The peaks and valleys of Toronto Raptors basketball is back.
(Forgiveness for not providing all you faithful readers a RECAP of Toronto’s first Summer League clash against the Philadelphia 76ers. Stupid Ed Rogers and his stupid hegemony over Canada’s telecommunications is to blame.)
Case in point: after strangling the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, the Raps were, subsequently, strangled by the Chicago Bulls two days later. (The 10-point loss [two of three long-range howitzers from Ryan Hawkins in the last minute cut the lead to 10 with about 30 seconds left] obscures the fact that this game got ugly quite early.)
It started off all hunky-dory: a 17-7 run led by Dalano Banton’s THREE 3s (including a banker) and a pick-6. Then it went hunky-gory: an immediate Chicago 17-2 run erased Banton’s hard work, and Chicago didn’t really ever look back.
Not that the game itself even matters, seeing as this Raptors team was thrown together as of a week ago and Richard Jefferson is reffing games and players can’t foul out until they reach their 10th transgression.
When you apply for a job and lie on your resume pic.twitter.com/zNxscI7eFh
— Brett Hansen (@bretthansen5) July 12, 2022
But, I mean, c’mon, there’s some befitting hilarity to this loss. Early in the 2nd, Bobby Webster comes on the broadcast and starts touting the Toronto Raptor way of doing things:
“We like’em long; we like’em versatile.”
“…We have a type…”
Yaaa. Ya do, Bobby. And while I love that “type”, that “type” was in full poor form last night. Because that “type” also happens to not really be able to shoot the ball or create for itself in the half-court or, when that “type” isn’t chugging along like a well-oiled machine on defence and in transition, stop things from getting ugly fast. Real fast.
Don’t get me wrong. I get what this “type” means. I get the pains and the challenges with pursuing this “type”. I get the means to the end. Hell, I don’t even want DeAndre Ayton, I’m so in love with the “type”. But I DO find it funny that last night the Summer League roster full of “types” totally imploded in the same way the regular season Raptors tended to do time-to-time as a result of going all in on that “type”. Just funny is all.
Anyway, Summer League isn’t about team philosophy or team construct or even winning, really. The Raptors are still gonna suit up a bunch of “types” and see who fails, meets, or surpasses expectations.
26:22 mins | 6/15 FGA | 3/5 3PA | 18 points | 4 rebounds | 5 assists | 2 steals | 2 turnovers
Like Malachi Flynn last Summer League, the Toronto Raptors clearly anointed Dalano Banton as the “show me that you can take over” guy. Likely, Justin Champagnie would have shared that role too had he not busted his hand.
In two games, Dalano has split the difference with two stellar halves and two poopy halves. In the best of times, he looks like the backup Toronto desperately needs: slicing up defences, finishing effortlessly at the rim, hitting threes (!), and harassing opposing ball carriers. In the worst of times, he struggles to get by his defender, throws passes in a dimension only he seems to perceive (to be fair, I do love Banton’s willingness to take risks; he sees the floor more dynamically than most – which culminated in one wicked left-hand, cross-court pass – he just needs to be more judicious), and lays bricks.
Dalano continues to be limited in the half court. Like many other Raptors, when transition ceases and defences set, Banton’s powers diminish. You can see that he’s worked on his handles – he looked much more comfortable facing up guys in the open court and leading them into the offensive zone – but his ability to attack laterally (as opposed to zipping downhill) is still limited. Multiple times against Chicago he attempted a combination of dribble sequences that got him no where. He’s also not been able to exploit change of speeds in his attacks. He can speed up – boy, can he speed up – but there’s not much in the way of hesitations or slowed tempos that enables him to set up defenders for the blow-by.
Overall, I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen. Dalano certainly looked like the best player on the floor most of the time. His height, athleticism, speed, and length make him an absolute terror in the open court and when heading downhill. If his 3 is a real thing (he’s 5/8 in two games) and a pull-up emerges (or a floater please!) more will open up for him in the half-court.
25:32 mins | 7/11 FGA | 2/4 3PA | 16 points | 3 rebounds | 2 assists | 1 turnover
More than any other Raptor, Dowtin has impressed me most. He’s a scrappy, long guard who plays with the exact sustained defensive tenacity Toronto demands of its players. Especially against Philly, but also yesterday, Dowtin picked up 3/4 court and forced ballhandlers into uncomfortable decisions. He was the only Raptor to play more than 15 minutes and finish with a positive +/- (+4).
Offensively, Dowtin is Banton’s opposite. Yes, they share length, but Dowtin is shifty and attacks, not by relying on explosiveness, but by finding angles and hitting them hard.
Jeff Dowtin rejects the screen and hits the fading baseline jumper pic.twitter.com/RgQag1K83Z
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) July 9, 2022
He’s had a couple of euro-step, one-handed scoop shots and finishes in and around the rim successfully – albeit a tad funkily. In fact, he and Banton have really been the only guys to get to the rim on a regular basis (Dowtin was 5/6 in the paint last night). He’s also utilized the pick and roll quite well with Koloko being his favourite partner. Unlike, Banton, Dowtin seems more controlled and calculated, making good, simple passes when available (he had 9 assists against Philly), while still creating for himself when needed.
22:03 mins | 2/8 FGA | 1/1 (!!!!!) 3PA | 5 points | 4 rebounds | 1 assist |1 steal | 3 blocks | 2 turnovers
Everything Koloko has done in two games is exactly what one would expect from a raw, 7’1″, 2nd-round draft pick. Severely limited offensively, mostly sound defensively, Koloko’s shown enough flashes for any hopeful fan to see why Toronto drafted him. Sure, there’s not much to go on the offensive end; Toronto made a bit of an effort to get Koloko in spots to create for himself and he blundered most of the opportunities, forcing bad shots or hesitating to take good ones. He did hit a 3(!) though and had one sexy combo post-move that resulted in an And1.
Christian Koloko hitting the deep straightaway 3 pic.twitter.com/EeLLEWvdOl
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) July 12, 2022
Koloko was also threatening as a roller. Twice he took a pocket pass and bounded toward the rim (blocked on one and fouled on the other).
On D, it’s truly cathartic to see a big athletic presence roaming the paint in a Raptors uniform. We’ve not had that since…like…Bebe Nogueira? His length and height allows him to easily come to the rescue from the weakside or to recover when beaten further out from the rim:
He also hustles his tush off:
Pretty amazing how fast Koloko got down the court here and then held his own defending in space. Also like that he was later willing to let the guard know he wasn't happy about being missed in transition. pic.twitter.com/ppi6ezkny3
— Vivek Jacob (@vivekmjacob) July 11, 2022
17: 12 mins | 2/6 FGAs | 2/6 3PAs | 8 points | 1 assists | 2 steals | 1 turnover
I’m torn on Brooks. In some ways, he looks too NBA for Summer League. There’s a comfort and confidence to his game that makes the competition look a level beneath him (he was 9/18 with 25 points against Philly). Conversely, against Chicago, he was less dominant and rather meh. I think we know what we’re getting with Armoni: he’s going to get his when he’s hot from 3 and he’s going to fade away a bit when he’s not.
That may have been why he only played 17 minutes; the Raptors may have wanted to get more looks at guys like David Johnson, Ryan Hawkins, and Jaylen Sims.
24:54 mins | 4/9 FGAs | 2/4 3PAs | 10 points | 5 rebounds | 2 assists | 6 turnovers
I like D.J.’s heart and hustle, but effort alone ain’t gonna cut it. He failed multiple times to beat his man off the dribble or exploit size mismatches in the paint. If he keeps hitting spot-up 3s, then we might have a bit of a Sam Dekker situation on our hands, but until then, he’s underwhelmed.
Ron Harper Jr.
22:04 mins | 2/4 FGAs | 1/3 3PAs | 5 points | 3 rebounds | 1 turnover
Look, Ronny reminds me a lot of myself. Which is not exactly a good thing. We chunky, cerebral types are great at the little things: breaking up plays, making the extra pass, hitting the odd shot, deflections, hustle, etc. But all those more tangible stats…not so much.
I mean, the word from Earl Watson (according to the broadcast) was that Ronny wowed the Raps in practice. So far in Summer League, though, he’s been mostly invisible.
I saw some of those intangibles. He knows where to be on the floor, when to help, how to keep the ball moving, etc. But for a team desperate for any kind of creation or pop, Ron Harper Jr. – at least in the two games – is no where near that potential. In some ways, he reminds me of Ish Wainright from last year, but with much less of a defensive impact. Ronny had a similarly anaemic stat line against Philly (with 4 turnovers) and looked just as out of sorts, nervous, or uncomfortable against Chicago.
17:30 mins | 2/8 FGAs | 0/2 3PAs | 4 points | 1 assist | 1 turnover
I want to love David Johnson, I really do. At times, he impresses as a slasher, getting to the rim and finishing with a nice floater or lay-up. The problem is, as has been the case in these last two games, is that he still needs to improve with most everything else. He’s struggled from three (1/7 in two games), his handles aren’t trustworthy, he doesn’t create for others, and on defence he’s not stood much of a chance.
David Johnson is getting cooked.
— Sahal Abdi (@sahaIabdi) July 12, 2022