this game.
Both can be true.
Please be Better Than This
I know it’s Summer League and most of these guys won’t even be on the Raptors’ roster this season, let alone getting minutes. But it’s still disconcerting to see just how ragged Toronto’s half court offense is. As noted above, it’s Summer League and I know guys are out there trying to get their own and make an impression.
But as someone who has watched the Raptors struggle mightily in the halfcourt the past two seasons, and that was with a hall-of-fame point guard, I’m already having nightmares of what this season might be like. Summer League is not doing much to assuage my fears.
Precious Achiuwa had 13 points in his Raptors debut while first-round draft pick Scottie Barnes had a rough shooting night going 2-8 from the floor for 13 points, as Toronto fell to the Warriors in Summer League action.
Malachi Flynn’s to-do list is very clear.
“Shoot the ball better than I did last year, be more efficient, continue to get stronger and feel more comfortable,” the second-year Raptors guard said as the Las Vegas Summer League began.
And, it seems, learn to play off the ball as well.
In Toronto’s loss, a rather forgettable and ragged summer game, Flynn spent a fair portion of the game without the ball in his hands.
It’s not surprising. If he is going to play at all next season alongside Fred VanVleet or Goran Dragic in a two-ballhandler lineup Raptors coach Nick Nurse likes, Flynn is going to need a crash course in coming off screens while someone else initiates the offence.
He did that a fair amount against the Warriors as a pair of second-round picks — starter David Johnson and Dalano Banton — acted as primary ball handlers.
Flynn had a so-so night in his second Summer League outing, hitting a couple of late threes to salvage a 6-for-19 shooting game. He did commit six fouls — players get 10 personals before they foul out so teams don’t have to worry about sitting key pieces when they need playing time — and had a single assist.
The Golden State Warriors are one of few teams in which a trade for Pascal Siakam makes sense, and they’ll have some leverage if they want to pursue that.
The Warriors can take advantage of that as they have the chips to trade.
Any trade is going to have to start on the Warriors side with small forward Andrew Wiggins. Following a breakout season in terms of efficiency, Wiggins has found a home in the Bay Area and should be thought of as more of an asset and less of a contractual throw-in.
Given that he’s the only high-value salary that the Warriors would consider trading, Wiggins would immediately be gone.
However, it’s what follows Wiggins that’s important. The Warriors have numerous future draft picks, an ultra-young small forward in Jonathan Kuminga, a recently-drafted lottery pick in Moses Moody and a 7-footer entering his second year in James Wiseman.
No team can match their versatility in offers, and many teams shouldn’t have the same interest as Golden State, a franchise looking to immediately become a title contender.
What the Toronto Raptors would require for Siakam is not known, but given the value the Philadelphia 76ers placed on point guard Ben Simmons, Toronto should be prepared to not have that lofty price met.
The stats bear that out. In his freshman year, he was primarily the backup point guard, averaging 2.8 assists in 16 minutes per game. In his junior year, he averaged 3.2 assists in 35 minutes per game. In other words, he was being set up more than he was setting up others, which showed: He went from taking 3.2 3-pointers per 40 minutes in his first year to 7.5 in his second.
We will see which version of Johnson the Raptors want to focus on more, but that is a secondary question for now. Johnson had the second-longest standing reach of any guard at the draft combine (behind Golden State’s Moses Moody) and has a wingspan longer than 6-10, his most Raptors-friendly physical trait. He has plenty of speed and agility. However, that did not translate to defensive excellence in college. Considering the way the Raptors want to play, he’ll have to address those concerns before he gets an extended shot playing in the NBA.
“It’s physical because he’s not accustomed to playing with these types of athletes, this type of quickness. But there’s (an intellectual element to it) because we have complex rotations and schemes depending on who we’re playing, depending on where the ball is from. And you’ve got to be able to learn that,” Raptors summer league and Raptors 905 coach Patrick Mutombo said. “The physicality that we demand at this level is probably new, all of the things that he’s not accustomed to, it’s a lot.”
“I try not to cut myself any slack,” Johnson added. “Any assignment that I’m given, I feel like I’m given it for a reason. Whether that’s Raptors style of basketball, kind of positionless, switching ball screens, holding my own in the post, being able to guard smaller guards, being able to guard my position — it’s been pretty fun getting used to that. I can only keep improving from here.”
That is the learning mindset the Raptors love to hear from their younger players, whether they are succeeding or struggling in the moment. Johnson admitted that the physical leap opponents have taken in summer league versus college is immense, with closing gaps when he wants to drive or 7-footers closing out from the paint to the arc requiring adjustment.
Regardless, it is obvious why the Raptors view Johnson as an appealing canvas to work with.
The assumption, re: training camp spot, makes sense. While we haven’t quite taken stock of the Raptors’ rotation just yet, Toronto currently has 16 players on the team — and can carry up to 20 into training camp. We know David Johnson and Justin Champagnie are the team’s two-way contract players, and that the organization is likely interested in hanging on to recent second round pick Dalano Banton. But the squad after that seems fairly open. (To my mind, Sam Dekker and Ishmail Wainwright are the other two players in the mix right now fighting for spots.)
Bonga, at a few months shy of 22 years old, brings some obvious physical tools to the Raptors. He’s listed at 6’8” and 180 pounds — with a 7’0” foot wingspan by the way — and while he’s a career 30 percent three-point shooter, that size on the wing is of obvious appeal to Toronto. It’s likely how Bonga got his start in the league to begin with, coming in as the 39th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s now spent one season with the Lakers and played for the Wizards for the past two years. In all, Bonga has put up averages of 3.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 14.1 minutes per game. He’s also been averaging 44 percent shooting from the field and that aforementioned 30 percent from deep. His free throw shooting — which is often an indicator of decent shooting success from elsewhere — has been up and down, sitting at 77 percent for his career.
In all, I wouldn’t necessarily get too attached to Bonga just yet, but it is hard to tell what exactly the Raptors will do with the back half of this roster. What the team is clearly valuing — length, defensive versatility, play-making skills — is seemingly in abundance in this new younger crop of players. But it remains to be seen who will stick and how it will all fit together. Recall that last time we thought we knew what the Raptors would do (e.g. Oshae Brissett set to return), Toronto swerved with Yuta Watanabe. We’ll just have to wait for training camp to find out.
Dekker, a former first-round draft pick who washed out in his first NBA go-round, does come with baggage. He was once under fire for a now-deleted tweet about “white pride” and an apparent affinity for former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Raptors were fully aware of the years-old issue and discussed it with Dekker, a 2015 first-round draft pick who has spent the last two seasons in Europe.
“Obviously we discussed it internally, we discussed it with Sam and his agent, I think we’re all willing to kind of take him at face value and if, obviously, issues come up, we’ll address them,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said last week. “But to kind of write somebody off, I think, without having any experience with the person? I think that also goes to what we want to stand for here.”
There’s every chance it won’t matter. Dekker has nothing more than an invite to training camp where he’ll have to make the team. And a Raptors roster that already includes 10 guaranteed contracts — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch, Dragic, Precious Achiuwa, Malachi Flynn, Scottie Barnes and Chris Boucher — doesn’t have a lot of room.
The Raptors have already sewed up their two two-way deals with David Johnson and Justin Champagnie, they have extended camp invites to Dekker and Ishmail Wainright. And they still have decisions to make on Yuta Watanabe, Freddie Gillespie and second-round pick Dalano Banton, though it’s expected they will be in camp, at least.
Seventeen players, meaning spots to even compete for a job are at a premium.
Webster thinks he has a young group that can grow and be competitive.