Winners and Losers from Toronto Raptors' Summer League
The Toronto Raptors’ summer league has officially come to an end.
Overall they finished with a 3-2 record in Las Vegas and actually made quite a bit of noise around the association, primarily due to the stellar play of Jonas Valanciunas.
Also contributing to that buzz were some monster dunks from Quincy Acy and the signing of point guard Dwight Buycks, as reported by the team's Twitter account. All in all, it was a very noteworthy summer league for Toronto, despite the absence of any new rookies.
So far, only Buycks has been signed from the summer league squad.
However, that could still change in the coming days, especially considering the lack of depth on the Raptors' bench.
Either way, this was undoubtedly a positive summer league run for the Raptors. With the exception of one particular shooting guard (who we'll discuss later), the players that needed to step up all played exceptionally well and demonstrated their commitment to improvement, which is refreshing to see on such a young squad.
Winner: Dwight Buycks
Buycks is a very intriguing pick up.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Judging by his incredible summer league play, Buycks was clearly determined to prove himself and earn an NBA-contract offer.
The Raptors happily obliged, signing Buycks to be their backup point guard along with newly-signed D.J. Augustin, via Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
If Buycks’ summer league performances can carry over to the NBA come next season, the Raptors will have found a gem. Consider these stat lines:
Vs. Denver Nuggets: 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
Vs. Phoenix Suns: 28 points, four assists on 11-of-20 shooting.
While these are only samples from his summer league games, they’re still a strong indication of his scoring acumen. He also proved that he’s capable of running the Raptors’ offense at times, as demonstrated by his assist totals and efficient shooting numbers.
If he can keep improving and learn under head coach Dwane Casey, Buycks should be able to secure a solid spot in the rotation. The team had a small sample size from which to judge him, but they saw enough that they inked him to a deal. If nothing else, he can’t be worse than Augustin was last season with the Indiana Pacers (4.7 points and 2.2 assists per game).
It wouldn't be a total shock to see Buycks end up ahead of Augustin on the depth chart next season.
Loser: Terrence Ross
Ross failed to impress this summer league.
Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
There weren't a lot of negative aspects to the Raptors’ play this summer league, but one that certainly stood out was the disappointing showing of Terrence Ross.
After a full season under his belt in which he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and learned under two excellent scorers in DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay, Ross failed to impress this summer league.
Against Phoenix, Ross had nine points, three turnovers and six fouls as well as zero assists, steals or blocks with a 42.6 field-goal percentage.
Particularly disappointing are the turnovers and shooting percentage given that shooting and ball-handling were two aspects Ross was devoting much of his offseason workout to, per an interview with him on the Raptors’ YouTube page.
Those kinds of numbers wouldn't fly in an NBA game against professionals—let alone summer league rosters filled with prospects and fresh rookies.
It’s also telling that, even while he wasn't shooting well, he failed to meaningfully contribute in any other capacity—he didn't set up his teammates, nor did he play pressure defense. With his athletic gifts, he should be able to get at least one steal or block in a summer league game.
In fairness, Ross did have a nice game against Denver in which he scored 17 points.
However, during a time where Ross should have dominated and showcased his development, he did nothing to increase his role in Casey’s rotation next season.
Winner: Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas played so well in summer league that many, such as Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, are calling for him to be the league MVP.
To put it into context, Golliver had this to say about Valanciunas:
Put simply, Valanciunas is the best player in this year’s summer league.
Casey was just as impressed, via SI.com:
I see an All-Star in the making. He’s not there yet. … I think you’re going to see that [recognition] in the future. As he grows as a player, we’ll grow as a team.
Against Denver, Valanciunas posted 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.
Against the San Antonio Spurs, he had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Clearly, Valanciunas had the summer league he needed to.
Not only did he put himself in the MVP discussion, he also brought a lot of league-wide attention to the Raptors—something the team needs as it looks to grow its brand.
Valanciunas is destined to be a franchise player for Toronto, and his summer league performance went a long way in cementing that destiny. Yes, it's only summer league, but by the end of next season, Valanciunas could become a household name—and not just in the Great White North.
Loser: Trevor Mbakwe
Mbakwe didn't have many opportunities to prove himself.
Chris Chambers/Getty Images
Originally projected as a second-round pick in this year's NBA draft according to NBA.com, each team decided to pass on him, which is in large part due to his knee issues (he has already underwent ACL surgery).
Still, he had a fairly good season in college, averaging 10 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Given the Raptors' lack of big men off the bench, Mbakwe made for an interesting prospect to watch during this year's summer games.
Unfortunately, he didn't get much of an opportunity.
Perhaps with the team taking a really good look at Valanicunas' development, the playing time just wasn't there for Mbakwe. He ended up only averaging three minutes a game in four games played.
With his size (6'8") and athleticism, Mbakwe may still end up on an NBA roster, but it likely won't be with Toronto.
Winner: Quincy Acy
Acy had some highlight-reel plays.
Like Valanciunas and Buycks, Acy had an excellent summer league.
With news breaking via the Toronto Sun's Mike Ganter that Acy will be moving to small forward next season, this summer was the perfect time for him to play in that new role with extended playing time.
It’s not easy for a 6’7” power forward to shift out to the perimeter, but Casey has decided that he wants to use Acy as a defender who can guard the new “power 4’s” in the league—like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Acy will probably need another season or two to ably defend players that effectively, but in the meantime, he can contribute in other ways. Throughout the summer league, he demonstrated his athleticism, his motor and even a mid-range jump shot.
Against Phoenix, he was the team’s best player—going off for 28 points and 10 rebounds. This was partly due to Valanciunas’ absence because of a sprained left index finger—via the Raptors' twitter account—but it speaks volumes about Acy’s skill and leadership that he stepped up in such a big way.
Acy is clearly hungry for a bigger part in the rotation next season, and if he can consistently contribute with his defense and rebounding, he should have no problem increasing his minutes.
Ross' poor showing aside, it’s clear that the biggest winner of this year’s summer league is the entire Raptors organization.
With Valanciunas improving and becoming more comfortable with his game, Acy showcasing his versatility and the Raptors picking up Buycks, the team can pat itself on the back for a well-played summer league.